IT LASTED more than the estimated 38 minutes and, instead of moving people to tears, made the audience laugh instead.
But President Rodrigo Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address (Sona), which started at 4 p.m. yesterday during a joint session of Congress in Quezon City, did not disappoint.
Various local government and business leaders in Metro Cebu said they appreciated the range of issues the president brought up in his first formal report to Congress, which included off-the-cuff remarks.
“I’m definitely glad that President Duterte said he will pursue a more equitable and more efficient tax system to foster investment and job creation. This will level the playing field with our Asean neighbors and foster global competitiveness. He also vowed to cut processing time for permits and licenses. We look forward to the realization of these plans,” said Melanie Ng, president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI).
She said she appreciated the “spontaneity, candor and forcefulness of his words.”
Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Glenn Anthony Soco described the SONA as “patriotic and engaging.”
Good for business
“It was casual yet empowering. His plans and pronouncements will level the playing field, bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. His message and demeanor make him closer to the ordinary people,” said Soco.
He said the business community is elated by the plans to reduce corporate and personal income taxes; accelerate infrastructure spending; ease the requirements of doing business; support micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs); and invest in human capital, as well as his call for Congress to pave the way for a federal form of government.
For his part, however, Rey Calooy, president of the Filipino Cebuano Business Club, Inc. (FCBCI), said that as expected, the president did not focus so much on business and the economy.
“Based on the SONA, I still do not see any clear plans of the President for us in business and about the country’s macroeconomic policy,” the businessman said in a phone interview.
But while this was the case, Calooy said he appreciated President Duterte’s mention of “out-of-the-box” financing packages for MSMEs and the lowering of personal and corporate income taxes.
Allan Suarez, president of the Philippine Exporters’ Confederation (Philexport) in Cebu, described the SONA as “straightforward.”
As a businessman, Suarez said he also supports Duterte’s announcement on lowering taxes, which he believes will make the Philippines more competitive in attracting investors.
But how, he added, would the government support public infrastructure projects and social services with the lowering of tax rates?
Cebu Bankers’ Club President Maximo Rey Eleccion, in a separate interview, said the administration’s intensive anti-corruption drive will support this.
“Fight(ing) corruption in BIR and customs (will) compensate for the loss brought by lowering tax rates and tax brackets,” said Eleccion.
Meanwhile, the local banking sector said they were generally satisfied with Duterte’s first SONA.
It “covered almost everything, encompassed all aspects of the president’s plan,” said Eleccion, particularly Duterte’s statement on relaxing bank secrecy laws.
Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III said he liked the speech because it was clear and strong.
Working with Duterte
“Very Duterte: natural, tough, down-to-earth, straightforward, frank and funny. No frills,” the governor stated in a text message. “Sincere.”
He pointed out that the president did not ask Congress to restore the death penalty, something he had expressed during the campaign.
Although he had expected the president to dwell on the fight against illegal drugs and corruption, Cebu City Acting Mayor Edgardo Labella said he considered the concern as valid.
The president urged local government units not to lower their guard and to double, “triple if need be”, their efforts in the campaign against drugs.
“With that, we (in the City Government) will respond and act accordingly. We will comply with the thrust of the president. Drugs also work hand-in-hand with the culture of bureaucracy and corruption,” Labella told Sun.Star Cebu in a phone interview.
Mandaue City Mayor Gabriel Luis Quisumbing, who attended the SONA, found it noteworthy.
“I am very happy with the SONA of President Duterte. True to form, it was a clear action plan on the issues that matter most to the administration. Mandaue City will do its part to realize the vision of the President of a better country for every Filipino. It is closely aligned with our vision of a city and a nation where no one is left behind,” Quisumbing said in a text message.
Lapu-Lapu Mayor Paz Radaza observed that the president’s speech was long, but that he was “natural.”
“Mao bitaw na ang expectation sa katawhan. Since na mayor man gud siya, iyang tan-aw gyud ang pag-atiman sa katawhan ug unsa mas simpler nga it’s about serbisyo (Since he served as a mayor, he looked at how to give people better services),” Radaza said.
Radaza, who also attended the SONA, said what she heard was what she hoped the president would mention, like how to address illegal drugs, and improve health and education.
Cebu City Association of Barangay Councils President Philip Zafra, interviewed separately, also praised the SONA, saying that “it told the reality besetting the common people.”
“It also told us of the kind of president that we have—a president who resembles the ordinary people like us. It’s factual,” he said in a text message. Intern Camille Pateres, USJ-R intern