Diokno heads DOF; Marcosnames DTI, DPWH chiefs

PRESIDENT-ELECT Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. on Thursday announced the line-up of most of his economic team tasked to address the country’s mounting economic woes.

In a televised press conference, Marcos said he will appoint Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin E. Diokno to head his economic team as Finance Secretary.

“I will be nominating our BSP president Ben Diokno for the position of Secretary of Finance. He has already agreed. We already talked about it. And he has agreed to it,” Marcos said.

Diokno previously served as the Budget and Management Secretary of President Duterte before his stint in BSP.

Meanwhile, Diokno’s vacated position in BSP will be filled up by Felipe M. Medalla, a former director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

“He [Medalla] will take on the unexpired term [of Diokno]. The term of the present BSP president in this case is until July,” Marcos said.

Also joining Marcos’s economic team is former University of the Philippines President Alfred E. Pascual to head the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Marcos said Manuel “Manny” M. Bonoan, who will serve as his Public Works Secretary, will also be part of his economic team. 

“He has spent almost all his professional life in the DPWH. I know him very well. So I know he will do a good job,” Marcos said.

Marcos, who was proclaimed on Wednesday, said he plans to focus on addressing economic issues, notably rising food and fuel prices, once he assumes the presidency next month.

“I know the economic team is critical and that is what people are looking for. I think we found the best people, who are able to look forward and to anticipate what the conditions will be in the Philippines and the rest of the world in the coming years,” Marcos said.

Diokno to head DOF

Experts welcomed Marcos’s decision to pick Diokno for DOF, saying this will signal policy continuity.

“For the appointments announced, they signal continuity… BSP Governor Diokno to the DoF and long-time MB member Medalla as BSP chief is really more continuation of what has put together the last 6-years and, for me personally, these are good moves,” Unionbank Chief Economist Ruben Carlo Asuncion said.

ING Bank economist Nicholas Mapa said moving Diokno to DOF also means that the incoming administration is committed to having a frictionless transition. However, he said this does not automatically mean that the proposed fiscal consolidation plan will be adopted.

“Diokno is a former budget chief and has experience in the fiscal sector. His experience with the current administration, as budget chief and now BSP governor, will be a plus although it’s difficult to say whether he will or will not adopt the proposed fiscal consolidation plan,” he added.

Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) head and former UP president Pascual has years of experience in the corporate world and the academe.

Apart from being MAP’s president, Pascual is also currently the lead independent director (ID) at SM Investment Corp. In addition, he is an ID for Megawide Construction and Concepcion Industrial.

Pascual also served as president and co-chairman of UP from 2011 to 2017, launching reforms and programs that helped the university to become research-intensive, in addition to raising its international ranking.

In a statement in December 2021, MAP said “he enabled UP to generate significant increases in financial resources from government budget allocations, private donations, and income-generating project.”

MAP also noted that extensive modernization and expansion of the campuses’ physical facilities, research laboratories, cyber-infrastructure, and information systems became possible under his leadership.

The incoming trade chief was also a trustee at the International Rice Research Institute and Philippine Institute for Development Studies.

Prior to his UP stint, Pascual took on several positions at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for nearly two decades. He crafted a strategy that provided the framework for ADB’s initiative in promoting the private sector as an economic growth driver. He also looked after several infrastructure and financial sector projects in the Philippines, China, India, Vietnam, Pakistan, Indonesia and Afghanistan.

Pascual completed his Masters in Business Administration and Bachelor of Science in Chemistry (cum laude) from UP. He was conferred honorary doctorates by his alma mater and four other universities.

Outgoing Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez emphasized in a statement on Thursday that “He is an excellent choice! I will be leaving the Department of Trade and Industry in the most capable hands of Secretary Pascual.”

Lopez added that with Pascual’s competence, integrity, energy and “a wide range of experience in different industries”, he knows the incoming trade chief will direct the DTI towards greater heights in the coming years. With reports by Bernadette D. Nicolas and Andrea E. San Juan