Marcos to take charge of Dept. of Agriculture 'for now'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 20) — President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he would be taking on the role for Agriculture chief "for now."

Marcos made the announcement at a briefing on Monday, where incoming members of his economic team were also present.

"As to agriculture, I think the problem is severe enough that I have decided to take on the portfolio of Secretary of Agriculture at least for now. At least until we can reorganize the Department of Agriculture in the way that we'll make it ready for the next years to come," said Marcos.

He said taking on the role of DA chief would prove his administration was taking issues concerning the agricultural sector seriously, and also that it would help move things "quickly."

"The events of the global economy are moving very quickly we have to be agile, we have to be able to respond properly, in a measured way as soon as there is a situation that needs to be addressed," he added.

Marcos said they foresee an increase in food prices in the coming months because of external forces, and while the country has been able to weather these, more has to be done.

"We have been able in the Philippines, in the last few weeks, to adjust to the new situation in terms of the importations from Ukraine and from Russia. But these emergency measures we have taken will not be sufficient for the long run. And that's why we have to plan in a more thorough fashion than just responding," he said.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno said in March that the country's limited economic ties with both Ukraine and Russia may insulate the country from the conflict. Imports from Russia in 2021 comprised 0.6 percent of the country's total imports, and from Ukraine, 0.1 percent, according to BSP's Department of Economic Research.

Marcos said he has asked several agencies — the Department of Trade and Industry, the National Economic and Development Authority, the Department of Budget and Management and the Department of Finance — to begin making economic forecasts on what the country could face for this year when it comes to food supply.

Eyes have been on the Department of Agriculture especially as prices of food have skyrocketed, along with prices of petroleum products, as the crisis in Ukraine continues. Current DA Secretary William Dar has said there could be a looming food crisis, although he said the department was ready to handle it.

In late May, Dar suggested that lawmakers create legislation to fold all food safety regulatory bureaus into just one agency to curb fgood smuggling that has affected local farmers.

When asked what his priorities as DA chief would be, Marcos said among these would be increasing productivity and the restructuring of the Department — however, he said this would be a "long-term" process.