PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. on Thursday promised a better, safer and prosperous life for Filipinos during his 6-year term, and said he will do whatever it takes to fulfill that vow, even in times when he won’t have support for certain initiatives.
In his inaugural speech after being sworn into office as the 17th President of the Philippines by Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo at the National Museum of Fine Arts, Marcos said he and the Filipinos share the same dream.
“The campaigns I’ve run have taken me here where I stand today. I listened to you and this is what I have heard. We all want peace in our land. You and your children want a good chance at a better life in a safer, more prosperous country. All that is within reach of a hardworking, warm, and giving race,” he said.
“Your dreams are mine. Pangarap niyo ay pangarap ko. How can we make them come true? How can we do it together? But I will take it as far as anyone with the same faith and commitment can as if it depended entirely on himself,” Marcos added.
Marcos continued, “in our hope to make our country peaceful, your hope is my hope. In your hope of making our country successful, your hope is my hope. And in our hope for our brighter future and the futures of our children, your hope is my hope.”
The tone of the speech suited well the 65-year-old former senator whose return to Malacanang, where he spent much of his growing up years as son of former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., bore much historical significance. He returned to Malacañang more than 36 years after the strongman was ousted in 1986 on the fourth day of the EDSA People Power Revolution, sending the family to exile in the United States.
Before the noontime oath-taking, his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte met first with Marcos before being given departure honors in Malacañang Palace and before Marcos was formally inaugurated at the National Museum of Fine Arts in the City of Manila.
Duterte’s cabinet officials, including his economic team finance secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Agriculture Secretary William Dar, were also present to witness the Palace ceremony.
According to Duterte’s National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, the former president was expected to take a commercial flight back to his hometown in Davao City.
Economic woes, diminished agriculture
He vowed to come out with a “comprehensive all-inclusive” plan to address the country’s economic woes during his term, reminding everyone of the tough times in the immediate months amid persisting effects of the pandemic and the Ukraine crisis.
“The pandemic ravaged bigger economies than ours. The virus is not the only thing to blame. What had been well-built was torn down,” Marcos said.
“Then came Ukraine, the most vulnerable when it comes to food are the countries farthest away from the conflict,” he added.
Marcos said he will provide urgent attention to the agriculture sector, which he said is “diminished by unfair competition” to ensure the country’s food self-sufficiency.
He said among the measures he is considering is the review of how international free trade agreements impact the local agriculture sector.
“The richest free trade countries always gave their agricultural sectors. Their policy boils down to don’t do as we do. Do what we tell you to. I am giving that policy the most serious thought if that doesn’t change or make more allowances for emergencies with long-term effects,” Marcos said.
“Food is not just a trade commodity. Without it, people weaken and die, societies come apart. It is more than a livelihood, it is an existential imperative, and a moral one,” he added.
Prior to his inauguration, Marcos already said he will reassess the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) before he decides to ratify it to determine its impact on the competitiveness of the agriculture sector.
Marcos said he also wants to address energy and environment concerns at the same time by tapping new technology.
“Sufficient fossil fuel-free technology for whole economies has yet to be invented and it is not seriously tried by rich countries,” Marcos said.
He expressed concern about the slow pace in international efforts to address climate change, which is wreaking havoc in developing countries, including the Philippines.
“We will look to our partners and friends to help the Philippines who despite having a very small carbon footprint is at the highest risk. First spare victims and help them recover, and move on to lessen the harmful impact of climate change,” Marcos said.
Better labor force
He promised to also focus on the qualifications and preparedness of the country’s workforce, particularly of overseas Filipino workers (OFW).
“We are condemning the future of our race to menial occupations abroad. Then, they are exploited by traffickers,” Marcos said.
He hopes Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Z. Duterte can implement reforms to boost the employability of the country’s future workforce.
“Let us give OFWs all the advantages we can to survive and to thrive,” Marcos said.
Marcos also committed to continue the mass infrastructure projects initiated by former president Rodrigo R. Duterte to help disperse development in more parts of the country.
“Following these giants’ steps, we will continue to build, I will complete on schedule the projects that have been started. I am not interested in taking credit,” Marcos said.
He said a comprehensive infrastructure plan for his administration is now in the works.
“No part of our country will be neglected. Progress will be made wherever there are Filipinos so, no investment is wasted,” Marcos said.
After taking his oath as the 17th President of the Philippines, Marcos led the mass oath-taking ceremony for his Cabinet secretary-nominees, including his Vice President Sara Duterte who is now Education Secretary, Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez, Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual, Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma, Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople, among others.
Marcos, who ran together with the former president’s daughter Sara under the UniTeam tandem, secured a landslide win in the May national elections after garnering a historic 31 million votes.
He assumed the post at a time when the country is still reeling from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which also further jacked up the country’s debt and deficit ratios as a share of the economy.
As of end- April, the national government’s outstanding debt zoomed to another record-high at P12.76 trillion.
The national government’s debt-to-GDP ratio as of the first quarter of the year rose to 63.5 percent, above the internationally recommended 60-percent threshold by multilateral lenders for emerging markets like the Philippines. It is also the highest since the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio hit 65.7 percent in 2005 under the Arroyo administration.
The country’s budget deficit ratio last year also hit an unprecedented level of 8.6 percent of GDP on the back of weaker revenue collections and increased expenditures amid the health crisis.
Marcos said he will bare more details of his economic plans at his forthcoming State of the Nation Address (Sona) next month.
The solutions, he said, will even include the proposal of his rivals in the May 9, 2022 presidential race.
“I did not bother to think of rebutting my rivals. Instead, I searched for promising approaches better than the usual solutions,” Marcos said.
He said he is ready to face the tasks ahead even without “wide cooperation.”
“I will not predicate my promise to you on your cooperation. You have your own lives to live, your work to do, and there too, I will help,” Marcos said.
“Government will get as much done alone without requiring more from you,” he added.
Marcos made the statement despite getting over 31 million votes in the May 9, 2022 polls.
The son of former president Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. delivered his speech before foreign dignitaries and high-ranking guests including former president Joseph Ejercito Estrada, Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo who administered the oath to him, former Senate President Vicente Sotto III who read the dispositive portion of the 18th Congress’s joint resolution proclaiming him and Vice President Sara Zimmerman Duterte winners of the May 9 elections.
Marcos, who secured 31 million votes, also vowed to continue to reject the politics of division and focus on the work at hand.
“By your vote, you rejected the politics of division. I offended none of my rivals in this campaign. I listened instead to what they were saying and I saw little incompatibility with my own ideas about jobs, fair wages, personal safety and national strength and ending want in a land of plenty,” he said.
He also reiterated his call for Filipinos to unite and stand together.
“In this fresh chapter of our history, I extend my hand to all Filipinos. Come, let us put our shoulders to the wheel and give that wheel a faster turn to repair and to rebuild and to address challenges in new ways to provide what all Filipinos need, to be all that we can,” he said.
“We are here to repair a house divided, to make it whole and to stand strong again in the bayanihan way expressive of our nature as Filipinos. We shall seek, not scorn dialogue; listen respectfully to contrary views; be open to suggestions coming from hard thinking and unsparing judgment, but always from us Filipinos,” he added.
Marcos also vowed to continue to listen to the voice of people who are calling for “unity, unity and unity.”
“We will go further together than against each other, pushing forward not pulling each other back out of fear, out of a misplaced sense of weakness. But we are the furthest from weak. The Filipino diaspora flourishes even in the most inhospitable climes, where they are valued for their quality. The changes we shape will benefit all and will shortchange no one. I was not the instrument of change, you were that. You made it happen. I am now,” he added.
Image credits: Nonie Reyes