MANILA – More attendees may be allowed at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City compared to last year for President Rodrigo Duterte’s last State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) in July, an official of the House of Representatives said on Tuesday.
House Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza said 150 to 200 participants 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 said the attendees would still undergo rapid testing and reverse transcription - polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests and be required to follow social distancing protocols.
Mendoza said they are looking into a rule requiring SONA attendees to be fully vaccinated to be allowed at 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.
Only government media, he said, would be allowed to cover Duterte's SONA at the Batasan complex, while private media would join 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.
Last week, Presidential Security Group (PSG) commander Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III assured the “smooth and safe” conduct of Duterte's last SONA.
“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 said ocular and site inspections within the Batasang Pambansa Complex have been conducted.
SONA attendees, Durante said, will be subjected to strict health and safety protocols.
Last year, attendees to Duterte’s SONA were required to undergo an RT-PCR test a day before the annual event to make sure that they are free from Covid-19 before being allowed entry to the Batasang Pambansa.
The Philippine president delivers the SONA every year to report the state of the country, unveil the government’s agenda for the coming year, and grab the opportunity to urge Congress to pass priority measures.
Article 7, Section 23 of the 1987 Constitution mandates the president to “address the Congress at the opening of its regular session.” (PNA)