STAR NEWS  FEATURE: THE VICE PRESIDENT ON ASSIGNMENT FOR GMA

MANILA, 
July 3, 2004  (STAR) Vice President Noli de Castro drew on his experience as a broadcast journalist as he began his official duties by inspecting the destruction wreaked by typhoon "Igme" in Laoag City in Ilocos Norte yesterday.

De Castro said he had no qualms about acting as cameraman to capture the damage caused by the storm in carrying out the first assignment given to him by President Arroyo.

The President asked De Castro to proceed to Laoag as she flew to Tuguegarao, Cagayan to inspect the destruction to farmland and public infrastructure caused by the typhoon..

Interviewed over radio station dzMM, De Castro said he was taking a "borrowed" small plane to Laoag from Clark Field in Pampanga, where he, the President and several members of the Cabinet stayed overnight after their first Cabinet meeting Thursday.

Since the plane he was using was too small to accommodate a full camera crew and equipment, De Castro said "perhaps Iíll just do the camera work" and bring the footage back to the President so she can "view the extent of the actual damage" left by the typhoon.

"We can report this immediately to the President and we can do something right away for those affected by the typhoon," he said.

Before entering the political arena, De Castro worked for dzMM for several years, as well as for the radio stationís sister company, ABS-CBN television, where he earned the nickname "Kabayan" through the "Magandang Gabi, Bayan" program he hosted.

De Castro added that he may not need to do his own camera work in Laoag, since his former ABS-CBN colleague Henry Omaga-Diaz was already working on a report on the aftermath of the storm.

Despite the fact that he holds the second highest post in the land, De Castro said he does not have any aircraft assigned solely for his use, adding that he must borrow aircraft for any official trip he will have to make as vice president.

While De Castro said he would "wait for the President to make the announcement" of the Cabinet post Mrs. Arroyo will assign to him, he said he already holds a very important post as vice president.

The Cabinet, he said, is a team "and she is asking our help to achieve her 10-point program."

"In the meantime, Iím busy with the assignments she is giving me, like asking me to fly to Laoag to inspect the damage there," he said.

Despite receiving all the courtesy resignations submitted to her, the President ordered her incumbent Cabinet members to continue working at their respective posts in a "holdover" capacity until they are issued new appointments or were replaced.

De Castro said he told the President he wants to head the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) early in the campaign period. "That is what Iíve clearly told her, even during the campaign," he said.

For De Castro to get his wish, however, the President will have to either reassign or remove DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman, who is one of her closest Cabinet advisers.

Earlier, sources told The STAR that De Castro may be named the convenor of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC).

De Castro publicly expressed his desire "to be the voice" and direct link to the President of the poor "masa."

However, De Castro refused to comment on the possibility he will be named as NAPC head when questioned by The STAR after he and the President took their oaths of office in Cebu City Wednesday.

He said, "the President said perhaps I would have an office there (at MalacaŮang) so I will be close by if Iím needed."

Unlike his immediate predecessor, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, De Castro said he would support the administrationís policy thrusts and would discuss any differences in view or policy with the President "in private." ó Marichu Villanueva


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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