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The selfless servant

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Albert F. Del Rosario

During his tenure as the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary from 2011 to 2016, Albert F. del Rosario exemplified a strong patriotism beyond the call of duty. With great passion and discipline, he defended the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, and worked persistently in ensuring the welfare and security of the Filipinos all over the world. At present, although he is no longer holding a public post, Mr. del Rosario behaves as one of the vocal critics of the current administration, speaking on behalf of the Filipino people.

Before holding a government position, Mr. del Rosario had an eventful journey. Born in Manila on Nov. 14, 1939, the now 79-year-old patriot finished his elementary and high school education in New York City. He earned an undergraduate degree in Economics from New York University, attending school at night and having three jobs during the day and weekends to fund his four years of college.

In a previous interview with BusinessWorld, Mr. del Rosario shared that he decided to take up a degree in Economics as he thought it is an excellent course to understand business and market dynamics. He added that he did not pursue higher studies as he started a family at an early stage, where he was married to Gretchen de Venecia, with whom he has five children.

Mr. del Rosario has an expansive experience in the private sector, holding top level positions in various companies that cut across different industries, including insurance, banking, real estate, shipping, telecommunications, consumer products, retail, pharmaceutical and food industries.

Some of the most significant accomplishments Mr. del Rosario achieved when he was in the private sector, according to him, were: the establishment of Gotuaco, Del Rosario and Associates (GRA), a leading professional insurance broking and consulting firm in the country today; the development of the Pacific Plaza Towers in Taguig City and the Pacific Plaza in Makati City with Metro Pacific Investments Corporation; and the opportunity to serve on the boards of various companies of the First Pacific Company Ltd. and the Salim Group.

From the private sector, Mr. del Rosario’s foray into public service started when former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed him as the Philippine Ambassador to the United States (US) in 2001.

Being in public service was not what Mr. del Rosario had in mind. “It was an unplanned endeavor. Once asked, however, it was an honor to accept the opportunity to serve one’s country,” he said.

Within five years of his tenure, Mr. del Rosario was instrumental in securing $1.2-billion assistance in grant from the US, realizing investments in the country’s business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, and acquiring broader access for Philippine exports.

He also led the formation of the Philippines-US Friendship Caucus, and the successful launch of a challenge to the decision of the California Public Employees Retirement System (calPERS) to delist the Philippines from its approved investment locations.

Moreover, Mr. del Rosario lobbied before the US Congress not to prejudice the Philippine canned tuna industry, undertook efforts to realize major benefits for Filipino and Filipino-American veterans, and pioneered the Annual Ambassadors/Consuls General Tour (ACGT) of the Philippines.

In 2016, Mr. del Rosario was forced to step down from his post due to conflicting viewpoints with the Arroyo government. “I will never forget that I was fired for refusing to support the plan to lift the writ of habeas corpus and to declare emergency rule — but reflecting on it, being shown the door was a good way to go,” he said.

It took several years before Mr. del Rosario went back to the government when former President Benigno C. Aquino III appointed him as DFA Secretary in 2011.

“It was truly a distinct honor and privilege to serve the country under President Aquino’s leadership,” Mr. del Rosario said, who, however, confessed that the demands of the job were complex, daunting, and exponential. “We were, at most times, short of sleep,” he added.

Throughout his journey as chief of foreign affairs, Mr. del Rosario was recognized for bringing dynamism to the DFA. He pursued a foreign policy that is independent, principled, and based on the rule of law.

In terms of economic diplomacy, a total of 205 economic agreements were signed during his time, covering labor, trade, education, tourism and air services. In addition, the country had four rounds of negotiations on the Philippines-Europe Free Trade Association (EFTA) Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

On advancing national security, Mr. del Rosario made the West Philippine Sea issue a foreign policy priority. He pushed for the primacy of the rule of law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and for the peaceful settlement of disputes. 

Mr. del Rosario also showed an incredible bravery in protecting the lives of Filipinos abroad. Barely two days of being sworn into office, Mr. del Rosario traveled to Libya to extricate some 400 overseas Filipinos out of the war-torn city and bring them into the Libyan-Tunisian border. He risked his personal life several times thereafter, leading more repatriations of over 24,000 Filipinos in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Egypt. From 2011 to 2015, the DFA had the chance to extend assistance to over 80,000 overseas Filipinos and members of their families.

Moreover, Mr. del Rosario embarked on and pursued a  carefully thought-out DFA transformation program which includes restoring morale by further strengthening the career service corps; upgrading economic diplomacy skills through a partnership with Asian Institute of Management; placing merit over seniority in the career advancement process; rationalizing Philippine presence overseas and reallocating resources where these are most needed; bringing cost-effective consular services closer to the public by moving DFA offices to major shopping centers; and encouraging all foreign service personnel to reach beyond their grasp and promote national interest at all times, among others.

Albert F. del Rosario with his family

After 10 years of serving the country and the Filipino people as the Philippine Ambassador to the US and as the Secretary of the DFA, Mr. del Rosario has found his steps back to the private sector.

He returned full-time to being an insurance broker in GRA, the firm he founded, together with Lawrence J. Gotuaco, over 50 years ago. He also continues to chair the Stratbase ADR Institute, an independent international and strategic research organization with the principal goal of addressing the issues affecting the Philippines and East Asia.

“As chair of ADR Institute, I strive to speak for our people — especially for those who cannot speak on matters of national interest. My call is for our people to speak with one voice in promoting our demographic values and enhancing our advocacy for the rule of law,” Mr. del Rosario told BusinessWorld in a recent interview.

Mr. del Rosario is also back to serving the boards of various companies, including the First Pacific Company Ltd.; PLDT, Inc.; MPIC; and Rockwell Land Corp.

He is also once again involved in promoting social and civic causes by being on the board of trustees of the Philippine Cancer Society, chair of the Citizens Fund for Human Rights, and senior advisor of the Metrobank Foundation, Inc.

Currently, Mr. del Rosario endeavors to spend much of his time being with his family, especially his six grandchildren. — Mark Louis F. Ferrolino