Davao City’s top councilor takes oath as MinDA chair

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 14 January) – Davao City Councilor Maria Belen “Mabel” Sunga-Acosta took her oath Thursday as the new chair of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA). 

The six-term councilor and former broadcast journalist at ABS-CBN Davao, took her oath before Judge Janice Celestial on Thursday afternoon. 

Acosta, a consistent topnotcher in the council race, succeeds former Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol who served as MinDA chair from August 18, 2019 until he resigned effective October 5, 2021 to run for a Senate seat in the May 2022 polls.

Maria Belen “Mabel” Sunga Acosta takes her oath as the new chair of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) tobefore Judge Janice Celestial on Thursday afternoon, January 13. Beside her is her husband, pilot Reynaldo Acosta. Photo courtesy of Team Acosta

She is the fifth MinDA chair after Jesus Dureza under the Arroyo administration, Luwalhati Antonino under the Aquino administration and Abulkhayr Alonto under the Duterte administration. Alonto died on May 9, 2019 and was replaced by Pinol. 

The term of office of the MinDA chair is six years, as mandated by Republic Act 9996.

RA 9996 created MinDA to “promote, coordinate and facilitate the active and extensive participation of all sectors to effect the socioeconomic development of Mindanao” and to promote the “active participation of Mindanao and Palawan” in the Brunei-Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area.

The MinDA chair holds a Cabinet rank and serves as the Philippine Senior Official for BIMP-EAGA and ex officio member of the National Economic Development Authority Board and the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority Board.

Acosta was co-hosting “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa,” the Sunday television program over ABS-CBN Davao of then 1st district Rep. Rodrigo Duterte (after serving as mayor from 1988 to 1998) when he urged  her on the show to run for a seat in the City Council as she was sure to win.

Acosta topped the Council race in the six elections she participated in. She served as councilor for three terms from 2001 to 2010, returned to the City Council in 2013, was reelected in 2016 and reelected in 2019.  She is supposed to complete her second three-term stint on June 30, 2022 but her appointment as MinDA chair cut short that stint. 

She  delivered a privilege speech at the City Council on January 11, where she announced having received her appointment papers as MinDA chair on January 7, and her resignation as Councilor. 

“May I formally inform the City Council, and the constituents of Davao City whom I represent, that I have received my appointment as Chairperson of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) last Friday, January 7, 2022,” she told her colleagues at the City Council. 

“It is with sadness that I hereby tender my resignation as Councilor of the 1st Congressional District of Davao City, as after all, the Council has been my second home for quite a time. But in the same breath, it is also with high hopes that as I leave these august chambers, I bring with me a wealth of wisdom and experience acquired during my service to the people of Davao City, which would be beneficial to the people of Mindanao,” she said. 

Acosta nominated her daughter Luna as her successor in the Council. She said she had sent a letter to Mayor Sara Duterte, who heads Hugpong ng Pagbabago, for Luna to assume as 1st district Councilor in her stead. 

Luna, a Law graduate who is taking the bar this month, is a candidate for councilor of the 1st district. 

Acosta paid a courtesy call on President Duterte also on January 11 and will report to work as MinDA chair on Monday, January 17. 

Maria Belen “Mabel” Sunga-Acosta, accompanied by her husband, Reynaldo, pays a courtesy call on President Rodrigo Duterte who appointed her as new chair of the Mindanao Development Authority. Duterte urged Acosta to run for councilor. She was elected six times and consistently topped the council race. With Duterte is Senator Bong Go. Photo courtesy of Team Acosta

Acosta finished her AB Communication degree, major in Communication Research, at the University of the Philippines in Diliman in 1988 and her Master in Management – Major in Development Communication at UP Mindanao School of Management here in 2002. 

She taught at UP Mindanao’s School of Management as instructor from 2003 to 2004 and  as Senior Lecturer from 2017 to 2021. She also taught at San Pedro College here from 1987 to 1988, was instructor at the Ateneo de Davao University from April to October 1988 and at  San Sebastian College in Manila from 1993 to 1995. 

She was anchor of  “Mabel At Your Service” from 2001 to 2010; was host and account executive of ABS-CBN Davao from 1995 to 2001, broadcast journalist from 1989 to 1990 in the same station; and was production coordinator from May to October 1986 at RPN9 and Entertainment Unlimited.\\

Unable to run for Councilor in 2010 because of term limits, Acosta served as Head of Delegation or National Leader for the 39th Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program, took and passed the first Real Estate Broker Examination, and also became an Alumna of the US State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)