Marcos econ team takes shape with BSP chief Diokno to helm DOF

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 26) — The economic team of President-elect Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. is almost complete, with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno set to lead the Department of Finance (DOF).

"We talked about it and he has agreed," said Marcos on Thursday in a mix of English and Filipino regarding Diokno's new position as finance secretary.

The central bank chief, who separately confirmed his acceptance, stressed the importance of policy continuity.

"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," said Diokno.

Marcos said Felipe Medalla, a long-time member of the Monetary Board, will serve Diokno's unexpired term set to end July next year. Diokno himself was appointed by outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte in March 2019 to serve the unfinished term of the late BSP Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr.

Medalla and Diokno both served under the administration of ousted president Joseph Estrada as Socioeconomic Planning and Budget secretaries, respectively.

Diokno's appointment as DOF head leaves one more vacant seat in the new economic team: the budget secretary.

The son and namesake of the late dictator already picked Philippine Competition Commission chairman Arsenio Balisacan as head of the National Economic and Development Authority, a position the veteran economist also held during the presidency of the late Benigno Aquino III.

Marcos's announcement comes a day after finance officials unveiled their proposed "fiscal consolidation and resource mobilization plan" containing more taxes to help the next administration settle the country's record-high debt. 

The Philippines' total outstanding loans are at ₱12.68 trillion as of end-March. This is already 63.5% of the country's gross domestic product, which is already above the international threshold of 60%.

For his part, Marcos emphasized his "first priority" will be the economy. He says he will focus on creating jobs, addressing rising commodity prices, providing "some" relief for the business community, and streamlining government operations through digitalization.

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He also announced he has tapped Manny Bonoan to lead the Department of Public Works and Highways and Alfredo Pascual as Department of Trade and Industry secretary.

Bonoan is president and chief executive officer of SMC Tollways.

Pascual, meanwhile, is the president of the Management Association of the Philippines. He also served as president of the University of the Philippines System from 2011 to 2017.