MANILA – An official of the House of Representatives announced on Tuesday that more people may be permitted to attend President Rodrigo Duterte’s last State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) in July at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City than last year.
According to House Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza, 150 to 200 people may be allowed to physically attend the event.
“Hopefully, we’re looking at around both houses. Siguro around 150 to 200 ang papasok sa plenary this year pero depende pa rin sa ano ng IATF and sa ano ng Malacañang. So far, ‘yun ang projection natin (Maybe, 150 to 200 individuals may be allowed to enter the plenary this year, but this still depends on the decision of the IATF [Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases] and Malacañang. So far, that is our projection),” Mendoza told reporters.
He stated that the participants will still be subjected to rapid testing and reverse transcription – polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests, as well as social distancing protocols.
Mendoza stated that they are looking into enforcing a law that requires SONA attendees to be completely vaccinated upon entry to the venue.
“By that time naman karamihan naman fully vaccinated na. We’re hoping na ‘yung mag-attend, lahat ng papasok sa plenary, fully vaccinated sila (By that time, most of them would be fully vaccinated. We’re hoping that those attending and entering the plenary would be fully vaccinated),” he said.
He said that only government media will be permitted to cover Duterte’s SONA in the Batasan complex, while private media would be allowed to participate remotely.
The presidential family, members of Congress and their spouses, former presidents, foreign diplomats, government officials, and other dignitaries are usually invited to grace the annual SONA.
Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III, commander of the Presidential Security Group (PSG), assured last week that Duterte’s last SONA will be “smooth and safe.”
“This will be the last SONA of the President, so we will ensure and assure the Filipino people that it will go smoothly and safely as with the past State-of-the-Nation addresses of the President,” Durante said.
He stated that ocular and site inspections were carried out within the Batasang Pambansa Complex.
Durante added that SONA participants will be subjected to strict health and safety protocols.
Last year, attendees at Duterte’s SONA were obliged to undergo an RT-PCR test the day before the annual event to ensure that they are clear of Covid-19 before entering the Batasang Pambansa.
Every year, the Philippine president delivers the SONA to report on the state of the country, present the government’s plan for the upcoming year, and take the chance to encourage Congress to enact priority measures.