“Manalo has also been involved in the tricky relationship between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea dispute, and needs no learning curve ‘nine-dash’ claim of almost the whole of South China Sea”
That inaugural address, delivered almost as if he had memorized it, was well-crafted. Even as it stressed his over-arching message of unity, President Marcos Jr. recognized the major problems besetting the country in these turbulent times, and promised that “he can do it.”
More details of his plans for the country will be fleshed out in the forthcoming State of the Nation address, as he stated.
That is just around the corner — July 25 to be exact, when he addresses the two houses of Congress in joint session assembled at the Batasang Pambansa hall the construction of which his mother Imelda supervised.
The tone has been set. Unity, hard work, sacrifice. And, hopefully, a better future, forgetting bitter political divisiveness and moving forward.
• • •
First off, the morning after the official ceremonies, the President appointed a seasoned career diplomat, Ambassador Enrique Manalo, academically trained as an economist, to head the premier position of Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
That was a most welcome appointment after weeks of speculation, considering how pivotal the department is especially in the light of external developments the world over which will impact, like it or not, on our country.
A diplomat’s diplomat who has much experience in trade negotiations is what we need at a time when we should be promoting the country as a Philippines Incorporated, trying to attract FDI’s in tandem with our trade and industry department under Sec. Fred Pascual.
Manalo has also been involved in the tricky relationship between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea dispute, and needs no learning curve, having been acting secretary during the hiatus between the late Perfecto Yasay and the appointment of Alan Peter Cayetano in 2017.
• • •
Malacañang also issued a directive on Day One, Memorandum Circular 1, ordering all co-terminous appointees of the preceding administration to vacate their posts effective immediately, and turn their offices, records and important documents to their next-in-line career officials.
Absent this pronouncement, signed by Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez, some “political” appointees might stay in their respective offices while awaiting their replacement, on fear or excuse of being charged with abandonment of service. And start covering their tracks, or still pursue midnight deals.
While this order should be standard practice, what I found quite interesting, and hopefully a portent of things to come, is the directive that declared vacant the positions of “all presidential appointees occupying positions in excess of the authorized staffing pattern.”
In our article in this space last June 23, titled “A most challenging role” where we discussed the president himself taking over the problematic Department of Agriculture, we recalled that the DA used to have only four plantilla undersecretary positions, which has since ballooned to 11 undersecretaries and nine Asecs.
Instead of being helpful to outgoing Sec. Willy Dar, the excess baggage inherited from his predecessor’s stint may have actually hobbled him in the proper and effective discharge of his functions.
In the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, with its contradicting mandates, there are eight Usecs and 11 Asecs.
In the Department of Transportation, six Usecs and nine Asecs, although former Sec. Arthur Tugade’s functional division of labor, re-defining responsibilities for air, land, marine and rail, and assigning undersecretaries therein, is quite a worthy undertaking.
One wonders if the same is true in many other departments and agencies, where positions were created to give political favorites cushy positions through several presidencies.
Prime example is the position of “Undersecretary for Special Concerns” as in a Usec for “pakialam.”
In our June 23 article, we wrote that “hopefully, he (the new president) will move quickly and decisively.”
With the Day One directive, he has.
• • •
But something that raised eyebrows, especially in the business community, is the Day One presidential veto of the previous congressional passage of “An Act Establishing the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport.”
Citing, among others, “fiscal prudence…particularly at times when resources are scarce and needs are abundant,” the veto message states that “RA 11534, (also known as the CREATE law), already allows eligible enterprises to apply for and avail [themselves]of tax incentives outside economic zones…subject to the usual “review of the Fiscal Incentives Review Board” (which is controlled by the executive through the economic managers, particularly DOF, NEDA and DBM).
“Furthermore, the proposed economic zone is located in close proximity to the Clark Special Economic Zone, which is against the government’s policy on creating special economic zones in strategic locations.”
But that is an argument already raised before, yet even the managers of the Clark Development Corporation did not object before Congress when the bill was being deliberated upon.
There may be cogent reasons for the presidential veto of San Miguel’s Bulacan Aero-City development that aims to replace a decrepit single usable runway (there is a perpendicular, not parallel existing runway from the old domestic MIA) international airport which is the NAIA, with separated terminals 1, 2, 3 and even 4 with a world-class four, eventually six-runway facility, and we all deserve to be enlightened.
But in the veto message, it is stated that the “NEDA and the Regional Development Council of Region 3 assert the need to thoroughly study and assess the costs to ensure that the establishment of the economic zone would be beneficial to the whole country” is begging the question, which is, why only now?
After connecting highways to the proposed SEZ and airport have already been started, and private sector funds have been invested in the road connectivity.
There is supposed to be a healthy transition between an outgoing administration not necessarily adversarial to the incoming one, unless of course, the continuum between the old economic managers and the “new” ones prepared this deft legerdemain which will roil the business community and continue to ask questions, days and weeks after Day One.