TODAY, on the occasion of the inauguration of Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. as the 17th President of the Republic of the Philippines, we would like to extend our sincere congratulations to him and his incoming administration, and our fervent hopes that wise counsel and the best interests of all Filipinos will guide them always in carrying out their responsibilities.
That being said, it must be acknowledged that the time for congratulations and well-wishing is by necessity short. The historic mandate by which President Marcos was elected — the first absolute majority in more than 50 years, and by a two-to-one margin over his closest rival — was just that, a mandate from the people, who rightfully have high expectations that his administration will oversee national progress and improvements to everyone's daily lives, and do so with fairness and propriety.
Now that the incoming administration has not only the authority but the tools of government at its disposal, we can anticipate that its detailed policies will emerge over the coming days and weeks. What has been shared of those with the public during the interim period between the election and Marcos' official installation as president has been largely encouraging so far. No president is a superhero, however. It is simply not possible to lead without the sound advice, assistance and cooperation of a variety of experts, and most importantly, the people themselves, who collectively always have the best “real world” understanding of the nation's needs and aspirations.
Over the past several weeks since the election, we here at the Manila Times have engaged in consultations among ourselves, with our friends and neighbors, and with a wide variety of experts to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing the nation at the beginning of the second Marcos era. These subjects have subsequently emerged in our editorials during the period as our modest contribution to helping to guide the new administration, and now that President Marcos and his team are officially on the job, it may be helpful to summarize what we believe are the seven most important issues:
1. Rethink and expand development of the country's micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector. Despite the realization that MSMEs are the true backbone of the Philippine economy, present policies in place to support them are not fully implemented, on the one hand, and on the other, do not adequately encourage innovation and scale.
2. Ratify the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The Philippines simply cannot afford to choose not to be a part of what will be the world's single largest trading bloc and concentration of economic power, especially on its own doorstep.
3. Ramp up tourism development. Tourism is an effective economic multiplier; the country should maximize the resource1s with which it has been blessed by nature.
4. Prioritize renewable energy development and climate change response. Climate change is the single biggest threat faced by the world today, and more so for vulnerable countries such as the Philippines. Aggressive action simply cannot be ignored or endlessly debated any longer.
5. Pass the Land Use Act. If the Marcos administration can accomplish this, it will be an achievement of even greater significance than the Duterte administration's accomplishment of significant tax reform.
6. Find a lasting resolution to the communist rebellion. This means putting an end to “red-tagging” and childish antagonism, highlighting and expanding the work to address the root causes of the conflict, and carrying out a meaningful dialogue with the rebellion, while firmly, fairly and effectively maintaining peace and security.
7. Finally, implement long-needed electoral reforms. The automated election system (AES) and the Comelec's slavish adherence to a single, problematic system provider has cast every election using it into some doubt. President Marcos should take advantage of his clear and uncontroversial mandate to implement reforms, including a more reliable and transparent hybrid election system.
We hope that the incoming administration will consider these recommendations with favor and care, and we would welcome any opportunity to explore them further. There are undoubtedly interesting days ahead; we certainly hope that they will be good ones, and see no reason now why they cannot be.
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