MARCOS ACTS ON ECONOMY, FOOD CRISIS, HEALTH ISSUES; President rolls up sleeves in his first week in office

By ALFRED GABOT, Editor in Chief

MANILA – Following their oath taking and takeover on June 30, national, congressional and local officials led by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vice President Sara Duterte immediately rolled up their sleeves and started working on their plans and programs which they articulated during the campaign.

For his first official act in Malacanang, Marcos administered the oath of members of his Cabinet who included the Vice President as Secretary of Education and called on them to “keep the ball rolling.” Some Cabinet members had initial instructions from the President earlier. Later, the President convened the Cabinet for its first official meeting and tackled pressing concerns such as a looming food crisis, economic woes and health issues, among others.

Marcos, who is scheduled to deliver his first state of the nation address (SONA) on July 25 in which he is expected to unveil a more detailed plans and programs for the country, has yet to name several Cabinet members, namely, the chiefs of the Department of Health, Department of Energy, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Human Settlements and Housing, among others.

After receiving foreign dignitaries from various countries, including the United States, China, Japan and some European and Asian countries, the President held his first executive committee meeting at the Department of Agriculture in Quezon City which he heads in concurrent capacity. (See related stories)

Marcos vowed to increase production of rice and corn and to work to ensure the availability of affordable food for Filipinos.

Before Marcos ascended to the presidency, the country was reeling from looming food crisis marked by high prices of rice, vegetables, fish and meat and smuggling of major food supplies. Several officials led by Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan and the heads of the Bureau of Plant Industry and  other agencies were tagged in a Senate investigation as involved in smuggling of agri products and were recommended to be charged and fired.

Marcos was welcomed by cheering DA employees upon arrival as he presided at his first meeting held at the Bureau of Soils and Water Management conference hall adjacent to the DA headquarters.

Marcos discussed during the meeting his plans and priorities in the agriculture and fisheries sectors, including the food supply and demand outlook for meat and poultry.

“We have to attend to the impending food crisis that it seems will be visiting us in the next two quarters. We can increase our production of rice and corn, at least. And hopefully, I don’t think we have enough time to also cover the problems of livestock and poultry,” Marcos told the DA officials in the closed door meeting.

Marcos directed the DA officials to increase the production of rice and corn, and guarantee the stability of the supply of pork and chicken

“We have to think hard about making sure that people have the same…sufficient food. At number one, at price that they can afford. It is useless to have food if you cannot afford it anyway,” the President said.

For long-term solutions, Marcos ordered the DA to implement the Masagana 150 and 200 programs and the remodeling of Kadiwa stores previously under the National Food Authority nationwide.

The Masagana 150 and Masagana 200 initiatives are offshoots of the Masagana 99 rice production program implemented during the regime of Marcos’ father and namesake Ferdinand E. Marcos. The new Masagana programs were proposed by William Dar, the last Agriculture secretary of the Duterte administration.

“These are good plans that we have to put in place. Let us operationalize them already,” the President ordered.

Masagana 150 targets to produce 7.5 tons of inbred rice per hectare at ₱8.38 per kilo to allow farmers to earn at least ₱50,000 per hectare. Masagana 200 aims to yield 10 tons of hybrid rice per hectare at ₱7.82 per kilo, where farmers are expected to have a profit of at least ₱70,000 per hectare.

In remodeling the Kadiwa stores, Marcos said the rolling food outlets must adapt to the latest technology in food production.

“We really have to reconstruct our value chain starting from our scientists and our researchers all the way to the Kadiwa store. So, we have to remake that model,” said Marcos.

Marcos also ordered DA officials to submit to him the pros and cons of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement.

The RCEP is seen to hasten the import and export of products among member-states across the region. Its members include the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as China, Japan, Australia, South Korea, and New Zealand.

Malacanang officials said the President is considering applicants for the various posts, adding the heads of the departments will be named shortly.
While the health portfolio has remained unfilled, Marcos met officials of the Department of Health, including its agencies like the Philippine Health Insurance Corp, and the country’s COVID-19 task force to discuss the government’s pandemic response.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin Benhur Abalos Jr.  and Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire were among the officials in the meeting.
“The DOH discussed with the President the current COVID-19 situation and vaccination coverage, and recommended strategies to further improve on our response,” the DOH said in a statement.
Marcos has yet to name the successor of former health secretary Francisco Duque, but the DOH said the country’s COVID-19 response is still in status quo despite increasing cases of infections in Metro Manila and other regions.


On economy,  Marcos said the country’s rising inflation warrants careful handling and close monitoring following the disclosure by  the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) that Philippine inflation climbed to a three-year high at 6.1 percent in June from 5.4 percent in May and 3.7 percent a year ago amid higher food and transport costs.
“We are having to be careful because essentially our economic policy right now monetary — our monetary policy right now is essentially to use interest rates to hold, to take control of the inflation rate,” he said.

Early Monday, July 4, Marcos attended his first flag-raising ceremony at the Kalayaan Grounds of the Malacañang Palace alongside Special Assistant to the President Anton Lagdameo, Presidential Management Staff head Zenaida Angping and Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez.

In his speech, Marcos expressed that he is optimistic that he would have a good “working relationship” with government workers and that he sees them as “partners in governance.”

Later that day, Marcos led Presidential Security Group’s (PSG) change of command ceremony at PSG Grandstand, Malacañang Park in Manila.

He was accompanied by Rodriguez, Senators Robin Padilla and Joseph Victor Ejercito, and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Andres Centino, among others.

In a short speech, Marcos expressed his “heartful congratulations” to outgoing PSG Commander Brigadier General Randolph Cabangbang and to the latter’s successor, Colonel Ramon Zagala. (Alfred Gabot/