MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine economic planning secretary has resigned partly due to “differences in development philosophy” with some Cabinet members as the country scrambles to deal with the pandemic that’s setting back the economy.
President Rodrigo Duterte accepted the resignation of Ernesto Pernia and designated Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua to temporarily replace him, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said on Friday.
Pernia, who was appointed by Duterte to head the National Economic Development Authority after the president took office in mid-2016, was in charge of plans for economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis. He has warned of social unrest if a massive lockdown in the main northern Luzon region, home to more than 50 million people, is extended indefinitely.
“This is due partly to personal reasons and partly to differences in development philosophy with a few of my fellow Cabinet members,” Pernia said, without elaborating.
Pernia has been regarded as among the more independent members of Duterte’s Cabinet who spoke his mind.
In an initial report last month on the possible impact of the pandemic, the economic planning agency led by Pernia warned that the government response should be delicately balanced between health and economic objectives.
“Otherwise, the situation could deteriorate to a social and political crisis,” the report said, adding that widespread tests for the coronavirus are “key to a successful medical response”.
On Thursday, a majority of senators demanded the resignation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, blaming him partly for failing to immediately stockpile coronavirus test kits and making them available to the public.
Duterte rejected the senators’ call and decided to keep Duque but asked him to work harder to set aside doubts about his capability. Duque said he would stay on and help lead the government’s response to the virus.