Philippines’ Marcos Jr unveils economic plan for ‘turbulent times’


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Manila (AFP) – Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr pledged Monday to reduce poverty, curb soaring food prices and boost renewable energy as he unveiled an ambitious plan for his six-year term.

In his first State of the Nation address, Marcos Jr offered a long list of goals, ranging from getting children back into classrooms, easing the debt burden on farmers and expanding Internet access.

Unlike his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte, who frequently went off-script in a stream of consciousness and threatened to kill people, Marcos Jr stuck to a prepared, methodical, number-heavy pitch.

After inheriting an economy ravaged by Covid-19 lockdowns and inflation, the new president expressed cautious optimism for the future – even as war in Ukraine and supply chain disruptions make drive up food and fuel prices.

“I have no intention of diminishing the risks and challenges we face at this turbulent time in world history,” he told an audience of lawmakers, diplomats and judges.

“And yet I see the sunlight filtering through these dark clouds. We have brought together the best Filipino minds to help us through this time of global crisis.”

Marcos Jr, who is the son and namesake of the country’s late dictator, spoke for 74 minutes without mentioning human rights, corruption or peace talks with militant groups.

Instead, the 64-year-old scion focused on the economy, clean energy, agriculture and helping poor Filipinos.

Marcos Jr has pledged to more than halve the poverty rate to single digits by the end of his term and provide financial relief to many farmers, including canceling debts.

Renewables were “at the top of our climate agenda”, he said, insisting it was time to reconsider building nuclear power plants in the disaster-prone country.

He also pledged to boost agricultural productivity and lower food prices.

“It won’t happen in a day, a month or a year. But we have to start now,” he said.

– Peaceful rallies –

Marcos Jr was swept to power by a landslide in the May 9 election, completing his family’s remarkable return from exiled outcasts to the pinnacle of political power.

A few hours before his speech, several thousand demonstrators marched peacefully along a large avenue to oppose his victory and criticize his first weeks in power.

“He is just sitting busy revising history instead of doing the urgent work of stopping the rise in commodity prices, especially food, distributing land to farmers and increasing workers’ wages,” said Angelo Suarez, a volunteer for an agricultural workers’ union. .

Supporters of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr gather outside Congress during his first State of the Nation Address Maria TanAFP

Outside Congress, thousands of Marcos Jr supporters dressed in red, his campaign color, also gathered, waving the Philippine flag and holding signs with slogans such as “Progress”.

Congressman Ralph Recto said the new president’s speech was “brave, not dull” and gave the country a “fiscal reality check.”

The rising cost of living is adding to the financial misery of millions of Filipinos who are already struggling to feed their families.

The central bank recently hiked interest rates for the third straight month as it struggles to rein in soaring energy prices.

Inflation hit 6.1% in June, its highest level in almost four years.


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