Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos was sworn in as the 17th president of the Philippines on Thursday, vowing to prioritize food sufficiency.
The 64-year-old son of former President Ferdinand Marcos wore a native Barong Tagalog formal shirt when he took the oath of office at the National Museum in Manila in the presence of his 92-year-old mother Imelda and other family members.
"The role of agriculture cries for the urgent attention that its neglect and misdirection now demands," Marcos, who appointed himself as agriculture minister, said after taking the oath.
More than 15,000 police and security personnel have been deployed across the capital for the inauguration. Foreign dignitaries, diplomats, and three former Philippine presidents, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, attended.
Ahead of the swearing-in ceremony, outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte received Marcos at the Malacanang presidential palace.
On May 25, the Philippine Congress proclaimed Marcos the winner of the May 9 presidential election. He succeeded Duterte who completed the single six-year term permitted by the constitution.
The Marcos administration needs to address a slew of problems besetting the Philippines, such as unemployment, inflation, a high debt-service ratio to gross domestic product (GDP), as well as rocketing gas and oil prices.
Managing inflation is also on the top of the president's to-do list. Government data showed that 23.7 percent of the country's nearly 110 million population lives in poverty.
The new administration will also inherit over $240 billion in accumulated debt by the end of March, mainly due to the COVID-19 expenses.
Bureau of Treasury data showed that the country's debt-to-GDP ratio stood at 63.5 percent at the end of March, above the internationally recommended threshold of 60 percent.
"The priority is the economy," Marcos said earlier this month as he assembled his economic team.
The Philippine economy grew by 8.3 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2022, and the government is optimistic that this solid performance will help the country attain its target of 7 to 8 percent growth this year.
In a speech early this month, Marcos vowed to foster "stronger and deeper" Philippines-China relations.
He said the relations with China are "very important" and "advantageous to both countries," while calling China his country's "strongest partner" in pandemic recovery.
"We look forward to continuing fostering this relationship. Making it stronger. Making it deeper and to the advantage of our two great countries," Marcos said, adding that he sees the future of Philippine-China relations "developing in many ways."