Dubai: The second State of the Nation Address (SONA) by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday received mixed reaction from Filipinos in the UAE, as many said they were expecting their leader to talk about programmes for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) at length but he failed to do so.
The SONA is an annual political exercise, in which the Philippine president addresses lawmakers at the opening of their regular session to report on the state of the country.
This is also where he unveils the government’s agenda for the coming year and urges lawmakers to prioritise and draft laws for government projects.
In his SONA, Duterte addressed many issues including eliminating criminality and drugs “no matter how long it takes”, stopping corruption by engaging the public, ensuring responsible mining, establishing units to ensure food security, changing procurement rules and making government services “efficient and people-friendly” by removing bureaucratic red tape, among other things.
Concerning OFWs, Duterte issued orders for their welfare and rights to be protected by increasing funding for their assistance.
“They [OFWs] are our heroes. They and their families have sacrificed much for the country. We all know how a large part of the economy comes from their remittances,” Duterte said.
“That is why to ensure that their rights are protected, I order the increase of our assistance to OFWs from 400 million pesos (Dh29 million) to more than one billion.”
Yuri Cipriano, an OFW based in Dubai, said while the intent of the additional budget for OFWs was good, the next question was where the money would be sourced from.
“This additional funding seems to be an acknowledgement on the part of the government of the abuses that Filipinos suffer from overseas — especially victims of illegal recruitment and abuse. This funding may help OFWs but again, this is just a band-aid solution to the problem,” Cipriano told Gulf News.
For Nhel Morona, a migrants’ rights advocate, the SONA was a “disappointment” as it sounded like the “old speeches” the president had given in the past.
Roy Tamano, who works in Sharjah, on the other hand lauded the president for ordering the increase in funds for OFWs by more than doubling it. But he said he was hoping to hear more from the president. In his two-hour speech, Duterte did not have much to say on the current programmes for the estimated 10 million OFWs around the world.
“It’s good news for us. But we really hope that it would not remain on paper,” Tamano, a known Duterte supporter, said, adding, “I just noticed that very little attention was given to OFWs during this year’s SONA. I was hoping the president would talk more about the much-anticipated OFW ID, OFW Bank, and OFW Department for all of us.”
Tamano, who hails from Marawi, lauded the president for his promise to rebuild the city of Marawi, which has been at the centre of military action against rebels and insurgents in Mindanao — a development that necessitated the declaration of Martial Law in May.
“Whatever he is planning for us, it still remains to be seen. But considering that he is a man of action, and he is from Mindanao and claims to have Moro blood, I’m sure he will fulfil his promise. But he has to do it quickly since the entire city had been wiped out and many lives are affected.”