(STAR) By Marvin Sy - More changes have taken place in President Arroyo’s Cabinet with Education Secretary Jesli Lapus moving to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Trade Secretary Peter Favila going full time at the Monetary Board.

With the constitutional ban on the President making new appointments two months before elections nearly upon her, Mrs. Arroyo decided to announce yesterday what could be the last Cabinet reshuffle.

According to the President, Lapus would be replaced by adviser for education Mona Valisno.

The President announced the appointment of Favila during her speech at the Go Negosyo Women Entrepreneur’s Summit at the World Trade Center in Pasay City, where she said that Favila would represent the interest of entrepreneurs in the policy-making body of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Favila is not new to the Monetary Board since he has been representing the Cabinet there for some time.

The Monetary Board has seven members appointed by the President and under the New Central Bank Act, one of the board members must also be a member of the Cabinet.

“In order to ensure that there will always be someone defending the interests of the micro enterprise and small enterprises at the Monetary Board of the Central Bank, I decided to appoint former Secretary Peter Favila as member of the Monetary Board in order to defend you, the entrepreneurs,” the President told the audience.

Taking over from Lapus is Valisno who has been in the education sector for more than two decades already.

Valisno has been serving as the presidential adviser on education since 2001 and is also chair of the board of directors of the state-owned RPN 9.

She served as commissioner of the Commission on Higher Education from the Aquino to Estrada administrations.

Meanwhile, Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Alfonso Cusi has been appointed as the new head of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.

Cusi replaced Ruben Ciron while Ninoy Aquino International Airport-Terminal 3 manager Melvin Matibag took the place of Cusi at the MIAA.

The President has also named her adviser on Mindanao Jesus Dureza as chairman of the newly created Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).

Dureza will assume the leadership of MinDA, an office created through Republic Act 9996 signed by the President last Feb. 17, ending a five-decade long wait for the establishment of a permanent body integrating peace and development efforts in Mindanao.

The MinDA strengthens the existing Mindanao Economic Development Council, whose chairmanship Dureza first held during the Ramos administration.

Under the MinDA Law, the chair would serve a fixed term of six years.

Just last week, the President announced several changes in her Cabinet as a result of the Supreme Court ruling requiring appointive officials to resign once they have filed their certificates of candidacy.

A number of Cabinet members led by former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita were forced to resign because they were vying for various local positions in the May elections.

Lapus surprised by transfer

Meanwhile, Lapus admitted being completely surprised by his transfer to the DTI.

“It has not sunk in yet,” Lapus told The STAR in a phone interview yesterday.

However, Lapus said he was not questioning President Arroyo’s decision to give him another assignment at this late stage.

“We trust the judgment of the President as the CEO. As the CEO, she knows best and has the prerogative in the assignments of the team,” Lapus said.

Asked why he was transferred to DTI, Lapus said it was probably because of his more than 20 years’ experience as a top executive in a manufacturing firm and at multinational consumer goods company Triumph International, before going to the banking industry and politics.

“I think it’s my education and training in the manufacturing industry as a top professional executive. I think the President wants people who will hit the ground running,” Lapus said.

Meanwhile, local businessmen welcomed his appointment as the new Trade secretary, saying that he is expected to inspire confidence among investors and businessmen.

“He comes with a level of support from the business community. He is known to us,” Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) chairman Donald Dee said in a telephone interview yesterday.

In another development, Lapus clarified yesterday that he is not interested in returning to the House of Representatives as a party-list nominee and, unlike other prominent personalities, he would not accept a nomination by any party-list group.

“I am not and will not be a party-list nominee of any party,” he said in a text message to The STAR.

He was clarifying reports that he would be one of the nominees of at least two organizations claiming to represent the more than 500,000 public school teachers in the country.

Lapus was a Tarlac congressman before joining the Arroyo Cabinet. He was widely believed to be eyeing a seat in the Senate but declined to be included in the administration ticket because he said it was “too conflicted.” – With Jess Diaz, Rainier Allan Ronda and Ma. Elisa Osorio

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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