Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) – the world’s oldest debt-watch monitor and only coalition in the world working on the Philippines’ debt problems and realizing a common framework agenda for economic development – held the State of the People’s Address (SOPA) 2019: Tunay na Kaunlaran para sa Mamamayan, hindi ang Pagyaman ng Iilan on July 16. In anticipation of President Duterte’s 3rd SONA, the SOPA raised critical questions on the priority legislative agenda expected to be en-dorsed by a majority of Philippine lawmakers.

The SOPA considered as a critical assessment on the so-called accomplishments of the Admin-istration on its 3rd year, but more importantly how the economic policies continue to impact nega-tively on Filipinos, and related the true state of the nation with analyses led by speakers including FDC President Dr. Rene Ofreneo, former Congressman Dr. Walden Bello, Ms. Mae Buenaventura of the Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development, Dr. Eduardo Tadem of the UP Center for Integrative Development Studies and Atty. Tony Salvador from IDEALS and also FDC’s BOT member.

The “growth is a lie”. As most of our legislators will fervently applaud the push for Cha-Cha (which will allow 100% foreign ownership of resources), further liberalization of public services, the return of the death penalty, the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility, and the TRABAHO Bill, working and poor Filipinos will continue to suffer institutionalized contractualization, TRAIN-induced inflation, extrajudicial killings, and deficient social services,” said FDC Executive Director Zeena Manglinong.

To symbolize what the SOPA deemed to be the true state of the nation, FDC members tore and burned a streamer containing a collage of Duterte’s economic thrusts leading to so-called “lies” that is going the way of further liberalization of trade and investments, the debt-bomb a-forming, more privatization of public services, and depicting the more important question of “Does riding the TRAIN again, lead to more Filipinos having TRABAHO?”

“Although Dutertenomics is claiming to keep the GDP growth high, what GDP measures is econom-ic quantity, not quality of life or national well-being. What the debt metrics do not show, however, are the socio-political conditions affected by the government’s debt policy. it has neither delivered the quality jobs needed by the mass of Filipino workers nor has it raised our manufacturing and ag-ricultural sectors from stagnation. Despite all of Duterte’s ambitions, poverty and inequality is wors-ening and deepening, rendering the seemingly vibrant GDP growth rate as merely cosmetic. That is the true state of the nation and the people!” Manglinong added.

The SOPA also called on the Philippine state and public to formulate and advance proposals for a People’s Economy that promotes inclusion, equality, and balanced development.

“If we truly seek to deliver lives of dignity to the Filipino working and poor masses, an alternative to BBB and its neoliberal framework is urgently needed,” stated FDC President Rene Ofreneo. Dr. Ofreneo added that “Reducing inequality is about how a society’s policies, structures and deci-sions work together to promote inclusion, equality and balanced development. This means formula-tion of programs that help empower the poor to become active players in society and economy, not just passive recipients of dole-outs from government and the do-gooders or conscience-stricken corporate captains of industry.