“BBM must see through the charlatans who pander to populism and look for effective problem solvers with well-balanced solutions and, in tandem with his economic managers, seek equilibrium between free trade and fair trade”
At noon of Thursday this week, a new administration takes over the helm of power.
Many Filipinos will be eager to listen to the new president’s first official pronouncement—the inaugural address.
Likely it will stress on the importance of unity, the single theme around which his campaign messaging was centered upon.
But in a period of extreme stress, with people worrying about the high costs of living, and for many, the high cost of surviving in these benighted isles, the unity theme must carry more than just a motherhood paean.
And this is why it is important for many observers, be they supporters of the BBM-Sara tandem or not in the last electoral exercise, to focus on the team which will implement the president’s policies and programs.
First off, Mayor Inday Sara Duterte, who took her oath at Rizal Park in her native Davao City on the anniversary of the national hero’s birth, was appointed as Secretary of the Department of Education which by constitutional fiat is given the biggest slice of the national budget.
It is a tough responsibility to mold young minds, many of them stunted and malnourished by poverty, to become responsible citizens of the republic, while arming them with the tools, especially in science and mathematics, to succeed in a highly competitive present and future world.
It is refreshing to note that a long-time local government executive has been appointed secretary of the interior at a time when wherewithal will be expanded by the Mandanas ruling, and amidst calls for more local autonomy as our highly centralized unitary system wields so much power while delegation of responsibilities and corresponding devolution of resources are spotty and ill-programmed.
Even as his predecessor, Eduardo Ano, a military man with little authoritarian mind-set, bows out after a well-respected stint, incoming Secretary Benhur Abalos, with his academic background and LGU experience, is expected to balance the desideratum of autonomy with the finite resources of a nation hobbled by economic crisis.
The incoming president must be congratulated for his A-team of economic managers, headed by the erudite Ben Diokno in finance, the agronomist Arsi Balisacan at economic planning, and replacing Diokno at the Bangko Sentral, whose monetary policies will be very important in these difficult times, Philip Medalla, with Fred Pascual at the Department of Trade and Industry—all from the state university, the veritable think tank of government.
High hopes and great expectations are both a heavy burden and a patriotic duty for the president’s A-team, but with their expertise and probity, they assure both the business community and the plebeian polity of their favorite academic mantra—equilibrium.
Equilibrium between the demands of farmers and the needs of consumers, which will be the most tricky part in the coming days and months when no less than the president himself is taking over the critical role of agriculture secretary.
Once again, the incoming president must choose the right support staff of line managers and policy advisers in the highly diverse agriculture establishment.
He must see through the charlatans who pander to populism and look for effective problem solvers with well-balanced solutions and, in tandem with his economic managers, seek equilibrium between free trade and fair trade.
How my neighbor Conrad Estrella assists in farm productivity and raising the incomes of the dying breed of farmer-land reform beneficiaries through effective consolidation of un-economic plots is likewise important.
The incoming president can thus parlay his huge political capital into starting the modernization of agriculture and fisheries which, as I have always advocated, deserves a separate department.
Equally important support in seeking equilibrium are Labor and the newly created Department for Migrant Workers.
Once more, kudos for choosing the highly experienced Benny Laguesma at DOLE and the truly dedicated Toots Ople who has embraced the cause of our “bagong bayani” and who we trust to make the “bago (kuno)” a properly rewarded importance for their life-saving and “heroic” role in the economy.
Oft-glamorized but little-recognized is the tourism department whose contribution to the economy creates very great impact on employment and livelihood, and the choice of Mayor Christina Garcia-Frasco as incoming secretary is ideal for harnessing the local executives in another equilibrating task of protecting the natural beauty of the islands while promoting visitor arrivals and domestic travelers.
Tourism can play a banner role in resuscitating the economy after almost three years in pandemic doldrums, where the incoming secretary’s Cebu under her governor-mother has always been pivotal.
Manny Bonoan at DPWH combines experience and common sense, along with a reputation for integrity in a graft-riddled and legislator-abused department, as he, with the transportation secretary, continues Build, Build, Build despite a paucity of government resources.
Jimmy Bautista brings financial and managerial skills to an important arm of the economy, and will also require equilibrium — balancing hard-pressed commuter woes versus the need to make public transportation viable and self-sustaining, especially at a time when fuel prices are untamable.
His appointment to this department is also most welcome.
We await eagerly who will be appointed to lead DENR and DOE, both very critical agencies which, properly harnessed, can sustain economic growth with huge wherewithal while answering, in the case of energy, availability and affordability of power.
In the near future, environment should be removed from the harnessing of natural resource endowments, as these are conflicting mandates.
An environmental protection agency under the Office of the President should be taken away from the ribs of DENR.
This is but a part of the president’s team, focused on economic policy and program implementation agencies, without downgrading the others involved in justice, law and order, and social services.
We wish the best for our Manila Standard colleague, Erwin Tulfo, who should cleanse the polluted list of 4P beneficiaries. Among other urgent tasks he faces is relief operations in this disaster-prone country.
Likewise, we congratulate our good friends and former government colleagues Boying Remulla at DOJ and Menard Guevarra as the government’s advocate at OSG. Ditto Claire Carlos as the national security adviser who brings a civilian academic’s perspective to what militarists think is their enclave.
An orchestra and its conductor require excellent team management and sound systems, and these would be the role of Atty. Vic Rodriguez as Executive Secretary, legislator Anton Lagdameo as SAP, my good friend Naida Benedicto Angping at the ever-busy PMS, and Atty. Trixie Angeles as Malacanang’s messaging mechanism.
In the end, success which every right-thinking Filipino would wish and hope for, would depend on the conductor.
In this case, we have a pianist who has chosen agriculture as his playing instrument while conducting a team of players into a sinuous symphony.