By Zaldy De Layola

Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Rex Gatchalian (File photo)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s economic agenda is on the right track a year after he took his oath as the Philippines’ 17th President, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rex Gatchalian said on Friday.

Gatchalian said the Marcos administration’s economic agenda is geared toward making sure that the poor and the vulnerable sectors are protected not only from all disasters and calamities but also against the impact of high prices of basic commodities.

“Early on, I can say that President Marcos’ heart is in the right place since his main concern is the livelihood and well-being of the poor, marginalized and vulnerable sectors of society. And this has been his guide during the first year of his presidency,” said Gatchalian, who was Valenzuela City 1st District congressman during the first seven months of the Marcos presidency.

Gatchalian recalled listening to PBBM’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, saying he already knew by then that the President has a big heart for the poor, most especially for the farmers.

In his first SONA, Marcos asked Congress to pass a law that will condone the loans of 654,000 Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs), which cover unpaid amortization and interest worth PHP58.125 billion.

Marcos also directed the DSWD to immediately help victims of natural disasters such as typhoons, floods and earthquakes.

“This would mean the pre-positioning of relief goods in DSWD’s field offices and local government units (LGUs) such as family food packs as well as non-food essentials that include flashlights, first aid kits and medicines for typhoon and flood-related ailments,” he said.

Gatchalian added that he had no idea that he will be asked by the President to head the DSWD with the goal of reducing poverty incidence to a single digit using the whole-of-government approach.

“The President’s marching order is for the DSWD to use the entire machinery of government to achieve the goal of poverty incidence reduction by single digit,” Gatchalian recalled, as he readily implemented PBBM’s directive to simplify and bring government aid closer to the people.

Under the Gatchalian’s watch, satellite offices in Bulacan, Antipolo, and the Northern, Southern and Eastern Metro Manila were established and are all completely operational.

In his first SONA, Marcos also reiterated the need for DSWD to review the list of beneficiaries under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or the 4Ps, which is continuously being implemented by the DSWD with thousands of families expected to graduate from the program this year.

Marcos also mentioned that supplemental feeding programs for children enrolled under the Child Development Centers and Supervised Neighborhood Play will be continued and be expanded under his administration.

Hindi rin natin nakakalimutan ang mga solo parent at mga nanay na nahiwalay sa kanilang mga mister dahil sa karahasan. Pagtitibayin natin ang programa sa Violence Against Women and their Children, kabilang na ang counselling para sa mga biktima, katuwang ang mga LGU (We do not forget the solo parents and the mothers who were separated from their husbands due to violence. We will enforce the Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) program, including counselling for the victims, with LGU as partners),” Gatchalian said.

“The President’s heart was also in the right place when he greenlighted the WALANG GUTOM 2027: Food Provision through Strategic Transfer and Alternative Measures Program (Food STAMP Program), which aims to decrease incidence of involuntary hunger experienced by low-income households and make them productive citizens of the country,” he said.

Job generation also highlighted the first year of the Marcos administration, resulting in the decline of the unemployment rate from 5.2 percent in July 2022 to 4.5 percent in April 2023 based on official data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.

He lauded the President’s program to build one million houses every year through the Pambansang Pabahay Para sa Pilipino Housing (4PH) Project.

“This is no longer a campaign promise but a concrete program of the Marcos administration to provide decent housing to low-income Filipinos whose long-cherished dream of having their own home can now be realized,” he said.

Gatchalian cited the World Bank report that the Philippines, under the administration of President Marcos, is on track to become an upper-middle income status country by 2025.

“One year after President Marcos assumed office, I can say that the State of the Nation is Healthy and Strong,” Gatchalian said. (PNA)