Philippine presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, greets his supporters at his headquarters in Mandaluyong City
Philippine presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, greets his supporters at his headquarters in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila, Philippines, May 11, 2022. Reuters / LISA MARIE DAVID

Ferdinand Marcos Jr is set to start his new innings as the Philippines' President on a winning note as the archipelago's consumption-based economy started doing well for the first time recently.

Driven by private consumption, the country's GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in the three months through March rose by 8.3 percent from a year ago which was 3.9 percent in the first quarter of 2021, the Philippine Statistics Authority said May 12.

The better-than-expected results came though the Philippines witnessed a surge in the COVID-19 Omicron variant during the first three months of this year.

With his late father's dictatorial legacy, Marcos Jr will start his six-year term as president at June-end, capping his family's decades-long desire to be at the helm of affairs of the strategic Southeast nation.

Major challenges before the new president include high public debt, inflation, stagflation, lockdowns in China and the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Though conventional wisdom suggests that he may not opt for an autocratic style, he cannot pretend to be feeble as he is stepping into the shoes of strongman Rodrigo Duterte, who had a cult-like following and under whose watch, known for its pro-China policies, the nation of 108.8 million people achieved a robust GDP growth for the first time in the quarter this year.

Despite the pandemic, Duterte managed to increase private consumption by 4.2 percent in 2021 from a 7.9 percent fall in 2020. He also expanded government spending by 7 percent.

The new president is expected to pick up where the outgoing president Duterte left off. To revive the economy, the new continuity president will bet big on Duterte's "build, build, build" slogan.

The president-elect is expected to finish the pending works on infrastructure that were hit by the pandemic, achieve tangible results, and create jobs. This will help boost his appeal among foreign investors and cater to his domestic audience.

Thus, 64-year-old Marcos Jr will avoid showing weaknesses and will try to consolidate power fast to create a win-win situation to initiate institutional changes. However, he may not initiate major reforms as they can backfire if not implemented properly and in a timely manner.

During the poll campaign, he promised to lower the prices of basic goods, build infrastructure, and curb the pandemic-induced economic meltdown in the country.

However, Marcos Jr inherits a huge amount of debt that Duterte's administration borrowed to fund the economy during the pandemic. The GDP needs to grow at least 6 percent for the next six years to help pay up the debt. This can deter the incumbent president from seeking more loans to finance government projects to aid growth.

Like Duterte, Marcos Jr will also look forward to investment from its neighbor China, which is building dams, bridges, railways, and airports and collaborating with the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the country's high-profile socioeconomic planning organization.

NEDA's recent report shows that Chinese projects have been dismal in the country compared with Japan (45), the Asian Development Bank (52), and the World Bank (29).

But Chinese investment under Duterte rose considerably. Between 2016 and 2022, China pumped in FDI worth $1.7 billion, trailing Japan at $2.8 billion, according to data by the Philippine central bank.

Continuity will be key and the best bet for the presumptive president who comes with an outright majority after the May 9 elections that have ensured a new congress and senate.

Since Marcos Jr lacks the charisma of Duterte and former president Joseph Estrada, he will try to run the country largely on refashioned memories of the strongman rule of his father, though he has not hinted at making structural changes to the country's constitution.

The Marcos family was keen on getting back to power and wouldn't be ready to give it up easily. So, the first victims of Marcos Jr's presidency will be a state-funded body tasked with unearthing billions of dollars of missing Marcos senior-era wealth.