MANILA (UPDATED) – President Benigno Aquino III did not accept Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla’s resignation, saying the energy chief has done much in the aftermath of super typhoon "Yolanda."
In a statement, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Aquino met with Petilla Thursday afternoon after the latter said he would quit his post for failing to restore power to all towns affected by the super typhoon by Christmas Eve.
"The President did not accept the resignation, cognizant of the fact that according to original estimates, it would take 3-6 months to restore power in town centers, considering the extent of the damage caused by super typhoon Yolanda: the Luzon-Visayas connection was down, the major geothermal plant in Leyte was also down; and generation, transmission and distribution lines were down," Lacierda said.
"In the face of these challenges, the accomplishments of Secretary Petilla speaks for itself," he added.
Lacierda noted that from his original target of six months, Petilla was able to restore power in roughly 40 days.
He also said Petilla was able to energize 317 out of 320 affected towns, leaving 0.93% still to accomplish.
"By any measure this is excellent performance. The President noted that foreign observers who have seen work being done in the Visayas, and in comparison to disasters of lesser magnitude in other countries, pointed out that repair and rehabilitation of energy infrastructure was done faster," he said.
"For all these reasons, the President, in rejecting Secretary Petilla's offer to resign, reiterated that he has no intention of losing the services of an honorable public servant," he added.
Petilla earlier promised he would resign if he fails to energize the Yolanda-struck towns by December 25.
In a press conference, Petilla said he submitted his resignation letter to the President at around 2 p.m., but the President didn’t even bother to read it.
“I’m still the energy secretary until further notice,” he said.
Petilla said that in his letter, he apologized to the President for putting his position on the line when he said power will be restored by Christmas Eve, and explained to him why he did so.
“The reason why I did it was very simple: to put a date na December 24, which is short of impossible but doable, I had to do more than seeing the suffering in Eastern Visayas, I had to put something more than just a date. I had to put hope, because at that time, hope was very scarce. You could hardly see it in the faces of the people. I had to put hope because without it there will be no rehabilitation. You have to rally people behind,” Petilla said.
“Electricity, in any disaster, it is always the first sign of hope, and I wanted to give them that hope,” he added.
Petilla said he offered to resign to keep true to his word, but the President told him that the energy industry may be put at risk if he leaves his position at a crucial time.
He said the rejection shows that the President still has confidence in him.
“Just a reiteration from the President that I am heading towards the right direction on the job that he asked me to do. Otherwise, he would have accepted it,” he said.
Yesterday, Petilla said he is "not quitting on the people," but merely keeping his word.
"I'm not quitting on the people. I'm simply keeping my word which I find is the essence of my being in public service," Petilla said.