New Foreign Secretary Manalo vows 'very professional' DFA

MANILA, Philippines – Veteran diplomat Enrique Manalo, the Philippines' new foreign secretary, vowed a "very professional" Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) as he also promised a "very smooth transition" to his successor.

In his first one-on-one interview as DFA chief, Manalo told Rappler on Friday, March 10, "I want to ensure that the DFA and our people continue to undertake our functions and our responsibilities in a very professional way."

"And I want to assure everyone that we have hit the ground running, and I think that there's gonna be a very, very smooth transition, and we are going to prepare the way for whoever might be the next secretary of foreign affairs," Manalo said on Rappler Talk.

President Rodrigo Duterte named Manalo as acting secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) after the Commission on Appointments (CA) rejected lawyer Perfecto Yasay Jr over citizenship issues.

Yasay, who had zero experience in diplomacy before joining the DFA, was also known for his flip-flopping statements on foreign policy. (READ: Yasay flip-flops on ownership of West PH Sea islands)

Malacañang, however, considers Manalo, a career diplomat, as a "transition man." 

Duterte eyes his defeated running mate, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, to head the DFA by May, even as DFA insiders wish Manalo will keep the DFA's highest post.

Respected diplomat

Manalo, after all, has worked at the DFA for nearly 4 decades. He is considered one of the Philippines' most respected diplomats.

Manalo was previously DFA undersecretary for policy and former Philippine ambassador to the UK, Belgium, and Ireland, among others.

The new DFA chief is also the son of diplomats.

His father, the late Ambassador Armando Manalo, was a former journalist and ambassador to Belgium. His mother, Ambassador Rosario Manalo, was the first female career diplomat of the DFA. 

In his interview with Rappler, Manalo also tackled other topics such as his experience growing up in a family of diplomats, and his views on a range of issues. 

Manalo also said: "I just want to ensure that the DFA, as I said, is fully committed to undertake all its functions and responsibilities, and of course our function here is not only to protect the interests of the country, but to also protect the interests of the Filipino people." (READ: New Foreign Secretary Manalo: DFA will continue to serve

"And I can assure everyone that this is a guiding light in the DFA especially while I'm here," the Philippines' new top diplomat said. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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