CEBUANO IN DPWH POST?

05/18/10 - With the entry of a new administration, expect big changes.

At the national level, a Cebuano is being considered for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) top post.

The name of Ayala executive Rene Almendras, who is based in Manila, has been raised in the inner circle of advisers of presidential front-runner Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, sources said.

A former schoolmate of Aquino, Almendras is president of Manila Water Co. and has had extensive experience in banking, real estate, propety development and finance.

In Cebu City, Mayor-elect Mike Rama may lose two key officials before he takes over the helm of the city government in July 1.

City Administrator Francisco “Bimbo” Fernandez and City Legal Officer Joseph Bernaldez, both appointees of Mayor Tomas Osmeña, plan to give their courtesy resignations so the new mayor can have a free hand choosing his own staff.

“I am not aligning myself with any national position,” said Fernandez. He explained that he wants to focus on his urban poor housing foundation, Pagtambayayong, and farming after May 24, his “last flag raising ceremony.”

Outgoing Mayor Tomas Osmeña told a news conference yesterday about the name of Almendras being discussed in Manila as a possible Cabinet member for public works.

The mayor said Almendras, who is more known in the business sector, was qualified for the post and that his” claim to fame is that he is a classmate of Noynoy.”

Cebu Daily News tried to reach Almendras but he was on vacation with his family. They are scheduled to return to the country end of May.

The businessman took an active role in Aquino’s campaign, and even went on leave two weeks before the election to pitch in.

Almendras' niece, Cebu lawyer-broadcaster Aina Asirit confirmed that Rene and Senator Aquino III, who was leading in the canvassing in the presidential race, were college classmates in Ateneo de Manila.

Rene’s sister, Provincial Board Member Agnes Magpale, on the other hand, said she doubts if her brother would accept the post.

“Last night, a friend texted me and she is very close to the Aquino’s. She told me that Noynoy’s choice for DPWH is Rene. But just like my daughter Attorney Ina, I doubt if my brother would take this, considering the position that he has now,” the board member told Cebu Daily News.

“I don’t think he will plunge into a big headache. Can you imagine having to solve the DPWH problems? But I didn’t mean to preempt my brother pero maayo na man gud kaayo ang iyang posisyon karon . Pero I don’t know,” she added.

Magpale confirmed that her brother was a close friend of Aquino in their youth.

“They were classmates. Noynoy used to hang out in our house in Horse Shoe Village in Quezon City when they were young,” said Aina.

Cebu Daily News asked Senator Aquino in a text message if Almendras would be appointed as DPWH secretary, Aquino replied: “Not yet at that stage in the search process.”

Almendras joined Manila Water Co. on Jan. 1, 2007, according to the company’s website. He was previously connected with Ayala Land Inc. as a member of the Management Committee and concurrently as Group Head of the Visayas Mindanao Business Group and the Operations Transformation Group.

He was also president and CEO of Cebu Holdings Inc and Cebu Property Ventures and Development Corp., both publicly listed companies managed by the Ayala Land Group.

Before joining the Ayala Group, Almendras was with the Aboitiz Group as its treasurer and president of City Savings Bank. (CDN)

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