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After SONA, keep close watch on food, prices

The President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday listed 21 priority bills he asked Congress to enact in this second regular session of the 18th Congress. .

He again asked Congress to approve a bill reviving the death penalty for drug crimes. He proposed three housing-related bills, a bill on retirement and pensions for uniformed personnel, a coconut levy trust fund, rural, agricultural, and fisheries development financing systems, a proposed Internet transaction act, modernizing the Bureaus of Fire Protection and Immigration.

He asked for the approval of two financial reform measures—the CREATE Act (Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives) and FIST Act (Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer). There were three bills to strengthen the county’s health care resources—on advanced nursing education, formation of a medical reserve corps, and creating a national disaster prevention authority.

What the country wanted most to hear from him were his plans for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He thanked Congress for the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which had provided funds to help victims of the pandemic, and asked Congress for a second Bayanihan Act.

it will be up to Congress to study the President’s bills and enact those it deems truly important for national development and progress. Many of the bills are for long-range programs to improve the structure of the government.

Now that the SONA has been delivered and administration bills submitted to Congress, the nation’s attention will once again shift to more immediate needs, problems, and issues.

Food is the most basic of these needs. We thus welcome Secretary of Agriculture William Dar’s assurance last week that the Philippines has enough food on hand to last not only up to the end of this year but even up to the first quarter of 2021. Philippine rice production was up 6.8 percent in the second quarter, he said, while the supply outlook for all other agricultural commodities was described as “favorable.”

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, meanwhile, said inflation is likely to stay benign – averaging 2.3 percent for 2020 and 2.6 percent for 2021. These are reassuring words indeed, considering the 6.7 percent rate that inflation reached in 2018.

The ongoing pandemic kept people inside their houses these last four months, stopped most business and industrial operations, and caused the loss of income for many people. We cannot now add to their heavy burden the problems of food shortage and high prices.

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