Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said Wednesday he will hand over to his successor, former Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno, a Department of Finance (DOF) that has substantially contributed to the task of building the nation by initiating and tirelessly working for reforms that will prepare the Philippines for the new economy and sustain its post-pandemic recovery.
Dominguez said Diokno is the “best possible choice” to succeed him because the former BSP chief possesses “the skills, the insight and the dedication” to take on the demanding job of Secretary of Finance.
“Ben, I am handing over to you not only the heavy responsibilities of this post but also the talented staff of the Department. They are equipped with the skills needed to help you face the challenges we now confront and will encounter in the future,” Dominguez said in turning over his post to Diokno in ceremonies held this afternoon at the DOF Office in Manila.
“I have no further advice to leave you, Ben, except to prepare to work 24/7. I wish you stamina and success in this new endeavor,” Dominguez added.
Referencing the title of former President Diosdado Macapagal’s book, “A Stone for the Edifice,” which means continuously building on the successes of one’s predecessor in the endless task of nation-building, Dominguez said he can proudly say that on his watch, the DOF has accomplished this by pursuing policy continuity and using the achievements of previous administrations to introduce much-needed economic reforms.
Unveiling his priorities as the new Finance Secretary, Diokno said that under the administration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the DOF has set out out “three overarching goals that we hope to achieve by the end of his term: reduce the deficit-to-GDP ratio to three percent, achieve upper-middle-income status, and bring poverty incidence to single-digit” levels.
Diokno said achieving these priorities is possible by pursuing a strong broad-based growth for the next six years, and implementing a fair and efficient fiscal consolidation plan anchored on sustaining the country’s growth momentum.
Under his leadership, Diokno said the DOF will promote inclusive growth by adopting the government’s risk management and vaccination strategy in dealing with the pandemic; continuing to invest heavily in infrastructure, education and healthcare; and sustaining strong economic fundamentals by maintaining fiscal discipline and building on the current reform momentum.
“I know fully well that the road ahead is going to be difficult. But I also see a lot of opportunities for the Philippines to move forward and settle among our high-flying ASEAN peers. I will build on the work of my predecessor, Secretary Sonny, and move to even greater heights for the Filipino people we all serve,” Diokno added during the turnover ceremony.
Dominguez said the former secretaries of finance, including him, “will be behind” Diokno “at every step of the way.”
He assured Diokno that “we are ready to assemble and share insights as they have been in helping me. This will help to ensure the continuity in our policies.”
“I wish you the best, Ben. The edifice we are building transcends a single presidential term. It summons the commitment of generations,” Dominguez said.
Dominguez recalled that he had previously agreed to serve as Finance Secretary for only a year during the transition period to the new administration in 2016. But he went on to complete his six-year term, building on the achievements of the previous Secretaries to lead the DOF in “advocating economic reform policies that will prepare the nation for the new economy.”
He said that over the past six years, the DOF ensured adequate funding support for President Duterte’s centerpiece infrastructure modernization program “Build, Build, Build” modernized the tax system through the enactment of the various components of the comprehensive tax reform program (CTRP); gained much headway in broadening the domestic capital markets; and received the highest credit ratings ever for the country through fiscal discipline.
All these reforms achieved during the Duterte presidency helped greatly in cushioning the shock of the pandemic on the Filipino people and the economy, and enabled the government to protect lives and secure financing for COVID-19 vaccines even before these were developed, Dominguez said.
Despite the unplanned spending triggered by the pandemic, the DOF was also able to keep the country’s debt obligations at prudent levels, he added.
“The challenge in the immediate future is for the economy to outgrow the added debt. With this, the Department of Finance prepared a fiscal consolidation and resource mobilization plan to help manage the debt, continue the reforms, and sustain the recovery. We trust that the succeeding team will find this input somewhat useful,” Dominguez said.
In his last speech as Secretary of Finance, Dominguez thanked the “highly motivated and talented staff at the Department and its attached agencies.”
“They delivered effectively and highly professional work,” Dominguez said. These include:
· Undersecretaries Maria Edita Tan, Antonette Tionko, Mark Dennis Joven, Bayani Agabin and Karen Singson;
· Assistant Secretaries Soledad Emilia Cruz, Valery Joy Brion, Danielle Marie Rieza Culangen, Neil Cabiles, Juvy Danofrata, Dakila Napao and Paola Alvarez;
· National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon; Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Caesar Dulay; Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero; Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF) Executive Director Niño Raymond Alvina;
· Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Emilio Aquino; Insurance Commission (IC) Commissioner Dennis Funa; Chief Privatization Officer Gerard Chan; National Tax Research Center (NTRC) Executive Director Marlene Lucero Calubag; Philippine Tax Academy (PTA) President and former Undersecretary Gil Beltran; PTA Chancellor and former Assistant Secretary Teresa Habitan;
· Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) President-CEO Cecilia Borromeo; Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) President-CEO Emmanuel Herbosa; Philippine Guarantee Corp. (PhilGuarantee) President-CEO Alberto Pascual;
· Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) President-General Manager Rolando Macasaet; Social Security System (SSS) President-CEO Michael Regino; Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (PDIC) President Roberto Tan;
· Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) President Irene Joy Besido Garcia; National Power Corp. (NPC) Officer-In-Charge (OIC) Donato Marcos; National Transmission Corp. (Transco) President-CEO Jainal Abidin Bahjin II;
· National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary and former Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua; BSP Managing Director and former Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino; former SSS President-CEO Aurora Ignacio; and former Undersecretary Elsa Agustin.
· Dominguez’s former chief-of-staff, Annie Aquino, and current chief of staff Ira Franco
“Lastly, I want to thank my wife, Ball, for all the sacrifices she made during the six years she “lent” me to the government. She understood the value of our mission for the nation and was fully supportive, most of the time, even if the work required my total attention. I had agreed to serve only for one year, enough to see through the transition. Ball claims that this was the longest one year in her life,” Dominguez said.