MANILA — President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. tackled agrarian reform issues, easing of debt burden of farmers, as well as disaster resilience during his fourth Cabinet meeting, Malacañang said on Friday.
In a press release by the Presidential News Desk, Marcos said there may be a need to revisit government's current standard operating procedures (SOP) during emergencies, which should be centered on stable communication with local officials.
This came more than a week after the magnitude-7 quake in Abra, which toppled communication lines, devastated historical structures in Northern Luzon, and killed at least 10.
"As we know, the very first thing that we have to deal with is really communication, to find out what’s going on where, and then doon na tayo makapag-assess, saan natin uunahin (so we know what to prioritize)” said Marcos.
“Ang experience ko (in my experience), the first thing you have to do is communicate with the local government official,” he added.
He cited the need for satellite phones and power generators, and water, among others, "once an alert is raised," the statement read.
Marcos also noted the importance of engineers during clearing operations and the creation of temporary shelters.
He earlier renewed his pitch for the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program in schools so they could help in disaster response.
“Hindi lang naman national defense ang tinuturo sa kanila kung ‘di disaster preparedness at capacity building para dito sa risk-related situations na tinuturo sa kanila,” Marcos said.
The revival of mandatory ROTC is in his priority legislative agenda for the 19th Congress.
The Office of the President said during the Cabinet meeting, Marcos discussed a bill on condoning the agrarian reform beneficiaries' amortization payment, interest on loans, as well as credit assistance.
He also raised the possibility of giving them modern farm equipment and legal aid for land disputes, his office added.
Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles, meanwhile, said Marcos discussed programs from the Department of Energy and the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development and the housing department gave their respective status reports for the aftermath of the Luzon quake, she told Palace reporters.
During his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), Marcos urged Congress to condone farmers' loans and vowed to issue an executive order imposing a year-long moratorium on unpaid land amortization and interest payments.
In this way, farmers will be able to boost farm productivity, help lower food prices and create jobs.
If passed into law, this debt condonation would involve P58.125 billion, benefiting 654,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries in 1.18 million hectares of awarded lands.