OFF TOPIC. The Philippine president once again veered away from the supposed focus of his 2nd SONA, which is economic development. Instead, Duterte gave off-the-cuff remarks on his campaign against illegal drugs, irresponsible miners, and the 1901 Balangiga Massacre, among others. Screenshot from Rappler YouTube account

MANILA, Philippines – In his his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 24, President Rodrigo Duterte made no promise to speed up infrastructure projects, a pledge that investors and commuters would have wanted to hear.

Duterte’s two-hour address, veered away from the supposed focus of his SONA – economic development. The President interspersed his SONA with lengthy off-the-cuff remarks on his campaign against illegal drugs, irresponsible miners, peace talks with communist rebels, and the 1901 Balangiga Massacre, among others.

Reading from his prepared speech, Duterte cited victories in his administration’s government’s infrastructure initiatives during its 1st year in office.

"We are building new airports….We shall complete strategic road and bridge projects and some road projects will be widened to address the worsening traffic," he said.

In April, the Duterte administration unveiled Dutertenomics, an ambitious economic plan whose main feature is the Build, build, build infrastructure plan.

With a whopping P8.4 trillion in infrastructure expenses estimated to be spent in the next 5 years, the plan promises to usher in a golden age of infrastructure.

Infrastructure spending is expected to increase from 5.4% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017 to 7.4% of GDP by 2022. The government plans to fund most of these projects by implementing the comprehensive tax reform program.

Projects under the infrastructure program include the Mega Manila Subway, Mindanao Railway, North Luzon Expressway-South Luzon Expressway Connector Road, Bonifacio Global City-Ninoy Aquino International Airport Bus Rapid Transit, Subic-Clark Cargo Railway, and PNR North-South Railway.

Some of these projects, however, are undergoing delays due to a change in mode of implementation (from public-private partnership to official development assistance) and stalled right-of-way delivery.

No TRO on infra deals, SC urged

The President also urged the Supreme Court to stop issuing temporary restraining orders (TROs) on infrastructure projects, which delays the implementation of some deals like the common station for the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) in Quezon City.

"Do not delay projects because you are issuing TRO left and right. Wala nang magawang project kasi puro TRO (There will be no projects to be done because of TRO)," Duterte said.

Under Republic Act 8975, the Supreme Court can issue TROs and writs of preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of infrastructure deals. Only lower courts are prohibited from issuing TROs on infrastructure projects.

After he ended his SONA on Monday, July 24, Duterte submitted to Congress the proposed P3.767-trillion national budget for 2018, over 12% higher than the current budget. – Rappler.com