Manila Standard : BBM to ‘recast’ govt budgets for health, education

By Rey E. Requejo and Francisco Tuyay | Manila Standard

President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has ordered a review of budgets for different government agencies so that some funds could be “recast” to the health and education sectors, incoming Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma said Tuesday.

Marcos issued the directive during a recent meeting, Laguesma said. He did not specify when the meeting occurred and who attended, but the soon-to-be Labor chief was among the incoming Cabinet secretaries under the so-called economic cluster that met with the President-elect on Monday.

Returning Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, who was also at the meeting, said Tuesday agriculture and manufacturing will be among the priority sectors of the incoming administration.

“The purpose of this [meeting] is to ensure that we can hit the ground running as soon as we get to assume our offices in July… (we were) meeting essentially to identify programs and projects that we can launch quickly and also prepare longer term priority,” Balisacan said in an interview with ANC.

“We all agreed that our priorities will be agriculture, manufacturing and the intention there is to raise productivity,” he said.

Balisacan, the incumbent Philippine Competition Commission chair, is Marcos’ pick to become the next director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

In an interview last month, Marcos said he would fix the country’s value chain to lower the price of rice.

The value chain refers to the series of stages involved in producing a product or service that is sold to consumers, with each stage adding to the value of the product or service.

The President-elect also said he asked traders to freeze prices of rice.

Meanwhile, Marcos Jr. received courtesy calls from German Ambassador to the Philippines Anke Reiffenstuel, Spanish Ambassador Jorge Moragas, and Ambassador Mohammed Rida El Fassi of Morocco at the BBM Headquarters in Mandaluyong City.

The President-elect and Reiffenstuel talked about issues on human rights, food security, climate change and renewable energy, among others.

“There’s one important thing that President-elect Bongbong Marcos ordered, to review and recast the budgets of different departments if possible, and reallocate available government resources this time onwards 2022 to sectors involved in health and education,” Laguesma told ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo.

Reports that many Filipinos do not know how to read and write prompted the President-elect’s directive, said Laguesma.

He said the meeting also touched on the importance of teaching manners at schools “to develop our readiness and strengthen the moral fiber of society.”

Vice President-elect Sara Duterte-Carpio will oversee the Department of Education, which is responsible for the K-12 curriculum taught to over 27 million students.

The agency is also trying to improve education quality following the Philippines’ poor standing in international learning assessments, and is in the process of gradually reopening schools for in-person classes, which were banned in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marcos Jr.¹’s administration will face challenges such as economic and jobs recovery, food supply woes and higher debt and inflation.

In a press briefing after her private meeting with Marcos, Reiffenstuel said that apart from enhancing cooperation between their two countries, they also discussed global challenges including food security and climate change.

“We exchanged (views) about the ongoing bilateral cooperation and the cooperation in the international frame in the multilateral formats, and discussed potentials for furthering cooperation not only on mutual interests but also to address global challenges like climate change,” the German envoy told reporters.

She informed the incoming president about the ongoing programs of Germany to help the Philippines in addressing climate change including their Euro 25-million donation for climate change-related projects.

They also discussed Marcos’ priority projects regarding food security.

“I informed him about the upcoming international ministerial conference on global food security, this is also against the background of the impact of the Russian war against Ukraine with regards to the challenges on global food security,” she noted.

They also tackled the safeguarding of rule of law and human rights.

“We exchanged about Germany’s continued commitment in the area of protecting human rights and safeguarding rule of law,” Reiffenstuel told reporters after meeting Marcos.

“I also underlined the importance Germany attaches to the rule of law and safeguarding human rights, and of our continued commitment to the same,” she said.

“In this context that I also mentioned, the (continuing) German support, contribution and funding of the United Nations joint program on human rights here in the Philippines,” she added.

They also focused their discussion on renewable energy, which is among Marcos’ campaign promises to provide lower power rates to the people.

“Renewable energies of course are of great importance to us, to Germany, and we exchanged about the experiences and the commitment and the distributions and the shares of renewable energies in our two countries’ power protections,” she added.

The ambassador noted that Marcos illustrated his early commitment to renewable energy by mentioning the wind farm in Ilocos Norte, and they agreed there is a need to continue to deepen the discussions since this has been an area of mutual interest.

When it comes to the maritime sector, Reiffenstuel said she and Marcos discussed their interest in protecting the country’s seas through enforcing the rule of law.

“We exchange and we explore this our joint interest, our common interest in protecting international rules based order and the rule of law that needs to be implied also in the maritime sector. We didn’t go into details but we realized that we have a common interest to continue cooperation,” she said.

Marcos and the German envoy also talked about global food security, which has been greatly affected by the war between Russia and Ukraine. With Mervin Vince Lopez