(The Epoch Times) The Philippines’ newly-elected president Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has selected a retired general and former military chief to serve as the next defense minister, press secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said on June 17.
Former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Jose Faustino would serve as senior undersecretary and officer-in-charge of the National Defense Department in an interim arrangement, according to local reports.
Cruz-Angeles said that Faustino would assume the role of defense secretary on Nov. 13, based on a rule prohibiting military officers from taking up ministerial positions for a year after retirement.
“Faustino’s situation was similar to current Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Ano’s case, whom President Duterte designated as officer-in-charge but later assumed the secretary position once the appointment ban lapsed,” she said.
Before he was appointed AFP chief of staff, Faustino served as the commander of the Joint Task Force Mindanao and the commanding general of the Philippine Army.
Cruz-Angeles described him as a “well-respected Mindanao veteran who has served under the special forces, infantry, and intelligence posts.”
Incumbent Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that he was confident with Faustino’s capability to lead the defense department and that he looks forward to working with him in the transition period until June 30, the Philippine News Agency reported.
“I am confident that with his years of dedicated service as a military officer, general Faustino will continue the Department’s momentum in our internal security and external defense operations, as well as the modernization of the armed forces and the entire defense organization,” he said.
The new defense minister is expected to strike a balance between the United States, a treaty ally of the Philippines, and China, which has been growing its military presence in the disputed South China Sea.
Beijing claims much of the South China Sea as its own under its so-called “nine-dash line.” The Hague Tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines in 2016. However, it has had little to no impact on the Chinese regime’s behavior, with Beijing repeatedly intruding into Manila’s territorial zones.
Faustino was the 10th military chief to serve under outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, leading the 143,000-strong military for four months last year.
Relations between the United States and its former Asian colony have been complicated under Duterte, who has criticized U.S. foreign policy and sought closer ties with China since coming to power in 2016.
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