NEW  ECONOMIC  TEAM  FORMED

MANILA, January 27, 2005 (STAR) By Marichu Villanueva  -  President Arroyo announced yesterday the appointment of three new Cabinet secretaries in a reshuffle of her economic team following the resignation of key officials.

Trade Secretary Cesar Purisima was appointed finance secretary while Juan Santos, a government industrial adviser who once worked as the chief executive officer of Nestlé Philippines, replaces Purisima at the Department of Trade and Industry.

Lawyer Raphael Perpetuo Lotilla, who heads the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (Psalm), was named energy secretary, taking the place of Vincent Perez who will step down at the end of March.

The Cabinet reshuffle began last week when Juanita Amatong said she was quitting due to job stress. On Tuesday Perez announced he was also stepping down.

Yesterday Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye announced that Mrs. Arroyo was also appointing Alberto Lina, head of the local Federal Express operator, as commissioner of the Bureau of Customs, replacing George Jereos. Lina is the younger brother of former interior secretary Jose Lina.

The changes come at a crucial time, when the government is in the process of privatizing the generation and transmission assets of the National Power Corp. (Napocor), one of the key reforms the government has promised to international creditors.

It also comes as the administration struggles to get key revenue measures passed in order to control the budget deficit and avoid a looming fiscal crisis.

International credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s on Jan. 17 cut the Philippines’ sovereign credit ratings by one notch, partly because it said the government had not done enough to raise public revenues.

Bunye had previously said there was a "continuous reassessment" of Cabinet secretaries, hinting that more could be replaced.

"The ongoing revamp projects a renewed sense of continuity and direction towards the realization of the President’s 10-point agenda as a new team is brought to pull the economic carriage forward," Bunye said.

Internal Revenue Commissioner Guillermo Parayno "was prevailed upon by the President to continue as head of the BIR," Bunye added.

These changes in the Cabinet came a day after the President signed into law Republic Act 9335, the Lateral Attrition Law that institutionalized a system of incentives and punishments designed to enforce the collection goals set by the BIR and Customs.

Prior to his appointment to the Cabinet, Santos was a member of the Governance Advisory Council and was the private sector representative to the Public-Private Sector Task Force for the Development of Globally Competitive Philippine Service Industries.

Santos, 66, served one term in 2000 as president of the Management Association of the Philippines. Besides being CEO of Nestlé, Santos also served as a director on the boards of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., Manila Electric Co., Malayan Insurance Inc., Equitable Savings Bank Inc., PCI Leasing and Finance Inc., Inter-Milling Holdings Limited PT, Indofood Sukses Makmur Tbk. and chairman of Gold Coin Management Holdings Ltd. He is also chairman of the advisory board of Equitable PCI Bank.

Santos earned his degree in business administration from the Ateneo de Manila in 1960 and pursued post-graduate studies at the Thunderbird Graduate School of Management in Arizona. He completed the Advanced Management Course at IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1972.

He is an active member of the board of trustees of the Philippine Business for Social Progress and a trustee of St. Luke’s Medical Center. He was also elected chairman of the Philippine-Swiss Business Council.

Lotilla, for his part, brings his experience as CEO of Psalm to the Department of Energy (DOE). Psalm is a spin-off company created to manage the privatization of the government’s power generation assets, particularly Napocor.

He was first appointed to Psalm by the President in January last year. He previously served as National Economic and Development Authority deputy director from 1996 to January 2004.

Lotilla graduated with degrees in psychology and history from the University of the Philippines, where he also completed his law degree. He took up his master of laws at the University of Michigan Law School.

A native of Sibalom, Antique, Lotilla also served as the editor-in-chief of UP’s Philippine Collegian from 1983 to 1984.

Santos made his first public appearance Tuesday night at the St. Joseph’s Church and the dinner reception at the Sampaguita Compound in San Juan town hosted by Speaker Jose de Venecia and his wife Gina for the observance of the 40th day after the death of their daughter, KC.

Prior to his career in government service, Lina served as chairman of the board of Airfreight 2100 Inc., a Federal Express licensee in the Philippines. He is active in several sports organizations and is the governor of the Philippine Basketball Association and chairman of the arbitration committee of the Philippine Olympic Committee. FedEx is the major sponsor of the annual cycling tour.

Lina’s business interests over the years have revolved around customs-related activities of several brokerage firms. He served as chairman of the board of U-Freight Philippines Inc. in 1976 and as chairman of the board of Lina Farms and Food Services Corp. from 1997 to present.

A valedictorian through elementary and high school, Lina earned his Business Administration degree at the Philippine School for Business Administration.

As Customs chief, he will work under Interior and Local Government Secretary and National Anti-Smuggling Task Force chief Angelo Reyes, who replaced his brother Joey in the department.

Perez, in a statement sent to The STAR, said he welcomes the President’s appointment of Lotilla to the DOE helm, adding that "a highly complicated energy sector needs a very competent and professional individual who will push forward the reforms that have been initiated in the past four years. I am confident that Mr. Lotilla is the right man for this post."

He called on all DOE and energy sector workers "to throw their full support (behind) Mr. Lotilla as the sector sails through the challenging times of privatization and reforms in the power industry and deregulation of the oil sector."

"Time is of the essence," Perez said. "We simply cannot afford any more delays. Let us work together to bring (about) the fruits of these reforms." – With AFP


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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