REP. Antonio Cuenco (Cebu City, south district) has decided to formally decline his nomination as an ambassador of the country following his appointment as secretary-general of the Asean Inter-parliamentary Assembly (Aipa).

In a letter to President Gloria Arroyo, he said his family and friends advised him to let go of his desire to serve the foreign service.

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“Events have conspired to convince me that now is not the right time for me to join the foreign service. Perhaps, the future will bring better fortunes for all of us,” he said in his Jan. 21 letter.

“In the meantime, I shall continue to devote the rest of my term as congressman and dedicate by 25 years of public service to our countrymen,” he added.

Objective

In an interview, Cuenco said that he will use his new post to entice investors from the Aipa member-nations to invest in the South Road Properties (SRP).

“Mo-attract ko’g mga negosyante nga mo-invest sa syudad sa Sugbo,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

He said he also spoke with Mayor Tomas Osmeña and both of them agreed to try to convince the Aipa hierarchy to transfer its headquarters to the SRP.

The mayor is currently in the United States for his regular checkup following the removal of his urinary bladder last year because of cancer.

Asean goals

Formed in September 1977, the Aipa (formerly the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Organization) aims to “significantly contribute to the attainment of the goals and aspirations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) through inter-parliamentary cooperation.”

It is composed of the parliaments of Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei Darus-salam,

and Union of Myan-mar.

Its partners are the parliaments of Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation, and the European Parliament.

The 31st Aipa is the country’s turn to appoint the secretary general of the Permanent Secretariat, whose office is in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Delegate

House of Representatives Speaker Prospero Nograles, in a letter to Vietnamese Aipa president Nguyen Phu Trong dated Jan. 18, appointed Cuenco, House chairman of the committee on foreign affairs.

“Congressman Cuenco is a leading expert of the House of Representatives in Aipa matters. He has been an active Philippine delegate as early as 1988 in the then Aipo General Assemblies,” Nograles said in his letter.

Cuenco, representing the house speaker, has been the country’s head of delegation to the previous Aipo assemblies.

Bigger pay

Aside from enjoying diplomatic immunity, Cuenco will receive a monthly compensation that he said is a lot bigger than that of an ambassador.

“Dili pa ko mogasto, makauli pa ko anytime sa Sugbo (I don’t spend and I can always come home to Cebu),” he said.

His appointment does not need the concurrence of the Senate Commission of Appointment (CA), which denied him the chance to serve as the country’s envoy to Italy.

He will serve the position for three years after approval of the Aipa General Assembly in September.

Cuenco was glad that though he was denied an ambassadorship because of objections of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, an even better opportunity has been offered to him.

Blocked

Last December, the CA questioned Cuenco’s appointment as Philippine ambassador to Italy, calling it one of President Gloria Arrroyo’s “midnight appointments.”

Estrada even threatened to evoke Section 20 of the CA rules, which refers to the veto power of each member of the powerful body.

All CA members must approve of a candidate to the foreign service before the nomination is discussed in the Senate plenary.

Cuenco was among those who vigorously pushed for the impeachment of Jinggoy’s father, former president Joseph Estrada.