Press Briefing

Post-SONA Economic Briefing

Event Post-SONA Economic Briefing
Location PICC, Pasay City

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Good morning everyone. Magandang umaga po.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Good morning everyone! Members of the diplomatic corps led by Archbishop Charles Brown, members of the Cabinet, government officials, distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen – welcome to the Post-State of the Nation Address Economic Briefing.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Good morning, Margaux. This event serves as the first National Economic Briefing under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and as a follow-up to his State of the Nation Address yesterday.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: And this event will be anchored on the theme of Economic Recovery and Transformation. It will also highlight the Marcos administration’s socioeconomic agenda.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Key government officials from the Economic, Infrastructure, and Human Development and Poverty Reduction Clusters are here today to provide more details on the government’s plans and programs.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: So to formally open our program, may we call on stage the Chair of the government’s Economic Development Cluster – none other than Secretary Benjamin Diokno of the Department of Finance.

DOF SEC. DIOKNO: My fellow Cabinet members and workers in government, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Felipe Medalla, members of the diplomatic corps, our reliable partners in the business community, development organizations, academe and labor groups, and friends from the media here and abroad – good morning.

Thank you for coming to the first Post-State of the Nation Address Economic Briefing.

The Philippines’ solid macroeconomic fundamentals reinforced by structural reforms enabled us to withstand the harsh effects of the pandemic and chart a clear path to recovery; it is on this firm ground that the Marcos Administration commits to build a robust economy for a faster, greener and more inclusive growth that benefits all Filipinos.

Our growth prospects are bright. The economy is expected to expand by 6.5 to 7.5 percent in 2022 and 6.5 to 8 percent from 2023 to 2028. Analysts consider our near-term growth projections to be the highest among the ASEAN Plus Three (ASEAN + 3) countries that includes Japan, South Korea and China.

Investor confidence has continuously improved. Last year, our four direct investment inflows reached a record high of 10.5 billion US Dollars. For the first four months of this year, FDI inflows already amounted to 3.4 billion US Dollars, up by 12.1% from the previous year’s level.

We attribute this to the enabling business environment strengthened by the reopening of the economy, the passage of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE Act), as well as the enactment of game-changing structural reforms.

While our economic growth continues to be robust, the operating environment remains uncertain and difficult with many challenges that must be addressed. Inflation is expected to remain elevated for as long as world prices of oil and other key commodities remain high.

The effects of the pandemic lingers while the global political economy remains unpredictable, but the Philippines is fully prepared to address the challenges ahead. The Marcos Administration will implement a comprehensive 8-point socioeconomic agenda to decisively respond to these risks and steer the economy back to its high growth trajectory.

In the near-term, the plans seeks to address the immediate challenges confronting the Filipino people – rising prices, scurrying from the COVID-19 pandemic – and ensuring sound macroeconomic fundamentals.

Over the medium-term, the goal is to create more jobs, not just any other jobs but quality jobs and green jobs. We will achieve this goal through higher investments in infrastructure, human capital development and digitalization.

These interventions will enable us to cut the poverty incidence to 9% by 2028 and elevate the country to upper-middle-income status. We will do all of these while exercising fiscal discipline. The economic team is committed to implementing a medium term fiscal framework – this serves as our blueprint to reduce fiscal deficit, promote fiscal sustainability and enable robust economic growth.

The framework proposes measures that will improve tax administration, enhance the fairness and efficiency of our tax system and promote environmental sustainability to address climate change. In addition, we will work for the passage of the remaining tax reform package of the Duterte Administration.

Our fiscal consolidation strategy will bring down our debt-to-GDP ratio from the current 63.5% to less than 60% by 2025. It will cut the deficit-to-GDP ratio from the current 6.4% to 3% by 2028.

The implication is clear: We do not have to borrow as much as we did during crisis years. And at the same time, we will continue to boost domestic economic activity with our massive infrastructure investment of 5 to 6 percent of GDP annually.

While challenges persist, these are not insurmountable. The previous administration had left behind a legacy of successes and lessons to learn from. We will use these to sharpen our policy toolkit and introduce needed structural reforms.

The Executive Branch will closely coordinate it with Congress to formulate and enact appropriate and timely policy measures. We will expand the private sector’s role in driving the transformation of our economy. Lastly, we will widen the space for civil society to turn a collective aspiration of the Filipino people into reality. We are making a bid for lasting change and we can only do this if we work in unity.

I’m confident that we have the right people at the helm and a clear, focused plan that will build a truly inclusive and sustainable economy that the Filipino people deserve.

Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Secretary Diokno.


BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Thank you to all who prepared that next day’s edit audio-visual presentation on the administration’s socio-economic agenda. If you hear snoring coming from anywhere in Reception Hall, that would be them.

Anyway, now, we moved on to our first-panel session. For this session, we will hear from the Economic Managers on their plans for recovery and transformation.  Our moderator for the first panel is none other than DBM Undersecretary Margaux Salcedo, USec. Margaux, please take it away.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you so much, Dr. Tony. I call him Dr. Tony because he is actually Managing Director of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. So, he is MD, so to me, he is Dr. Tony. So good morning again everyone, it’s a pleasure to be here with you today and I am very, very excited to kick off the first panel discussion on economic development.

Following President SONA yesterday and Secretary Diokno’s keynote address, I am sure you now already have a clearer picture of the administration’s economic priorities and plans. So to give us more details on this, let me now call on our key economic officials to please join me on stage, starting with:

Of course, the Chairman of the Economic Development Cluster, Department of Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno.  Secretary Diokno will be joined by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Governor Felipe Medalla. We also have with us, National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Arsenio Balisacan. And we also have with us, the Department of Trade and Industry, Secretary Alfredo Pascual. And last but not least and to me, the most important, because she is my boss, Department of Budget and Management, Secretary Amenah Pangandaman.

And so now, I will be joining our distinguished panel. Before anything else, could we please check our mic, if our microphones work? We would not want to miss a word that any of you would say. Good morning, good morning. Can everyone say, good morning?

(Good morning)

Wasn’t that an amazing, electrifying, empowering State of the Nation Address yesterday? Maybe, just for a backgrounder for our audience today, in case you missed the hour and a half very empowering speech of President Ferdinand Marcos. One of the highlights, shall we begin with this.  One of the highlights that he began with, was the medium-term fiscal framework. And he said that we will be having a medium-term fiscal strategy that has an 8-point socio-economic agenda.

So, we have with us, our NEDA Secretary. Could you, kindly sir, enlighten us on this medium-term fiscal strategy that our President is very proud of?

NEDA SEC. BALISACAN: Thank you. Actually, the eight-point agenda was enumerated already earlier with the presentation of Sec. Diokno.  But let me emphasize that the eight-point agenda has two components. One is the near-term, and the other one is the medium-term.  For the near-term, the issues are, that we aim to address, accelerate the high prices, the inflation, the vulnerability of our population to shocks, and then address the scars that the pandemic has caused.

And in the medium-term, it’s all about job creation and sustaining the growth of 6.5 to 8% during the period and for that to happen, we need to address the constraints to growth, constraints to quality employment creation that have been well identified in various fora, even by our development partners and this include issues affecting infrastructure. And as you have seen, infrastructure is going to be a major focus here, of this administration.

The issues on energy are also a major concern that we are going to address. And the logistics issues and in so far as job creation is a concerned, of course, we have to address the two sides of the market and the supply side will meet to look at the employability of our workers and their education help. That is why opening the school system to full face-to-face is a high priority. Opening up the economy fully, as emphasized by the President, means reducing and addressing the scars quickly. And finally, with respect to the creation of jobs on the demand side, we look at—again these constraints to job creation.

And I would like to emphasize here that developing our high-quality jobs creating sectors ‘, no, particularly manufacturing will be highlighted and that, it’s part of this is to also get the private sector interested. And here, as heard in the President’s speech, there is going to be a restrengthening of the Public-Private Partnership and that will allow us to get the economy going even as we are constrained by the debt. But the whole projective is to outgrow the debt, as Sec. Ben has been emphasizing, by getting the economy growing at 6.5 to 8%. Thank you.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you, sir. That’s very optimistic. But you did mention economic constraints, and so may we ask our Bangko Sentral Governor, considering that the President himself acknowledged that we need economic recovery and he also mentioned inflation rates. How will the current inflation and policy rate affect the outlook on monetary and financial stability, vis-à-vis economic growth?

BSP GOV. FELIPE MEDALLA: To begin with, as stated by the President and Secretary Diokno. Much of our inflation is what we call the supply side. And a big part of it is imported. But we have to act because what we are afraid of is that this important inflation will have a life of its own. And start a self-fulfilling prophecy of prices are rising because prices are rising.

So, we increased the policy rate, well we did it three times, the 25-basis point, and then a surprise 75. It’s a surprise because it was not on the calendar to meet on interest and of course, 75 was considered large. However, when you look at it, our monetary policy, still very supportive of economic growth.  Indeed, the policy rate, which used to be a record low 2% is now just around 3.25%. So, by large or estimate the economy can absorb the increase in the policy rate.

Of course, our own models in BSP says that in spite of all these increases in the policy rate, the government’s forecast of 6.5 to 7.5 this year is well within reach. And six and a half to eight and a half going forward, 2023 and onwards, are still all quite attainable.

The other point is that we also look at the banks. Of course, the banks hold the government securities. The price of the securities will fall as interest rates rise. But again, we look at the capitalization of the banks. The banks are very adequately capitalized so they can absorb the rate hikes. So we’re very optimistic that the monetary policy and credit supply will remain supportive of growth and financial stability.

So going forward, of course there is so much uncertainty, but we stand ready to make the necessary adjustment so that balancing between maintaining/sustaining growth, and ensuring financial stability on the one hand and price stability on the other will all be achieved.

Of course, this year, we will not meet our two to four percent target. Inflationary forces outside the Philippines are just too high. Indeed, even countries with very low inflation in the past like Singapore, of course, United States, Singapore; of course, United States and the EU are actually experiencing even higher inflation. And as stated, the government is also undertaking measures that will protect the vulnerable.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you very much, Sir. So now, we live in uncertain times globally but thankfully, we have economic geniuses we have economic geniuses in our midst, including the former Central Bank Governor, now Finance Secretary Ben Diokno, who helped us not only survive but thrive throughout the pandemic. So, sir, President Marcos in his State-of-the-Nation Address yesterday said that, we have and we will find solutions. And one of the solutions that he mentioned was making the Philippines an investment destination.

So with that, he said that he will continue the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program that was started during the Duterte Administration, and in fact, now, it will become ‘Build Better More’. I had to think about that for a while because it’s actually B-B-M – so clever! Build Better More.

So as we continue to do infrastructure development spending at five to six percent of GDP for the next six years, does the government have the fiscal space for its infrastructure development program? And how does the government plan to fund such a massive infrastructure program?

DOF SEC. DIOKNO: The short answer to that question is, yes, we have that fiscal space. And I have several reasons for the optimism: Number one, the Duterte Administration left this government with a sound tax system – it’s a much better tax system than he inherited from the previous administration. And we will enhance the improved tax system. So, that will give us more revenues.

Number two, as mentioned by the President, we will right-size the government so that the government will be in a much better shape and we can do much more with less. So we will have some efficiency gains as a result of that.

Number three, when we came in, when the Duterte Administration came in, we don’t have a list of ready-to-implement projects. Now, the Duterte Administration left us with some easily 200 ready-to-implement projects, okay. So with the game-changing reform, such as the Public Service Act, we can actually use the public-private partnership (PPP) to implement some of those projects. So we will maximize our gain from the new legislation.

And number four is that because we feel that this is our moment, the Philippine economy can move much faster this time compared to other stages in our economy and so, a stronger economy means more revenues down the road. Thank you.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: [Muntik na akong kumanta, Sir – This is the moment. Okay, I’m just kind of, wake everybody up].

Okay, speaking of the solutions that President Marcos mentioned in his State-of-the-Nation Address yesterday, aside from making the Philippines an investment destination, another solution that he mentioned was what Secretary Diokno mentioned which is having efficiency gains, and then he went on to talk about his legislative priorities. And those went straight to the priorities as well of our Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman.

So, Ma’am, what are the priority budget reforms of the Marcos Administration and how will the administration ensure inclusivity in the national budget preparation? So maybe we’ll go po to the legislative priorities of President Marcos, and how these aligned with yours?

DBM SEC. PANGANDAMAN: Thank you, Usec. Margaux. You know, we are very lucky to have a President who is attuned and at the same time, committed to advocate real reforms, both economic and structural.

So two of the major legislative reforms, part of the top 19, are the rightsizing bill and the cash-based management, it’s the Budget Modernization Act.

As previously mentioned, the rightsizing bill will help our bureaucracy have an agile, efficient, responsive and technology-driven workforce. So it is not actually a mass layoff of government workers. It is actually making it more efficient to be able to service the people.

And then second is the cash-based budgeting or the budget modernization system. This will instill or strengthen fiscal discipline among our government employees. We will use and allocate our scarce resources to be able to finance our priority programs and projects. We will ensure that every peso in our GAA will be spent and implemented timely. Thank you.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you, Ma’am.

And then another solution that President Marcos mentioned was, developing a Philippine brand – a Philippine brand that we can be proud of.  Although, he actually mentioned it to segue to the Department of Tourism, I think this is also very relevant, Sir, for the Department of Trade and Industry especially as we have many MSMEs who are creating their own Philippine brands that we are all very, very proud of.

So maybe for Secretary Pascual, we could ask: MSMEs represent a major growth area in the Philippine economy, how can they build their business amidst the digital revolution and how can SMEs be encouraged to think global?

DTI SEC. PASCUAL: Well, we’ve heard our colleagues talk about the macro economy. Let me just try to address some of the meso and micro challenges that we’re facing and the programs that we have lined up to address these challenges. The matter of the Philippine brand is very important if we are promoting Philippine exports. And, of course, you mentioned already – attracting visitors for tourism. We will work on that. The healthy Creative Industry Law that’s coming up and that could help us develop the Philippine brand.

Now, I would like to also talk about the need for the country to industrialize already, to give that focus on industrialization. Before I go to MSMEs, I’d like to talk about the work we intend to do to develop industries so that we can create quality, higher quality and higher paying jobs for Filipinos. And the video already focused on the three clusters of industries that we are going to look at.

We need to address, of course, the constraints. There are structural and systemic constraints; energy cost is one, and that, based on the speech of the President, will be addressed by going renewable and consider the adoption of nuclear energy in the Philippines.

Now, the other challenge, of course, is the cost of logistics, and that will be addressed by the PPP and other infrastructure projects that the government will implement, as well as organizing our logistics sector which are so fragmented at the moment. I met with them last week, and we have agreed, you know, to coordinate more so we can avoid the so many transfers of goods that make logistic costs go up.

The other area of industrialization is in the emerging field, you know. And we are lucky to be a source of green metals like nickel, cobalt, and copper. Unfortunately, we have been selling these metals as ores. We are exporting these metals as ores, and we are not able to maximize the value addition. We need to move towards further processing of these ores, so we are able to generate more value addition locally before we export the metals.

These metals are critical in the new industries, particularly in the manufacture of batteries that go into electric vehicles, into hyperscaler’s devices. So, it’s going to be in … it is and going to go into higher demand product or products that will be needed for these emerging industries.

In the health sciences, I think the President mentioned about generic medicine that something that we’re going to encourage either to be provided to us by multinationals and … but formulated and manufactured in the Philippines through tolling arrangements with the local companies. But we are also encouraging our local pharmaceutical industry to go into more production of generics.

Now, on MSMEs, the three things we are making sure that they will have are market access, technology, and finance. And through digitalization, we hope to be able to provide these three things. We are developing e-commerce platforms in addition to the very popular e-commerce platform that we know about. This will be dedicated to MSMEs, and this will surely provide them access to a wider market locally and hopefully, in the global arena as well.

On technology, we are very keen on helping our MSMEs to be driven by science and technology. And through that, be able to introduce innovation together with digitalization that these two will be the formula for their success. And hopefully, we will be seeing our MSMEs graduating from micro to small, from small to medium, and medium to large. But they have to be competitive both locally and globally. In fact, being globally competitive is also important locally because our borders are open, we are importing a lot of goods against which local production has to compete. So, our MSMEs should be globally competitive in the local market, as well as in the global market.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you so much.

DTI SEC. PASCUAL: By the way, the financing, with digitalization, financing will be almost automatic because with digitalization, the accumulation of transaction data will be available and can be the basis for credit scoring; and with the credit score, financing can be handled by financial institutions. Thank you.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: More efficiency gains. So, thank you so much, sir. So, inspired. I’m starting a business today.

Okay, so now, you mentioned President Marcos’ statement yesterday about how he will be tapping multinationals for pharmaceuticals. And in that respect, we recognize that our … the importance of the private sector. And so, if we may ask the Finance Secretary once again: What areas of partnership or collaboration can the private sector endeavor to support the plans and programs of the Marcos administration?

DOF SEC. DIOKNO: So we have a recently approved law, for example the Public Service Act that will open up private sector participation … international investment in telecommunication, toll roads, shipping, etc. But with respect to private sector, as you know, the contribution of government to the economy is only 20%; eighty percent is private sector. Telco is private sector in the Philippines; water is private sector, etc.

So, we will just provide the environment to … for the private sector to thrive and, of course, they are welcome to invest in a country whose growth potential is one of the highest in the region. So you are welcome; it’s fairly open. Whatever comes to your imagination, you can come in.

And in fact, the other thing is, we will …because there are now more resources given to the local governments, you can even invest in local activities.

And by the way, as the President emphasized, he will focus or he will …on the rail system, right, mass transit system. And as you open up more communities, like for example, if you construct that railway from Calamba to Matnog, to Sorsogon, that will open up a lot of areas. The railway system that we are currently doing from Manila to Malolos, Malolos to Clark, that will also open up a lot of areas. And then, of course, the first-ever subway system that we are constructing is a 20-kilometer subway system.

So, there’s a lot of possibilities, and the private sector is welcome to participate in this economic boom for the Philippines.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Okay. So, thank you. And we hope that with all of these policies, the private sector will be encouraged to truly make the Philippines an investment destination. And given that, as Secretary Diokno mentioned that we would like to create an environment conducive for the private sector to come in, may we ask our Bangko Sentral Governor: Are there any additional rate hikes in the horizon? What developments and factors would the BSP consider with respect to its policy decision?

BSP GOV. FELIPE MEDALLA: One thing I can say is, you can surprise people only once. So, there will be no more off-cycle.  As to how many more rate hikes before the end of the year, that will be very data-dependent.

On the one hand—here I come, you need an economist with two hands. On the one hand, the current drop in the price of oil is now below a hundred signals that there’s less in need for rate hikes. On the other hand, the US surely going to raise its policy rate by 75 basis points. One of the situations where the US policy rate and the Philippine policy rate are now almost … very little difference between the two. Like it or not, the US dollar is the same even [inaudible] currency.

So, and too much depreciation of the peso, what we economists call “overshooting”, could actually add to an inflation that’s already high. So, these are the things we are balancing. So, there are forces, changes that say that whether there’ll be more rate hikes but not too much but there are forces too that say [inaudible] as long as the US keeps jacking up rates, very hard for small open economy not to respond at this partially.

So, my own guess is—well, our next meeting is August. If you are to bet on three numbers, zero—four numbers, zero, 25, 50, 75, you can rule out the … just like in diving, you can rule out the lowest and the highest.

Just like in diving, you can rule out the lowest and the highest, right? In diving, then you give the score. So I guess that’s all I can say so far, because to begin with, Secretary Diokno and I are just two votes on the monetary board. So, I cannot say at this point how each one will be voting. But my guess, my guess as I said is, come this August meeting, we can rule out zero and we can rule out 75.

Now, for the rest of the year, it all depends on what happens outside the Philippines; a lot of other forces that drive inflation now are external. But what we don’t want is the high inflation that creates momentum that it will have wage adjustments and fare adjustments, so inflation begetting more inflation, what we call, a credible term – second-order effects. That is what monetary policy is looking at.

Of course, you have to balance, because if we raise it too much, the value weakens to the point that, it’s actually bad for banks. Of course, it’s also bad for people. On the other hand, with high inflation, everybody hates high inflation. So, that is balancing.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Okay, so speaking of that balancing act, sige na nga Sir, gobyerno na lang ang mag-a-adjust. As President Marcos said yesterday, what he will do is, there will be realignment of our expenditure priorities. So, maybe Secretary Pangandaman can enlighten us on this realignment of our expenditure priorities. What are your budget priorities, Ma’am, now and how do these align with that of the President?

DBM SEC. PANGANDAMAN: Of course, our budget will support our medium-term fiscal framework and the eight-point agenda presented a while ago. So, maybe, I can just share the top 5.  While we are still working on the budget now and we plan to submit this to Congress by August 22 and passed before the Christmas break.

So, maybe the top 5 will be, first of course, put funding/allocate funding for education. It is a top priority as mandated by the Constitution. Second, we will also pour funding in the health sector. It is important to have a healthy and increased productivity of our members in the society.

Next is, of course, our infrastructure sector, we will still continue with the Build, Build, Build of the previous administration and expand the same – up to  P2 trillion, maybe by 2028 of funding for our infrastructure sector. And of course, maybe in our top five for our budget next year will be funding for our agriculture. We will make our farmers and fisherfolk more productive; we will support them in terms of their services and mechanize the use of technology in their processes, so we will have a self-sufficiency and self-security and lower the food prices in the country. Thank you.                             

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Exciting time.  Imagine top five. Not just education, but now also health and agriculture.  Yesterday, at the State of the Nation Address, President Marcos also mentioned a Philippine Development Plan and he even said that NEDA has a deadline. To submit by the end of the year! So, Sir could you enlighten us on that Philippine Development Plan?

NEDA SEC. BALISACAN: Yeah, okay. The NEDA, as many of you know, prepares, in coordination with other agencies, the blueprint or socio-economic development plan for the country. The elements of that plan for the current administration have been laid out. All we need to do now are put this together in a coherent framework so that we can have a basis for proper monitoring and reporting to the President, to Congress and other stakeholders on the progress we are making in the implementation. It’s going to be challenging and this is the first time actually, that we will produce a Philippine Development Plan before the actual start of the year on the implementation of that plan. We haven’t been successful in producing a development plan before the start of the implementation.

But this is great. It provides us an opportunity to ensure that it’s a government as one; that all the agencies and all the concerned stakeholders are moving in one direction and not scattered around; to ensure that the goals that we have aimed for ourselves will be achieved And mind you, our intention here and our aspirations here is not to just achieve high growth, sustaining the growth of 6.5% to 8% but even more importantly, to ensure that that growth is more inclusive this time than in the previous year so that our Filipino people, the majority of poor people will also rise with the tide.

That’s the intention and critical to that is our success in generating high-quality jobs and raising productivity. Productivity should be the sole/single or not as a single but a key measure of success that we are able to get more with less with our resources and that is our job to coordinate that process of going there. Thank you.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you so much, Sir. And I guess, related to that, one of the things that were also mentioned by President Marcos yesterday and also in the keynote address today was our goal of having a single-digit property and upper-middle-income status. One of the questions that we received from registration was, when will the Philippines attain upper-middle income status? When? Deadline na naman, Sir! When and what does this mean to the majority of Filipino families and what will drive the attainment of this goal? This is also for Secretary Balisacan.

NEDA SEC. BALISACAN: At the rate, we are growing and assuming that we will achieve the 6.5 to 7.5 growth this year and the 6.5 to 8% next year, we should be reaching that minimum of 4,250 dollars, US dollars in 2024. By that time then, we will become a member of the so-called upper-middle-income class. Now, that will mean that the size of the economic file will be bigger and that will mean that even without Secretary Diokno raising the rates of taxes, the size of the government revenues will be much bigger, and so we will have more resources for meeting public services, providing public services and social protection, among other needs.

So, it is so crucial that we are able to grow quickly and sustain that growth because that is really the most sustainable way of reducing poverty in achieving greater distribution of opportunities.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: That is so encouraging, Sir. 2024 is just around the corner, so we are very excited about achieving that dream.

For Secretary Pascual: Manufacturing is a big driver of economic growth, so may we ask how can we transform manufacturing into a globally competitive industry?

DTI SEC. PASCUAL: For manufacturing, we are focusing on areas where we have strategic advantage. For example, many of our people are already in digital-type jobs, so we will move into manufacturing that will make full use of such skills. But quite apart from specific industries, I’d like to be able to encourage manufacturing by further empowering our private sector.

It’s very important, you know, that we encourage the private sector to invest – both local investors and international investors – and we have to make it easy for them. If there are incentives given in a particular law, I would like us to be very careful in crafting the implementing rules and regulations so that no restrictions… additional restrictions or added outside the law. I’ve seen this in the Renewable Energy Act where foreign ownership restrictions have been introduced although there is no provision for that in the law. And in the implementation of the CREATE Act, I hope you know, that whatever is provided stocks incentives will be implemented as provided for in the law.

And then there is the issue also of bigness. There’s a tendency to constrain the growing of companies. I think we need to encourage and support the growth of Philippine companies, particularly those who are going to compete in the international market. Because in the globalized and highly contestable market, the players are all big companies and we need big companies, you know, to compete with their counterparts from foreign countries. Those are a few things/few thoughts that come to mind, you know when you asked about how we encourage and how we support manufacturing.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you, sir. Another item that President Marcos mentioned yesterday in his State of the Nation Address, I guess leading to empowerment is empowerment of local government units and he mentioned the Mandanas Ruling. Could we ask our Finance Secretary if he could enlighten us on this and how this will affect or how this will empower our local governments?

DOF SEC. DIOKNO: Okay. For the information of the audience, the Mandanas Ruling in effect, increase the amount of resources that are given to LGUs – Local Government Units, okay – so they had more money now than before as a result of that. And in an executive order issued by President Duterte before he left office, he specified some of the items that are now going to be assigned to LGUs. These are not really new items because this is already mentioned in the Regional Local Government Code of 1991 except that there are some items that are probably not—these items should not be there in the first place.

So right now, we are reviewing what spending items should be assigned to LGUs and we are in close coordination with the… of course the Leagues of Cities/Provinces, etcetera, and of course the Secretary of Local Government. Maybe this question can be asked to Secretary Benhur later, okay?

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Yes, sir. Okay. There is a question that was requested to be asked to Secretary Arsi: What is the strategy to reach the 50 million PhilSys IDs target by the end of 2022? How will this target be achieved given the current phase of card printing and delivery?

NEDA SEC. BALISACAN: Thank you. Just for context, as of July 8 this year, the total ID that has been printed is about 14 million. And the 50-million targeted for this year is a combination of physical ID and digital ID – 30 million of those would be in physical ID ‘no. Where we are lagging behind is in the production of the physical ID. We have already identified the problems and our Philippine Statistics Authority and our BSP have been discussing how the way moving forward ‘no.

So, we think that that is doable… as announced yesterday by the President, by mid-next year, the 92-million IDs it would cover the 5 years old and above would be completed by mid-next year ‘no. And also for the rest of the year, those who are below 5 would also be produced.

And also, just to put again also context here ‘no, that the printing is going to be an annual activity because there are roughly 1.5 million people added every year ‘no. So it’s not going to end but it will be a continuing exercise. Thank you.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: So, I guess, another aspect of that success is the effort for digitalization. So maybe we could ask our Budget Secretary, what are the efforts for digitalization?  Maybe we can begin with your department and if you have other goals for digitalization.

DBM SEC. PANGANDAMAN: I think Sec. Ivan will discuss later the overall strategy on digitalization and the use of technology. But at least on the part of DBM, we want to roll out the budget treasury management system. It is actually an online ledger of all transactions of the government – from planning up to the release of the budget. So, you will see the levels of the budget at a given time – you will see the releases, you will see the balances of our budget. So, it will ensure transparency in government transactions.

And in line with the national ID, I think this will be a good support in providing social safetynets and support to our disadvantaged communities like the giving out of 4Ps, the giving out of resources to our fisherfolks and even to our senior citizens.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Okay. Thank you, ma’am. And then aside from digitalization, another keyword that was highlighted was ‘inclusivity’. Could the Chairman of the Economic Development Cluster tell us what are the policies/programs that the administration would have towards this goal?

DOF SEC. DIOKNO: Well inclusivity means that no one should be left behind, all right. So, our resources will be, as mentioned, will be focused on education, health, and of course social protection. We wanna make sure that the Filipino child will be given the appropriate education and healthcare so that he will have a fighting chance to move in the economic ladder.

And so, we will… I think as we invest in physical infrastructure, we will continue to invest in human resources. Human resources is, I will consider it as one of our most important asset. Because in an aging world, a young population that we have could be an asset because they could be developed as a competent and workforce that could provide us more income down the road.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you, sir. And we actually, we’re able to receive your question upon registering. So a lot of them were already incorporated in the questions that were asked earlier. But we have a bit of extra time so I’m going to ask some of our specific members. This one is from Ruben Zamora of Metrobank. He asked: Which sectors does the new government see as having the highest growth potential that can reap benefits in the short and medium term? Maybe Secretary Pascual… Which sectors does the new government see, the Marcos administration see, as having the highest growth potential that can reap benefits in the short and medium term? Maybe Secretary Pascual then Secretary Diokno…

DTI SEC. PASCUAL: The sector that is going very fast – is that the question?

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Highest growth potential.

DTI SEC. PASCUAL: Highest growth potential and actually growing very fast is the IT-BPM sector. It’s going at the rate of 10 to 15% per annum, and the potential is even greater now with the heightened use of digitalization and online services as a result of the pandemic.

So that’s one of the sectors we are focusing on in DTI so that we can encourage more locators here to set up their IT-BMP backroom operation.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you, Sir. And you had earlier—

DOF SEC. DIOKNO: May I answer?

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Sorry, Secretary Diokno. Yes, Sir.

DOF SEC. DIOKNO: My guess is, given the base effect, I think I will bet mining sector will be the fastest growing. From almost near zero, I think it can grow very fast. Mining!

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Mining. Iba po iyong mining sa live selling; for those of you who watch that – different iyon!

Okay. Earlier, Secretary Pascual talked about MSMEs. There was actually a question from Alan Roy [Torio] of TRBank (Tanay Rural Bank). He asked – this is for Bangko Sentral po but supporting MSMEs: How will BSP support banks whose primary focus is lending to MSMEs who were the hardest hit during the pandemic?

BSP GOV. MEDALLA: Okay, we had temporary relief which was lending to MSMEs who qualify as users. But that’s not exactly a good long-term solution because some banks that are so specialized in somewhere else may not actually get reduction reserve requirement.

So in the long run, what our view is, lower reserve requirements for everybody. Of course, to the extent that when Sec. Ben was governor, he was promising single digit before the end of his term, which I suppose is before the end of my term, right?

Now, when you look at MSMEs, we central bankers call this a fiscal problem because the solution is a guarantee fund where the banks, when they lose money lending to SMEs, do not absorb 100% of the loss.

So the question is, okay, how much is the fund? How much is the sharing of losses? By the way, the reason for that is that, it’s the banks that will still make the credit decision. So getting, allocating money for a guarantee fund is the first one; the second one is, deciding how much of the loss will be absorbed by the lending bank and how much will be absorbed by the fund? And the third one is how much is the guarantee fee? And that’s where the subsidy comes. The guarantee fee will be lower than the actuarial requirements for the fund to break even. And the reason that can happen, of course, is government subsidy.

Now, what we don’t want is law saying banks must lend X to sector X. Our experience is, that’s very hard because for instance, a bank that is just a foreign bank with very few employees doing wholesale, tell them to lend to SMEs. That’s actually telling them not to be in the Philippines.

Okay, so my point is, the best solution is fiscal: The government putting its money where its mouth is; deciding how much funds to allocate to the guarantee fund and putting in all the safeguards so that we don’t issue the [unclear].

Okay, these are the problems sometimes with guarantee funds – some loans have already soured, and somehow it’s resuscitated and brought to the fund. But there will be experience there, I think when then Undersecretary of Agriculture Berna Romulo who eventually became Secretary of Tourism and he is now Deputy Governor of Central Bank, experience is quite good actually. The guarantee fund that was called the – another ugly name – Agricultural Guarantee Fund Pool, actually encouraged quite a bit of lending. So with good governance and funding, we can encourage lending to sectors that would otherwise have no access to credit.

So it’s not just the Philippines. If these funds can be set up and being covered by good governance, we can expand lending to MSMEs.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you, Sir. And hello Deputy Governor Berna Romulo!

Okay, so that wraps up our panel.

Before we close, however, could we just ask for final words from our distinguished panel. Of course, ladies first – we will start with Budget Secretary Pangandaman.


The Department of Budget and Management will endeavor to craft a budget towards the eight economic agenda and economic transformation towards the sustainable, inclusive and a budget for prosperity.

Again, given that, we will also endeavor to pass the budget on time with the help of our friends from Congress. Thank you.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Okay, let’s do it this way, from the other end. Secretary Balisacan?

NEDA SEC. BALISACAN: An 8-point agenda, doable? That’s often asked question. Of course, it is. And with all the participation, support of stakeholders, government will deliver the Philippine Development Plan as instructed by the President before the end of the year. And we will ensure that the President will receive periodic reports on the implementation of this development plan.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: And Secretary Pascual?

DTI SEC. PASCUAL: Well, the private sector is the engine of economic growth. Government is there to provide an enabling environment, and we in the government should help facilitate investments from the private sector.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you. BSP Governor Felipe Medalla!

BSP GOV. MEDALLA: Well, the three pillars of central banking are price stability, financial stability and a secure, efficient payment system. We will guarantee that; do our best to make sure that all those three pillars are strong. But the reason we have those three pillars is to serve the people. So we’ll work very hard to expand the national inclusion.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you, Sir. And last but not the least, the Chairman of the Economic Development Cluster, Secretary Benjamin Diokno.

DOF SEC. DIOKNO: As the President said yesterday, the state of the economy is sound. So my advice to the private sector is: Trust your government; we’re behind you.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you so much. And with that, we are looking forward to the agenda for prosperity of the Marcos administration. Thank you very much, sirs and ma’am.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: So while they are taking a photo, Usec. Margaux, we are preparing.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Yes, sir. Welcome back, Dr. Tony.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: We are preparing for the second panel, and this panel will be on infrastructure and industry. And while the photos are being taken, may we also announce that we are live on PTV 4 and livestreaming on RTVM, DOF, BSP, all on our Facebook pages.

We also have simultaneous interpretation ongoing on BSP Ilocano, BSP Cebuano and BSP Filipino. So for all of you who are tuned in, if you’d like to listen to this POST-SONA Economic Briefing in other Philippine languages – we have BSP Ilocano, BSP Cebuano, BSP Filipino. Also, we have sign language interpretation ongoing.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: So once again, for the first panel, thank you so much to Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, Trade Secretary Pascual, NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, BSP Governor Felipe Medalla and the Chairman of the Economic Development Cluster, Secretary Benjamin Diokno.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Big hand for our first panel…

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: And let us now proceed to our second-panel session on infrastructure. And now I will turn over the stage to BSP Managing Director Tony Lambino.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Thank you, Usec. Margaux. We are adjusting the name cards or the agency cards on the stage for the second panel. It gives you an idea of what will be coming over the next hour or so. We have DOTr, DOT, DPWH, DICT, DA and DOE.

So, if we may request everyone to find their seats. Once again, we will begin our second panel. Maraming, maraming salamat po.

To deliver the keynote for Panel 2 on infrastructure and industry, may I call on the Chair of the Infrastructure Cluster, Secretary Manuel M. Bonoan of the Department of Public Works and Highways.

DPWH SEC. BONOAN: Thank you very much, Director Tony.

In behalf of the Cabinet Cluster on Infrastructure, it is my privilege to present the highlights of the administration’s infrastructure agenda in the presence of my steamed colleagues in the Cabinet of President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Romualdez Marcos, Jr., other distinguished guests, development partners, members of the media, ladies, and gentlemen… good morning.

As we convene today, I would like to reiterate the marching order of the President during his State of the Nation Address yesterday that under his administration, the infrastructure development program will be pursued relentlessly. We will continue what has been started under the Build, Build, Build Program of the past administration and must not only continued but whenever possible, be expanded.

As the President said, the infrastructure program will be very vital to support national government efforts to push the revival of economy which is slumped due to COVID-19 pandemic. This is the foundation that we will build upon. As the President pronounced, we must keep the momentum and aspire for build better more TBM and faster.

The infrastructure projects that are ongoing and even those in the pipeline set for implementation will surely be the priorities of this administration. The idea is to hasten project implementation, finish the projects at the earliest possible time so that the Filipino people may reap its benefits immediately, especially at these crucial times when unemployment remains a dilemma by many.

Also, in the line of government’s goal to modernize the country’s infrastructure backbone, the sustained rapid growth attracts investments and spread economic opportunities for all Filipinos.

Consistent with the spirit of unity, we will further strengthen and expand the convergence programs of government agencies in order to optimize the use of resources and maximize the direct and indirect impact of our infrastructure development towards accelerated growth of business and alleviation of poverty in the sectors of tourism, trade and logistics, and more importantly in agriculture, in a comprehensive and integrated manner.

We will continue building infrastructure that support the development of priority tourism development as well as jumpstart the growth of emerging tourism destinations. This should enable areas around the country to better prepare in the resurgence of arrivals of domestic and foreign tourists as COVID-19 becomes endemic from pandemic.

We will build more tourism infrastructure to further enhance the experience and entice tourists to explore and spend more for the benefit of micro, small and medium enterprises in the localities, creating more jobs and income for everyone.

Together with the welcoming more travel and tourism activities across the country, we also expect the economic recovery will result to more trade, transport, and logistic activities requiring a wider network of national and local road infrastructure that interconnect economic zones, manufacturing, and logistic hubs, and trade centers, facilitating more balance growth among regions, urban centers, and rural communities.

Moreover, the government will further enhance linkages towards seaports, airports, and railway stations to further integrate our infrastructure across modes of transport supporting all industries across all areas in the country.

To ensure food security, the government will be building more inclusive and sustainable farm-to-market roads based on a comprehensive farm-to-market network plan. Also, access the connectivity to priority irrigation areas will be improved.

The perennial traffic congestion in highly urbanized areas is a serious problem in the country. The weak connection between the centers of economic activities has been an obstacle to economic development and cause of increasing disparity between urban and rural areas. Expanding the country’s highways and expressways network will alleviate over-concentration of population and development in the urban areas and will give way to regional development.

The government targets to further increase the country’s high standard highway network and expressways from 510 kilometers to 1,816 kilometers based on the Masterplan of Network Development Phases 1 and 2.

Through Public-Private Partnership initiatives, we will continue in our infrastructure program including but not limited to the Luzon Expressway Network Program to reduce travel from the Ilocos to the Bicol Region from 20 hours to 9 hours. We will prioritize the construction of more bridges across Pasig River, Marikina River, and Manggahan Floodway to improve logistics network of Metro Manila.

One of the directives of the President is to unite the nation by connecting the islands. We will see to it that the inter-island mega bridges with ongoing construction will be fully completed and will also ensure early completion of the detailed engineering, design of other bridges.

Safe, seamless and sustainable maritime transportation for the greater mobility and connectivity of people is also a primary focus of the government. Modernized ports and facilities will strengthen the country’s navigational safety and maritime security.

The government will also implement more airport projects that will help cater to the growing passenger demand in the country. With regard to the railway network development in the country, the government aims to improve the total passenger experience in our existing railway lines, by implementing capacity expansion and reliability improvement programs with the cooperation of the current and future railway operators. Also, we will prioritize the early completion of ongoing railway projects to further expand the total rail network of the country.

We will also prioritize programs and projects that will further accelerate the build-up of digital infrastructure in the country and expand digital technologies and transformation efforts for good governance.

The government will intensify its efforts to implement programs that will ensure that the country will have a sustainable, secure, sufficient, accessible energy and of course, despite all these infrastructure developments, we have to balance progress without compromising the environment. The government will also strengthen its efforts to promote active transport by building more pedestrian infrastructure and bike lane networks.

Today, we were taking a huge step forward. Together with my fellow workers in government, we will continue working hand in hand in unity, in pursuit to have a better nation and continue to foster transparency and accountability, and public service for the benefit of our Filipinos.

Through this forum, we can get insights from our stakeholders, prime movers in the business and financial industries, and here today to help us tackle the pressing issues especially in the infrastructure sector and perhaps, identify the best practices and come up with valuable solutions on concerns related thereto.

Without further ado, I will no longer take too much of your time, so we can formally begin with the forum. May we have a productive day ahead! Thank you very much. Mabuhay po!

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Thank you very much, Secretary Bonoan. If you could stay on stage please and yes, wait for the other members of the panel to join you. We moved on to the second panel on infrastructure and industry. And for this panel, may I please call on, Department of Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco.

Also, we have the Department of Information and Communication Technology, Secretary Ivan John Uy. Is Secretary Uy around? Secretary, happy birthday po, Sir! Ipinaghanda po namin kayo ng lunch, pero it’s going to be taken home at the end of the event for everyone.

Department of Transportation Undersecretary Cesar Chavez, Department of Agriculture Assistant Secretary Arnel De Mesa and Department of Energy Director Mario Marasigan, good morning Sirs and Ma’am!

I’m sure everyone here today is looking forward to hearing about this administration’s infrastructure and industry priorities, especially on key sectors such as agriculture, transportation, tourism, energy and ICT. So, let’s go straight to that.

And please allow me to begin with a question for Assistant Secretary De Mesa.

Sir, what are the measures the Department of Agriculture plans to implement to bring down prices of food commodities? How will the government enable farmers to increase productivity at par with our neighboring countries?

DA ASEC. DE MESA: Thank you, Tony. Good afternoon to my colleagues and to our guests. For prices, the sharp increase of agricultural commodities, these are brought about by number one, natural and human-induced calamities. The lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the transboundary diseases such as the African Swine Fever, Avian influenza and the fall armyworm for corn and these are all aggravated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

And to address these increases as mentioned by the President yesterday in his State of the Nation Address, we will be focusing on boosting our key agricultural commodities, the production of key agricultural commodities. This will be supported by the provision of credit and financial assistance, this is number one.

Second is by provision of appropriate technologies, we have all these. And by October, we will be launching the Masagana 150 and 200. We are aiming to increase the production and the productivity of our rice for inbred to a level of 7.5 metric tons per hectare and for our hybrid, 10 metric tons per hectare. So that is why, it’s called Masagana 150 to claim 150 bags and 200 bags for our hybrid.

And we are also focusing on giving targeted interventions to our farmers and fisherfolk. We will continue to digitalize the sector by starting with our registry system for basic sector in agriculture; we have about more than 12 million farmers and fisherfolk. By digitizing, we will be avoiding duplication in the interventions and mostly, we will be avoiding leakages in the interventions.

And in terms of specific programs, we also would like to build, as part of the infrastructure, the cold examination facility in agriculture. This will be our first border protection so as to prevent the further entry of these transboundary diseases. We want this to be established in Subic, in the port of Batangas, in Cebu, in Davao and of course, in Manila International Container Port.

And we also would like to strengthen our distribution system. So we should establish regional food hubs and of course, in the establishment of these food hubs, we want to establish the link from these efficient distribution systems to our Kadiwa Centers. And by establishing this, we will be reducing the cost of inputs as well as eventually the cost of prices.

Next will be the tapping of renewable energies for our irrigation facilities, an example of which is our solar-powered irrigation systems. This can be easily established in less than a month and up to three months for bigger projects.

And, lastly, we also would like to look at the provincial commodity investment plans as mentioned by the President, to look at the value chain from production, and post-harvest facilities up to the consumer level to determine the gaps and constraints of the different stakeholders in the value chain. So, we can increase productivity and therefore lower the production cost and lower prices. Thank you.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Thank you very much. ASec. De Mesa. For Secretary Bonoan, what projects are you most looking forward to completing or spearheading as DPWH Secretary?

DPWH SEC. BONOAN: Well, I guess the most pressing program that we will implement is actually to continue with the, to finish all started projects under the Build, Build, Build Program of the previous administration. And so, these projects will be useful to the economic recovery program of the government at this time.

Secondly, we will start with high-impact projects that will continue to improve the transportation system throughout the country and especially to address actual transport or traffic bottlenecks in the urban areas as well as the interregional connections for more unimpeded travel to the areas.

And the third one is actually as the President has mentioned. We have to develop our linkages with the other government agencies as I have mentioned under the convergence program to support all the projects that are inline under this administration including tourism, Department of Agriculture, most especially for the food production, food security program of the government.

And we will continue to entice the private sector to continue with our Public-Private Partnership Program in addressing actually all the necessary transport programs that are viable for the private sector. Thank you.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Thank you, Secretary Bonoan. For Secretary Frasco, prior to the pandemic, the tourism industry was one of the key contributors to sustaining the growth of the Philippine economy with a 12.8% share of GDP in 2019. What are the administration’s strategies to support the sector’s recovery and bring back its growth to pre-pandemic levels?

DOT SEC. FRASCO: Thank you for that question. Maayong buntag, kaninyong tanan. Good morning.        


DOT SEC. FRASCO: First of all, we are very happy that the President has set a very clear vision for the recovery of the tourism industry and has expressed great confidence in its ability to recover from the ravages of the pandemic and the various calamities that have fallen in our country.

In line with the vision of the President for the Tourism industry to become a major pillar in our country’s national post-pandemic recovery. We have outlined seven main objectives that we would pursue under the Department of Tourism to be able to ensure not only that we would reclaim our previous position in ASEAN and the community of nations. But we would exceed and for the Philippines to claim a primary standing on the global stage that is the birthright of every Filipino.

These main objectives include first, an improvement in infrastructure as well as accessibility in relation to tourism destinations.

Second, a cohesive and comprehensive digitalization and connectivity.

Third, an enhancement of the overall tourist experience. Studying closely the tourist life cycle. To examine how we can best improve from end-to-end usage.

Fourth, diversification of our present tourism portfolio to explore multi-dimensional tourism.

Fifth, an equalization of tourism marketing and product development opportunities, not only for well-known tourist destinations but including and especially for those that have not yet been given equal attention in areas across the Philippines.

Next, we have the efforts that we will be giving to ensure close local government coordination as well as close coordination with our tourism stakeholders.  Recognizing that the tourism industry’s recovery simply will not be able to succeed without the help of local governments, without the help of the private sector.

In our view, it’s also very, very important for us to ensure that we examine all existing strategies that have been set in place, continue the good programs that have been implemented and the introduced innovations, and strengthen coordination with tourism-enhancing government agencies and the national government.

Overall, to be able to ensure that we built a strong foundation for the tourism industry so that it becomes resilient against any crisis.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Thank you very much. Secretary Frasco. On Transportation, Undersecretary Chavez, many are excited about the rail projects connecting key provinces and cities and Metro Manila including the Mega Manila Subway.  Could you share with us the status of some of these projects, please?

DOTR USEC. CHAVEZ: All right, Thank you, Tony. Actually, the President made mention yesterday in his SONA, his four plus two plus one railway projects. One is the subway.  Metro Manila Subway, it’s 33 kilometers from Valenzuela, all the way to Ninoy Aquino International Airport, with around 70 stations. We expect to provide daily ridership from 400,000 daily to as high as 800,000 daily. What is the status of this project? The procurement of the. I would like to define it in at least four indicators.

One is the procurement, the second is the design, third is the ROW. A very important topic for everyone and of course construction.                            

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: ROW is Right Of Way, Undersecretary?

DOTR USEC. CHAVEZ: ROW is Right Of Way acquisition. On the procurement of contractors from project management consultancy to contractors, civil works, rolling stocks, electro-mechanicals including the development of stations, we are about 60%, 60% depends on the procurement of both the project management consultancy and contractors.

On the North-South Railway Project that is from Calamba to Clark, 147 kilometers, 35 stations, daily ridership we expect if it is to be operational by 2026 to 2027 is around 400,000 to as high as 700,000 every day. Project status, procurement 93% procured. Consultancy and contractor from Tutuban to Malolos. Malolos to Clark 93% of the contractor has been procured already, both design and civil works including the rolling stock and the station development from Manila-Tutuban to Calamba that is about 61% in terms of procurement of consultancy and contractor. AS to the detail and engineering design. We are more than 70% complete. As to ROW, it’s 55 to 60% in this area.

Now the President also made mention of the Line I extension project, which is from Baclaran to Bacoor with about eight stations, 11.9 kilometers. This is 70% completed in terms of construction. I should correct myself! Around 69% in terms of construction; the 123 trains are there already, less than about 24 rolling stocks; the station developments are in place already, except from Las Piñas to Bacoor.

And the President also made mention our development partner San Miguel, in particular MRT-7.  This is about 61% completed in terms of construction. Daily ridership here is from 400,000 to as high as 700,000 to 800,000 a day.

On top of this, the President made mention the common station. This is the grand central station connecting LRT Line I and MRT Line III and MRT VII and Subway.  We expect, if this is completed by the second quarter of 2023, we expect at least 150,000 passengers daily na papasok at lalabas in this common station.

The President made a very important announcement yesterday and that is the inclusion of the Cebu Railway System, the Panay Railway Project, and the Mindanao Railway Project.

I will start with the Mindanao Railway Project. We will have to resubmit this project to the NEDA in the coming few weeks, because this has been approved in the past. The intention is to continue whether we are going to PPP or ODA, we will leave it to the Department of Finance and NEDA – the economic team of the President.

However, the Panay Railway Project is not in the master plan. Good news for Cebu/Cebuano, because in the master plan of Cebu Transport from 2018 to 2019, there are five railway projects identified for development in the Visayas, particularly in Cebu Province. So these are the status of the Projects, Tony.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Thank you very much. So, that’s the Subway, the Line I Extension, the MRT-VII, the common station; Cebu, Panay and Mindanao Railways, and the North-South Commuter Railway. Thank you, Sir.

For the Department of Energy, Sir, what is your assessment Director Marasigan, of the current energy situation in the country, reducing energy costs as part of the agenda of the Marcos Administration? What is the department’s game plan to help achieve this goal?

DOE DIR. MARASIGAN: Thank you very much, Tony and good morning to all. Yes, at the moment, we have sufficient supply of energy, both in terms of liquid fuel and the power industry.  But we all know that the cost of energy in the country is dictated by imported fuels. As such, the Department of Energy’s goal is to reduce energy costs through the following:

Number one, exploitation of our indigenous resources, not only renewable energy but also the aspiration to find additional Malampaya gas;

Second, we have to push for more energy efficiency concepts and we can reduce our dependence on imported fuel if we can have a shift from our fuel sources.

In support as well with the Department of Transportation’s mass transportation system, then we can introduce electric-driven locomotives, rather than the conventional transportation system. We can also introduce the e-vehicle program, so we use more of the renewable energy that we have in terms of the electric power industry and lessen our dependence from our fuel sector.

But definitely, we need the cooperation of the consumers and the public sectors, and we can achieve this by empowering them. And how can we do that? We have now choices for the electricity consumers to engage in direct contracting with the suppliers of energy themselves. We have programs in retail completion and open access wherein consumers can now buy or procure electricity supply directly from the producers themselves, the power generations through the retail electricity suppliers and focus on renewable energy – we have the green energy option program.

And we also have the directly connected customers, which are connected to the transmission system. Lastly, we are pushing for more distributed energy wherein the consumers themselves can put up their own generating facilities. That is also in pursuance of our net metering program. So, it’s a form of livelihood on their part and at the same time, we conserve energy. Thank you.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Thank you very much, Director Marasigan. Some of you may find it strange that I was crouching in front of the speaker. Secretary Popo Lotilla is on the phone and he said he could not hear the answers. So, I had to bring the phone to the speaker, so he could hear and to see if he wanted to add anything.

Anyway, in this age of great digitalization, we are finding an analog solution to this problem of not being able to patch-in Secretary Lotilla. So, Secretary Popo, is there anything you would like to add?

DOE SEC. FLOTILLA: Thank you, Tony and thank you, Director Mario Marasigan. I just wanted to emphasize that the President pointed out that we need to be more energy-secure. And that means that we have to develop our indigenous resources. And the first one that we have lost, the President said we have less power than we need and that’s because we lost 1,200 megawatts of Ilijan, which is powered by natural gas.

This is a top priority for us. The President has directed that we address the uncertainties over investments in the upstream, so that we can mobilize the natural gas around Malampaya and other fields for our needs at the soonest time possible.

We will do that through a number of measures: One, through executive action, by clarifying the policy; second, in order to stabilize the investment regime is to have the clarification by Congress as well.

It is important to note, as Director Marasigan pointed out that on fuel, we are 100% dependent on imported fuels. In power, 45% of our power plants are dependent on coal and 80% of that coal is coming from foreign sources.

So we’ve got to address the security as we address as well the matter of protecting the most vulnerable sectors of society. And we will continue to work on the targets for electrification of households all over the country. There are still more than one million households, which are unserved and more than 800,000 of those are in Mindanao.

But why is there a reason for hope as he pointed out? He pointed out the potential for example, of diversifying our energy sources for power that includes the 28,000 gigawatts of offshore wind that can be mobilized by 2030 and an even much bigger potential for offshore wind, and the future technologies like hydrogen, nuclear solutions and so on, will have to be worked on along the way.

So, the challenge is for us to start working on this. Otherwise, a future is not going to come. We have to start now. The future starts with us. Thank you.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Thank you very much, Secretary Lotilla. So, maybe we will keep him in the line, Sir, if that’s okay, to join director Marasigan for the DOE questions for the second round.

So, now we move to our second round of questions if that’s okay with the panel and go back. I’m sorry, before that I think we still have a question for Secretary and our birthday celebrant Ivan John Uy.

Secretary, what are the efforts that DICT is undertaking to support e-government initiatives?

DICT SEC. UY: Thank you, Tony for the greetings and by the way, food is on the house.

Well, the DICT has a pretty broad mandate. Our task really is to be an enabler on the part if we are talking about e-governance to assist all the different departments to get its information system not only running but efficiently and be able to deliver public service in a more accessible as well as more efficient way of delivering that public service.

My analogy here is like a human body – we have the Department of Tourism as the face and it always has to be a beautiful face that’s why we have beautiful Secretaries of Tourism, Secretary Christine here, and of course Secretary Bern there. And you know, we have the legs, the legs is the Department of Transportation. We have the muscle, that’s the Department of Defense. We have the arms, that’s the Department of Labor.

The function really of the DICT in terms of e-governance is we are the neural network. We’re the ones that connect all the different parts of the body just to make sure that all of them are coordinated, that information is transmitted properly between each and every part so that we can work as an effective, single unit. And those information is provided to the brain where the President up there can make sound and informed decisions based on the information that is sent to him from all the different parts of the body.

So, I’m not a doctor but I think that’s the closest thing I could think of the role of information technology as an enabler in terms of e-governance.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Thank you very much, Secretary Uy.

If we can move on to our second round of questions if you’re wondering in what order we’re asking the questions, we actually check in with protocol and it’s by year of establishment of your department.

So, we go back to the Department of Agriculture. Asec. De Mesa, how will agriculture be different under the Marcos administration?

What is your vision for the Philippine’s agricultural sector over the next six years?

DA ASEC. DE MESA: Thank you, Tony, that’s a very good question. What’s exciting and great about the President being also our Secretary of Agriculture is the importance and priority now that’s being given to the department and one credible answer to that is that Secretary Pangandaman earlier mentioned that DA will now be given as one of the priorities for the increase in budget allocation. For the past how many years DA is only receiving 1 to 1.5% budget allocation despite the department producing 10% of the GDP. And we’re very happy that with sufficient budget allocation now that will be given to the department will be providing more services to our farmers and fisherfolk.

Another one is that the President has mentioned that we’ll now be focusing on the development of the farm-to-market road network plan. There is about at least 70,000 kilometers that need to be concreted all over the country to bring efficient distribution system, to reduce down the prices of basic commodities all over the country.

And currently, now we are into the development we have developed the National Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization and Industrialization Plan. This is a ten-year master plan of the department that we need to focus on in strengthening value chain, efficient, resilient agriculture. So, we are also be providing now more appropriate technologies to our farmers and fisherfolk. And because of the Mandanas-Garcia ruling, we have what we call the province-led agriculture and fishery extension system bringing the extension closer to our local government units. The department will bring the technology, but it will be the local government units who will provide the immediate support to our farmers and fisherfolk.

So, with all of these, we are expecting a robust productivity for our farmers and fisherfolk, Tony. Thank you.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Thank you very much, Asec. De Mesa.

On Public Works and Highways again, Secretary Bonoan, what are the next key steps in the government’s plan to decongest Metro Manila given that the mobility restrictions related to COVID-19 have been eased?

DPWH SEC. BONOAN: Well, for Metro Manila I think you know the most pressing problem is traffic congestion problem and I think it would really be incumbent upon also the Metro Manila Development Authority and other local government units. Management of traffic is going to be a very important role of the local government units and as far as infrastructure program is concerned, we will continue with the construction of more bridges across Pasig River and Marikina River so that the mobility will be enhanced from north to south sectors because there are just but a few bridges connecting the north and south sectors although the department has already built a few more. But we will continue with the construction and development of I think another five or six bridges across the Pasig River.

Having said that anyway I think what’s the more important aspect is actually to continue with the development of the expressways that would be leading towards the other areas of Metro Manila. Right now, I think there are several expressway projects that are online and I know some of them would be there’s an expressway that is going to be developed in the eastern corridor of Metro Manila that will go through Pasig, Cainta, and the way to Bulacan and this is already being implemented. I think I would like also to say that the continuation of the South Luzon Expressway going to Lucena is now underway and this will be completed in the swiftest possible time. And of course, the other expressways that are now being implemented would be the Cavite-Laguna Expressway and all the way to Tagaytay City. All these are going to be implemented for Metro Manila.

Of course, we will continue to maintain all the national roads, the vital road links in Metro Manila of course.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Thank you, Secretary Bonoan. So, on Metro Manila traffic congestion, we’re looking at the role of LGUs, we’re looking at more bridges that will connect the north and south sectors, and the role of expressways in and out of the metropolis. Thank you, sir.

On tourism, Secretary Frasco, as the travel industry recovers, what are the department’s long-term strategies to promote sustainable tourism and help enterprises transition to a greener, more resilient, and pandemic-proof tourism industry?

DOT SECRETARY FRASCO: Well, first of all I think it’s very important to acknowledge that sustainable development as a concept does have a tendency to be disconnected to actual implementation on the ground. By the very nature of it being quite theoretical. From my local government experience, it has taught me that it’s very, very important to be able to translate these theoretical policies into actual implementation and how we are looking to do that is to be able to introduce sustainable development policies into a wider sustainable development framework that looks at economic policy, environmental policy, and social policy.

To be able to translate these policies into actual implementation, we need to focus onto essential building blocks: First, the strengthening of local government unit participation in policy-crafting and grassroots implementation; Second, to be able to build consensus in the community as far as what policies would be implemented so they can take ownership of the implementation of these policies on the ground.

Overall, the intention being to expand the life cycle of every tourist destination. On the part of the local government units, from my experience as Mayor of the Municipality of Liloan, Cebu, it’s very, very important to institutionalize zoning and land use regulations. In that, we strictly implement the regulation of the development and the use of tourism destinations to ensure that its use as a tourism destination lasts for a long term and expands, rather than deprives the community of economic opportunities. Knowing that without taking care of these tourist destinations, we simply cannot expect its sustainability in the future.

It’s also very, very important to incentivize sustainable tourism policy implementation. The introduction of incentives for the private sector who would implement green policies that gives value to preservation of the environment as well as the introduction of measures that promotes environmental protection, energy efficient usage and the like.

It’s also very, very important to continue to harness the relationship with the private sector, especially in the grassroots for the adoption of sustainable development not only as a policy and theoretical notion but rather as a way of life. So that eventually, sustainable tourism is not only a matter of government regulation but rather of self-regulation and that the community takes an active part in the implementation of all of these policies.

It’s also very important to our mind that President Marcos has very clearly laid out the importance of enhancing the Filipino brand. In that, we inculcate among the Filipino people and encourage among them pride of place that they may take ownership of taking care of their communities and of projecting to the world the unique Filipino brand that is anchored not only on the beauty of our natural resources, but also most importantly on our rich cultural heritage.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Thank you very much, Secretary Frasco. So making sure sustainable development concepts are implemented on the ground, taking a wider view of policy that includes economic policy incentives for green investments and making sure that local communities are involved in all of these, and that the Filipino brand is grounded in Filipino identity. Thank you. Thank you, Secretary Frasco.

For the Department of Transportation, Undersecretary Chavez: What infrastructure projects will the Department prioritize to improve economic resilience and make growth more inclusive and sustainable?

DOTR USEC. CHAVEZ: The President made a very clear presidential directive in his State of the Nation Address yesterday: “My instruction to the DOTr is simple – full speed ahead!” Immediately after that, Secretary Jimmy Bautista texted me: “That is our marching order and we will deliver!” I think, we will be able to help the Department of Tourism, the Department of Agriculture hand-in-hand with the Department of Public Works, our older mother agency and we need the help of DICT and of course, the Department of Energy.

We intend, as Secretary Bautista said, to complete, one, the North-South Railway Project.

By all indicators, procurement of contractors both management consultancy and contractors is 90%; ROW or Right of Way acquisition substantially acquired and delivered – 80%. North-South Commuter Railway (Calamba to Clark)!

And on the Light Rail Transit Authority, that’s from Baclaran to Cavite, the highest passenger when I was the Deputy Administrator was 550,000. With the completion of eight stations from Baclaran to Bacoor, we expect additional 300,000 – that means from Bacoor all the way to Caloocan, to North Avenue Station, that’s 800,000. And I think, we will be able to complete the project in three to four years.

The President made mention of MRT 7 with development partners, MRT 7. We expect that this project will be completed in 2025/2026, latest 2027 as 60% plus the rate of construction completion. We expect also to complete the Line 2 Extension from the East Antipolo. And from 232,000 passengers every day, we expect at least 350,000 passengers daily and we hope to complete this by 2023, second quarter – it’s almost done, except for signaling system.

The common station, as I have mentioned is about 150,000 passengers daily. Huwag ho kayong mag-alala kung bakit 150,000. At the highest, when I was the Director for Operations of MRT 3, the highest passenger coming in and out of MRT Taft Station is 72 to as high as 80 thousand. Ito tatlo na ang common stations.

These railway projects if completed, and we are confident to be completed, will not only help the way of life – the transport not only in Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon including the subway are substantially complete by 2027 – I think, will also help not only the transportation, moving people, moving passengers and goods comfortably, safely in a speedy manner, but also will greatly help the economic activity in this area.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Thank you very much, Undersecretary Chavez.

So you mentioned again the North-South Railway, the LRT 8, Line 2 extension as well and the MRT 7, the common station – full speed ahead, delivery, advanced stages of procurement in some cases. And you also mentioned the completion of projects between 2023 and the years following that. Thank you, Sir.

For the Department of Energy once again, Director Marasigan: What is the government’s plan to encourage investment in the energy sector to help achieve a clean, reliable, cost-effective and secure mix of energy sources?

DOE DIRECTOR MARASIGAN: Thank you very much again for the question.

Of course, we have to address the current concern of our investors particularly in the renewable energy that will support our reliable and clean energy sources – and that is to address, first, the foreign ownership issues in terms of exploration and development of our renewable energy; at the same time, we have to ensure that the renewable energy market provides a conducive environment that is to strengthen our distribution sector and ensure their timely and appropriate conduct of competitive selection process, and that will also provide security in terms of investment.

We have also to ensure compliance of our system operator in providing for the ancillary services because ancillary service is equally important power generation components.

As a transition element from the conventional that we have to renewable energy, we have to develop as well our natural gas industry…

DOE DIRECTOR MARASIGAN: (CON’T) And as such, we need legislative support in strengthening our midstream natural gas sector. And in looking for alternative options for our energy, then we need also support for the entry of alternative energy sources such as nuclear and hydrogen fuel.

Aside from that, we need the private sector not only in providing the supply of energy in the covered franchised area. We need to allow the entry of the private sector in providing access to our remote communities and we need to pursue our Microgrid [Systems] Act that would provide a conducive environment for our private sector in providing electricity services in unserved and underserved areas.

Also, we need to make sure that interconnection is available. We need to see the timely completion of our inter-island interconnection. We’re looking forward to the very soon completion of our Visayas-Mindanao Interconnection Project; the enhancement of the Cebu-Negros-Panay Project; as well as the targeted interconnection of Mindoro and Palawan and other off-grid areas.

So, these are all part of the scenarios that we are looking at in providing a conducive environment for the industry player particularly in the power sector.

Thank you.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Thank you, Director Marasigan.

Let me ask our phone-in VIP. Secretary Lotilla if you would like to add? I am going analogue again for this one.

DOE SEC. LOTILLA: Okay. Thank you very much, Tony.

I can also say “Amen” to all that Director Marasigan pointed out. Let me just emphasize that the President, in his State of the Nation Address, pointed out that the need for EPIRA amendment that would allow the Energy Regulatory Commission to play a more effective role in leveling the playing field for investors and to ensure a competitive market which is a very important role in order to attract investors.

The second is the point of strengthening our transmission lines, is because we want to avoid the phenomenon of stranded power especially, we experience it in Negros Island where power could not be exported outside of the island and renewable energy from solar was competing and was edging out geothermal which put up against renewables and that’s why a better synchronization of plants is important.

And finally, that the vision and plans and for addressing investment restrictions to impactful renewable energy such as offshore wind would have to start early.

Thank you very much.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Thank you, Secretary Lotilla.

So, our last question for the second round, again, is for Secretary Uy. Secretary Uy, for ICT to have a meaningful impact on the economy, jobs, welfare of Filipinos in the coming years as well as translate to digital inclusion for all, what policy infrastructure and perhaps training can be pursued?

DICT SEC. UY: Well, we’re actually pushing for an introduction of many more activities especially on the education side to build up our digital workforce. As Secretary Pascual has mentioned earlier, the BPO sector is actually a very rapidly growing sector and it’s employing several million jobs already as well as contributing about $29 billion to the Philippine economy.

So, we see the sector as a very high growth sector and the main hindrance there actually, common complaint they have, is the lack of skilled and talented manpower. Not because we don’t have the people but that the schools are producing the wrong skillset that they need. So, we need to work with the education system in order to build up the necessary skillsets in order to address that need.

At the same time, to be competitive – to go back earlier also to the first question – the government has to actually harmonize all the information or all the data that it has and ensure the sharing of all these information so that we’re able to bridge many of the gaps that we’re seeing.

With this type of activity, we are really pushing for government to move into digital space; provide access to public service with the intention of providing 24/7 governance; with the use, for instance, artificial intelligence, we would be able to transfer many of the frontline services where you don’t really need a person to handle many of these transactions. We can actually do it online and it lessens the discretion, as the President has often said, and that would definitely lessen the opportunities for corruption.

And with the effort also of Secretary Diokno on digital payments, we really definitely have to push for the digital payments and minimize cash transactions in government. [In] that way, we also minimize the leakages at the same time with the National ID System, we are going to be able to plug many of the lack of verification of the identity of beneficiaries whether these are farmers or these are beneficiaries through our 4P programs and many other financial assistance that we provide.

So, that definitely will address our efficiency on terms of governance.


So, in the course of our discussion in this panel, a lot was covered and so let me just close the session with a few words that are ringing in my head from everything that’s been said.

We heard a lot about digitalization; we heard a lot about the use of technology but also the need for education and high skills in this area; we heard about convergence, integration, interconnectedness; we heard about infrastructure and making sure it’s done quickly, full speed ahead; we heard about sustainability and making sure it gets implemented and not just remain theoretical; about the culture of the Philippines and making sure that the Filipino brand is grounded in the Filipino identity; also, a focus on the vulnerable and the need for policy reform like what Secretary Lotilla said.

So, with all of those thoughts and inputs in all of our minds, exciting times [are] ahead indeed in infrastructure and industry. I hope the discussion gave everyone a good preview of the Administration’s infrastructure and industry agenda and what’s in store under the Marcos Administration.

Please join me in thanking the members of the panel.

[And I think they’ll be taking your picture as you stand up before you go down to your seats.]

So, while the photo is being taken, they will also be preparing for the third panel.

The third panel will be on Human Development and Poverty Reduction. And for this panel, let me call back on stage, Undersecretary Margaux Salcedo, she will be moderating this third panel.

Okay, and as our Panel 2 members make their way back to their seats, you may have noticed that in the middle of the discussion, a very special guest joined us. And as the panel has already closed, allow me to ask all of us, ladies and gentlemen, to acknowledge the presence of the Honorable Sara Z. Duterte, Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines. Welcome, VP Sara. Thank you so much for joining us today.

And now, I would like to call back my co-moderator, Undersecretary Margaux Salcedo of the Department of Budget and Management.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you so much, Doctor – Managing Director Tony Lambino. That was a very thorough discussion. So congratulations on your panel discussion.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Well, it’s the panelist who we should be congratulating, a lot of the foreword too.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Yes of course. So, we will now be segueing to the human development and poverty reduction agenda.

So, for those who are tuning in just now to PTV 4 or who have just joined the forum, we began with a keynote address by Secretary Benjamin Diokno and this was followed by the panel discussion of the economic development cluster wherein we talked about the socio-economic agenda of the President, the medium-term fiscal framework, the Philippine Development Plan as well as the priorities of the Department of Budget and Management, the Department of Trade and Industry, as well as the various policies of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

And then, Managing Director Tony Lambino moderated the second panel, wherein he discussed…

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: The industry and infrastructure priorities of the Marcos Administration. And now, we have come to our third and last panel, which will highlight human development and poverty reduction.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: And so, we begin the session with a keynote to be delivered by the Chair of the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cluster, Secretary Erwin Tulfo of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

DSWD SEC. TULFO: Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Honorable Vice President and Secretary of Education Sara Duterte – Ma’am, Secretary of Finance, Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Bangko Sentral Governor, Dr. Felipe Medalla, the rest of my colleagues in the Cabinet, fellow civil servants, our media friends, ladies and gentlemen, a pleasant morning to all.          

With the new administration, I aimed to reduce the country’s poverty rate to 9%. It is critical to ensure a strong human development and poverty reduction agenda which aims to improve the quality of life of our Kababayans or the Filipino people with a broad-based and inclusive approach to public service delivery.

With the ongoing pandemic, poverty reduction will prove to be a greater challenge than it has even been. However, with the concerted efforts of all agencies engaged in human development and poverty reduction, rebuilding the social fabric should be a priority by executing a plan for transformation that will achieve more sustainable development and rebuild communities.

Delivery of accessible and affordable goods to all Filipinos by increasing farm productivity and income, we mitigate hunger and malnutrition; ensuring that healthy food is always on the table for every family to help guarantee children’s growth and becoming productive citizens.

It is also essential to strengthen the health system for the progressive realization of Universal Health Care with a focus on health system integration, human resource for health, health financing, and health information system. Further efforts to reduce adolescent birth rates are to be sustained and prioritized to counter health, social and economic implications that affect the well-being of mother and child due to unforeseen pregnancy at an early age.

Urgent action is needed to strengthen our mental health program and mainstream mental health and psychosocial support, especially for children. The World Health Organization noted that the majority of the people living with mental health problems in the low and middle-income countries do not get adequate treatment.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has increased our challenges multi-fold which needs to be addressed immediately.  We need to develop a robust school education system that will help build a knowledgeable society and lay the foundation for a strong nation. This entails improving the quality of education, capacity building for teachers and implementing catch-up programs to address learning losses and build on learning gains from pandemic.

Further amending the CHED Law has to be looked into. We need to ensure the Philippines’ tertiary education remains at par with ASEAN and global standards and at the same time, widen its access for the poor and vulnerable.

Moreover, it is crucial to improve the provision of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) through the development of targeting up-skills and retooling programs.  They are aligned with the national industrial strategy and Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) based on sector/industry needs and fast-tracking the implementation of micro-credentials for life-long learning in TVET.

We need to provide every Filipino a chance to take up higher learning and training, especially during these trying times.

Moreover, strengthening community-driven development is imperative. Sustainable strategy to enhance capacity increases local ownership by helping communities to identify and prioritize their needs and develop and implement community development plans.

The CDD approach ensures the development priorities are addressed in a participatory, collective, inclusive and demand-driven way. It is designed to give communities control of resources to address local poverty and build the capacity of both state, including local governments and civil society stakeholders to provide the systems and respond to calls for support from poor communities as they implement development initiatives.

We need to transform existing social protection programs to be adoptive and shock responsive. While most social protection is designed to provide assistance to households experiencing shocks as a result of life-cycle events – such as loss of jobs, illness or death – shock responsive social protection instead focuses on shocks that affect a large portion of the population.  It encompasses the expansion of routine social protection programs and systems to cope with changes and context and demand following large-scale shocks.

In this way, social protection can complement and support other emergency response interventions.

We should harmonize profiling and targeting systems for the vulnerable Filipinos. To implement policies and social protection programs in an effective and timely manner, PSA in cooperation with the concerned stakeholders should develop a registry of vulnerable groups which will include unemployed OFW returnees, displaced farmers and fisherfolks especially the street children, older persons, persons with disabilities, workers in the informal economy and those affected by the pandemic and development interventions.

Harmonize systems that will generate updated desegrated data necessary in targeting beneficiaries; conducting more comprehensive poverty analysis and needs prioritization; designing appropriate policies and interventions and monitoring impact over time. This initiative will consider integrated data from the community-based monitoring system, Listahanan, and other existing registries to institutionalize a social protection floor. The said registry will also be configured to be interoperable with the PhilSys. Multiple information system exists as they were developed to meet business processes and requirements whenever needs arose.

As a result, each program has its own system. The lack of interoperability and integration among different programs is a major challenge to efficient business processes and digital data governance. Thus, digital transformation is essential for us to adopt a cutting-edge digital technologies and platforms for efficient service delivery.

As the primary counterpart of the national government agencies at the local level and being the first respondent and provider to people’s needs, it is vital that synergy is horizontal and vertical coordination remains the primary strategy to guarantee actualization of programs and services.

In this endeavor, we need to create an enabling environment by building capacities of LGUs. The national government shall ensure that mechanisms are in place for increasing LGUs or Local Government Units’ ability to deliver the services. And at the same time, full cooperation, and initiative of our partners in the local government is also needed.

This agenda might be further solidify by ensuring time-bound implementation of our priorities through working mechanisms such as Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cluster. With priorities already set by the President through recently concluded SONA, it is now time for us to further roll up our sleeves and focus on the serious work of improving the quality of life of our fellow Filipinos especially the poor, vulnerable and marginalized.

Again, good morning and thank you all.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you so much, Secretary Tulfo. It is our pleasure to have you with us this morning. At this point, may I now call on our panelists to give us an overview of the plans for the human development sector.

May I call on our esteemed officials to please join DSWD Secretary Tulfo on stage led by no less than our Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte; they will be joined by Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma; we also have in this panel, Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga; and she will be joined as well by the Department of Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople; and we also have Department of Health Officer-In-Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire.

To our Cabinet Secretaries, Ms. Madam Vice President please take your seats… and if you like, we can also test our mics. So, since lunch is approaching, we will begin immediately and of course we are so honored to have you with us this morning, our Vice President. So, if it’s okay, ma’am, I will begin the panel discussion po with you.

At the State of the Nation Address yesterday, President Marcos said the Department of Education led by our highly able Vice President Sara Duterte is now preparing for its implementation in the upcoming school year with utmost consideration for the safety of students as we are still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. We must ensure that our classrooms are safe for teachers, for students and the entire academic community when they return to face-to-face classes. So, ma’am, may we ask… in a few months, 5-day in-person classes are expected to begin. So, in line with this, what are the preparations being carried out by the Department of Education?

VP AND DEPED SEC. DUTERTE: Thank you. Good morning, everyone. Maayong buntag sa inyong tanan.

We started with the department order on identifying our school calendar and the implementing guidelines for school year 2022 to 2023. In that department order, we already identified the next two years period of our school calendars, that of 2023 and 2024, and 2024 and 2025. If there will be no surprises or amendments, these three schoolyears will continue on with the following implementing guidelines for the next two school years.

And then we also released our department order on the enrollments, and I am happy to share with everyone that our enrollment for the first day was 3.3 million already as compared to our first day of last year which was at 222,000 only.

And then we started with the checking of the inventory of the schools who were affected by Typhoon Odette and where they are now with their repairs and reconstruction of the classrooms and buildings that were damaged by the typhoon. And we already talked to our finance strand in the Department of Education to look for savings from the past year and this year and request for the realignment of these savings to the repair and reconstruction of these classrooms and buildings that were affected by Typhoon Odette and Agaton. And whatever is lacking from these repairs, we will request the Department of Public Works and Highways to assist the Department of Education.

And then, we, in the same department order of the school calendar, we instructed our regional offices to coordinate with their regional offices’ counterparts of the Department of Health to continue with the counseling of unvaccinated families particularly the unvaccinated learners, and the teaching and non-teaching staff of the Department of Education that are unvaccinated as well. And once the counseling is successful, they initiate mobile vaccinations in our schools for those who have given their consent to be vaccinated.

In the same department order also, we instructed our regional offices to coordinate with their local mental health associations and their psychiatric societies to come up with a support on mental and wellness for our learners who, for the past two years only knows of the online classroom and now they are transitioning to our in-person teaching. In the same department order as well, we introduce transition period for all our schools. We did not directly impose upon them to begin a ‘five-day in-person classes’ for their schools, we allow them to conduct a blended learning mode which is combined with in-person and distance learning.

And then, we are set to start our Brigada Eskuwela and seek out our partners, private sector partners and our Adopt-A-School Partners. We intend to start this on August 1. Everyone is invited to join and participate in the Brigada Eskuwela in your respective localities.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Ang dami, Ma’am. Wala pang one month!

VP AND DEPED SEC. DUTERTE: Madami pang problema, Ma’am, actually. Pero iyon na lang muna.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Bravo! Bravo! I think that’s the benefit of having a former mayor for Education Secretary; as the crisis response, it’s also immediately addressed.

And speaking of response, sinabi din po ni–I will in Filipino and translate for our diplomatic corps because we’re also live on PTV-4 and answers of our panel might be direct concerns of some of our viewers. And if I may quote the portion of President Marcos in his State of the Nation Address yesterday which he also delivered in the vernacular, he said, “Magpapatuloy ang ating pagkalinga sa ating mga kababayan na lubos na nangangailangan, (We will continue to care for the poor and those who are in need), hindi po natin sila pababayaan. Mangunguna sa pag-aagapay sa kanila ang Department of Social Welfare and Development. Utos ko sa DSWD ang mabilis na pagtugon sa pangangailangan ng mga biktima ng kalamidad at mga iba’t ibang krisis.”

So, the President said that he had instructed the Department of Social Welfare and Development for their speedy response in times of crisis.

So, Secretary Tulfo, how will we streamline services to ensure that the poor, vulnerable, marginalized and disadvantaged sectors receive timely social assistance as mandated by the President yesterday? And may we request the Secretary to mention top reforms being carried out to achieve this goal.

DSWD SEC. TULFO: Well, we have a lot of programs being implemented now by the department. One of which is the digitization of our assistance actually in coordination and cooperation with the World Bank Program that will last until 2025. We’re working with them to fast track the delivery of assistance, particularly financial assistance to the needy and vulnerable. We also the have assistance to individuals in crisis situation (AICS) where we give out assistance to people in need right there and then. For example, they need burial assistance, medical assistance we give it to them on the very same day to make sure that what they need, what their business in our agency will be dealt with and will be given to them at a very quick time or that same day.

We have other programs and we’re still working on it right now, basing on the instruction of the President. So, we keep on innovating at this very moment, at this point to create more substantial programs that will help people immediately.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Sir, ang galing ninyo palang mag-English. Because we usually hear the Tulfos on the radio and they speak exceptional Filipino. So, nice to speak to you in English, Sir!

DSWD SEC. TULFO: Thank you.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Now, we go to the Department of Labor.

Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma, what initiatives are in the pipeline that target to increase the employability of the workforce? In what areas can the private sector complement the department’s job facilitation programs?

DOLE SEC. LAGUESMA: Thank you. Thank you for the question. Good noon everyone. Let me first thank President Bongbong Marcos Jr., for putting workers at the center of the speech. In all of the projects, programs mentioned yesterday I heard very clearly – job creation, employability and social protection for the vulnerable as well as the underserved sector.

In the Department of Labor and Employment, we have often heard these issues – jobs-skills mismatch. We also heard about low labor productivity and capital productivity, as well as under-utilization of labor.

With the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority reversion to the fold of the Department of Labor and Employment, we will concentrate vigorously in coordination with the other departments who are presently here on the stage to up-skill our workers to answer and respond to the needs and requirements of emerging, as well as growth industries. And what are these growth industries that we have actually identified based on labor market studies –we have seen manufacturing, we have seen services, agriculture, tourism, construction as well as the Information Technology and Business Processing Outsourcing (IT-BPO) sectors.

And we have noted that in one of our dialogues with the partners, with our employers’ sector representatives specifically –I would like to mention that association because they made a commitment to create a million jobs up to 2028 naman not next year, not this year –  and the Information Technology and Business Outsourcing Association of the Philippines. Actually in our dialogue with the leaders led by Mr. Jack Madrid, if you’re around, I’m reiterating your commitment that you will be actually targeting to be able to produce one million jobs.

But of course, they also committed that they will be able to produce more with total and complete government support. And we are committed to be able to help them provide the necessary support. In fact, we have mentioned about the review of the implementing rules and regulations of the Telecommuting Act and a technical working group is already working on it and we will actually come up with our proposal on the amended IRR but we will always do consultations with our sectors, the affected sectors.

In addition, I think we’d like to really have our initiatives focused also on what we call the special program for the employment of students, as well as the job start to be able to hone up also the skills of our youth and prepare them for probably better work arrangement in the workplaces.

In addition, we’d like to also make use of the public employment service offices, the PhilJobNet which is a computerized system of looking for jobs.

All in all, we’d like to be able to have job facilitation, have also the concept of ease-in-doing business be really implemented and enjoyed because creation of jobs actually would be done largely by the private sector and we would like to really work in tandem with them together with our different secretaries of the department.

And the other thing is that we’d like to aggressively promote greening of jobs in coordination with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources because we believe that if we are able to address the issues on climate change, we’ll be able to produce not just more jobs but also quality jobs.

So, these in essence are the things that we’d like to do. But in addition while we do these linkages and initiatives, we will not forget that the vulnerable sectors and the underserved sectors of our community/our population will also be provided equitable social protection. Thank you.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you so much, Secretary Laguesma.

So, the Economic Development Cluster has Build Build Build, Secretary Laguesma over at the Department of Labor [and Employment] has ‘Jobs Jobs Jobs.’

And the jobs are not confined to the jobs in the country because we also now have a Department of Migrant Workers. And, so, first, Ma’am, Secretary Susan Ople, may we ask what is your message to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) now that the Department of Migrant Workers has been created to serve their needs?

DMW SEC. OPLE: Thank you for the question. And thank you, Secretary Diokno, and your team for convening this post-SONA event.

To our OFWs, I think the President’s message is so clear. We could feel—yesterday, we felt his sincerity, his highest esteem for our OFWs, and his compassion that extends not just to the worker but also to the family of the workers. And so, we can only build upon that message by delivering on the programs and services that were enumerated in the SONA yesterday.

For example, on Ease of Doing Business [and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018] and digitalization, what we would like to cut is the number of months that it normally takes for a foreign employer to go to one of our embassies and express an intention to hire a Filipino worker.

Because when I assumed office, I discovered that it would take a minimum of three months for such an employer to work with our embassy and the office our labor attaché to get an accreditation. It’s not even the hiring process, it’s just the accreditation process.

So, we look at the number of steps and we found a lot of redundancies. And so, by doing away with all those redundant procedures and unnecessary requirements, even the number of signatures, we are confident that we can cut that timeline from a minimum of three months to perhaps less than a month or three weeks.

We are also looking at the complaints of so many OFWs that when they spend their vacation here in the country, a huge chunk of it is spent on going to the POEA to physically apply and obtain what we call the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC). The OEC is what a worker, an OFW, presents to the Bureau of Immigration (BI) at the airport so that he/she can leave without being offloaded because it shows the legitimacy of his/her being an OFW.

With the help of the DICT, the ‘Steve Jobs’ of the Cabinet here, Secretary Ivan Uy, the DICT, and the DMW will be working closely together so that the OEC will now be paperless. It can be stored in the worker’s phone and there will be a corresponding digital solution at the [Bureau of] Immigration so that in every international airport that we have in the country, it’s now seamless, so they just need to present the OEC that is stored in their phone. And all requirements can be submitted electronically which spares them the inconvenience of going to the POEA every time they are here on vacation.

On welfare, as you may all have heard, we are resuming talks with Saudi Arabia on the deployment of our skilled workers. That’s the hierarchy, we will resume talks on the deployment of skilled workers. And then second, we will discuss a bilateral labor agreement with enhanced safeguards for our domestic workers and then perhaps another agreement covering cleaners and other vulnerable workers.

So, at the heart of all these talks with other countries, with our partners, it will always be the welfare and the rights of the OFW. At the heart of it because that is what the President wants.

Also, we are looking at—and I know the leaders of the business community here, the Department of Migrant Workers, as young as that agency is, we would like to invite all of you, the members of the business community, even the diplomatic posts that are and international organizations, please help us put in or define as many reintegration pathways for our returning OFWs to cut the cycle of intergenerational labor migration. We need your help so that, you know, it’s not just government moving but in tandem with the private sector, we have a lot of talented overseas workers returning to the country in search of possible investments; also, local employment and even partnerships for business and even social programs that they can join you in your CSR projects for example.

So, these are just a snapshots of what we want to do. We also want to strengthen our campaign against illegal recruitment and human trafficking, and we want to care for the children of OFWs, the children being left behind and we are opening a special program for that as well.

Thank you.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you so much, ma’am.

So, we hope that resonated with all the Ambassadors, heads of corporations in the house so that we can partner with our Overseas Filipino Workers. And, also, I think this is in line with the message of President Duterte yesterday on making the Philippines an investment destination and also in line with the objectives of the Department of Labor [and Employment] for ‘Jobs Jobs Jobs.’

So, we will now move on to the Department of Health which was also emphasized. Healthcare is another objective of the President as he mentioned yesterday in the State of the Nation Address. And he said, if I may just read that’s in the vernacular:

Sa ating sitwasyon ng pangkalusugan, nariyan pa rin ang banta ng COVID-19 lalo’t may mga nadidiskubreng bagong variants ng coronavirus. Pero hindi na natin kakayanin ang isa pang lockdown. Wala na tayong gagawing lockdown

It’s actually President Marcos yesterday said that there will be no more lockdowns amidst the pandemic.

So, Ma’am Vergeire, may I ask how is the government strengthening the public healthcare system in response to President Marcos’ message yesterday to prepare for future global emergencies in the near term?

DOH OIC USEC. VERGEIRE: Yes, thank you, and good noon to all of you!

In response to the President’s directives, we’ve discussed this with him that, yes, there won’t be any lockdowns anymore. Everybody has to shift the mindset that we are living with the virus and therefore we need to shift also the value that we give to the number of cases versus the system capacity of our healthcare.

So, if you observe right now, our cases our continuously increasing but in spite of the continuous increase in the number of cases here in the country, we are seeing that the severe and critical cases are plateauing. Meaning, it’s not increasing, and our hospital admissions are not also increasing. Though there are areas in the country right now that we are closely monitoring because we are having increase in the number of admissions but upon checking and upon analysis, we are seeing that the admissions are because they have low number of beds that have been allocated for COVID-19.

So, with this kind of situation, we are one and of course, support the call of the President that there won’t be any lockdowns anymore and that in the future and eventually we will be able to prepare our healthcare system whereby we are more resilient and we are going to be prepared if in case there would be another pandemic of this scale.

So first, we would like to improve the health literacy of all Filipinos. During this time of the pandemic, we have noted that many of our Filipinos or many of our citizens were just passive beneficiaries of the response that we have had. So, it means that we would like to make them more health literate by being active participants in this response by joining the government in the response and of course changing behavior as well, so that we can be able to battle the next pandemic if, in case we will have another one.

The second one would be, of course, we would like to base all our decisions on evidence and data. And therefore, we are going to have the strengthen epidemiology and surveillance units all over the country and that is already part of the budget that we have proposed to the  Department of Budget and Management for the Department of Health, so that we will be able to use science as basis for actions for our local government units.

The third one would be for us to have to recommend this evidence-generation. And these recommendations should be coming from experts in the field, coming from scientists from the field. And we all know that the Department of Health would not have this kind of expertise. That is why during this time of the pandemic, we had expert groups helping us and providing us with guidance and recommendations.

But in support of the directives of the President, we are going to have the Philippine Center for Disease Control, whereby, we are going to have high-level technical capacity, hiring experts, hiring scientists so that we can be able to manage, better manage emerging and reemerging diseases.

The next one is for us to have this dynamic provision of healthcare services, not just relying on the usual that we have right now, but gearing more on technology and innovations. Like we are going to establish further our telemedicine services or our telehealth services so that we can continuously decongest our facilities and we can also reach those far-flung areas in the country.

Aside from that, strengthening our facilities as what the  President mentioned yesterday in his SONA, that we will have this specialty care facility in different regions of the country, as well as our primary care facilities having this network of primary care facilities and higher level facilities, so that access of the people will be improved.

Another one would be for us to be able to have this dynamic provision of services, there should be a medical reserve corps. And this is what the President mentioned yesterday, that if there are emergencies or this kind of pandemic of this scale, there should be a pool of medical personnel that we can easily tap from, and that can easily supplement the different needs of health care workers or health human resources across the different facilities of government and the private sector as well.

And lastly, of course, we need to facilitate early diagnosis by setting up our public health laboratories. We all know that we have a lot of laboratories in the country, but public health laboratories specifically, which will be focused mainly on the different diseases which are emerging and reemerging just like what we have had with COVID-19.

And also, being self-sufficient in terms of our logistics and commodities.  We all know that our vaccines, for example COVID-19 came internationally. We do not have our local source. So in line also with the directives of the President, we are in support on working with the Department of Science and Technology to set up the Virology Institute of the Philippines whereby eventually, we can be able to locally manufacture our technology such as vaccines for these specific infectious diseases.

And lastly, in order for us to be able to implement all of these, we need that governance mechanism, that we will continue to have an inter-agency task force which will be able to manage the first two levels of response for the country and an institutionalized system or organization than National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to be implementing all of these policy directions that IATF will be providing to the health sector.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you, Ma’am. That’s a lot of programs and projects and we are happy to note that earlier, in the economic development cluster panel, our Budget Secretary said that health has gotten the number two priority, next only to education which is constitutionally mandated.

So we move now to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.  We have Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga.

Yesterday at the SONA, President Marcos said that though we are a minor contributor to climate change globally, we have the unfortunate distinction of being one of the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change. For the welfare of our people, it is incumbent upon us to alleviate the effects of that vulnerability.

So, Ma’am, may we ask, what are the lessons and best practices that we have gained from the completed rehabilitation projects of the DENR that will contribute to the agenda of establishing livable and sustainable communities?

DENR SECRETARY YULO-LOYZAGA: Thank you very much, Usec. Margaux.

Let me also start by quoting a few sentences from the President’s address as well. The first one of course, relates to disasters and climate-related disasters at that. The second one really relates to his statement regarding the preservation of the environment is the preservation of life. And in fact, that is the major mother statement in terms of the DENR’s mission. Thirdly, he mentioned that those who exploit our natural resources need to follow the law.

So, in terms of maintaining sustainable and livable communities, the first lesson here is not just to be sustainable, it’s actually to be resilient. We actually need resilience in order to keep our cities and our community safe. But not just our cities, the ecosystems that actually support them. Without that kind of interface between the natural rural and urban transect, we will not be able to maintain a resilient and sustainable city.

So, the first point in terms of the preservation of our urban developments would really be to keep in mind the ecosystems that are supporting them. Many of our cities, in fact, the major metropolitan regions in the country are coastal or in fact influenced or in fact aided in their development by riverine systems.

The first lesson that we must take away is that we must adopt an ecosystem-based approach, different from the political and administrative boundary approach in terms of our local governance systems. We need to understand that the ecosystems that influence and support the life of our cities sometimes go over the political administrative boundaries that are in place and, in fact, depend on other LGUs in terms of governance.

So the first lesson is ecosystem-based – ridge, river, reef – all the way down from the headwaters until the coast.  So, many of the lessons that the DENR has learned for example are the natural systems rehabilitation programs, particularly from mangroves for example, in terms of their being able to mitigate the effects sea level rise, of flooding from storm surges for example; the dredging of our rivers, but also the maintenance of our rivers using organic and bio-remediation interventions. Those in fact, need to be coupled with the structural interventions that our LGUs and our national governments put in place.

I think the President also mentioned Integrated Water Resource Management. This is the water that gives life to our domestic use, our industrial use and in fact, will support the development of our cities through energy as well. Without water, cooling of our energy systems will not be possible.

So, the way we need to be approach this is in fact, looking at our different sectors and looking at the demand for the kind of sustainability that we would like to achieve and then planning backwards. We need to reverse-engineer at this point because many of our cities are in fact, already water-stressed and that sometimes it’s almost, how do I say, irreversible in some senses because the ecosystems have already been damaged by other types of man-made activities.

So, I would also venture to say at this point that the private sector plays a very large role in the building of sustainable cities. We all know that urban and regional planning are ready to part of the way we manage our land use.

And this is where the private sector has a strong influence on the way our cities are shaped, the way investments are made in infrastructure, the way investments are made in the kind of support systems that give life to the metabolism of our cities. The private sector through their programs, their core business values but also through their ESG – their environment, socio and government programs that are part of their sustainability reporting need to keep in mind, in fact, that the risk we face, we know from hazards that are already in our past, but there is uncertainty in terms of the climate risk that we face so we must invest in the plausible not just in the possible in terms of building our cities.

Thank you.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you, ma’am. It’s very refreshing and encouraging to see that the President is prioritizing the climate agenda. It’s very well in line with the global sustainability agenda and even in line with Pope Francis and Encyclical Laudato Si so bravo to President Marcos for that.

And speaking of ecosystem, it’s wonderful to see the synergy among the different secretaries and the different departments. There’s really unity amongst the different Cabinet secretaries, different departments.

So, we’ll go back to our Vice President and Education Secretary. The question here is—this is also in line with jobs so iyon po ‘yung ecosystem natin dito. The President has expressed support in the review of the K-12 curriculum to address possible job mismatches. What are your plans regarding the K-12 curriculum?

VP AND DEPED SEC. DUTERTE: Yes, thank you. Maayong buntag sa inyong tanan. Good morning again to everyone.

Last July 19, that was our second presentation to the Cabinet in the President Marcos for the Department of Education. We included there some of the big, very big questions with regard to basic education in our country and one of which was the K-12 Program. And in relation to that, K-12 Program, we sought the permission of President Marcos to adopt the Basic Education Development Plan from the administration of President Duterte and Secretary Briones.

In that Basic Education Development Plan, it is already included therein the need to review the K-12 Program of the Department of Education. And Secretary Briones already conducted/initiated the review of Kinder to Grade 10 and they are about to finish and wrap up and make their report on the review on Kinder to Grade 10. And my administration will start the review on Grades 11 to 12.

In Grades 11 to 12, I already sought the advice of my newfound friend, we have a very good synergy – Secretary Laguesma of the Department of Labor [and Employment] who is holding TESDA – because senior high school as a TVET track and this is one of the big questions with regard to the senior high school program. And we already agreed that there is a need to strengthen and intensify our coordination particularly in the Philippine scales framework, yes, between the Department of Labor and Employment and Department of Education. So, we were given by President Marcos one year, this school year 2022 to 2023 to give a final answer about our K-12 Program here in the country.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you, ma’am. And so, I’d like to follow up with your newfound friend… Secretary Benny Laguesma. In line with that, what are the plans of the Department of Labor on job facilitation and on strengthening linkages between industries, businesses, and training institutions for a more efficient labor market?

DOLE SECRETARY LAGUESMA: Thank you so much for the question. Thank you so much Inday VP Sara for the compliment. As you are aware, the Department of Labor and Employment treasures and values tripartism, social dialogue, and genuine consultations with the sectors that we serve namely: the labor sector and the employer sectors, as well as the stakeholders.

And so, we intend to really make these principles operate because we see the Department of Labor and Employment as mentioned earlier by Secretary Ivan, the birthday celebrant, as the enabler, the moderator, and probably also the mediator. Because the Department of Labor and Employment has… as all of you might have been aware, three major program areas and this has something to do with labor-management relations namely promotion and maintenance of industrial peace, social protection – meaning welfare and the protection of the workers should also be a consideration when we talked with our labor counterparts and the employers’ counterpart because health and safety in the workplaces will always be a principal consideration under the Marcos administration.

And finally, we are now seriously focusing on our employment promotion and human resource development role to be able to live up to the expectations that we will be able to help through the private sector, the businesses, the companies… be able to generate decent, sustainable, remunerative and jobs that can make them stay in the country—not think about overseas employment, I’m sorry.

I really would like to look forward, it’s a dream… maybe it’s not just my dream, but also the dreams of the people in front of you and my fellow Cabinet members under the Marcos administration that we see the day when overseas employment is certainly just an option, not the principal choice for our Filipino workers because it has so many social cost at these are the things that my Inday VP Sara, DSWD Secretary would like to address and health concerns that you know, the life and probably livelihood of the Filipinos, the entire Filipino nation would actually be just focusing on really uplifting them.

You might have noticed the target set at the end of the term of President Bongbong Marcos, Jr. Principally nakita natin iyong reduction ng poverty incidence by a single digit and we—the team in front of you would like to really work closely, coordinate in ensuring that this can happen. And there’s another target that actually I saw in the speech which is the per capita income – something like about 4,000 dollars. This would be an upliftment of the lives of our workers and their families, and these are the things that the Department of Labor and Employment would like to work closely with the private sector ‘no.

We know that we cannot do it alone… we need the support, cooperation as well as understanding of the sectors, our constituents that we serve ‘no. So in everything that we do, we’ll always do consultation. We’d like to really look at genuine representation from the sectors that we serve. Hopefully with these in placed, we’ll be able to accomplish what we have targeted for ourselves and incidentally, we are now trying to put together as part of the Philippine Development Plan, a labor and employment plan which will put together inputs coming from the sectors ‘no.

And basically, this will also address your earlier question on employability, provision of you know, decent work, green jobs and you know… we have so many dreams. We have so many things in our plate, we just hope that we can digest it and chew it to the satisfaction of the Filipinos that we serve. Thank you.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Certainly, we join you in that dream, Secretary. But while we wait for that dream to come true, we still have a lot of seafarers so I will go back to the Department of Migrant Workers and ask Secretary Ople. Filipino seafarers are some of the most sought-after globally—I was going to say seafarers… not only for their magnificent cooking skills and beautiful singing voices [laughs]… the Philippines has been a top source of seafarers worldwide since 1987. What are your thoughts on supporting our seafarers?

DMW SEC. OPLE: Thank you, Margaux.

And it’s true that one out of every five international seafarers is a Filipino. So, we’re very proud of them. And before the pandemic you can find in almost, I think, in all cruise ships you’d find a Filipino crew member or a ship officer. Before the pandemic there were about more than a hundred thousand Filipino seafarers working for the cruise industry. We hope to be able to recapture some of that excellent numbers and perhaps even exceed that, once global tourism recovers.

Meanwhile, the request of the manning agencies, the joint manning group that I have talked to, it’s almost similar to what the land-based sector would like to see – streamlined processes, quicker deployment times; and also for the seafarers themselves – more capacity building. Out of 300,000 active seafarers, only 22% are ship officers and ship captains. So, we want to encourage more of our seafarers to aim higher and try to be more competitive in terms of their desired career aspirations.

Meanwhile, for the fishers, those that are not deployed by manning agencies who are stranded in countries abroad as well as perhaps some other seafarers that are also under exploitative conditions, the Department of Migrant Workers has opened the One Repatriation Command Center with a hotline which is 1348 so that stranded seafarers and also exploited land-based workers can just call that number and the department will facilitate their return to the country and eventual reintegration into the mainstream of society.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: That’s great. Thank you, Ma’am. And in relation to that one of the reasons why we have also so many OFWs is because they seek greater purchasing power through earning abroad and so we go to our Department of Social Welfare and Development in relation to inflation.

In a recent Pulse Asia Survey, just this June, controlling inflation is the top concern of Filipinos. Respondents from Class D and E – Class D comprises 58% and E comprises 62%– identified taming inflation as their utmost concern – napakataas daw pong presyong ating mga bilihin! In view of this, what programs are you considering to ease the burden of price increases in poor households?

 DSWD SEC. TULFO: Actually, the government has a solution or a program for every situation or needs of poor Filipinos –we have what you called the Targeted Cash Transfer Program initiated by the former President Rodrigo Duterte. It is a program that subsidizes the poor people, the vulnerable like P500 a month for the next six months to cushion the impact of the skyrocketing of prices in basic commodities – that’s number one.

Then we have the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or the 4Ps. It is also a subsidy of the government to poor families, the poorest of the poor. If you have children going to school, you don’t have work or the money that you earn every month is not enough, you can enroll in such program. It can start at about ₱1,500 a month all the way to ₱3,000.

Then if you’re not enrolled in the program, there’s another program that is called Sustainable Livelihood Program. It is a grant from the government, from the DSWD, that if you lost your job or if you had no income at all, you can come to our agency and apply for the Sustainable Livelihood Program.

Then we have the Assistance for Individual in Crisis Situation. This is the most common and most known program because people lined up everyday for this kind of program –if you don’t have money for burial, we can give it to you; if you don’t have money to get your relative or your loved ones out of the hospital, we will pay it for you; and if you need to go somewhere, you need to go home to your family, you can come to us to the DSWD and apply for this what you called AICS or Assistance for Individual in Crisis Situation – we will give you a fare going home or simply you do not have food for a day, you can come to our agency because we will provide you with food.

These are just some of the programs of the Philippine government, of the DSWD that they can ask for, that they can come. There’s always a program, a solution for every need of a poor family. Thank you.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you, Sir.

And yesterday at the State of the Nation Address, one of the portions that was most applauded was when President Marcos mentioned this:

Napakinabangan natin nang husto ang malaking specialty hospitals kagaya ng Heart Center, Lung Center, Children’s Hospital at National Kidney and Transplant Institute kaya maliwanag na hindi lang dapat dito sa National Capital Region kundi maging sa iba’t ibang parte ng bansa magkaroon ng mga ito.”

So he was saying that we should also have the Lung Center, Heart Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute in the different parts of the country.

On that note, may I ask once again Department of Health? In your view, Ma’am, what are the immediate needs that must be addressed to further improve the national health infrastructure? Please share the Department of Health’s agenda in line with the goal of having adequate facilities nationwide. I believe you touched on it already a bit earlier, baka po we could expound on it a little more.

DOH OIC USEC. VERGEIRE: Thank you, Ma’am. Yes, we have our Philippine Health Facility Development Plan. This was crafted with the Asian Development Bank last 2020 and primarily, this articulates the medium and long-term plan of the Department of Health for all levels of facilities in the country.

First of the objectives should be primary care facilities.  That primary care facilities should be accessible within 30 minutes from each of the Filipino family. Second, that these hospitals or there would be adequate hospital beds that would be accessible within one hour from each community in the country. Also there should be specialty centers that would be strategized to be established in the different areas of the country, different regions like Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and eventually we can have it in all of the provinces in the country.

Health facilities will be organized into these healthcare provider networks, wherein it is not just really one hospital in this network and one primary care but we will be including the public, the private facilities from primary level to the tertiary level to the specialty care level, so that the network for healthcare providers are complete and the access of our patients would be improved.

We still have gaps currently. We have a gap of around 3,000 more primary care facilities in the country. We have these inventories where we already have about 3,800 but we still need an additional of 3,000 primary care facilities.

The second one as to the number of our beds, we still have a gap of around 400,000 beds all over the country for us to be able to be at par with our neighboring countries like Singapore and Vietnam where they have their number of beds-to-population ratio already at 1.8:4.1.

So, these 400,000 beds will make the Philippines, with this indicator, at 2.7 beds to 1,000 or the population ratio, 1,000 people ‘no for this.

We also have started a baseline of our 46 specialty centers so as in support with the President’s directives. We already have started actually having this kind of direction and improving our facility so that they 8497can offer specialty care.

So, currently, we now have 46 specialty centers, and our objective is for us to be able to have 329 specialty centers by 2025 all over the country. We also have this public health laboratory, as I have explained a while ago, wherein this public health laboratory would really focus on the emerging and re-emerging infections like what we have right now with COVID-19 and now we have Monkeypox.

So, these public health laboratories, we now have one reference laboratory and that is RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine) and we have six national subnational laboratories all over the country but that would still be lacking. So, we have now a total of seven and we are aiming that we will have around 30 of these public health laboratories eventually by 2030.

And with all of this, we can see that the Department of Health has been utilizing the taxes coming from tobacco and the other sin products since 2014. And this is mainly part of our budget right now. 59% of our budget for 2022 has been taken from these sin taxes and we intend to use the sin taxes still pursuing these objectives for our health facilities.

We also would like to encourage our private sector into helping the government and the Department of Health to have these facilities. So, we intend to have our framework set in that direction where that the funds will only be used for those areas with low capacity so that we can attract more private sector counterparts or private sector investments in that area and also utilizing private sector by having this sourcing out of other services that government cannot really provide.

At the end of the day, when you provide for facilities, you need to have that complete component of that healthcare facility where you need your health human resources for health and also you need your commodities and information technology. So, all of these facilities has to be completed and all of these components completed, not just facilities but also having health care workers, commodities, information technology and equipment all in one so that we can better provide access to all Filipino people.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you so much for that, a thorough and comprehensive response.

And as a final note, we are so lucky because we have with us not only our Education Secretary but our Vice President.

So, as a final note, Ma’am Vice President, could you just give us your thoughts on the State of the Nation Address?

VP AND DEPED SEC. DUTERTE: Right. Thank you! Good morning once again to everyone.

First off, I’d like to thank our Department of Finance, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, PICC, for organizing this post-SONA briefing of the Cabinet Secretaries for our business community and for the entire country. Thank you very much for this opportunity to speak before all of you and explain the respective work that our Cabinet Secretaries and our Department’s need to do during the administration of President Marcos.

So, initially, the State of the Nation [Address] of President Marcos, I think everyone or many of those who do not understand economic numbers were overwhelmed with the numbers in the first part of the speech. I think that was the reason why it took a long time for people to start clapping because the economic part was in the beginning and many people really do not understand economic numbers.

And another observation of mine was immediately after the speech of the President, while I was going home, I was talking to one of our writers in my office and I told him that I really liked how the speech was written because I do not write that way and I truly appreciated the form, the speech was composed. And as a Cabinet Secretary and one with the other half of the UniTeam, I would say that the State of the Nation Address of President Marcos was on point and perfect.

Thank you.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: Thank you, Ma’am.

So, as we can see, the unity here is very evident. The unity among all the Cabinet Secretaries is very evident with the President. And we hope that the unity will also transcend to the private sector and the diplomatic corps.

So, thank you very much! Thank you to our panel! May we call on once again my most esteemed co-moderator, Mr. Tony Lambino. Thank you so much to our panel. We will now have a photo op.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Yes, please. Can we call all the speakers and panelists to the steps of the stage for a group photo. All speakers and panelists, please.

While we are choreographing the photo, can we please also announce that we are capturing complementary initiatives from everybody who is here with us in PICC or watching online or through PTV 4. It will be done through (S-L-I-D-O-dot-com) and if we could flash the instructions on the side screens, not the back screen because we need that for the backdrop, and for everyone to please key in the event code: 3-3-4-6-6-8-6 and respond to the five simple questions.

What complementary initiatives in your mind or that you know of or that you run yourself, resonate with anything that was said today. And if we could ask for the name of the initiative, the description of that initiative and point of contact so that the relevant agency can get in touch with you in their planning and implementation process.

So, S-L-I-D-O-dot-com or through the slido app, event code: 3346 686.

Thank you very much!

O behalf of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Department of Finance, we would like to thank all the agencies that have contributed to this event. Of course, also the following:



BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: BSP’s Monetary Board; HWD, TDIO; FMED and SCA as well as of course the DOF team.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: And we would also like to thank Video Sonic.

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: And especially all of you for staying with us all morning and for an extra thirty minutes.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: We would like to give a special thanks to our diplomatic corps—

BSP MANAGING DIRECTOR LAMBINO: Our development partners as well are here today.

DBM USEC. SALCEDO: And of course, to our panelists, our most distinguished Cabinet Secretaries, and our Vice President Inday Sara Duterte.





SOURCE: OPS-NIB (News and Information Bureau-Data Processing Center)