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UP aces form econ team

Marcos went live himself to introduce his new Cabinet men, apparently elated at Diokno for accepting the DoF portfolio




A number of University of the Philippines (UP) economists and administrators will make up the core of the economic team of President-elect Bongbong Marcos based on the latest postings announced yesterday.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno will take the helm at the Department of Finance (DoF).

Diokno, a professor emeritus at the UP School of Economics, has accepted the invitation of Marcos to serve as Finance secretary who, by practice, is also the head of the economic management team.

Another UP economist, Felipe Medalla, will take Diokno’s place.

Former UP president Alfredo Pascual will take the place of Ramon Lopez as trade and industry secretary. He is the president of the Management Association of the Philippines.

Government sources said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, a UP alumnae, will assume the post as BSP deputy governor starting 1 June. Puyat has a master’s degree in economics at UP.

The source said the choice for Diokno’s replacement was between Monetary Board members Medalla and former trade secretary Peter Favila.

Another UP economist, Arsenio Balisacan has been named Socioeconomic Planning Secretary.

Economic momentum

Business groups have urged the incoming administration to name the members of the economic team the soonest to erase anxieties over the economic momentum under Marcos.

Makati Business Club executive director Coco Alcuaz said Marcos’ appointment of “experienced and well-known leaders should boost the confidence of local and foreign businesses.”

“… the new administration will promote liberalizing but inclusive policies that will accelerate job creation, competition, and economic recovery,” Alcuaz said in a statement.

“As the first economic czar who has headed the two other big economic agencies — DBM and BSP — Governor Diokno will have rare insight on how the government and private sector work together to boost jobs and growth,” he added.

BBM elated

Marcos went live himself to introduce his new Cabinet men. He was apparently elated at Diokno for accepting the DoF portfolio.

Diokno was supposed to serve at the central bank until July 2023 to cover the unexpired term of former governor Nestor Espenilla Jr., who died after a battle with cancer in February 2019.

“It is an honor to serve the Filipino people in my current and any future capacity. I am grateful and humbled by the trust given to me by the President-elect to help his administration manage the country’s fiscal affairs,” Diokno said in a statement.

“As finance secretary, I will strive to continue prudently and carefully balancing the need to support economic growth, on one hand, and to maintain fiscal discipline, on the other,” he said.

Diokno has served as Department of Budget and Management (DBM) secretary under two different administrations of presidents Joseph Estrada and Rodrigo Duterte.

He was DBM undersecretary during the late former President Corazon Aquino’s term. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Syracuse University and an MA in Political Economy from John Hopkins University.

Medalla, meanwhile, is Marcos’ pick to head the central bank.

“His (Diokno’s) place in the BSP will be taken by Felipe Medalla who will take on his unexpired term,” Marcos announced in a press briefing.

Diokno lauded the choice of his successor as BSP chief. “I recommended Medalla to take over to ensure continuity and closer coordination between fiscal and monetary authorities,” he disclosed.

Medalla is a member of the BSP’s Monetary Board since July 2011.

He was the Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and the Director-General of the National Economic and Development Authority during Estrada’s administration.

Solid background

Medalla was a professor and served as a dean at the University of the Philippines’ School of Economics. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the Northwestern University in Evanston and an MA in Economics from UP.

He obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in Commerce from De La Salle University, where he graduated cum laude.

Diokno and Medalla will join Balisacan, the incoming socioeconomic planning secretary, in Marcos’ economic team. Pascual, meanwhile, was also co-chair of the UP Board of Regents from 2011 to 2017.

The development banker and finance expert worked as an adviser to the World Health Organization, among other international groups.

Pascual worked with the Asian Development Bank, and the Asian Institute of Management, and was an independent director at several listed companies like the SM Investment Corp. and Megawide Construction Corporation.

Incumbent DTI secretary Ramon Lopez said Pascual is an “excellent choice.”

“With his competence, integrity, energy, and a wide range of experience in different industries, I know he will steer DTI towards greater heights in the years ahead,” he said in a statement.

DPWH, SAP posts filled

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion likewise said the incoming president “made an excellent choice” in appointing Pascual as DTI secretary.

“This is a testament to his commitment to supporting micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME). With Fred as secretary, there will be continuity in programs and policies that help and support MSME in the country especially now that we are on our way towards economic recovery,” Concepcion said.

“Considering Fred Pascual’s work in the past and his passion for MSME development, I firmly believe he will be a good DTI head. Fred Pascual played an important role in the strengthened public and private sector partnership to aid in the pandemic response.”

Meanwhile, SMC Tollways president and CEO Manuel “Manny” M. Bonoan will head the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) under Marcos’ presidency.

“I am intending to nominate Manny Bonoan for the DPWH. He has spent his almost all professional life in the DPWH. I know him very well. I know he will do a good job,” Marcos said.

He had managed operations of tollways Skyway, NAIA Expressway, South Luzon Expressway, Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway, and Southern Tagalog Arterial Road.

Bonoan is no stranger to DPWH as he had served in the agency as its acting secretary from February to July 2007 under the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He also worked in the agency under the Fidel Ramos, Estrada, and Macapagal-Arroyo administrations.

Former Davao del Norte Representative Anton Lagdameo is Marcos’ Special Assistant to the President (SAP), a position tailored to President Rodrigo Duterte’s longtime aide, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go.

“We’ve asked Congressman Anton Lagdameo to fill in that position. It’s very sensitive and very important in the sense that we have known each other since he was a child,” Marcos announced.

“He knows me very well. He has been with us, working with me for the past 10 years. It should be an easy position for him to pick up,” he added.

Lagdameo’s father, Antonio Lagdameo, is currently serving as Philippine ambassador to the United Kingdom.

He is the nephew of Antonio “Tony Boy” Floirendo Jr. and the grandson of banana magnate Antonio Floirendo Sr., who was considered to be one of the business cronies of Bongbong’s father, the late President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

In other key positions such as the secretary of the Bureau of Customs and Bureau of Internal Revenues, Marcos said he is still in the selection process among “many applicants” for the positions.