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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, July 29, 2016
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Sol Y Sombra
with Rex Remetio

An unusual SONA

President Rodrigo Duterte's SONA, obviously because he has only been in office less than a month, is not about the present state of the nation, but what he will do in the coming days.

What is remarkable is that, in the short space of time as president, DU30 has caused thousands to come to fore, acknowledging being users and sellers of illegal drugs. The main reason for this unusual confession of drug usage/selling is that of being shot by government agents if they don't come out and pledge not to continue being a drug user/seller.- It's the fear factor.

As I have said, this is most remarkable. It is possible that the market for illegal drugs will dwindle. It may make drug lords, if still around, to look for less dangerous activities. Curiously, Digong did not dwell largely on the drug problem in his SONA. He does not have to.

What DU30 also wants to do is to unilaterally cease fighting the CPP/NPA/NDF in the hope that by doing so, peace could be achieved. In fact there were plans by Duterte to have Jose Ma. Sison come home to the Philippines to insure a peaceful resolution of the conflict. However, for reasons obscure at the moment, Sison failed to do so.

Apparently, according to a knowledgeable source, Joma would be arrested by the U.S. if he pops out of his refuge in the Netherlands. Also, Joma has lost most of his influence with the CPP because of his prolonged absence from the Philippines. Most of his former colleagues in the party have died and are no longer around.

There is really a real need to solve the NPA/CPP/NDF problem, the solution of which has eluded a string of presidents. Digong has been thinking outside the box and he of course needs the cooperation of the rest of us. However, whether he succeeds or not is up in the air.

Another matter underscored in Digong's SONA is the RH law which aims to limit the rate of population growth, the level of which is now over a hundred million. The rationale is simple --- as was said in a paper of the U.P. School of Economics:

“Rapid population growth and high fertility rates especially among the poor, do exacerbate poverty, and make it harder for government to address it.

In Thailand, where they have a very active and successful population program, some stores will give you condoms instead of the usual money change.

This move, of course collides with the Catholic Church position. However, it is well known that president Digong does give much heed to the Church's position.

In any event, that's the stance of the new administration.

Another highlight of Digong's SONA is the need to ease the bottle-neck in registration of businesses and the processing of their papers.

Here we confront again the fearful face of extreme bureaucracy. The delays, the unreasonable requirements, not to speak of (sometimes) the need to shell out money to facilitate things. Is this the price we pay for living under modern governments? I wonder. However, Digong is in the right track --- less bottle necks, less delay, less unreasonable requirements.

Then ditto for bottle-neck in the traffic --- especially in the Greater Manila area where vast wastage of time and gasoline are permanent features every day. This is probably one of the hardest problems to solve. Many brilliant minds have come and gone – the problem remains and grows worse by the day.

Duterte also proposes to ease the lives of drivers by extending their driver's license, and travelers by extending duration their visas.

Clark airport merited a mention.

Now come the whamoo for all mining and logging industries. Their permits will be reviewed and possibly suspended. Those having stocks in mining and logging companies --- can tremble a little – What's to become of the price of their stock in the stock market?

The SONA also goes to promise an increase in free Wi-Fi access.

Of course, human trafficking and illegal recruitment.

And hey, there will be monthly rice subsidy for poor families. Cash or actual cereal?

And finally the Women with a promise of full implementation of Magna Carta for Women.

I was not surprised why no mention of the China problem in the SONA. The matter is too big for the SONA message? The case is still under study. Duterte however could have mentioned some basic principles and beliefs of the Filipino people vis-à-vis the trouble in the South China Sea.

As I have said Duterte's SONA deals with the future. His administration is just trying to find its way around.

Let's wait for the next SONA.

MISCELLANY. Triumph of the Talong. The Supreme Court, realizing that an egg-plant modified to create its own pesticides against insects, etc. should be allowed to continue testing. The (bt) Talong was attacked by Green Peace for being genetically modified. However, considering that human hunger is more important than a theoretical possibility of harm, the Supreme Court has wisely re-considered its ban on the field testing and dismissed the Greenpeace petition.*



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