Drilon says Marcos foreign policy on the right track but inadequate in agri, health, education

Photo from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Facebook Page

Former Senate President Franklin M. Drilon cited President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s foreign policy as one of the administration’s strongest points but raised some serious concerns in the area of agriculture, health and education.

“The Marcos administration has some strong points. I fully support his foreign policy. Let’s call a spade a spade. The steps taken by President Marcos certainly pursue our claim over the West Philippine Sea in the right manner,” Drilon said in an interview with The Chiefs.

“He has not given up. He has not taken a defeatist attitude,” he said, adding that it is an improvement from the policy pursued by the Duterte administration which “was marked by moves that raised eyebrows of many Filipinos.”

“President Marcos is competently handling the foreign policy issue and I am glad that we have a career foreign affairs secretary in the person of Secretary Enrique Manalo,” Drilon said.

“The President is taking advantage of our alliances especially with the United States in order to shore up our claims in the West Philippine Sea,” he noted.

Drilon also pointed out how the President “has restored the dignity of the Office of the President.”

However, Drilon highlighted some areas of improvement where the Marcos administration is lacking especially in the field of agriculture, health and education.

“These are three areas where some expectations were not met,” he said.

Drilon said that it is time that President Marcos prioritizes the appointment of a permanent secretary for critical departments such as health and agriculture.

In a statement, the former executive and justice secretary said the absence of a full-fledged secretary has a detrimental impact on the department’s ability to fulfill its mandate, adding it could lead to delays in decision-making and hamper the department’s effectiveness.

“I think the ability of the Marcos administration to appoint highly qualified secretaries swiftly is paramount to ensuring the smooth operation of the government and the effective delivery of services to the people,” Drilon said.

Currently, the President also serves as agriculture secretary while Vice President Sara Duterte serves as education secretary. The Department of Health is headed by an officer-in-charge, Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire. The Department of Defense is led by Former Presidential adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. as officer-in-charge.

“The President is the chief executive officer. How do you think he can supervise the day-to-day work in the DA? To me, that is the difficulty of the setup today. I urge the President to appoint permanent DA, DOH and DND secretaries,” Drilon said.

“There are certain areas of deep concerns. One area is education. I would like to see concrete programs undertaken,” Drilon said, citing the problems concerning the reading comprehension of Filipino children aged 10.

In terms of agriculture, Drilon lamented the lack of adequate agricultural programs that could increase farm productivity. He cited how agriculture’s share to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) continues to decline over the years.

The Kadiwa Store program, he said, is effective in helping the farmers and Filipino consumers but it is palliative.

“What we need are concrete programs that will increase agricultural produce and boost our agriculture infrastructure,” he said in a statement.

The Marcos administration should also address the lack of health personnel, according to Drilon, citing reports by the health department that the country lacks 114,000 physicians and 127,000 nurses.

“President Marcos has the political support. He should be able to use this political support and his popularity to implement the right policies. He should not miss these opportunities to implement lasting reforms. These are problems that will not just go away. He has to confront it,” he said.