Filipinos will finally get a more detailed view of what President Marcos intends to do in the next six years when he delivers his first State of the Nation Address (Sona) in about three weeks, which he said would focus on “building back better” from the effects of the economic catastrophe caused by the pandemic and the energy crisis that resulted from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In his inaugural speech on Thursday, Marcos urged Filipinos to come together to help the country recover.
“I did not talk much in this campaign. I did not bother to think of rebutting my rivals … The forthcoming (Sona) will tell you exactly how we shall get this done,” he said.
Mr. Marcos was widely criticized during the presidential campaign for his supposed failure to lay down concrete plans for the country, except for the promise to bring down the price of rice to P20 a kilo.
“We are presently drawing up a comprehensive, all-inclusive plan for economic transformation. We will build back better,” he said.
Recovering from the effects of the pandemic will be first on Mr. Marcos’ agenda, even as he admitted that the coming months would be “rough.”
“In the road ahead, the immediate months will be rough but I will walk that road with you,” he said.
Mr. Marcos also cited the need to address the impact of the war in Ukraine, which has sent global oil prices skyrocketing and adversely affected the food supply of countries like the Philippines even when they were “farthest away from the conflict.”
Under his presidency, Mr. Marcos said food sufficiency would get preferential treatment and that they would closely study the free trade agreements entered into by the Philippines.
“I am giving that policy the most serious thought,” he said.
Mr. Marcos also cited the need to address the country’s energy supply problem, hinting that the Philippines would have to tap alternative energy reserves to mitigate its dependence on the dwindling global supply of fossil fuel.
“We are not far from oil and gas reserves that have already been developed,” he said.
Basics, but not history
On education, Mr. Marcos said the country’s schools would need to reteach the basics, except history.
“What we teach in our schools, the materials used must be retaught. I am not talking about history, I am talking about the basics, the sciences, sharpening theoretical aptitude and imparting vocational skills, such as in the German example,” he said.
The country’s national language, Filipino, as well as the people’s proficiency in English, would have to be harnessed, Mr. Marcos said, in order to give overseas Filipino workers the advantage to “thrive and survive.”
“We are condemning the future of our race to menial occupations abroad. Then, they are exploited by traffickers,” he said.
Giving reference to his father’s administration, Mr. Marcos said the country once had an education system that prepared people for more and better jobs.
“There is hope for a comeback. Vice President and soon Secretary of Education Sara Duterte-Carpio will fit that mission to a tee,” he said.
Shifting to health, Mr. Marcos said Filipinos should not be caught unprepared, underequipped and understaffed to fight the next pandemic, lamenting the meager government resources poured into improving the country’s health services.
“The last major upgrade of a public health system, exemplified by the resources poured into the Philippine General Hospital, predates the current shambles by three generations,” he said.
Mr. Marcos promised to institute changes to the government’s policies for health and migrant workers on his first day in office.
“There were shortcomings in the COVID response. We will fix them. Out in the open, no more secrets in public health. Remember, I speak from experience. I was among the first to get COVID. It was not a walk in the park,” he said.
Mr. Marcos also pledged to present a comprehensive infrastructure plan, which he hopes to accomplish in six years, and promised to complete the unfinished projects of the Duterte administration.
Mr. Marcos also expressed interest in focusing on helping the tourism industry recover.
The President’s chief economic manager on Thursday expounded on the key economic goals of the new administration in the next six years.
Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said that by the end of their term in 2028, the Philippines would be an upper middle-income country with a single-digit poverty rate and a smaller budget deficit similar to prepandemic levels.
Diokno said these were the “three overarching goals that we hope to achieve.”
He said the poverty incidence rose to 23.7 percent in the first half of 2021 as the necessary quarantine and health measures imposed by the government during the pandemic slowed down economic activity.
“We intend to bring poverty incidence down to single digit by 2028 … by pursuing a strong broad-based growth for the next six years,” Diokno said.
He said inclusive economic growth would be achieved by pursuing three key strategies.
“First, we will adopt the government’s risk management and vaccination strategy in dealing with the pandemic. We have learned that a massive vaccination program, keeping the economy open, and imposing granular lockdowns only when necessary, these would allow the Filipino people to continue to make a living while staying safe from the severe COVID-19 infections,” Diokno said.
He said they would continue to invest heavily in infrastructure and in people, and would follow the lead of former President Rodrigo Duterte when he reversed decades of underinvestment in infrastructure.
“We will also fund investments in education and health care to keep our workers healthy and our learners competitive over the long run,” Diokno added.
Finally, the finance chief said they would sustain the strong economic fundamentals, maintain fiscal discipline, and build on the current economic reform momentum.
He said these strategies would be fleshed out in the six-year fiscal consolidation framework that the economic team would pitch to Congress, for final approval by the President.
Diokno told the Inquirer that the fiscal framework would be submitted to the President in two weeks so it could be included in his Sona.