Balisacan to return to NEDA under Marcos

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Arsenio S. Balisacan — Courtesy of Philippine Competition Commission

FORMER Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio S. Balisacan, former Labor Secretary Bienvenido E. Laguesma and migrant workers’ rights advocate Susan “Toots” Ople have accepted presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr.’s invitation to join his Cabinet.

At a news conference at his campaign headquarters on Monday, Mr. Marcos said he had asked Mr. Balisacan to “return” to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), a Cabinet-level agency responsible for economic planning.

“I’ve worked with him extensively at the time when I was governor, we have very similar thinking in that regard kaya’t malakas ang loob ko (which is why I am confident),” Mr. Marcos said of Mr. Balisacan who he described as an “old friend.” “I know he’s very competent, I know his policies are policies that will be for the betterment of our country.”

Victor D. Rodriguez, who is set to become Mr. Marcos’ executive secretary, confirmed in a text message to reporters that Mr. Balisacan has already accepted the offer.

Mr. Balisacan in a statement said he looks forward to working with the economic team and the private sector “to bring back the country to its pre-pandemic high-growth trajectory, deliver rapid poverty reduction, and reduce socioeconomic inequality.”

A native of Ilocos Norte, Mr. Balisacan was Socioeconomic Planning secretary and NEDA director-general from May 2012 to January 2016 under the Aquino administration. After he resigned from NEDA, President Benigno S.C. Aquino III appointed him as the first-ever chairman of the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC).

He is a former dean of the University of the Philippines School of Economics. He has a PhD in Economics from the University of Hawaii, MS in Agricultural Economics from the University of the Philippines Los Baños, and BS in Agriculture (Magna Cum Laude)from the Mariano Marcos State University in Batac, Ilocos Norte.

Mr. Rodriguez said Mr. Laguesma and Ms. Ople have also accepted Mr. Marcos’ offer to head the Labor department and the newly established agency for migrant workers, respectively.

“For employment, for the development of our economy, nag-usap kami ng ilang oras at mukha namang tumutugma ang aming pag-iisip patungkol sa approach natin dito sa darating na mga taon when it comes to economic managers (we talked for a few hours and I think we are of the same mind on the plans for the next few years),” Mr. Marcos said.

Mr. Laguesma was Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) secretary from 1998 to 2001, while Ms. Ople was a DoLE undersecretary from 2004 to 2009 under the Arroyo administration.

Ms. Ople is the founder of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute. The center is named after her late father who served for 19 years as the Labor minister under President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Mr. Marcos is expected to face major economic obstacles once he takes his oath of office on June 30, such as the ballooning budget deficit, rising debt, soaring inflation and lackluster government revenues.

The Philippine economy grew by 8.3% in the first quarter, a sign that economic recovery may have become more entrenched.

However, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, soaring oil and commodity prices and supply chain disruptions are creating uncertainty not just for the Philippines, but the global economy.

Mr. Marcos said the Philippines under his leadership will join a United States-backed economic framework for the Indo-Pacific region, as Washington boosts its economic presence in the region in a bid to counter China’s growing influence.

US President Joseph R. Biden on Monday unveiled the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) in Tokyo, Japan.

Reuters quoted the White House as saying the deal offers no tariff relief to the countries that join, including India, Malaysia and the Philippines, but provides a way to sort through key issues from climate change to supply chain resilience and digital trade.

“The future of the 21st century economy is going to largely be written in the Indo-Pacific — in our region,” Mr. Biden said at a launch event in Tokyo. “We’re writing the new rules.”

Mr. Biden wants the deal to raise environmental, labor and other standards across Asia. The other initial founders are Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the United States.

But those founding countries will need to negotiate what standards they wish to abide by, how they will be enforced, whether their domestic legislatures will need to ratify them and how to consider potential future members, including China, officials told reporters. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza with inputs from Reuters