Incoming Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano revealed his plans for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), following President Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement of his appointment.
In a press conference on Wednesday, May 10, Cayetano said the department would prioritize the welfare, protection, and comfort of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Assuring that all the DFA officials would “not have their own agenda or their own foreign policy,” Cayetano said that they would “all work hard together to implement the foreign policy of the Philippines.”
He also promised to “keep building bridges” with other countries while maintaining good relationships with allies.
“The new bridges, the new friends that the president established and then how do we repair kung meron mang problema sa old allies natin (our relationship with our old allies if we have problems with them),” Cayetano told reporters at the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
He added that it is the mission of the DFA to follow the president’s policy while “building bridges.”
Cayetano also vowed to refrain from using “microphone diplomacy” once he took his post as the new foreign affairs secretary.
While clarifying that it is the duty of the government to remain transparent on all of its policies, including foreign policy, Cayetano, however, noted that there are diplomatic issues that should not be publicized.
“Minsan kasi ang alam na naman nung iba, ’yung policy. Pero ‘yung stategy ang gustong kwestyunin o gusto pag-usapan. Eh saan ka naman makakakita na nasa gitna ka ng struggle, ng laban, ipapakita mo ‘yung strategy sa buong mundo (Sometimes, people want to question or discuss policies. But if you are in the middle of a struggle, you reveal your strategy before the world),” he explained.
Diplomats should not engage in microphone diplomacy and instead leave the public communication from the spokesperson, he said.
He added that he would also “institutionalize more briefings na off the record to the media, to the Senate, to the House and to other interested groups, including think tanks, so that they will know the information that we know.”
On Wednesday, Duterte announced Cayetano’s new post after the one-year appointment ban on losing candidates in the May 2016 elections ended.
Cayetano is replacing Undersecretary Enrique Manalo, who was assigned as the acting foreign secretary after the CA rejected the ad interim appointment of Perfecto Yasay Jr. over citizenship issues.
With Congress still in session, Cayetano, a sitting senator, said he still has to wait for the CA to confirm his nomination before he can officially take his post as the new DFA chief.
“So until that time, I’ll still serving be in the Senate,” Cayetano added.
On Thursday, May 11, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it is in the discretion of the Senate if it would conduct a special election for Cayetano’s senatorial seat.
“One of the things usually taken into consideration is the length of time the seat will remain vacant in case no special elections are called,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez stated. “If, as in this case, the legislator’s term is set to expire in 2019, it is reasonable to expect that it will have some bearing on the final decision.”