Friday, December 3, 2010


Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said President Aquino could name a new envoy to the United States before the end of the month.

“Washington is one of the premier posts,” he explained, adding that there were many vying for the position.

“We have filled up the Tokyo post with Manolo Lopez, we have filled up the China post, we have filled up the Spanish so all these will be completed in due time,” Romulo averred.

He added they wanted to finish the appointments before Congress adjourns “so we can have all the wannabes confirmed”.

At least three names have been floated for the Washington DC assignment.

They include former Trade Secretary Juan Santos who was part of the so-called Hyatt 10 that broke away from then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo following the “Hello Garci” scandal.

However, reports suggest he was actually eyeing the top Foreign Affairs post that was given to Romulo, and when he didn’t get it, reportedly took himself out of the running for Washington DC.

Former Finance Secretary Roberto de Ocampo, who very recently visited Washington DC to meet with top diplomats, hasn’t concealed his interest in the position.

He served as chairman of the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) during the administration of then President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino and as finance chief during the administration of former President Fidel V. Ramos.

The third and, according to some accounts, the strongest contender is former Central Bank Governor Jose Cuisia Jr., a top lieutenant of the President’s mother who was also former administrator of the Social Security System (SSS), chairman of Far East Bank and CEO of insurance giant Philam Life.

Ambassador Willy Gaa is only the 2nd career diplomat to win the Washington DC post.

The soft-spoken but hard-working envoy presided over some major gains in PH-US relations – helping win the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation bill that granted lump-sum payments for thousands of elderly World War II veterans here and in the Philippines; the $434 million Compact Agreement with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC); and the continued close security cooperation between the two nations, among others.

Before his US assignment, Gaa was ambassador to Australia in 2002-2003 and to China in 2003-2006. He was then moved to serve as consul general in Los Angeles, California before being appointed ambassador to the US in July 2006.

“There is a term for ambassadors,” Romulo explained.

Gaa has been assigned abroad for over eight years, which is two years longer than the usual length of an ambassador’s tour of duty.

Another reason perhaps why Romulo wants to complete the changes soon is the report Romulo himself may be moving to another post.

He is rumored to take over the constitutional agency Commission on Audit (COA). If that happens, he will likely be replaced by Albert del Rosario, a former ambassador to the US.

But he tried to douse that speculation.

“My future is secure,” Romulo declared, “As a Cabinet member we serve at the pleasure of the President.”

“It’s only when you’re elected (that you’re exempted) so perhaps I’ll run for the Senate. That’s always a possibility,” he said.

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