When Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. won the 2022 elections in a landslide victory and was inaugurated as the 17th chief executive of the Philippines, he made a simple promise of "getting things done" as did his late father during his term.
However, he recently acknowledged that his campaign promises are still "a work in progress" and agreed with an economist who gave him an "incomplete" grade for his agricultural efforts on his first year in office.
"Whatever it is that we have managed to do, there is still a great deal more to do. We have to work smart, and we have to work well, and we have to be very conscious," Marcos Jr. said during a media interview.
Could he be right?
PhilSTAR L!fe has compiled a list of the measures that were accomplished during his administration and interviewed experts from different sectors of society to find out what he needs to prioritize in the next few years.
The first law Marcos signed as the country’s chief executive is the SIM Card Registration Act. He took this action at a seemingly relevant time as the prior months saw a surge in spam and scam texts that bear the full names of the sim holders.
Under the new law, all telecommunications companies and authorized sellers must verify the identity of all SIM card buyers. If a buyer refuses to comply, the seller cannot sell them a SIM card. Those who register with false identities or use SIM cards for illegal activities will be penalized.
Marcos has managed to push for the resumption of face-to-face classes in some cities, as he desired during his first State of the Nation Address.
According to data from the Department of Education in November last year, 94 percent of public schools in the National Capital Region had resumed conducting five days of in-person learning after the country was forced to do a work-from-home setup due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the health sector, Marcos made face masks optional in indoor and outdoor settings, except in healthcare facilities, medical transport, and public transportation.
This came after the Department of Health reported that more than 73.4 million individuals have already been vaccinated against COVID-19 and 20.4 million have received their boosters during that time.
The chief executive, through the National Economic Development Authority, has also approved the plan to build the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital Cancer Center, a 300-bed capacity hospital for cancer patients. Built on a 3,000-square meter lot and will cost about P6 billion, the project is in line with one of his priorities to build new hospitals and research centers.
Marcos initiated his promise to improve critical infrastructure in the Philippines by leading the inauguration of the first section of the P23.2 billion North Luzon Expressway Connector from Caloocan to España.
Targeted to open in July, the toll road stretches up to 8 kilometers and is designed to provide convenience to drivers by cutting the travel time between Caloocan and España to about five minutes. It can serve 35,000 vehicles daily and is expected to lessen traffic congestion along España Boulevard, Abad Santos Avenue, Rizal Avenue, and Larson Avenue.
In his bid to establish efficient government processes, Marcos has approved the creation of a single operating system for all government transactions to provide more ease and convenience when doing business in the country. The Single Government Operating System (SGOS) is expected to be fully operational by 2025.
He has also led the rollout of internet connection for students and teachers in remote areas across the country, in fulfillment of his promise to set up a "Broadband ng Masa" program and provide children with internet services for their studies.
According to the Presidential Communications Office, as of February this year, the free Wi-Fi program has established a total of 4,385 operational live sites in 73 provinces and Metro Manila, across 601 cities and municipalities all around the country. Approximately four million unique users are utilizing the service.
With one year off of Marcos' term, several experts from different sectors of society have detailed what they want the chief executive to prioritize in the next five years of his presidency.
In an email interview with L!fe, former Department of Health secretary Manuel Dayrit wants to see effective implementation of the Universal Health Care law, which mandates that all Filipino citizens have access to a comprehensive set of health services without experiencing financial difficulty.
Dayrit believes that the government should work with the private sector to improve healthcare delivery in all parts of the country, including remote and disadvantaged areas. This can be done by finding "innovative, effective, and sustainable ways to work with the private sector" so as to strengthen the preventive and primary levels of care.
He also stressed the need to address the shortage of health personnel and improve the health literacy of Filipinos.
"Promote health in ways that empower Filipinos—individuals and families—to practice healthy behaviors. That means avoiding smoking, excessive alcohol intake, substance abuse, vaping, preventing falls and vehicular accidents, eating healthy, managing stress, among many other things," he detailed.
Carlos Manapat, chair of the University of Santo Tomas' Department of Economics, believes that Marcos should focus on addressing environmental problems such as pollution and climate change. He cited studies that show that urbanization leads to environmental degradation.
"There are studies that show that the effect of urbanization is environmental degradation. If this is the case, do we have concrete long-run plans to minimize its effects? Do we have enough incentives on using renewable energy?" he told L!fe.
Manapat also said that climate change is a one of the problems that needs to be addressed. He pointed out that climate change leads to a decrease in agricultural output, which can lead to inflation.
"The effect of climate change is a decrease in agricultural output that yields inflation because of less output. Construct a roadmap that will mitigate the problem in the future," he continued.
In addition to those, Manapat also said that the government needs to address economic problems such as poverty, unemployment, and underemployment. He said that the government needs to make long-term plans to help the poor, especially those living in urban areas.
For Antonio Tinio, a former member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines for ACT Teachers Partylist, defending territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea should be the next priority of the government. This can be done by charting a truly independent foreign policy focused on self-reliance.
"Allowing the US expanded access to bases is a huge mistake that should be reversed, fatally tying us to US militarization in its struggle for dominance with China," he said.
It is also equally important to address the demand for a living wage and job creation by prioritizing domestic agricultural production and manufacturing as it will lead to sustainable job opportunities and self-sufficiency.
"This will also help reduce the country's dependence on imports and boost local industries," Tinio added.
For Tinio, he finds the need to respect human rights and civil liberties, which entails putting an end to extra-judicial killings and involuntary disappearances, the weaponization of the law through trumped-up charges against dissenters, and the resumption of the peace process with communist rebels.
This also includes the immediate release of Sen. Leila De Lima, who is still detained on allegations she used drug money for her senatorial campaign in 2016, as well as holding former president Rodrigo Duterte accountable for his "war on drugs,” which led to thousands of people being killed during drug raids in the Philippines.
"The government should prioritize the protection of its citizens' rights and freedoms, and work towards a just and peaceful resolution of conflicts. Only then can the country truly move forward and progress towards a more equitable society," Tinio underscored.