MANILA – The new Cabinet team of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has officially started office Tuesday by joining the 45th Neda Board meeting at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room in Malacanang.

Before the Cabinet meeting started, new Department of Trade and Industry secretary Jesli Lapus and Department of Education acting chief Mona Valisno formally took their oath of office before the President and the entire Cabinet.

Among the seven new appointees of the President who started office Tuesday were Transportation and Communication Secretary Leandro Mendoza as new Executive Secretary replacing Eduardo Ermita; Office of the Government Corporate Counsel head Alberto Agra as Justice Secretary replacing Agnes Devanadera; former Undersecretary Bernie Fondevilla vice Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap; former Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) Administrator Ma. Elena Bautista replacing Presidential Management Staff (PMS) director general Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr.; Tesda deputy director general for fields operation Rogelio Peyuan vice Tesda director general Secretary Augusto Syjuco; deputy executive secretary Joaquin Lagonera replacing Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr.; and deputy executive secretary Natividad Dizon vice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, the President’s chief presidential legal counsel.

Ermita tendered resignation to run for a congressional seat in his hometown of Batangas, Devanadera is eyeing for a congressional seat in Quezon province while Esperon is running as a representative of a district in Pangasinan. Yap is seeking to be a representative of Bohol.

Syjuco and Andaya are also vying for congressional seats in their respective provinces of Iloilo and Camarines Sur while Gonzalez is running for mayor in Iloilo City.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Gary Olivar said that the members of the so-called transition government will ensure the continuity of government services and policies of the administration until the end of Arroyo’s term.

“Most of the new Cabinet members are in fact deeply experienced public servants,” Olivar said. “So the agenda is in no way interrupted. In fact the policies and programs of the administration were set a long time ago and will continue to be carried out with vigor by the president’s men and women.”

Meanwhile, the turnover of newly-appointed Armed Forces Chief Delfin Bangit will be held on Wednesday at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. (Jill Beltran/Sunnex)