PAMPANGA, Philippines – Former president and speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Thursday, May 26, said the Philippines could sail smoothly into a post-pandemic recovery if president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. implements immediately his economic team’s advice.
In an interview with journalists after taking her oath as Pampanga’s 2nd District representive, at the Lubao Central Elementary School, Arroyo said Marcos and Vice President-elect Sara Duterte “have the best economists.”
“The important thing is to implement immediately whatever their economists tell them to do,” said Arroyo, a trained economist who once earned praise for the country’s high growth rates even as her government faced serious allegations of plunder and other acts of corruption.
The late President Benigno Aquino III’s National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief Arsenio Balisacan is returning to head the agency.
Central bank chief Benjamin Diokno has also accepted Marcos Jr.’s offer to lead the Department of Finance (DOF), replacing Sonny Dominguez. BSP Monetary Board member Felipe Medalla will replace Diokno in the central bank, while former University of the Philippines (UP) president Alfredo Pascual was named trade secretary.
Bienvenido Laguesma and Susan Ople have also accepted offers to head the labor and migrant workers departments, respectively.
Arroyo’s remarks came a few hours after Marcos seemed to rebuff the Department of Finance’s advice for him to defer tax cuts, impose new taxes, and slash exemptions of the value-added tax, given the almost P13-trillion debt President Duterte, the father of the vice president-elect, is leaving behind.
Instead, Marcos said he would remove some tax burdens from sectors that suffered the most during the pandemic, including medium and small enterprises and agriculture.
“We’re trying to create fiscal space to remove load on ordinary citizens,” Marcos said, adding that he wants a more understandable tax code. He also criticized the penchant for quick fixes like raising or slashing taxes, saying these have resulted in “unintended consequences.”
Arroyo also said she is very happy with the result of the 2022 polls since she had predicted a landslide win for the Uniteam tandem.
The vice president-elect, whom Arroyo had convinced to run with Marcos, was also present at the event, together with Vice Governor Lilia Pineda, and Arroyo’s husband Jose Miguel.
“We’re very happy they both got a lot of votes, the first majority since the multi-party system, so it’s a very strong one and they deserve all our support,” said Arroyo.
Arroyo served as the speaker of the House of Representatives. She was also appointed, in November 2020, by outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte as the presidential adviser on Clark programs and projects.
Arroyo envisions Pampanga as the next “megalopolis” to decongest Metro Manila, with a plan to embrace “green urbanism” by reducing carbon footprints in communities.
She also mentioned her plans to develop the province as the “Pampanga Golden Triangle” of the Clark Freeport Zone, the Clark International Airport, three Pampanga cities – Angeles, San Fernando, and Mabalacat – and the towns of Lubao, Porac, Floridablanca, and Guagua.
Arroyo has said that these cities and municipalities represent fast-growing and high-density settlements in the province. – Rappler.com
Joann Manabat is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.