AFP ASSURES MARCOS, SARA WELL PROTECTED Japan ex-PM Abe assasination, July 25 SONA trigger security alert

PRESIDENT MARCOS JR. and family during his inauguration on June 30 at the National Museum

By ALFRED GABOT, Editor in  Chief

MANILA — As President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vice President Sara Duterte work  their way to their third week in office, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police firmed up security measures for the two top officials following the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe while on the campaign trail.

Two security groups of the Armed Forces – the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and the newly activated Vice Presidential Security and Protection Group (VPSPG) – are in full force to ensure the safety of the President and Vice President, according to Col. Medel Aguilar, AFP spokesperson. (See related stories)

“We have the PSG and the VPSPG to protect the President and the Vice President, respectively. In coordination with these units, we provide additional security coverage in places of their engagements,” Aguilar said.

He said that members of other units are also deployed in places that the President and Vice President visit.

The PNP, meanwhile, has activated a task force and started laying out security preparations for the first State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Marcos Jr. at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City on July 25.

 PNP spokesperson, Col. Jean Fajardo, said the PNP National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) for one has presented a security plan to Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. for the SONA.

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said Marcos will unveil his economic and other plans during his first SONA before the joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Already, a P5.1 trillion budget for the national government has been proposed to Congress, he added.

The SONA is a constitutional obligation and yearly tradition where the President reports on the current situation of the country, unveils the government’s agenda for the coming year, and proposes to Congress certain legislative measures.

The AFP assured  that former and current leaders of the country are well-protected.

Aside from the two elite units, additional security personnel are also deployed in places that both the President and Vice President visit.

Aguilar said it is up to the PSG and VPSPG which security setups they will be using to further ensure the officials’ safety.

“It is for the units I mentioned to determine force requirements for the security operations. They are led by competent officers,” he said.

After he tested positive for COVID-19, the President underwent home isolation for seven days and has recovered. While at home, he presided over his 2nd Cabinet meeting via teleconference with the Cabinet members in Malacanang which lasted for five hours and focused the discussion on crafting the 2023 national budget.
The second Cabinet meeting also tackled inflation with the president saying he anticipated the rise in the inflation rate as a “potential problem”.

The country’s headline inflation rate rose to 6.1 percent in June 2022, the highest level since October 2018.

Over the weekend,  Marcos posted his first vlog entry as the country’s chief executive, likening his first week in office to that of his father, former President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr.
Later, the President met with Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan via teleconferencing as well as the |Department of Agriculture officials to follow up on his first marching orders when they first had their in-person meeting at the Bureau of Soils and Water Management conference hall.
The meeting with the  NEDA chief comes after Pulse Asia’s June 2022 national survey showed that most Filipinos view controlling the inflation rate in the country as an urgent concern that needs to be prioritized.

Earlier, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles assured Filipinos that fighting inflation is a top economic priority for the Marcos administration.

“We actually discussed inflation at the last Cabinet meeting and the President himself reported this, so he is actually ahead of the publication of the survey having anticipated this as a potential problem,” Cruz-Angeles said.

The country’s headline inflation rate accelerated to 6.1 percent in June 2022 from 5.4 percent in the previous month, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported.

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the Philippines’ high inflation in June was not a problem unique to the Philippines because other countries are suffering the same problem.

He also assured that the recent acceleration of inflation will be arrested by the government through “addressing constraints in the food, energy, and transportation and logistics sectors.”

Last Friday, Marcos met governors and mayors to ask them to support the booster campaign rollout to fast-track the country’s return to normalcy and make the wearing of masks “optional.”

Marcos stressed the importance of having a high vaccination rate in the resumption of in-person learning for students as well as opening up the economy with people not worrying about the re-imposition of lockdowns.

“Siguro parang pinapanood ko iyong aking ama noong siya’y pangulo at pinapanood ko siya na habang siya’y nagtratrabaho,” Marcos said in a new video on his YouTube channel, recounting his first week as President since being inaugurated on June 30.

(It’s like watching my father at work when he was still President.)

“Ganoon ang pakiramdam ko, sabi ko siguro ‘yan yung nakikita, parang tinitignan ko noong aking ama ang nagpapatakbo ng mga meeting at nagpapa-oath taking,” he said.

Last week, Marcos had his first Cabinet meeting. Among the topics discussed during the meeting, he said, were addressing skyrocketing oil prices, and strengthening food security.

“Napakahalaga ng booster shot lalo na ngayong tumataas na naman ang mga kaso [ng COVID-19] at ibabalik na natin iyong mga estudyante sa face-to-face [classes],” he said.

At the second Cabinet meeting, Marcos Jr. also unveiled his plan to pursue more policies and infrastructure projects that would help promote the tourism industry in the country.

Marcos cited Singapore’s policies and infrastructure plans that are seen as major contributors to its good tourism performance despite limited natural resources.

He said it is “so important” to improve the policies and the infrastructure sector in the Philippines to boost tourism activities in the country.

“That means that it can be done. We just have to support the plan to develop all of these enabling environment – the policy, conditions, and infrastructure,” Marcos, as quoted by the OPS, said before his Cabinet.

Marcos also broached the idea of improving healthcare facilities in big tourist destinations like Boracay Island.

This, as he cited the similar arrangement on beaches in Hawaii and Thailand, the OPS said.

Marcos also emphasized the need to make travel and lodging in the country easier for tourists.

Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia-Frasco agreed that tourism policies must be improved, saying the Philippines is “certainly not at a disadvantage, given the availability of its natural resources and wealth of talent, as well as products and people.”

“Certainly, to benchmark their policies in this regard would be the direction that we would take per your instructions,” Frasco said. “But certainly, many measures could be improved as far as policy regulations, both on the national and local level, and proper coordination – to be able to focus on the overall tourist experience from the time that he arrives to the point of entry to the time that he gets to his point of destination.”

Marcos Jr. is fully supportive of proposals to look at the country’s education curriculum in order to equip students with skills required by different industries and address the existing job mismatch, said  Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles.
She said concerns about workers’ skills, competencies, and the way the Philippines produces its graduates were raised during the 2nd Cabinet meeting.

“Among the suggestions to address these standing issues include a reform of the current curriculum since the rise of automation has posed a threat to many jobs,” Angeles said.

The President presided the meeting via teleconferencing since he is still in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19.

Marcos told his Cabinet members that basic education skills and knowledge must be improved to prepare students as they pursue a higher level of learning.

“That’s exactly what is happening. That is why we have to look at the curriculum as well. Not only of TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority), but also even our diploma courses,” Marcos said.

In his PowerPoint presentation, Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual underscored the need for a review of the country’s curriculum, particularly basic and tertiary education.

Basic skills must be instilled in students, Pascual said, adding that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is ramping up efforts to help universities develop micro-credentialing systems to catch up with fast-changing technological advancements.

“We’re developing or helping universities develop this system of micro-credentialing because technology is changing very fast. There is a need for workers to update themselves, to reskill or upskill,” Pascual said.

Pascual cited the case of the National University of Singapore which offers focused but short courses on certain technology and awards students with micro-credential, which is similar to a diploma but for a short course.

The DTI secretary also suggested the need for the Philippines to send Filipino teachers abroad for training. “Vietnam, for example, sends teachers to the United States and Europe for advanced studies,” he said.

To address the current job mismatch, Pascual said the DTI should collaborate closely with the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, and TESDA.

“We will also collaborate with the said entities or authorities, the skills development, reskilling and upskilling of Philippine workforce through our own Philippine Skills Framework,” Pascual said. (alfred.gabot@gmail.com)

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