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Cebu News

Marcos sworn in as 17th President: Marcos sets eyes on agri

Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. vowed yesterday to make the country attain food self-sufficiency and lessen its dependence on importation.

In his inaugural speech, Marcos said the agriculture sector “cries” for the government’s urgent attention as country is now paying a high price caused by erroneous policy of relying on imports for its food needs instead of producing its own.

“There were inherent defects in the old ways, and in recent ways, too. The trade policy of competitive advantage made the case that when it comes to food sufficiency, a country should not produce but import what other countries make more of and sell cheapest,” the President, who temporarily assumed the post of secretary of agriculture, said in his 25-minute address.

“The role of agriculture cries for the urgent attention that its neglect and misdirection now demand. Food self-sufficiency has been the key promise of every administration. None but one delivered,” Marcos said.

“An agriculture damage that diminished by unfair competition will have a harder time or will have no prospects at all of recovering,” he added.

Marcos had said he wants to make the agriculture sector competitive enough with other countries before joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

The Senate was set to concur with Malacañang’s ratification of the RCEP agreement but withheld its nod after Marcos, shortly after he won the elections, indicated that he wants the free trade pact reviewed first on its impact on the agriculture sector and the country’s food security.

Senators said in withholding their concurrence said they want to give Marcos a free hand in deciding on the fate of the RCEP.

Marcos said reliance on other countries for food was dangerous for the country as shown by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

He pointed out that countries that are farthest from the Ukraine-Russia conflict face the biggest risk of starvation.

“Then came Ukraine. The most vulnerable when it comes to food are the countries farthest away from the conflict — those bearing no blame for provoking it,” he said.

“Yet, they face the biggest risk of starvation. If financial aid is poured into them, though it never is, there is nothing to buy,” the Chief Executive said.

Marcos said food is more than just a trade commodity but an existential imperative and a moral one.

Food sufficiency, he stressed, must get the preferential treatment the riches free trade countries always gave their agricultural sectors.

“Their policy boils down to ‘Don't do this, we do. Do what we tell you to.’ I'm giving that policy the most serious thought if it doesn't change or make more allowances for emergencies with long-term effects,” the President said.

Marcos said the country also faces similar problem with regard to energy security.

“But surely, a free world awash with oil can assure supplies or we will find a way. We are not far from oil and gas reserves that have already been developed,” he said.

Fixing COVID response

Marcos also committed yesterday to fix the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was marred by alleged multibillion-peso irregularities.

“There were shortcomings in the COVID response. We will fix them out in the open. No more secrets in public health. Remember, I speak from experience. I was among the first to get COVID. It was not a walk in the park,” Marcos said.

“We won't be caught unprepared, underequipped and understaffed to fight the next pandemic,” he added.

Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. allegedly bagged P18.8 billion or nearly a third of the total contracts to supply pandemic equipment to the government under the administration of Rodrigo Duterte.

Health workers also protested the delay in the payment of their special risk allowance and other benefits.

Marcos, meanwhile, vowed to increase support to government health facilities to attain universal health care.

English as medium

Marcos Jr. also tasked Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte to bring back the use of English language to teach subjects in the basic education.

He said he wants the learning materials to focus on the basics to prepare the students for better jobs.

“What we teach in our schools the materials used must be rethought. I am not talking about history. I'm talking about the basics, the sciences, sharpening theoretical aptitude and imparting vocational skills such as in the German example, alongside the national language with equal emphasis and facility in a global language, which we had and lost,” Marcos said.

By doing so, Filipino teachers as well as overseas Filipino workers will have “all the advantages” for them to “survive and thrive,” he said.

“Let us give OFWs all the advantages we can for them to survive and to thrive. [cheers] Our teachers from elementary up are our heroes fighting ignorance with poor paper weapons,” the President said.

“We are condemning the future of our race to menial occupations abroad, then they are exploited by traffickers,” he added.

Marcos also expressed confidence in the ability of Duterte, who was his running mate in the May 2022 elections, to improve the country’s education system.

Indignation Rally

Meanwhile, progressive groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan - Central Visayas (BAYAN-CenVis) held an indignation protest as Marcos Jr.'s term officially began yesterday.

BAYAN-CV chairperson  Jaime Paglinawan said that the present administration was borne out of massive electoral fraud.

Paglinawan said that on the day of the election, there are around 1,800 vote counting machines that malfunction resulting to disenfranchisement of voters and massive vote buying. — Philippine Star News Service, JMD  (FREEMAN)

FERDINAND MARCOS JR.

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