Critics of the Marcos administration are wont to point out that the President has a more laid-back approach to governing, preferring to let his official alter egos do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to formulating policies and executing them.
Indeed, not a few observers have commented over the past year that President Marcos seems lacking a sense of urgency in his moves, preferring to let many of his pet policies and projects unfold at the normal government pace of development which is, unfortunately, often painfully slow.“Nothing wrong,” many pundits are quick to say, while hastily adding: “Nothing much going on either.”
But if recent events are any indication, it looks like things are picking up pace in the executive branch … And if this current trend is maintained, it bodes well for the Filipino people who are counting on the administration to make the country’s recovery from the devastating COVID-19 pandemic gain more traction and speed.
After a lackluster stint as concurrent agriculture secretary since he became President, Mr. Marcos has appointed a full-time head of the Department of Agriculture amid rising prices of basic agricultural products, unabated smuggling, and many other problems besetting the agriculture sector. Most recently, the President set the ball rolling on the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) with his appointment last Monday of its first chief executive officer—something that has been the subject of intense lobbying in private and intense speculation in public.
This comes after Malacañang paused its implementation last month in order to ease the restrictive provisions of its implementing rules and regulations which could have potentially hamstrung the institution in the performance of its mandate. The revised framework and the appointment of a CEO means that the Marcos administration’s pet project can finally take off and start investing in big-ticket projects with the aim of maximizing returns that would, in turn, redound to economic benefits for the Filipino people.
To be clear, red flags remain in Maharlika’s structure, not least of which is the contribution of the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines of substantial resources into the fund, which has the unfortunate result of weakening their own finances.
The revised implementing rules, meanwhile, give management greater leeway to manage the billions of pesos that are expected to come under their control while relaxing safeguards that were put in place earlier to assuage worried Filipinos.
It will be critical for the Marcos administration to be mindful of these concerns even as it forges ahead with its plans for Maharlika. Gaining and retaining the confidence of the people in the administration’s methods is key to the success of future initiatives that will be rolled out over the next four and a half years.
On the political front, this week saw former senator Leila de Lima being granted bail for the last remaining drug case filed against her by the previous leadership.
That Mr. Marcos lifted no finger, overtly or covertly, to oppose her release bodes well for our country which has suffered too long under the divisive atmosphere that has pervaded its politics.
“Unity” may have been nothing more than a buzzword during the campaign but, this week, it became real when the former lawmaker walked to freedom after over six years of detention at the behest of the former administration.
Finally, today, Mr. Marcos will carry the aspirations of 110 million Filipinos on his shoulders as he meets with fellow world leaders at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco.
It comes at a crucial time when policymakers are grappling with global economic challenges, while the region tries to coalesce to form a unified front against China’s increasingly aggressive stance in the South China Sea.
With Mr. Marcos now wearing his hat as chief executive more comfortably, and with him having grown more into his shoes as our nation’s leader, he should maximize this high-profile gathering to bring our economic and geopolitical concerns before the rest of the world, all while inviting the rest of the world to do business in the Philippines.
All these developments point to an emerging trend in the current administration: It is gaining momentum after a slow and frustrating start. Mr. Marcos would do well to seize the opportunity provided by recent gains to build further on them to create a virtuous cycle.
He should make sure that the MIF is well-run and avoids the abuses and financial pitfalls that its critics are warning about; he should maintain the current course of his politics by undoing the divisive policies of recent years; and he should take every opportunity to make the case for the Philippines in the global arena.
The long-awaited momentum is finally building up. We should take full advantage of it.