MANILA (5th UPDATE)—Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol has submitted his courtesy resignation to President Rodrigo Duterte, Senator-elect Christopher "Bong" Go said Thursday.
Go told reporters that Piñol texted him the contents of the letter, which he then printed and sent to the President.
Piñol’s offer to resign comes amid reports that Duterte is set to transfer him to the Mindanao Development Authority (MINDA) as he was not satisfied with the official’s performance in the Department of Agriculture.
"With the best interest of the Department of Agriculture and its stakeholders in mind, may I request that I be relieved from my present position as Secretary of Agriculture and reassigned to whoever agency you believe I would be effective, including the Mindanao Development Authority," Piñol's letter read.
Duterte said he told Piñol to head the MINDA, another Cabinet position.
"I cannot see anybody on the horizon except Piñol who was born in Mindanao and grew up there. He’s a farmer and then a governor," the President told reporters at the freshman senator's oath-taking in Malacañang.
"Sabi ko pumunta ka na lang doon, tulungan mo na lang ako. Get them started, hurry them up so they will have the very first organized government they have long wished for."
Duterte earlier told the Bangsamoro Transition Authority to speed up its work, as he appeared unsatisfied with the pace setting up the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM)
Asked whether this means the President is accepting the courtesy resignation of Pinol, Duterte replied that he has to talk to BARMM chief interim minister Al Haj Murad to make sure that Piñol is acceptable to them.
Duterte added that he had no problems with Piñol as agriculture secretary, contrary to speculation.
In his resignation letter, Piñol recommended at least 3 of his undersecretaries to replace him as Agriculture chief: Ariel Cayanan, Waldo Carpio, and Francisco Villano.
Carpio is the brother of Manases Carpio, the President's son-in-law and husband of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
"These officials are all competent and loyal to your ideals and advocacies," Piñol said.
The agriculture chief said he will remain a "loyal friend and supporter" to the President.
"Please be assured of my support and loyalty to your administration not only as the President of the country but as a friend," he said.
Go, meanwhile, said the 2018 rice shortage could have affected Piñol's performance in the Cabinet.
“Maybe isa po ’yun sa dahilan medyo meron po sa gabinete isa po sya sa mga sinisisi ng ibang economic advisers kaya nagkaroon ng rice shortage,” Go said.
Piñol's stay in the Cabinet was reportedly under review following a controversy over his response to the Recto (Reed) Bank incident where a Philippine fishing boat was allegedly rammed by a Chinese ship in the West Philippine Sea on June 9.
Critics also called for Piñol's resignation last year after spikes in the prices of rice, vegetables, meat, fish and other food items pushed inflation to its fastest in almost a decade.
Duterte also dismissed Piñol's suggestion to allow barter trade of rice in Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, after rice prices there spiked.
Malacañang had brushed off these calls for Piñol's resignation saying the agriculture chief still had the President's trust.