MANILA - Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol on Sunday explained his absence at President Rodrigo Duterte's command conference in typhoon-ravaged Isabela province, which reportedly prompted a rebuke from the latter.
A news report quoted Duterte as saying that "somebody has to call the attention of Manny [Piñol]" for his "no show" at the November 2 event.
In a Facebook post, Piñol said his staff informed the Office of the President that he can't make it to Isabela because of the traditional family obligation of visiting the graves of departed relatives on All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day.
"I have never missed visiting the graves of my father and relatives on this occasion, a tradition which I am passing on to my children and grandchildren," he said.
Piñol said Duterte's office was informed that he would be represented by Agriculture Director Narciso Edillo instead.
"This is not the first time that a Cabinet Secretary who could not make it to a Presidential engagement was represented by an official of his Department," he noted.
He said Edillo reported that, "the President looked for me but there was no 'scolding.'"
The Agriculture chief also said he was with the President during his visit to Cagayan Valley, Ilocos and Benguet, which were among the worst-hit by typhoon Ompong in September.
Piñol nonetheless apologized over his absence from the Isabela trip.
"I take the blame and apologize if the Office of the President failed to inform Pres. Duterte of my request that I be represented by another official in that trip," he said.
"Allow me to publicly apologize to the President for my absence in Isabela."
He said he personally interprets Duterte's act of looking for the Agriculture secretary in the briefing as "an indication of the importance he gives to the welfare of farmers and fishermen affected by the Typhoon."
He said he will visit Isabela on Monday to meet with poultry raisers to help them market their chicken and provide support so they could recover.
Rosita made landfall in Isabela last Tuesday. Its fierce winds and rains unleashed deadly landslides across Luzon, forced thousands to flee to evacuation centers and left some P1.82 billion in agricultural damage.