Duterte to push federalism in report to the nation

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By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

MALACAÑANG ON Thursday said President Rodrigo R. Duterte is expected to push for a shift to a federal form of government in his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 23.

“Well, definitely federalism will be there; there is rice tariffication, an administration bill which has not seen the light of day,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said in his press briefing at the Palace on Thursday.

Mr. Roque also said that on Monday, before the President’s report to the nation, the Executive Department “will be submitting the [administration’s] legislative agenda to Congress.”

The rice tariffication bill seeks to amend the National Food Authority’s (NFA) control on rice importation by allowing private traders into the trade. The proposed measure will also remove the prescribed volumes for imported rice.

In a statement, Senate committee on economic affairs Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian said , “The bill also calls for the creation of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (Rice Fund) composed of the collected tariff revenues that will be utilized for the enhancement of rice productivity, modernization of farms, and development of rice research, among others.”

As for the preparations for SONA, the spokesman said Mr. Duterte will have his rehearsal at the Palace on Sunday. He also said film and television director Joyce E. Bernal, who will be directing the “35-minute” SONA, “wants to portray the President as the father of the nation.”

Mr. Roque also said he wants to look for “better speechwriters” for Mr. Duterte.

“When he speaks, stick with the prepared script, although I have promised him that I will help look for better speechwriters who will actually write speeches that he will actually read,” the spokesman said in response to singer and talk-show host Martin Ramon R. Nievera’s question, “What’s your advice to the President when he speaks?”

Mr. Nievera made an appearance at the Palace briefing for his new show in ANC.”Just you to know, this is for the new show that I have in ANC, that he [Mr. Roque] allowed us to spy (on him) on his whole day,” he said.