President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his 4th State of the Nation Address at Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City. SIMEON CELI JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Rodrigo Duterte was an hour late for the year’s most important speech, but made sure his national audience soaked up a laundry list of accomplishments during his first three years in office, among them the cleanup of Boracay and Manila Bay, new airports, a new telco player and major legislation such as the law carving out a new Muslim autonomous region.

He also basked in the victory of his candidates for senator in the May 2019 polls as well as his high approval ratings, noting that the latest Pulse Asia survey found that only 3 percent of respondents disapproved of his performance as president.

“[T]he landslide victory of the administration candidates as well as the latest survey results showing that my disapproval rating is 3% … inspire me with determination to pursue relentlessly what we have started at the start of my administration,” Duterte said in his 4th State of the Nation Address on Monday.

Saying Boracay Island was “just the beginning,” Duterte vowed that his ambitious Build, Build, Build program would “swiftly gain ground” and build emerging economic hubs outside Metro Manila, as well as connect the country’s islands by air, land and sea.

“Equipped with political will, the government ordered the closure of Boracay Island for six months to prevent its further deterioration. We cleaned and rehabilitated the island and allowed it to heal naturally. I am proud to say that it has been restored close to its original pristine state,” Duterte told members of the House and Senate assembled in joint session at Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

“We also paved the way for the entry of third telecommunications provider. Do not worry about this. There is no corruption at all. I guarantee you, upon the grave of my father. I do not allow – I do not talk to them. I just say: Just do your work. And kung maari (And if possible), according to what the specifications are required by this government,” Duterte said.

“I challenge this new player to fulfill its commitment to provide fast and reliable telecommunication services to our people, especially in the underserved areas,” he added.

Duterte however said developmental gains would not be felt by people in the countryside “if we cannot maintain law and order.”

He cited efforts to end the Moro and communist insurgences.

“After almost two decades of peace negotiation, the Bangsamoro Organic Law was finally passed and ratified…It is my hope that the Bangsamoro Transition [Authority] will fast-track the establishment of regional government that will secure and comfortable life for Muslim brothers and sisters, and all indigenous communities in the Bangsamoro Regions,” the president said.

“Additionally, I have taken the helm of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and have assigned a Cabinet member to each region to harmonize government efforts in attaining national development [and] security,” he said.

Wish list

Duterte again railed against the spread of illegal drugs and rampant corruption in government, his signature issues, and said a national “catharsis” and “self-purgation” were needed for the “good of the nation’s health.” 

He told city and municipal mayors to process all business permits in three days and called out government agencies subject of many complaints in the government’s call center dubbed “Contact Center ng Bayan,” the top five being the Land Transportation Office, Social Security System, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Land Registration Authority and the Pag-IBIG housing fund.

He singled out Landbank for supposedly engaging in commercial lending at the expense of financing agriculture, adding that if the state-owned bank continued to do so, Congress should shut it down and give its money directly to the people.

Duterte, as expected, enumerated a legislative wish list for the remainder of his term:

  • a new salary standardization law for government workers;
  • the remaining packages of the administration’s tax reform proposal;
  • a fire protection modernization program;
  • new offices such as the Department of Disaster Resilience, Department of Water Resources and a Water Regulatory Commission;
  • the National Land Use Act;
  • death penalty for heinous crimes and plunder of government coffers; and
  • mandatory military training for senior high school students, claiming young people were “bereft of patriotism and love of country.”

Duterte asked Congress to pass the “Magna Carta for Barangays” and postpone barangay or village elections in 2020, to rectify the “truncated terms of sitting [barangay officials] but also provide them with the ample time to finish their programs and projects.”

‘West Philippine Sea is ours’

Duterte addressed criticism of his less aggressive stance on the West Philippine Sea dispute with China, pointing out that the Philippines’ ownership of the disputed waters had been “internationally recognized.”

He said “the West Philippine Sea is ours, no if and buts.”

But Duterte clarified that when he said previously that he had allowed the Chinese fish within the country’s exclusive economic zone, “that was on the premise that I own the property but we are not in control of the property.”

Duterte said he would deal with foreign fishers “in due time.”

“The avoidance of conflict — armed conflict and protection of our territorial waters and natural resources compel us to perform a delicate balancing act…That is why I will do [it] in the peaceful way, mindful of the fact that it is our national pride and territorial integrity that are at stake,” he said.

Duterte said that while he was no longer happy in power and wanted to resign, he would follow the Constitution and finish his term in 2022. But he told critics that “if you think you can run the country better than the one elected, go ahead.”

“You can stage a coup against me anytime.” (