MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Benigno Aquino III swore in Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras and incoming Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla on Sunday, November 4, before leaving for the 9th Asia-Europe (ASEM 9 summit) in Laos.
Unlke previous similar ceremonies for new Cabinet officials that were held in Malacañang, the simple event for Almendras and Petilla was held at the pre-departure area of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 (NAIA-2).
Almendras, said to be part of President Aquino’s inner circle, was transferred to the Office of the President after handling the energy portfolio for two years.
Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said President Aquino handpicked Petilla as Almendras’s replacement.
Petilla was serving his last and third consecutive term as Leyte governor prior to his appointment. He is assuming the position at a time when parts of the country are experiencing blackouts, power bills are inching up, and the 2013 mid-term elections are months away.
Malacañang has announced the Cabinet reshuffle in October. Lacierda said this is the last Cabinet rigodon for 2012.
Almendras, whose new tasks involve coordinating with Cabinet members, will be part of the Palace’s official delegation to Laos.
Other officials in the 60-person delegation include Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Philippine ambassador to Laos People’s Democractic Republic Maria Lumen Isleta, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Presidential Communications Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan.
Aquino is attending the ASEM meeting for the first time, highlighting “the Philippines’ renewed focus on Europe and reaffirms the importance of the region as an economic and political partner,” the Foreign Affairs Department had said.
Aquino will be meeting with the Filipino community in Laos on Sunday night and is expected to brief European officials on the country’s economic bright spots before going back to Manila on November 6.
The DFA said Aquino will “exchange views with counterparts from the two regions on the Eurozone crisis, trade and investment facilitation, energy and food security, disaster management, counter-terrorism, migration and regional issues.” – Rappler.com