Marcos Jr. administration

First Cabinet meeting: Marcos tackles economy, ‘disagrees’ with inflation

Bea Cupin

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First Cabinet meeting: Marcos tackles economy, ‘disagrees’ with inflation

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr first cabinet meeting in Malacanang Palace on July 5, 2022.

RTVM screenshot

The President and his Cabinet discuss the economy and a return to in-person classes, even as he has yet to name appointees for key Cabinet posts, including the health department

MANILA, Philippines – Following a four-hour meeting where the country’s economic team “put out [its] general principles” and the top topic was implementing face-to-face classes, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that he “disagreed” with the country’s inflation rate.

Hours before that Cabinet meeting, the Philippine Statistics Authority announced that the country’s inflation rate jumped to 6.1% in June, the highest since 2018. 

“I think I will have to disagree with that number. We are not that high,” said Marcos on Tuesday, July 5, in his first media conference as president. 

First Cabinet meeting: Marcos tackles economy, ‘disagrees’ with inflation

The President did not explain why he disagreed with the inflation rate. Instead, he talked about the components of inflation, the country’s monetary policy, and how ours is an “imported inflation.” 

“When we analyze, we have to make those categorical differences so that we’ll better understand really what the situation is,” said Marcos, who won the May 2022 elections by a landslide, and with a majority mandate. 

IN CHARTS: This is how inflation ruined Filipinos’ budget in June 2022

IN CHARTS: This is how inflation ruined Filipinos’ budget in June 2022

The latest inflation numbers were made public at 9 am, or shortly after the Cabinet meeting began in Malacañang. Government aimed to keep inflation – or the rate by which prices increase over time – to less than 4%, a figure the Philippines surpassed months back. Government estimates indicate inflation will not be going down to within 2-4% until next year. 

In layman’s terms, the current inflation rate means that P1 in 2018 is only worth P0.87 in June 2022. Following the President’s pronouncements, National Statistician Dennis Mapa told reporters that “the Philippine Statistics Authority stands by its report.”

Addressing the gut issue of food prices is among the priorities of the Marcos administration, as shown by his decision to take on the agriculture portfolio himself. Marcos said in the July 5 press briefing that the Department of Agriculture which he will head will focus on “[ensuring that the] food supply in the Philippines is at a price that is actually affordable.” 

The first few days, empty posts 

The first few days of the Marcos administration has been a blur of activities, both social and official.

On the day he took his oath, Malacañang hosted an Inaugural Ball, photos and videos of which have not been made public officially. A day after, on July 2, Rizal Hall in the Malacañang Palace was the venue of a “merienda” to celebrate former first lady and presidential mom Imelda Marcos’ 93rd birthday

First Cabinet meeting: Marcos tackles economy, ‘disagrees’ with inflation

Marcos presided over his first Cabinet meeting on July 5, or his 5th day in office. 

The President said they “weren’t able to cover everything” and that he planned to amp up the frequency of Cabinet meetings – to up to two a week in the next two or three weeks until “everything is clear to everybody.” 

“It’s important to me that the entire Cabinet understands what it is we are trying to do, how we are going to do it, what the timetable is, and how it all fits together. And that’s what we made a good start on today,” he said. 

Marcos’ Cabinet is a mix of political allies, holdovers, and appointees from previous administration, personalities with close ties to the Marcos clan, and several advocates and veterans in the departments they now head. 

The President, however, has yet to announce his new health chief, even as the Philippines has been reporting a rise in coronavirus cases.

Speaking to the media, Marcos anchored his pandemic pronouncements on the return to in-person classes. “We will reinstitute again the vaccination drive, so that we can at least feel safer when the children go back to school,” he said. 

Aside from the health department, Marcos has yet to announce his picks to head the energy, science and technology, and housing portfolios

Return to school 

Discussions on transportation – another gut issue, especially in mega cities around the country – were also tackled mainly through the lens of the return to face-to-face classes. 

Marcos said Vice President Sara Duterte, his 2022 running mate and the concurrent education chief, announced to the Cabinet their plan to return fully to in-person classes by November 2022. Duterte and her office have yet to make public the details of that plan. 

President Marcos confirmed a plan to continue and expand fuel subsidies to tricycles – a program that had been announced in the waning days of the previous Rodrigo Duterte administration. The President, without going into details, said the Cabinet discussed how the government would fund the ongoing and planned additional subsidies. 

The Libreng Sakay (Free Rides) program, which began under Duterte, would “continue, as is” but will eventually stop “because we cannot afford to keep that going,” said Marcos. 

Again, jumping off his administration’s priority to return to face-to-face classes, Marcos said they would be launching a program for students so government can “fully subsidize first their pamasahe (fares) [to school].” The program will be implemented in the MRT-3, LRT-2, and PNR, Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista earlier announced. – 

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.