Rodrigo Duterte

Philippines' Duterte appoints new acting foreign secretary after top diplomat dumped

Enrique Manalo has served previously as Philippine ambassador to Britain, among other foreign assignments

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 March, 2017, 12:51pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 March, 2017, 10:02pm

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte named a seasoned diplomat as the country’s new acting foreign minister on Thursday, replacing Perfecto Yasay Jr. whose appointment was rejected a day earlier by a constitutional body over an issue regarding his citizenship.

Ernesto Abella, spokesman for Duterte, said Foreign Undersecretary Enrique Manalo, 64, “will hold the position until the president appoints a new secretary.” Manalo has served previously as Philippine ambassador to Britain, among other foreign assignments.

The change at the helm of the country’s foreign ministry came at a time when the Philippines is holding the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for 2017, and amid the Duterte administration’s shift to friendlier relations with China and less reliance on long-time ally the United States.

“The appointment of a career diplomat in the person of Undersecretary for Policy Manalo as acting secretary of foreign affairs is a plus because he is already very familiar with the issues that will be taken up at the Asean meetings,”, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said.

Yasay, 70, was rejected by the Commission on Appointments eight months after his appointment by Duterte as foreign secretary for giving misleading information about his acquisition of US citizenship in 1986.

Philippine laws prohibit the reappointment of a presidential nominee once rejected by the Commission on Appointments, an independent body constituted by lawmakers whose role is to check and balance the appointing authority of the president.

In previous interviews, Duterte said he intended to offer the foreign ministry portfolio to Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, his running mate during the 2016 elections who lost to Vice-President Leni Robredo, at an appropriate time later this year.