Former congressman and Senator Ralph G. Recto on Monday officially took over the Department of Finance (DoF) from Benjamin E. Diokno, at a time when the government needs to ramp up its fiscal consolidation efforts.
“Our task is to actualize the President’s vision articulated in the national development plan. There will be many obstacles for sure,” Mr. Recto said during the turnover ceremony at the DoF on Monday.
“But I am highly confident that through increased effort and sincere dedication, and by rethinking the way we do things and innovating on the way we govern, we can make significant progress towards approximating this vision,” he added.
Mr. Recto has retained the department’s undersecretaries, while designating Finance Undersecretary Maria Luwalhati C. Dorotan-Tiuseco as his chief of staff.
Ms. Dorotan-Tiuseco in a Viber message said she has been tapped as chief of staff, adding that there have been “no other changes” to date. She was the undersecretary in charge of the Information Management Service, Political and Legislative Liaison Group and Climate Finance Policy Group.
At a briefing after his oath-taking ceremony on Friday, Mr. Recto said a reshuffle of the department officials is unlikely. “I don’t expect to. You know when I entered the National Economic and Development Authority, I only brought one person with me,” he said.
The agency’s roster of undersecretaries includes Catherine L. Fong of the Privatization and Corporate Affairs Group Maria Edita Z. Tan of the International Finance Group, and Bayani H. Agabin of the Legal Affairs Office and Revenue Integrity Protection Service.
Also included are Chief Economist Zeno Ronald. R. Abenoja, officer-in-charge Karlo Fermin S. Adriano of the Fiscal Policy and Monitoring Group and officer-in-charge Dakila Elteen M. Napao of the Revenue Operations Group.
At the turnover ceremony on Monday, Mr. Diokno described Mr. Recto as a “seasoned policy maker and an undeniable patriot.”
“He has sponsored several key economic and tax reforms that have transformed our economy for the better and reignited the country’s growth potential,” said Mr. Diokno, who returns to the Monetary Board.
The DoF said Mr. Recto is also scheduled to have briefings with heads of DoF-attached agencies and bureaus throughout the week.
Agencies and corporations under the DoF include the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Bureau of Customs (BoC), Bureau of the Treasury (BTr), Bureau of Local Government Finance, Insurance Commission, National Tax Research Center and Philippine Guarantee Corp.
The newly appointed Finance chief earlier said he would be continuing strategies under the Medium-Term Fiscal Framework, as well as push for the immediate passage of priority tax reforms.
Mr. Recto also said he would use measures to protect consumers from high prices and make sure to meet the revenue collection targets for the year.
The government is targeting to generate PHP 4.235 trillion in revenues this year, equivalent to 15.5% of the gross domestic product (GDP), according to the latest Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) statement.
This year, the BIR is tasked to raise PHP 3.05 trillion, while the BoC is expected to collect PHP 1 trillion.
Latest data from the Treasury showed that the National Government’s budget deficit narrowed by 10.1% to PHP 1.11 trillion in January to November.
Revenue collection rose by 8.8% to PHP 3.6 trillion as of end-November, as tax revenues went up by 7.3% to PHP 3.18 trillion and nontax revenues jumped by 22.9% to PHP 381.9 billion.
Mr. Recto said he will support the passage of the Capital Markets Development Act, push reforms in public and private pensions and ensure that the Maharlika Investment Fund is managed judiciously.
Meanwhile, the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX) in a statement on Monday welcomed Mr. Recto’s focus on improving revenue collection, accelerating investments and freeing up resources for social services.
“FINEX looks forward to working with (Mr. Recto), especially on matters affecting the capital markets and the financial sector of the economy,” it added.
The Bankers Association of the Philippines in an earlier statement said Mr. Recto would be crucial in the “reformation of fiscal and economic policies, together with balancing political realities.”
“While the Philippine economy continues to grow due to its strong fundamentals, it is currently facing local and global economic headwinds such as inflation,” BAP President Jose Teodoro K. Limcaoco said.
“The country needs an experienced economist who can navigate the ongoing challenges of this operating environment, and (Mr. Recto) is an ideal fit for this job,” he added. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson