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Marcos: No rush to name health, defense chiefs; OICs doing well

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MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. is pleased with the performance of the officers-in-charge of the health and defense departments and sees no need to appoint secretaries of those departments yet.

The chief executive disclosed this Thursday morning in a chance interview with reporters on the sidelines of the Kadiwa ng Pasko caravan in Quezon City.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., joined by Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte and other national and local officials, lead the launching of the Kadiwa ng Pasko at Quezon City Hall on Dec. 1, 2022.
Office of the President

The president has still not appointed chiefs to lead the departments months after his inauguration. Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire is currently the DOH-OIC while Senior Undersecretary Jose Faustino — a former armed forces chief — heads the defense department.

"We haven't nominated anyone. Vergeire is doing a fine job. Because we are still not out of the pandemic. So we have to continue to be careful," the president said in mixed Filipino and English when asked about the two departments.

"In the [Department of Agriculture], in the [Department of National Defense], no, I think... I'm happy with the situation as it is now. We'll see. These things are revisited, especially every year at the end of the first year. I don't think that's a secret to anyone that at the end of the first year, the other candidates, they will now join the mix of possible nominees."

Marcos has been criticized in recent months because of the delay in appointing a health chief, with new and more contagious variants of COVID-19 still entering the country.

He also drew flak when he opted to appoint former Philippine National Police chief Camilo Cascolan, one of the chief architects of former president Rodrigo Duterte's "war on drugs," as health undersecretary.

RELATED: Sidelined DOH urges use of face masks, distancing to prevent COVID in schools

Marcos: Be patient with appointments

Marcos also appealed for "more patience" from the public regarding the appointments that are still not happening almost five months after taking office in Malacañang.

The DOH said Tuesday that the number of COVID-19 infections in the Philippines may go down to around 400 a day by December if people continue to comply with public health safeguards. The Philippines has confirmed more than 4 million COVID-19 cases, with over 64,000 deaths, since the start of the pandemic. 

The president is also concurrently the secretary of the Department of Agriculture in the middle of the food price crisis, and Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin said last week that they are seriously considering appointing another person to head the department.

Several names are currently being considered for the position of DA secretary, but they say there is a timetable etc. wanted to reach Marcos before leaving the department.

The nearly 14-year high inflation rate, the fastest increase in commodity prices especially in food, is also happening with Marcos Jr. in charge the DA. His campaign promise of P20 for a kilo of rice is still not fulfilled as of this writing. 

We are getting closer and closer to my dream price for rice, especially, because we are able to sell this for P25 [per kilo,]" Marcos also said at the event Thursday.

"When the prices in the markets are the same that we can give in the Kadiwa, then we don't need the Kadiwa anymore," he also said. "But we’re not yet there at that point."

The president, joined by Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte and other national and local officials, led the launching of “Kadiwa ng Pasko” at the Quezon City Hall Thursday.

The Quezon City local government said there are 40 stalls that sell various items such as well-milled rice for P25 per kilo, vegetables, dried fish, frozen goods, fruits, leather crafts and other local products.

with reports from James Relativo and Xave Gregorio 

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENSE

DND

DOH

FERDINAND MARCOS JR.

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