Marcos appointed as head of agriculture amid fears of food crisis

Manila, Philippines — Philippine President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed concern Monday over food price hikes caused in part by the war in Ukraine, and said he would serve as agriculture minister when he took office to prepare for a possible emergency.

Marcos Jr. and Vice President-elect Sarah Duterte take office on June 30 after winning an overwhelming majority in the May 9 election.

They will inherit dire problems, including the economy hit by the coronavirus pandemic, rising inflation and unemployment and mounting foreign and domestic debt, as well as prolonged poverty, insurgencies and political divisions.

After meeting appointed finance, trade and economic ministers, Marcus Jr. told reporters on Monday that he will act temporarily as agriculture minister and reorganize the Department of Agriculture to boost economic recovery after two years of coronavirus outbreak and lockdown.

“I think the problem is serious enough that I have decided to take over the Department of Agriculture portfolio at least for now,” he said, adding that he had asked his key advisors to anticipate “emergencies, especially when it comes to food supplies.”

Marcos Jr. said skyrocketing oil prices, disruption to agricultural feed supplies, and decisions by Thailand and Vietnam to temporarily restrict rice exports – a staple for Filipinos – could drive up food prices.

Marcus Jr. has appointed about two dozen cabinet members so far, including his economic team, interim defense minister and national security adviser. One key appointee who has drawn attention is Juan Ponce Enril, a 98-year-old retired politician and attorney who will serve as presidential legal counsel.

Enril was the defense minister who defected with his forces from the father of dictator Marcos Jr. in 1986 in a turbulent chain of events that led to the pro-democracy “People Power” uprising that ousted Marcos the Elder.

The dictator was driven into exile in the United States with his family and died in Hawaii in 1989. His widow, Imelda Marcos, and her children were allowed to return to the Philippines in 1991 and made a stunning political comeback, with the help of a well-financed social media campaign to renew a family name tarnished by atrocities. Human rights were looted during the Marcos dictatorship.

Since then, Enrill has reconciled with the Marcos family and supported the presidential election of Marcos Jr.

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