Manila Standard : BBM powerhouse team shaping up

By Rey E. Requejo,Julito G. Rada | Manila Standard

Diokno (DOF), Medalla (BSP), Pascual (DTI), Bonoan (DPWH), Lagdameo (SAP)
President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. came one step closer Thursday to completing his economic team, designating Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno as his secretary of Finance and naming Felipe Medalla as Diokno’s replacement at the central bank.

Marcos also tapped former University of the Philippines president Alfredo Pascual as his Trade and Industry secretary and Manuel Bonoan to head the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Diokno’s appointment as Finance secretary will cut short his term as BSP governor, which is set to end in July 2023.

“It is an honor to serve the Filipino people in my current and any future capacity. I am grateful and humbled by the President-elect to help his administration manage the country’s fiscal affairs,” Diokno said in a statement.

“As Finance secretary, I will strive to continue prudently and carefully balancing the need to support economic growth, on one hand, and to maintain fiscal discipline, on the other,” Diokno added.

In accepting the top post at the Department of Finance, Diokno emphasized the importance of policy continuity.

“Prior to the pandemic, the Philippines was poised to transition into an upper-middle-income economy, thanks largely to sound economic policies put in place over decades by multiple administrations. As the country transitions to the next administration, it is my view that continuity of sound macro and fiscal policies is important to achieve the stronger post-COVID Philippine economy that we all aim for,” he said.

Before his appointment to the BSP under the Duterte administration, Diokno had served his second term as secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

He first served as DBM secretary under the Estrada administration and was Budget undersecretary from 1986 to 1991 under then-President Corazon Aquino.

Medalla, on the other hand, served as a member of the Monetary Board since July 2011. He was first appointed by the late President Benigno Aquino III and was given a second term by Duterte in July 2017.

Medalla also served as secretary of socio-economic planning and director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority from 1998 to 2001 during the administration of ousted President Joseph Estrada.

Pascual is the head of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) while Bonoan is the president and chief executive officer of SMC Tollways.

Earlier, Marcos named Arsenio Balisacan to head the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), a post he also held under the Aquino administration.

Marcos also said during a press conference a day after his proclamation that he wants his long-time friend, former lawmaker Anton Lagdameo, to be his special assistant.

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go held that position under the Duterte administration before he was elected to the Senate in 2019.

Marcos, meanwhile, said he was still waiting for House Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta and retired professor Clarita Carlos to say which government post they felt they could be “most useful.”

Marcos said he always asks potential appointees the question, “Where do you feel the most useful?” before deciding where to place them in his incoming administration.

“I asked the same question to Ka Dante Marcoleta and I’m still waiting for his answer,” he said in a press conference.

Marcoleta was part of Marcos’s 2022 Senate slate before he withdrew his candidacy. The move exempts him from the ban on appointing losing candidates to government posts up to one year after election day, a poll official earlier said.

He was also one of the lawmakers who pushed to deny ABS-CBN of a fresh broadcast franchise in 2020.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez on Thursday said he is leaving the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in capable hands, after Marcos named Pascual as the new DTI secretary.

Pascual is the 73rd president of the MAP since its inception in 1950.

“With his competence, integrity, energy and a wide range of experience in different industries, I know he will steer DTI towards greater heights in the years ahead. He is an excellent choice,” Lopez said.

A governance advocate, Pascual currently serves as the lead independent director (ID) at SM Investments Corp. He is also an ID at other publicly-listed companies, including Megawide Construction and Concepcion Industrial.

From 2011-2017, he served as president and co-chair of the University of the Philippines.

Before becoming UP president, Pascual was Alumni Regent on the UP Board. He also served as a trustee at the International Rice Research Institute and the Philippine Institute for Development Studies.

The Makati Business Club pledged its support for the new appointments to the incoming administration’s economic team.

“The appointment of these experienced, well-known leaders should boost the confidence of local and foreign businesses, from MSMEs to big players, that the new administration will promote liberalizing but inclusive policies that will accelerate job creation, competition, and economic recovery,” said the MBC.

Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda of Albay said Diokno’s appointment to the Finance department rounds up the composition of a “powerhouse” team that will oversee the country’s economic progress in the next six years.

“All in all, the Diokno, Balisacan and Medalla appointments are solid choices and I expect to work with the economic team more closely in the weeks ahead,” Salceda said.

Diokno, Salceda said, is “by far, the strongest appointment President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr has made. He is well respected internationally, and has the gravitas and experience necessary to steer the country’s finances through the headwinds it is facing.”