Acting DFA secretary says ASEAN hosting, national interest priorities
Enrique Manalo, the Philippines’ acting foreign secretary, said Thursday the Department of Foreign Affairs will promote national interest, serve Filipinos and ensure the hosting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meetings will be successful.
President Rodrigo Duterte named Manalo to temporarily replace Perfecto Yasay Jr, who was unanimously rejected by the Commission on Appointments for failing to disclose that he was once an American citizen.
“Yesterday is already history and today we will continue all our priorities and one of them is to promote the interest of the country, the Filipino people,” Manalo told journalists at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“Just to assure everyone that the DFA is here. It’s working and will continue to serve the people,” he added.
Manalo, 64, is a low key and seasoned diplomat, who has dealt with diplomatic crises, including the South China Sea disputes.
The country is chairing and hosting ASEAN meetings, including a November summit, where US President Donald Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian leader Vladimir Putin have been invited.
His target, Manalo said, is for the successful leadership of the ASEAN as the bloc celebrates its 50th anniversary.
With his appointment as acting secretary, Manalo said he will represent the Philippines to the ASEAN ministerial meetings.
“We will continue what we are doing and prioritize areas which are already priorities and I will be getting briefings from various offices at the department and I will be planning our future course for the next few weeks and months,” Manalo said.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement Manalo is an “excellent transition man, and has been on top of many crucial issues” together with Yasay.
In a Palace press briefing, Abella could not say why Manalo's appointment was only in an acting capacity was because the president has been waiting for Senator Alan Peter Cayetano to become available.
Duterte earlier said he would appoint Cayetano as the DFA chief.
But it could only happen after the one year ban on losing candidates in the May 2016 elections expires.
The ASEAN summit meetings in the country are expected to spotlight the South China Sea disputes amid China's reported installation of missile defense systems in its newly-built islands in the Spratlys and a proposal to finalize a framework for a long-delayed Code of Conduct.
Trade integration and a new regional thrust to battle illegal drugs are in the agenda.
“We have many priorities in the DFA - political, economic, consular, assistance to nationals. Now we are also chair of ASEAN and we have to give a lot of attention to that. We have a full plate,” Manalo said.
Manalo said Yasay bid farewell to his staff and officials at the DFA this morning and gave them “lots of tips.”
Manalo said Yasay told them: “Do our job with integrity and to maintain our professionalism in the department and to always have the interest of the country at heart.” DMS