DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo: Career diplomat as President’s chief foreign policy adviser

Published July 5, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

The appointment by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. of Enrique A. Manalo, a seasoned career diplomat, as secretary of Foreign Affairs has been received warmly both here and abroad, by dint of his exemplary performance of various high-level responsibilities over more than four decades of service. The secretary of Foreign Affairs is the President’s primary adviser and resource person in dealing with other heads of state. It is through him that ambassadors convey their heads of states’ communication with the President.

The significance of Secretary Manalo’s appointment could be gleaned from history. Apolinario Mabini, one of the heroes of the Philippine revolutionary movement, was the country’s first secretary of Foreign Affairs. Mabini’s successors include then Vice Presidents Elpidio Quirino and Carlos P. Garcia who succeeded to the presidency before they were elected to their own terms of office. Former Vice Presidents Salvador Laurel and Teofisto Guingona, Jr., also served as DFA secretary — as did General Carlos P. Romulo, who served under three Presidents.

Secretary Manalo’s watch at the DFA comes at a time of significant global challenges, including the raging Russia-Ukraine conflict, the continuing coronavirus pandemic, and serious threats to cyber-security. Massive digital transformation has altered the parameters of governance, business and commerce across continents. Concern over global warming and climate change in disaster-prone countries like the Philippines has also escalated.

The Philippines’ chief concern in bilateral relations is shared by other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries: the situation in the South China Sea, where China continues to flex its economic and military power. There are continuing efforts to forge a Declaration on the Conduct of Parties and assure observance of universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). As he has served twice as Undersecretary for Policy, Secretary Manalo has also been the Philippines’ representative in the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting. He is, therefore, adept on the working level mechanisms for ASEAN policy formulation, priority-setting, and consensus-building.

Secretary Manalo’s father, Armando Manalo, served as ambassador to Belgium and political adviser to the Philippine Mission to the United Nations. His mother Rosario was the first female career diplomat of the DFA. She also served as ambassador to Belgium, Sweden and France, and as rapporteur of a UN committee to stop discrimination against women.

In a media interview several years ago, he said that his most important lesson from his parents was on respecting other people’s views — a distinctive trait that serves him in good stead as the country’s top diplomat.

“I think the best thing I could learn is to respect the opinion of others, to listen to others, as best as you can, even if you may not agree with them, and to try and see their perspective, so even if you don’t agree, you might be able to find ways of reaching some kind of common ground.”