MANILA – Malacañang on Tuesday said it was not privy to the alleged plan of President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the next head of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

“Wala po akong balita tungkol diyan sa bagay na iyan. At kung meron man ay ipapaalam ko sa sambayanan (I have no knowledge about that alleged plan. And if I know about it, I will tell the public),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual press briefing.

Roque issued the statement in reaction to a newspaper report that Duterte would name Arroyo as the next NEDA chief.

Arroyo’s new role was supposed to be announced during Duterte’s fifth and penultimate State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, according to a report by local news firm, The Daily Tribune.

Duterte, however, made no mention about his supposed plan to tap Arroyo as the new head of NEDA when he delivered his SONA at the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City.

Arroyo, in an interview with The Daily Tribune, refused to confirm nor deny the report.

Roque advised the public to just await the possible announcement from Malacañang if there is any.

“Ang sabi ay iaanunsiyo daw kahapon sa SONA. Hindi po nangyari. So hayaan na po natin iyang issue na iyan (The report claimed [Arroyo’s new appointment] would be announced during yesterday’s SONA. It did not happen. So just let it pass),” he said.

In April, Duterte named Karl Kendrick Chua as acting secretary of NEDA.

Chua’s appointment came after Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia resigned due to “personal reasons” and “differences in development philosophy with a few of (his) fellow Cabinet members.”

Taking the lead in crafting a national recovery plan after the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic and fast-tracking the implementation of Republic Act 11055 or the Philippine Identification System are among Duterte’s marching orders to Chua. (PNA)