MANILA, Philippines – Some have raised eyebrows at the appointment of Alfonso Cusi as secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE), due to his ties with the family of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and his former post as a director at Aboitiz Shipping Corporation during the 1990s.
"They have nothing to do with what I'm doing now," Cusi, who also served as airport and ports manager during Arroyo's administration, said on the sidelines of the DOE turnover ceremony in Taguig City on Monday, July 4.
From 1972 to 1990, Cusi served as director in the shipping business of the Aboitiz family. The family's power business accounts for 70% of Aboitiz Equity Ventures Incorporated's earnings.
Cusi then served as the chairman of Batangas-based shipping company Starlite Ferries Incorporated.
"Let us put it this way. They are my competitors. I have been out of Aboitiz since 1990. I have been on my own business since 1991. I believe they are the last one to know about the DOE post," Cusi said, dismissing any possible conflict of interest.
He said one of his tall orders is to make sure that there will be a level playing field for energy-related projects.
"Puro big players 'yan, they know what they are doing. We have to make a level playing field para sa lahat. Wala naman siguro 'yung favoritism na 'yan," Cusi replied when asked how he would ensure the public there is no conflict of interest.
(Most of them are big players, so they know what they are doing. We have to make a level playing field for all. There will be no favoritism.)
Meanwhile, Cusi said his friendship with the Arroyos should not define him or his capability to perform as DOE chief. (READ: Duterte Cabinet members bond over monggo, fried fish)
"Nawawala na ba 'yung pagkatao ko [because of my friendship with the Arroyos]? Nawawala na din ba 'yung pagiging Cusi ko? (Is my humanity being erased because of my friendship with the Arroyos? Is my identity as a Cusi being removed as well?) I should be judged for what I am," Cusi said.
Cusi was also one of the respondents in a case wherein Arroyo was accused of bribing election officials in Mindanao in the 2004 elections. Cusi was accused of helping provide transportation to facilitate the bribery.
"Hindi ako marunong magtakwil ng mga nagiging kaibigan ko eh (I don't end friendships)," Cusi said.
During his first 100 days, Cusi said the DOE will review existing service contracts with power generation companies in a bid to achieve 100% electrification in the country. – Rappler.com