FOREIGN Secretary Albert del Rosario is resigning from his post, four months short of serving the full six-year term of President Aquino.
Based on a report from Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Presidential Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said: “President Aquino has accepted the resignation of Secretary Del Rosario effective March 7, 2016.”
“Having served our country for over 10 years, I have respectfully asked the President if I could be allowed to step down earlier than midyear due to health issues,” he said in a text message.
Del Rosario will still accompany the President when the latter attends the special summit between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and the United States in California this month.
Del Rosario has been facing health issues in the past few years, particularly back problems that required surgery late last year.
Two sources at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), who asked not to be identified, said the foreign secretary also has a heart condition, which required him to get a pacemaker.
One of the sources said Del Rosario’s “personal choice” as his replacement was Undersecretary Laura del Rosario, head of the DFA International Economic Relations office.
The undersecretary served as co-chair of the meeting of senior ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Forum, which the Philippines hosted last year.
The 76-year-old Del Rosario’s back problems have affected his sleeping schedule, one official said.
The richest Cabinet member under Mr. Aquino had wanted to resign by the end of March but his worsening back problems forced him to advance his exit.
A friend of Del Rosario’s, who also refused to be identified by name, said that he was not surprised the foreign secretary was quitting because he appeared in pain with his stooped back the last time they met.
The President’s trip to the United States next week is likely to be Del Rosario’s final official act as foreign secretary.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said in a text message he respected Del Rosario’s decision to quit for health reasons, saying he “gave his all to his work despite the excruciating pain in his back.”
Belmonte praised Del Rosario’s initiative to go to dangerous places to secure the safety of Filipino migrants.
“His travels to the Middle East and in Libya to help Filipinos during troubled times despite his pain were hallmarks of his dedication to his responsibility,” he said.
Del Rosario was appointed foreign secretary, replacing Alberto Romulo, on Feb. 24, 2011.
He led the Philippine delegation which appeared before the United Nations arbitral tribunal in The Hague last year for oral arguments on the territorial dispute with China.
He also provided leadership in the hosting of the 2015 Apec Leaders’ Meeting last November, the launch of the Asean Economic Community last December and the talks on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
In corporate world
From 2001 to 2006, he was the Philippine ambassador to the United States. An appointee of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, he resigned to return to the private sector.
Del Rosario was on the board of more than 50 companies before entering public service, according to his curriculum vitae.
He was chair of the Philippine Stratbase Consultancy and the Makati Foundation for Education, and president of Gotuaco, Del Rosario Insurance Brokers and Philippine Telecommunications Investment Corp.
He is also a longtime business ally of tycoon Manuel Pangilinan, as evidenced by his directorships in the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), BusinessWorld Publishing Corp., First Pacific Co. (Hong Kong), PT Indofood Sukses Makmur (Indonesia), Metro Pacific Investments Corp., Philex Mining Corp., Metro Pacific Tollways Development Corp. (MPTDC), Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC) and ABC Development Corp. (ABC 5)—all Pangilinan-controlled firms.
As a public servant, he has been a recipient of various government citations and awards for his civic and official contributions.
In 2001, he received the Edsa II Heroes Award from then President Arroyo in recognition of his efforts in promoting Philippine democracy.
In 2004, Del Rosario was conferred the Order of Sikatuna, rank of datu, by Arroyo for promoting foreign relations.
Del Rosario studied at Xavier High School in New York and graduated with an economics degree from New York University. With reports from DJ Yap and Inquirer Research
Sources: dfa.gov.ph, Inquirer Archives
This article first appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, our news content partner.