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Today we welcome the 17th president of the Republic of the Philippines. Our new President assumes the office at a very challenging time in our country’s history. Our countrymen are living day-to-day with the onslaught of high prices, and businesses are struggling to keep up with rising costs of fuel and power. And there is still the matter of the pandemic.
Our newly elected President will have to plot out what he intends to accomplish in his first 100 days in office. Putting a deadline within the round and even figure of 100 days may seem arbitrary, but it serves the purpose of communicating a sense of accomplishment within a set time. Franklin D. Roosevelt used it to great effect when he tried to inspire a nation that was reeling from the Great Depression and was bracing itself for another world war. He initiated reforms in the financial system, championed legislation for farmers and the unemployed, and used the momentum to push for unpopular reforms, all within his first 100 days in office.
Mapping out a plan for the first 100 days sets the tone for a reset, an unqualified break from the past, and a renewed resolve to face the future. It inspires hope that within those first 100 days, the new leader will take bold, sweeping steps to shake off the cobwebs of the past and spur action. Within his first 100 days, a newly elected president has something he may never have again in his term: a fresh mandate and that initial blush of hope and optimism that every new leader needs to successfully push critical reforms.
During the initial meeting of our newly convened Advisory Council of Experts (ACE), it was proposed that the first 100 days of the Marcos presidency should serve as a marker for when we should at last have commercially available COVID vaccines. The prerequisite for this would be the lifting of the EUAs for the vaccines, a milestone of the removal of the state of public health emergency.
The 100-day deadline falls conveniently to include the period when the declaration of the state of calamity will have expired. It would be a perfect reason to celebrate when, maybe, our experts can recommend that we can safely resume everyday life, hopefully with the use of face masks becoming optional in outdoor settings.
It is a worthy milestone for the first 100 days of the Marcos presidency: to return to normal life by September, and to finally be able to declare that the Philippines is ready to move on from the pandemic and fully open its economy.
But we have to get down to work right away if we are to start the countdown to this milestone. Medical experts warn us that although we appear to have succeeded in keeping COVID at bay, it is still a slippery slope. Deadlier variants can still emerge and we have yet to reach out to a substantial number of Filipinos who need to reinforce their immunity through boosters.
No doubt much work is needed in putting into real-life terms what it actually is like to live with the virus in our midst. There is still debate as to how we can go about it, and how fast we should proceed. Even the experts at ACE have differing opinions about this, but the consensus is that we must be prudent and careful.
And we must continue to listen to the experts. I was elated that the advice of ACE has somehow made an impact on crucial policies, such as the use of healthcare utilization as the primary metric in determining alert levels, and even the administration of boosters for our teenagers who will have to return to in-person classes very soon. It gives me hope that Filipinos can and will reconcile their differences when the welfare of the country is at stake.
The private sector is doing what it can to help the government on the health front. Our contribution in pooled testing and vaccine procurement was proof of how we can help the government. Even the best practices in the private sector, such as in supply and logistics management and cold-chain supply management, were shared with the government over the course of its pandemic response. Imagine what other great things we can achieve when the government and private sector work together.
And there is so much more work to be done.
When our new President decided to take on the portfolio of the Department of Agriculture, I welcomed the decision. Many of our MSMEs are agri-based; having the highest elected official of the country train his focus on this sector will have a massive, positive effect on our MSMEs and on the country’s food security. It also comes at a very crucial time now that the looming threat of food shortages becomes stronger as the Russia-Ukraine conflict drags on.
However, a president’s first 100 days, while important, is not and should not be the definitive judgment of his ability to lead. Our president will have six years to address whatever ails our country today and confront whatever is to come in the near future. Together with the millions of Filipinos who aspire for a better life, I celebrate the beginning of this new phase in the country’s history with hopeful gratitude for our new President’s dedication to uplifting the Filipino entrepreneur.
As we work together towards a more inclusive society, I look forward to achieving our mutual goal of bringing about a more prosperous Philippines, one that is united under a strong leadership, guided by wisdom and always with a heart for the least of our countrymen.
With hope, we can all move forward with the courage and the will to achieve our common aspiration for meaningful change and prosperity for all.