'OFWs should not just be protected, they should also be comfortable'
MANILA - Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday said he would pursue the policy directions set by President Rodrigo Duterte following his appointment as the next secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
In an interview with radio DZMM, Cayetano, head of the Senate foreign relations committee, said it is important not only to focus on building relationships with new allies like China and Russia, but also on maintaining the country's relationships with old friends.
"How do you build the relationship with new friends, like Russia and China, but how do maintain the friendship of old friends like Japan, Australia, US and the EU [European Union]. So, all hands on deck dito that's why we would be tapping not only people in the administration, pati doon sa oposisyon at 'yung ibang partido na gustong tumulong kasi naging close rin sila sa ibang bansa. Kailangan nating kunin ang tulong nila. So 'yun, kumbaga, kung pwede 'pag nasa Pilipinas, iba iba tayo ng opinyon pero sa labas ng Pilipinas, as a country, we represent the country," he said.
According to Cayetano, he will prioritize what Duterte has been working on in his trips to other countries.
"Kasi alter ego lang naman tayo eh, so ang mangyayari diyan, kung ano ang direksiyon ng pangulo, dapat 'yun ang sundin. Hindi tayo dapat magkaroon ng sariling agenda. So, unang una po, 'yung relations na nabuo niya, kung paano palaguin 'yun, kung paano po 'yung mga agreements matupad, or 'ika nga, how does your foreign policy bring home the bacon, 'di ba? Paano magbebenefit ang tao mo," he said.
NOT JUST OFW PROTECTION
Cayetano added that he will prioritize the welfare, protection and comfort of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) just as Duterte promised.
"Pangalawa, 'yung welfare, protection at comfort ng ating OFWs. Parating sinasabi ng ating pangulo sa amin sa eroplano, hindi sapat na yung karapatan nila, na protektado sila. Dapat kumportable sila," Cayetano said.
He also plans to implement a "build, bridge, build" policy to strengthen ties with the country's allies.
"Kung 'yung gobyerno natin ngayon eh build, build, build, ang trabaho ng DFA ay build, bridge, build. You need to bridge eh, san mo kukunin ang financing, ang technology. Naiwan tayo eh. Almost all countries, modern countries now may techno park, may parang Silicon Valley nila. Eh tayo, wala," Cayetano also said.
Cayetano, likewise, said he will focus on ensuring the DFA is well-equipped.
"Then siguro pangatlo, 'yung kailangan ng diplomats natin, kasi lumalaki ang ating influence, lumalaki ang ating mga sphere of friends. At the end of this month, sa Russia naman pupunta. Nag-offer ng napakalaking package, ng economic package si President [Vladmir] Putin sa atin, so we need the people and the resources, so I want to work with the professionals sa DFA na maging equipped sila sa mga kailangang gawin," he said.
'A BIG HONOR'
Cayetano said he learned about the news of his appointment while he was on a plane to Cambodia, where he will be joining President Rodrigo Duterte for his official visit to the Southeast Asian country from May 10 to 11.
"Hindi rin namin na-expect kasi sabi nga ng pangulo, baka kailangan pa ako sa Senado. It's a big honor," he said.
He added that he talked to the president and let him decide on what position to give him.
"Noong nakaraang two weeks, three weeks ago, nakakasama ko po ang ating Pangulo, whether isang report or doon sa state dinner. Ang report ko lang sa kanya 'yung mga nangyayari, 'yung mga pinagagawa niya sa akin, tapos sabi ko, Mr. President, ang dasal ko, kayo na ang gamitin ni Lord, with the Holy Spirit, kung saang posisyon, anong posisyon at kailan," Cayetano said.
"I really left it up to him," he added.
Meanwhile, DFA congratulated Cayetano on his appointment.
"We congratulate Senator Cayetano on the President's announcement of his appointment as Secretary of Foreign Affairs. We look forward to working with him, and the Department is now preparing to ensure a smooth institutional transition and to continue providing our services to the public," DFA said in a statement.
DFA Spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar added that acting DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo will maintain his designation as undersecretary for policy once Cayetano takes office.
Cayetano’s appointment was signed just as the one-year appointment ban after the elections ended.
After winning the presidential race last year, Duterte said he would offer the foreign affairs portfolio to Cayetano, his running mate, after the one-year appointment ban on defeated candidates lapses. Duterte repeated his promise last December.
Accepting the foreign affairs portfolio means Cayetano would have to abandon his Senate seat four years into his term. Cayetano succeeded in his Senate re-election bid in 2013, which means his 6-year term as senator was to end in 2019.
Duterte’s first foreign affairs secretary, Perfecto Yasay Jr., had to leave his post after his appointment was rejected by Congress due to questions about his citizenship.