SENATE Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri is looking to President Rodrigo Duterte to use the State of the Nation Address (SONA) to outline the next steps for the country in the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a crucial period—we’re easing community quarantines across the country but we’re still battling the rapid spread of the virus. So the SONA is very timely, and I’m hoping the President will spell out the next crucial steps for us,” Zubiri said ahead of the SONA.
“Of course, we want to know about the plans for the vaccine, which is the one thing we need in order to finally end this COVID-19 crisis. It would be great to hear about the government’s procurement plans for it, and perhaps a timeline of when we should expect the vaccine to be made available to our hospitals and our people,” he said.
Zubiri said other countries are already working and negotiating with vaccine developers and manufacturers for a quick and easy procurement process once the vaccines are available and he is hoping that the government have plans for this.
“We in the Senate are ready to include the budget for the vaccination program in the Bayanihan II bill, or maybe the 2021 national budget. We just want to hear about the plan from the executive first, so we can align our measures accordingly,” he said.
In line with this, Zubiri hopes the President will touch on COVID-related priority measures in his address as well, particularly the Bayanihan II bill, which they hope to pass on third reading right after the SONA.
“I am also going to be looking out for a mention of CREATE—the revised CITIRA bill, which now puts an emphasis on economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic. I hope the President shares our view that this measure needs to be passed urgently," he added.
CREATE—or the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act—proposes an unprecedented 5 percent corporate tax cut and aims to help businesses rebuild, recover, and retain jobs for their employees.
Beyond jumpstarting the economy, Zubiri also brought up the impact of COVID-19 on education, saying, “I also hope to hear the President talk about the incoming school year, which is going to be challenging. I’m talking from the province right now, and I know first-hand how difficult it is to get internet connection in remote areas—if families even have devices to use in the first place.”