The Philippines will produce more seafarers and nurses to address local and global demand as well as take steps to attract foreign investments and spur growth, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said as he laid down priorities for his second year in office.

Mr. Marcos, in his annual speech before Congress on Monday, said the Southeast Asian nation will provide a “steady supply” of competent seafarers to foreign vessels, aiming to cement the country’s status as a top global source of maritime workers.

The country will expand its medical and nursing education programs to plug a local shortage in healthcare professionals, he said.

“We will push the envelope further. We are helping nursing graduates hurdle their board exams, so that they will obtain their licenses and join our pool of healthcare professionals.”

The Philippine economy, among the best performers in Asia, is supported by dollar inflows from millions of Filipinos working abroad and sending money home as well as hundreds of call center companies.

The central bank expects the country’s remittances, a key driver of consumer spending, to grow 3% this year and the next amid consistent demand for Filipino workers and labor shortage overseas.

Still, Mr. Marcos said he wants foreign employment to become a choice and not a necessity, as his administration pledged to do everything it can to maintain robust gross domestic product growth while reining in above-target inflation.

The nation’s macroeconomic fundamentals and financial system remain strong, even as borrowing costs are at a 16-year high.

“The economy is revived and rejuvenated, backstopped by a favorable, enabling environment and strong rule of law,” Mr. Marcos said.

He laid out 14.6 billion pesos ($267 million) worth of water supply projects to prepare for a looming El Nino and committed that government will spend the equivalent of 5%-6% of GDP on infrastructure to support economic growth.

During his speech that lasted over an hour, Mr. Marcos also said his administration will continue with its “aggressive” push to promote the Philippines to foreign investors, pledging to improve ease of doing business and push for “structural tax reforms.”

“We will solidify our country’s reputation as an attractive and reliable investment destination,” he said.

“We must ensure that an enabling business environment is in place; that there is peace and order, and that the rule of law governs.”

Mr. Marcos urged lawmakers to pass several measures to improve revenue collection, including taxes on plastics and on digital services. He also pushed to reform the military’s pension system, and pass new laws on government procurement and audit. — Bloomberg


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