In brief: Main themes of President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address

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State of the Nation Address
President Duterte delivers his fourth State of the Nation Address.

President Duterte has delivered his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) today (Monday, July 22) since he became president in 2016.

The president used the speech to warn government agencies to “shape up” while outlining what his administration has achieved in the last year and what he hopes to get done in the next three years.

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The president arrived at the Batasang Pambansa Complex about 55 minutes late and only started his speech at 5.15pm instead of the scheduled 4pm. 

The speech clocked in at about an hour-and-a-half. 

Here are some of the major themes:

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The war on drugs

Expressing his frustration that drugs were still a problem, he urged Congress to bring back the death penalty.

“I respectfully ask Congress to reinstate the death penalty for heinous crimes related to drugs as well as plunder. It is a sad commentary that we can’t distinguish our need from our greed, our principles from prejudices, the real from the fake, and the truth from lie,” he said.

Boracay Island

Despite recent flooding, the president lauded the environmental rehabilitation of Boracay Island as a success.

“I am proud to say that it has been restored close to its original pristine state. Boracay island is just a beginning,” he said. 

He also highlighted the white sand resort as a good place to meet women. “And the girls there, the foreigners, are waiting for you gentlemen to visit the place. They are all on the beach sunbathing,” he said.

The South China Sea

The president spoke about the contested waters — also known as the West Philippine Sea — and said that his administration recognised it as Philippine territory but wanted to avoid conflict with China.

He said: “If I send the Marines to drive away from the Chinese fishermen, I guarantee, none of them will come back alive. But let me assure you, the West Philippine Sea is ours, no ifs and buts. But we have to temper it with the reality we face today. I will do it in a peaceful way, mindful of the fact that it is national pride and territorial integrity at stake.”

He also pledged to discuss the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping before his term ends.

Military training in schools

In his speech today, Duterte called for the return of a mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programme in high schools.

“You know, if there’s a war, 10 out of 10 they don’t know how to hold a gun. I think military training will be good for everybody.”

Government red tape

He also slammed government agencies like the Land Transport Office, the Social Services System, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Land Registration Authority, and others, for inefficiency and urged them to cut down on red tape.

He said: “Simplify. May I, are you here? Simplify. Just like the others, you can do it electronically. You don’t have to go to the office. I have been asking that from you since three years ago. If you still fail to do it now, I will really kill you. I am really getting annoyed.”

The president also asked mayors to speed up the delivery of permits to businesses, setting a target of three days.

Following the State of the Nation Address, the president sang the classic Filipino love song “Ikaw” and Henry Mancini’s “Moon River”. 

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