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Opinion

Bills for the 17th President BBM

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

Officially proclaimed as the duly elected President, ex-Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (BBM) declared his every intention to “do well” for the next six years of his administration. But to do this, the 64-year-old namesake son of the late president Ferdinand Marcos sought out the help and cooperation of all Filipinos in the name of unity that he campaigned for and won the presidency.

The young Marcos was proclaimed together along with his winning Vice President, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, in formal rites held at the Batasang Pambansa last Wednesday. A day after his proclamation, the freshly minted President announced the Philippine economy is the top priority of his administration.

Riding on his popular campaign chant, the incoming President won’t mind being called for short as PBBM, as in President BBM. This, he told reporters in his first press conference, a day after his proclamation, held at his campaign headquarters in Mandaluyong City. First things first, PBBM revealed the core of his team of economic managers.

“The first priority is the economy. That’s why we’ve been very careful in choosing our economic team,” PBBM pointed out.

PBBM first asked Philippine Competition Commission Arsenio Balisacan to return to his former post as Director-General of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). Balisacan first headed the NEDA during the administration of the late president Benigno Simeon Aquino III. Yesterday, he named another former Cabinet official of the previous administrations of president Joseph Estrada and Cabinet member as well of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte.

PBBM named incumbent Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno to head the Department of Finance (DOF). Diokno once served during the shortened term of Mr.Estrada as the Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). He was first appointed by President Duterte as DBM Secretary until he was moved over as BSP Governor.

PBBM named another ex-Estrada Cabinet official, former NEDA Director-General Felipe Medalla to finish the unexpired term of Diokno at the BSP. Diokno still has a fixed term ending in July, 2023 yet at the BSP.

Also yesterday, PBBM named former University of the Philippines president Alfred Pascual to become his Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary while San Miguel Corp.Tollways head, Manny Bonoan was named Secretary of Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). PBBM has yet to name though the other members of his Cabinet economic team which usually also include the Department of Agriculture; the Department of Tourism, and, the DBM.

A month before the incoming administration takeover, outgoing NEDA Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua welcomed the nomination of Balisacan to succeed him as new Socio-Economic Planning Secretary. Balisacan first served at NEDA from 2012 to 2016 until PNoy transferred him to head the newly created Philippine Competition Commission in January, 2016.

Chua vouched for Balisacan as very much qualified to help sustain the Philippine economic growth out of the impact of the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic when the newly installed President takes over the reins of the government. Chua asserted this in our virtual news forum Kapihan sa Manila Bay last Wednesday, or a few hours before the proclamation rites at Congress.

The 43-year-old Chua was initially reluctant to accept the Cabinet post, citing a “more qualified and more experienced” technocrat can do a much better job than him as the NEDA chief. He was actually just being humble of his own outstanding credentials. Chua was first appointed to serve the Duterte administration as Undersecretary for the Strategy, Economics and Results Group of the Department of Finance (DOF). As Finance undersecretary, he served as strategic adviser to Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez III and President Duterte’s Cabinet economic development cluster.

It was his stint in both the DOF and NEDA where Chua engaged in what he dubbed as “door-to-door” meetings with key leaders and members of Congress to get their support and votes for the priority tax reform and socio-economic bills of the Duterte administration during the past six years.

He was once described as the “poster boy of tax reform” by several media outlets and was instrumental in the passage of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN) in December, 2017.

Chua also served as the administration’s point person in Congress for its second tax reform agenda to lower corporate income taxes in the country in 2019. It was finally signed into law and renamed as CREATE Law, or Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises mandating the decrease of corporate taxes from 30 to 20 percent to encourage job creation while transforming the incentive program into performance-based incentives.

With just a month left in office, Chua disclosed, they intend to fast track the release of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the other landmark socio-economic bills, namely, amended Foreign Investments Act (FIA) and the Public Service Act (PSA). “We hope to release it also before June 30, so the next administration can focus on attracting investments,” Chua vowed.

By attracting more investments, Chua believes, this would support the desired economic growth of the country. Chua cited the urgency to sustain the 8.3 percent growth of the gross domestic product (GDP) for the first quarter this year. “That’s why in the next three years, we are seeing a six to seven percent growth continuously,” he added.

As the outgoing economic chief, Chua sees the country is capable to achieve the upper middle-income status with 8.3 percent GDP, and steady increase remittances from abroad from our overseas Filipino workers. The outgoing NEDA chief noted other pending reform bills that include the proposed Department of Water bill, the National Land Use Act, among them.

He could wish these be given priority by the incoming leaderships of the 19th Congress to help the 17th President called PBBM to achieve his goals for the country.

BBM

MARCOS

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