DOF's Karl Chua is new NEDA chief as Ernesto Pernia resigns​

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National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Ernesto Pernia (L) and Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua (R)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 17) — ​Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua has been named the acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary ​following the sudden resignation of Ernesto Pernia, Malacañang announced Friday.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said President Rodrigo Duterte accepted Pernia's resignation and named Chua as his replacement. Pernia was a member of the inter-agency task force crafting policies to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, Pernia said he chose to leave his post due to personal reasons as well as "differences in development philosophy with a few of my fellow Cabinet members."

The 76-year-old Cabinet official recently joined the government’s inter-agency body and has been tasked to lead the crafting of policies defining the "new normal" amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Some members of the Cabinet have been calling to slowly relax the strict enhanced community quarantine after April 30, citing the need to revive economic activity.

READ: Policymakers plot moves for economy in COVID-19 aftermath

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A seasoned economist and professor, Pernia was appointed as NEDA chief in July 2016 when President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office. He said his decision came after consultations with family and colleagues as well as some "reflection" during Holy Week. He holds a doctorate degree in Economic Demography from the University of California, Berkeley and was once lead economist of the Asian Development Bank.

Pernia led the NEDA for almost four years. Among its attached agencies include the Philippine Statistics Authority, which also handles the creation of the national ID system. Some lawmakers have recently questioned delays in rolling out the project, which they said would make it easier for government to hand out cash aid to poor families and displaced workers.

In March, NEDA was first to acknowledge that growth may contract this year due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

Under Pernia's watch, NEDA also batted for "widespread" testing for COVID-19, saying it was the key to a successful medical response. 

Meanwhile, Chua served as the chief economist of the Department of Finance since mid-2016 after leaving his post as a World Bank economist to join government. He is mainly known for lobbying for the passage of the government's tax reform programs in Congress, particularly the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law which reduced the personal income tax rates for most Filipinos but raised duties on oil, cars, and sugary drinks.

Chua has a doctorate degree from the University of the Philippines School of Economics. His appointment still needs to be confirmed by members of Congress through the Commission on Appointments.

Several lawmakers found Chua as the right man for the job.

Senator Sonny Angara, also an economist who once headed the chamber's Ways and Means Committee, said Chua is "very bright and has integrity."

Albay Representative Joey Salceda said separately that Chua's appointment would signal "that government's economic response will be robust and strategic." Fellow Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman also had kind words for Pernia, saying it was a "bold and justified resignation."

"He is among the last, if not the only remaining, independent-minded Duterte Cabinet member," Lagman added.