MANILA, FEBRUARY 9, 2007 (STAR) By Aurea Calica - President Arroyo appointed yesterday Albay Rep. Joey Salceda as her new chief of staff to replace Michael Defensor, who intends to run for senator.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said Defensor will file his certificate of candidacy before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) today and automatically cease to hold public office.

Salceda was one of the Presidentís top students when she taught economics at the Ateneo de Manila University in the late í70s.

Bunye said the appointment of Salceda as the Presidentís chief of staff is a matter of trust and confidence on the part of Mrs. Arroyo.

However, Bunye also said Salceda might not assume his post immediately, as the lawmaker needs to wind up his duties at the House of Representatives.

In a text message sent to reporters, Salceda said he applied for the job and was accepted by Mrs. Arroyo. He said he is returning to the work he loves Ė complete staff work.

"Since I would be contract-finished by June, just like (any) ordinary job seeker, I applied for work today. PGMA (President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) asked me to write my job description," Salceda said.

On top of the tasks traditionally assigned to the Presidentís top aide, Salceda also got specific, top-heavy marching orders from the Chief Executive.

These include: Condonation of agrarian liabilities; universal access to tertiary education, especially pre-need strategy and tuition financing; enhancement of comprehensive and compulsory health insurance; competition policy, especially in the power sector; super region investment and financing strategy; competitiveness enhancement; tax relief for working families through a simplified net income tax system (SNITS) and incentive rationalization and; for parochial reasons, the rehabilitation of Albay.

A finance expert, Salceda said it was coincidental that the acronym for presidential chief of staff (PECOS) "means money in Latin."

Salceda is one of the economic advisers of Mrs. Arroyo and is a member of the party that she founded, the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi).

Salceda is on his last term as congressman and is the chairman of the House appropriations committee. He said in an earlier interview with reporters that he would rather join the Cabinet than run for the Senate.

Bunye announced the upcoming changes in the Cabinet as some members of the Presidentís official family would seek elective posts come May.

Despite these changes, Mrs. Arroyo said there would be no major revamp in the Cabinet until after the elections.

A few Cabinet members being groomed to run this May have also decided to stay in their posts.

Besides Defensor, only Philippine International Trading Corp. chief Roberto Pagdanganan announced his impending resignation to run in May. Pagdanganan is seeking to regain the governorship of Bulacan.

The President has also appointed a new acting director for the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

She appointed Pagasa deputy director for administration and engineering Martin Rellin Jr. as Pagasaís acting director after four years of the agency being run by officers-in-charge (OICs).

Science Secretary Estrella Alabastro confirmed this, saying she welcomes Rellinís appointment as the new chief of the weather bureau.

Alabastro said the last time Pagasa had a director was during the term of Dr. Leoncio Amadore. When Amadore left his post, several OICs were designated, including former Science and Technology (DOST) Undersecretary for regional operations Florentino Tesoro, Pagasa OIC Prisco Nilo and DOST Undersecretary for research and development Graciano Yumul.

Alabastro said it is about time that Pagasa was assigned a new director, saying the weather bureau welcomes Rellin "without any restraints."

She said Rellin was one of three candidates for the post recommended by a search committee.

Rellin said he is happy with his appointment, adding that he is also aware of the big responsibility of the Pagasa chief.

Rellin began his career in Pagasa as a weather observer in 1979, while he was a working student at the University of Mindanao, where he finished mechanical engineering.

In 1991, he received a diploma for completing his meteorology engineering course (MEC) from the Methodist College in England and he finished his masterís degree in management engineering at the University of Santo Tomas in 2001. Ė With Helen Flores

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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