For being too candid about the government’s failure to make a dent in the country’s poverty incidence, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan may have earned the ire of the Malacañang occupant.
A day after releasing the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) report, Balisacan was apparently bumped off from a trip to Brunei, where President Aquino is attending the 22nd high-level meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Balisacan was noticeably absent from the 51-member delegation that left for Bandar Seri Begawan at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.
He was originally listed as among the Cabinet members accompanying the President to the two-day Asean summit, said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, when she was interviewed last Sunday.
However, a statement released by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. on Wednesday showed one person less from the official manifest of the chartered Philippine Airlines flight.
No longer needed
When reporters sought an explanation for this, Lacierda and Valte said that Balisacan’s presence was no longer needed.
“More of Asean and trade topics,” said Lacierda in a text message.
Valte said as much, saying: “(The) topics will be more on Asean and trade, kaya hindi na sumama (so he didn’t come along).”
Asked if the last-minute ditching of Balisacan was related in any way to the negative report on poverty by NSCB, Valte said: “Not at all.”
Adjusting to time difference
Asked why he was no longer joining the trip to Brunei, Balisacan said: “I had just come back from the IMF (International Monetary Fund)-World Bank meeting in the United States the midnight before our press conference on poverty statistics.
“We took that opportunity to present to IMF leaders and officials of other countries about developments here in the Philippines. Since I just got back, I am still adjusting to the time difference and at the same time there are many pressing matters to attend to.”
At the press conference on Wednesday, the NSCB said the poverty incidence in the first semester of 2012 was 27.9 percent—“practically unchanged” from the 28.6 percent in 2009 and the 28.8 percent in 2006.—With a report from Riza Olchondra