President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. assured Filipinos of a "future of sufficiency" over the course of his term, vowing to address areas like the COVID-19 pandemic and the agriculture sector.
In his inaugural address as the 17th chief executive at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Manila, Marcos Jr. said there were "shortcomings" in the country's COVID-19 response.
The administration of his predecessor, President Rodrigo Duterte, initially resorted to strict lockdowns, considered among the longest in the world, to curb the spread of the virus.
"We will fix them out in the open. No more secrets in public health," he said, noting that he himself was among those who first contracted COVID-19.
Marcos Jr. also acknowledged Filipino nurses, saying that many of them seek greener pastures abroad due to lack of support in their home country.
"There will be changes starting tomorrow. I am confident because I have an Ople in my Cabinet," he said, referring to Toots Ople, whom he appointed to the newly created Department of Migrant Workers portfolio.
Comprehensive, all-inclusive economic plan
Marcos Jr. said his economic team is still in the process of drawing up a "comprehensive" and "all-inclusive" plan for economic transformation to recover from COVID-19.
At the height of the pandemic in 2020, the country’s gross domestic product suffered a record 16.9% slump in the second quarter, with a record 7.3 million Filipinos left unemployed. The GDP also contracted for five consecutive quarters.
Marcos Jr. appointed old hands in managing the pandemic-stricken economy: Arsenio Balisacan to the National Economic Development Authority, Ben Diokno to the Department of Finance, and Felipe Medalla the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
"We will build back better by doing things in light of the experiences we have had, both good and bad," Marcos Jr. said.
"The pandemic ravaged bigger economies than ours. The virus is not the only thing to blame, what had been well built was torn down. We will build it back better."
Marcos Jr. also took note of the impending food crisis, citing Russia's invasion of Ukraine. He said food sufficiency must get the "preferential treatment" like the richest free trade countries gave their agriculture sectors.
"Food is not just a trade commodity," he said. "Without it, people weaken and die. Societies come apart. It is more than a livelihood, it is an existential imperative and a moral one."
Marcos Jr. appointed himself as Department of Agriculture secretary for now, saying he has two main goals: increase rice production to “counteract some of the increase in prices,” and restructure the agency “to be more responsive to the global situation now when it comes to food supply.”
'Poor paper weapons'
He also aired his grievances over the education sector, saying teachers from elementary and up fight ignorance with "poor paper weapons."
But Marcos Jr. said that with Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio as Department of Education secretary, there is hope for a comeback to the glory days of an education system that prepared coming generations for more and better jobs.
"Sara Duterte-Carpio will fit that mission to a tee," he said.
In 2018, the Program for International Student Assessment or PISA of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) showed Filipino students ranking the lowest among 79 countries in mathematics, science, and reading.
In math and science, Filipino 15-year-old students obtained 353 points and 357 points, respectively, against the 489 OECD average for both categories.
Marcos Jr. also reiterated his message of unity during the campaign, saying he offended "none" of his rivals during the campaign period.
He also noted that with over 31 million Filipinos electing him, they rejected the politics of division.
"When my call for unity started to resonate with you," he said, "it did so because it echoed your yearnings, mirrored your sentiments, and expressed your hopes for family, for the country, for a better future."
"We will go farther together than against each other. Pushing forward, not pulling each other back. Out of fear, out of a misplaced sense of weakness, but we are the furthest from weak," he added.
Critics previously noted that though Marcos Jr. the candidate did not engage in such negative campaigning, some have been doing it on his behalf.
At a Senate committee hearing on Feb. 2, fact-checking initiative Tsek.PH reported that based on over 200 fact-checks since January 2022, trends showed that a "substantial volume" of disinformation are largely positive of him.
'Your dreams are mine'
Marcos Jr. told Filipinos that he shares their dreams, assuring them that they will not be disappointed with his leadership.
"I listened to you and this is what I have heard. We all want peace in our land. You and your children want a good chance at a better life in a safer, more prosperous country. All that is within reach of a hardworking, warm, and giving race," he said.
"Your dreams are mine. Pangarap niyo ay pangarap ko."
He also said there's no need to look back but ahead, taking up the road to a place better than the one that was lost in the pandemic.
"Believe, have hope," Marcos Jr. said. "The sun also rises like it did today and as it will tomorrow, and as surely as that, we will achieve the country all Filipinos deserve. God bless the Philippines. God bless our work."
Marcos Jr., the 17th President of the Philippines, won by a landslide last May 9 with over 31 million votes, becoming the first majority president since 1986.
His landslide win also marked the return of another Marcos in Malacañang nearly four decades since his late dictator father and namesake Ferdinand Marcos was ousted through the EDSA People Power Revolution.