March 09, 2017 – Press Briefing byPresidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Executive Director Ferdinand A. Pecson Public-Private Partnership Center
|Press Briefing byPresidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Executive Director Ferdinand A. Pecson Public-Private Partnership Center|
|Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building, Malacañang|
|09 March 2017|
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. This morning we are pleased to have the Executive Director of the Public-Private Partnership Center of the Philippines or the PPP Center, Dr. Ferdinand A. Pecson.
Before joining the PPP Center, he worked at FLSmidth A/S as Performance Director and Executive team member leading the O&M business in Africa and the Middle East.
He has previously worked with Holcim Philippines, Deere & Co., PricewaterhouseCoopers, Bacnotan Consolidated Industries, Solid Cement, PHINMA, and the University of the Philippines.
He’s extremely well qualified. He has a PhD in Energy Engineering from the University of the Philippines under the joint program with University of Wisconsin, Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of the Philippines, and so on. Extremely gifted.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, let us all give a warm welcome to Executive Director Ferdinand Pecson.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PECSON: Maraming salamat po, Presidential Spokesperson Abella for inviting the PPP Center to present what is going on and what is in store for PPP projects.
And also, I’d like to thank the Press Corps for joining us here and giving us a chance also to interact with you.
We are here to share with you updates on the Philippine Public-Private Partnership program.
The Duterte administration aims to address the infrastructure requirements of the Philippines through accelerating the country’s annual infrastructure spending to account for at least five percent of the gross domestic product, with public-private partnerships playing a key role.
The recent pronouncement of the President identifying infrastructure and logistics including local government units, public-private partnerships as preferred activities for investment under the 2017 Investment Priority Plan bodes well for our continuing efforts to power up the implementation of PPP across the country.
Currently, the Philippine PPP program has 50 projects in the pipeline worth 472.9 billion pesos.
Of these 50 projects, four have already been completed. These projects are the Muntinlupa-Cavite Expressway, the NAIA Expressway, and the Automated Fare Collection System or popularly known as the Beep Card.
These are transportation projects that have helped ease the traffic situation in Metro Manila — although I should say that it’s not yet fully solved — and made travel faster and more efficient to both commuters and motorists.
The last completed project is the Department of Education’s Phase 1 of the PPP for school buildings and infrastructure project, 9,266 classrooms are constructed benefitting an approximately half a million students in the Ilocos, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon regions.
We have seven PPP projects simultaneously being built by our private partners. Four are transportation projects. We have a very successful Mactan-Cebu International Airport where a new passenger terminal is being constructed and is now 44 percent complete.
Construction of MRT-7 and Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 is also ongoing. These will benefit millions of commuters and motorists. Another project that will help address our transportation challenges is the Southwest Integrated Transport System. This project is located within a 4.59-hectare land of the Philippine Reclamation Authority along the Manila-Cavite Expressway.
Commuters will be treated to a centralized transport terminal where they can easily transfer to their preferred destinations within and outside Metro Manila.
Other PPP projects under construction include the Bulacan Bulk Water System that will provide treated water to the province’s water districts and have them meet the increasing demands of their customers.
The good news is that the project was recently shortlisted for Water Deal of the Year of the Global Water Awards sponsored by the UK-based business magazine Global Water Intelligence.
Still, another project is the computerization of the Civil Registry System of the Philippine Statistics Authority. This will make the access of Civil Registry Documents easier and faster for our citizens.
The PSA recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for the facility last February 27. The Phase 2 of the PPP for school building infrastructure project is now 66 percent complete with over 4,000 constructions to be constructed to benefit 1,895 public schools in Regions 1, 2, 3, 10, CAR, and the Caraga.
Meanwhile, we have four other transportation projects that are in different stages of pre-construction activities. These are the LRT Line 1 Cavite Extension, the Cavite Laguna Expressway, South Integrated Transport System, and the NLEX-SLEX Connector Road.
On February 6, the DoTr and private partner Light Rail Manila Consortium inaugurated the newly-upgraded Doroteo Jose LRT station.
Together with the implementing agencies, we are working vigorously to fast track the bidding of nine PPP projects.
We have the regional airports. There are five of them: Davao, Iloilo, Laguindingan in Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod, and New Bohol Panglao that we have unbundled into five individual projects.
With the unbundling of these airports, we are very optimistic that more and local international players will participate in these projects.
Their Invitation to Bid has been published or to pre-qualify, sorry, Pre-qualify and Bid has been published last January 4 for new prospective bidders.
The DoTr will conduct the prequalification
conference on March 13.
Another PPP project under procurement is the Regional Prison Facilities of the Department of Justice. The bid submission is scheduled on April 2017.
A modern prison facility will be constructed in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija to provide our inmates at the existing penal facilities such as the New Bilibid Prison and the correctional institution for women — humane living conditions from what they are experiencing today and help them undergo complete rehabilitation.
We are also excited to share with you the Nayong Pilipino Foundation — that the Nayong Pilipino Foundation just recently had a successful investors conference on February 9 for the new Nayong Pilipino Entertainment City project. Foreign and local developers expressed high interest in this first PPP tourism project.
There are also PPP projects that are under review by implementing agencies. These are the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project, the LRT Line 6, NAIA PPP, North-South Rail Project South Line, Batangas-Manila Natural Gas Pipeline Project, and the Davao Sasa Port Modernization Project.
So by review what we mean is that these agencies are now looking at the best way forward for these projects.
One important work that we are also doing today is improving the policy framework for PPPs. Aside from working on getting the PPP pipeline moving in the projects tendered, the Center is actively pursuing various policy initiatives that will create a more attractive PPP environment for investors and we are streamlining our processes to make PPP procurement more nimble and responsive.
The PPP Center acts as the Secretary of the PPP governing board which is the overall policy-making body for all PPP related matters.
This is chaired by the various national government agencies. The board is responsible in setting the strategic direction of the Philippine PPP program and creating an enabling policy and institutional environment for PPPs.
Under the Duterte administration, unsolicited PPP projects are getting the support and attention from the government as an option to address the current infrastructure gap.
The Center recently drafted the guidelines for unsolicited proposals, defining the roles of different government agencies in the unsolicited proposal process the standards on how projects will be evaluated.
We are also considering hybrid PPPs where the government can construct the facility through the official development assistance or ODA, or government budget under the General Appropriations Act.
The private sectors’ expertise and efficiencies can then be tapped through bidding out the operation and maintenance under the PPP scheme.
We are now also guided by the direction that bid parameters should focus more on lowest user fees compared to having substantial upfront payment from bidders.
Something that I also like to mention to you is that the Center also worked with the Philippine Stock Exchange and the Securities and Exchange Commission which resulted in the development of the supplemental listing and disclosure rules applicable to a PPP company.
Through these new guidelines, PPP companies will be able to tap the capital market, especially for used projects that need vast amounts of money to fund it.
This is significant as we are approaching the point where our banks’ absorptive capacity will not be able to realize these needs.
Lastly, we are setting our sites on empowering our local government units to undertake their own PPP projects by
arming them with the right tools and capabilities.
We have been going around the country, building the competencies of our LGUs through providing them the technical expertise and proficiencies to identify and successfully implement their own PPP projects.
Recently, we have partnered with the Mindanao Development Authority, the Department of Interior and Local Government, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines to further promote economic development through local PPPs.
The Philippine PPP program is a work in progress. It’s gone a long way and has been quite successful in implementing infrastructure projects that highly benefit our people.
But there is still a lot of room for improvement and things to do. The PPP Center, implementing agencies, stakeholders and development partners are committed to continuously work towards a more improved PPP program.
Together, we will see the success of these PPP projects and how these will significantly contribute to our nation’s progress.
Indeed, we assure the Filipino people, tayo po ay sulit na sulit sa PPP.
Maraming salamat po.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Rocky Ignacio (PTV 4): Sir, when you say improving mechanism or policy framework, do you consider it like ‘yung the President, ayaw niya ng graft and corruption, naka-ano ba ‘yun doon, sir?
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PECSON: Yes, that is also… Of course, what we need to safeguard against and the PPP process from the very beginning has been really designed to be fair, to be competitive, to be transparent.
And in the case of unsolicited proposals, one of the reforms we are proposing would be to extend the period for the Swiss challenge so that those who would like to challenge the original proponent would be given more time to prepare a good challenge.
So that will also enhance the competition, which is — where value for money is realized in PPPs.
Leila Salaverria (The Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good afternoon. Sir, I understand the SSS is also looking to be involved in PPP projects. Are there actual — particular projects that it has entered?
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PECSON: Yes, we have met actually with Chairman Valdez of the SSS.
We had volunteered to meet with him because we learned that SSS is very much interested in investing its funds in PPP.
So in that meeting, we explained to them how PPP works. And also, of course, apart from learning about the fact that it is an investment opportunity, that there also comes with that kind of investment risk that they have to also be cognizant of.
And as they evaluate each project that they will invest on, then that they have to make sure that there is a good balance between opportunity and risk.
And out of that meeting, we have also agreed to have a workshop and we are being helped there by the US Department of Treasury.
It’s a workshop on project finance so that they — SSS managers would be able to understand better how project finance works in the context of PPP.
There is yet no project, single project being identified but there is actually another way for SSS to invest and it is an ongoing project of the PPP Center together with the PDS, the Philippine Dealing System.
So to expand the capital market is by way of offering infrastructure bonds. So when you have infrastructure bonds, then pension funds, insurance companies can buy those bonds to — also as a way to have a more dy —[sorry], a more…
Or what I’m trying to say is when you have bonds like those, they go through a scrutiny by ratings agencies.
Very, very tight, due diligence, and therefore, they can depend also on those agencies’ ratings companies to give them the benefit of a rigorous assessment of whether such a bond is worth investing in or not.
Benjie Liwanag (DZBB): Sir, with — good afternoon. With the investments coming from China, they’re already coordinating with you? With the PPP?
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PECSON: It is mainly coordinated with NEDA.
Mr. Liwanag: It’s NEDA?
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PECSON: Yes.
Mr. Liwanag: So the PPP has no part on this with China’s projects?
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PECSON: Yes. We don’t have a direct role at the moment but we also understand that Chinese companies, private companies, are also interested in PPPs.
So we are… We could say, as we are not directly in contact with them yet, although some of them have actually visited us already. One of them, in fact, even expressed interest in the regional prisons project.
So if ever we would be playing a role in terms of investments from China would be through the private investors that would participate.
Mr. Liwanag: Can you name some of the investors that would be coming here, the Philippines? Do we already have a list?
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PECSON: Yes. Well, unfortunately, I don’t remember the names. But one company, for example, was keen to establish a — like an integrated city where you have factories, where you have services, where you have schools and then where you have residential areas.
So I think this is a model that is happening in China and they are looking for locations in the Philippines where they can partner with government agencies to establish such projects.
Then the other one that I mentioned to you was they were inquisitive about the regional prisons project.
Mr. Liwanag: Thank you very much, sir.
Q: [off mic]
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PECSON: I’m sorry. Who was asking? Ah okay. So, I’m reminded to talk about the delays of these projects. So let me first explain to you that the… What we go through when we deliver a PPP project.
So there’s a development part, project development, then, there is the approval part, then, there is the procurement part, and finally, the implementation part.
So let me talk of delays in each of those sub-processes. So in the project preparation part, what does that mean? So project preparation means we need to come up with a project that is, first of all, economically viable.
So that means that government investing its resources in a project with all the cost entailed, this has better…This should really provide the benefits that would more than compensate for whatever cost that would come in. So here, we’re talking about socioeconomic benefits and socioeconomic cost.
So… Then the next thing that we need to look at is if it is a PPP project, okay, we need to consider that this will be a partnership between the government and the private sector, agreeing to undertake the delivery of an infrastructure.
So in that arrangement, there will be risks that have to be managed. So each party will have its own set of obligations. The party that is best able to handle a particular risk will be given or in the content will be allocated that risk.
So allocation of risk don’t implies that the party will have to take measures to prevent the risk from being realized.
And there are quite a number of risks starting from, let’s say if the site, let’s say has some technical problems, if the delivery of the right of way will be delayed, if permits will not arrive on time.
Or let’s say if construction cost would go up. What if, let’s say, the price of inputs to the construction would go up, who would absorb those risks? If the foreign exchange rate would go up or change unfavorably versus the peso, who would absorb that risk?
So all of these risks have then to be discussed and the PPP Center has — together with especially with the Department of Finance, come up with a risk allocation matrix.
What… That spells out what would be the preferred allocation of risk between government and the private sector.
So in the end, we need to have a project that is not only economically viable, it should be a project that is financially viable, that means investors will actually willing to invest; and should be a project that lenders would be willing to lend money to. So they will be very particular about risks, how risks will be managed.
We need to manage the fiscal impact to the government, not just the image and fiscal impact, but the future impact in terms of contingent liabilities.
We need also to make sure that those contingent liabilities would be managed well. So in short, what I’m telling you is there is, it’s not a straightforward process.
It is, in fact, iterated because the structuring of a project will have to consider stakeholder inputs, will have to consider legal implications and other inputs. Even the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in fact, is included.
So come up with a project that the public will accept and that will succeed in terms of being able to attract investors.
So that is why that particular process takes quite a bit of time, it takes about eight months at least to get that process happening and completed.
Then the approval process, I am very glad to tell you is now much shorter than before. The President is impatient and, in fact, the message we are getting from him is that, he is more concerned with the results, rather than cropping up with a lot of documents being submitted to him.
So that in the last NEDA Board meetings 2016, very quickly quite a number of projects were approved.
Procurement. What is going on with procurement? So the parts that are — that takes time here in procurement would be the contracts.
When we have to now come up with the contracts with all the stipulations, with all the provisions, making sure that we have the safeguards, making sure that the interest of the government are protected.
So parties involved here would be the Department of Justice, the Department of Finance would also be involved, of course the Department of Transportation or the Department of Public Highways, depending on who has their contract would also, of course be there, the key player.
But the point here is that because we are talking of obligations, we are talking about risks, we are talking about contingent liabilities that we are really quite careful in making sure that it is a contract that everyone would accept.
And because we are talking of billions and billions of pesos of investments, some could — the five regional airport projects are 105 billion pesos, for example, that investors would have to be exercising due diligence.
So that takes time. They would have to go to the sites, they would have to look at records, they would have to be convinced that this is a project worth investing in.
And, therefore, there is also a lot of interaction that happens between us and the private sectors to get them at ease about the concerns and issues that they might have.
So and then, of course, then they have to prepare their proposals, so that takes time as well. They have to get other investors, they normally, because of the magnitude of these projects, they have to form consortia and they have to look for partners that would build the infrastructure, that would operate and maintain the infrastructure. These all take time.
And once the proposals are in the process, would happen much faster and the next stage would be, of course, the implementation.
Now, we get to other forms of potential delays. It has been a practice that we sign contracts and deal with right of way issues later on.
This has been the number one cause of delay of infrastructure projects where delivery of right of way doesn’t happen according to planned milestones or times. And, therefore, projects simply don’t start until those right of ways are delivered.
Nevertheless, we are being helped now with the new law on the right of way, which has changed the formulas where compensation of parties that are at the end of expropriation.
And I hear about also initiatives from the Department of Interior and Local Government where they are working towards the informal settlers. Now, we are talking about another type of right of way issue, informal settlers.
Forming cooperatives or forming associations so that they have a stake also or a say in the relocation process. I think this is a good way to approach this because the resistance to being relocated is one of the main issues and having them engaged in the process will greatly facilitate the process.
The issuance of permits also is a quite often a cause for delay. And you’ve heard also about the issues with TROs or temporary restraining orders.
So that, I should say, in a nutshell, looking at the different processes where the bottlenecks are — which part of these processes are taking the longest time and why delays are happening.
So we in the PPP Center, what we see in terms of how we can address these delays would be one, better planning. So if we are able to plan out the projects much better. If let’s say the interconnectivity between different infrastructure projects are already identified early on, if the alignment has already been established, then we would minimize problems happening later on after signing of the contracts.
So improvement in planning meaning not just the PPP Center. I’m referring, in fact, to the agencies that conceptualized these projects and working with the other agencies that they have to work with and also especially with NEDA.
The other one is having more resources on the bottlenecks. So we are talking about let’s say the procurement process and when you have a lot of projects…
And now we are talking not just of PPP. We are talking also of conventional and PPP projects to bid out.
So you need resources to get this process moving more quickly and this is an issue that we hope would be addressed by the agencies concerned.
So that is what I can mention for the time being so far as delays are concerned.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: All right. Okay. We have some updates.
Australian firms favor the Philippines as BPO destination.
The Philippines is preferred by most Australian firms as business process outsourcing (BPO) destination in the region according to a study entitled, “Australian SME micro-offshoring in the Philippines.” It was done by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).
Former PIDS visiting research fellow Peter K. Ross and businessman Mike O’Hagan explained that favorable geographical time zone, highly literate workforce and competitive labor rates are factors that Australian firms see advantageous in doing business in the Philippines.
Also, we take note of five Chinese investors showing interest in investing in the Philippines.
The Department of Trade and Industry received the Letters of Intent from five Chinese firms which showed their interest in doing business in the Philippines. These are Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) International Aero-development Corporation, Liaoning Bora Enterprise Group Co., Huili Investment Fund Management, Dalian Wanyang Heavy Industries, and YiDingTai International.
These investments would generate a total of 15,500 jobs for Filipinos by 2022 in industries such as aviation, oil downstream, renewable energy, iron and steel, and shipbuilding and ship repair.
We are open for a few questions.
Joseph Morong (GMA-7): Sir, you said that the President has appointed an acting Secretary for the DFA —
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes.
Mr. Morong: Why only an acting Secretary?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: [laughs] He…Well, there will be… He is waiting on his…The action is to keep him…Let me just read the statement, all right and then we’ll explain, all right.
He will hold the position until the President appoints a new secretary, all right. In the meantime, Usec. Manalo is an excellent transition man and he’s been on top of many crucial issues together with Atty. Perfecto Yasay.
Mr. Morong: Is he waiting on somebody, sir, to fill in the post permanently?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s just say that he is waiting to…We are assuming that he is waiting on making his own appointment.
Mr. Morong: Sir, iyon bang kay Senator Cayetano, naipangako na talaga ‘yung post?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t have any opinions regarding the matter. Thank you. Next.
Maricel Halili (TV-5): Sir, just a follow up. Ano ‘yung chances that the President will appoint Secretary Perfecto Yasay to other government positions?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That was not discussed yet. So, that is the President’s prerogative.
Ms. Halili: But is he open to that idea?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Which?
Ms. Halili: The President — of appointing Yasay to other positions?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It hasn’t been discussed. That is an option if he chooses to.
Ms. Halili: Thank you, sir.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Sure.
Reymund Tinaza (Bombo Radyo): Sir, after threatening from their chairmanship and deputy speakership, Congressman or House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez again threatened the Supreme Court if they release or come out with a TRO against the death penalty bill or death penalty revival law, he will move for their ouster or impeachment. Do you think this — your ally — do you think this bullying and threat necessary to this process?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s let him do the process himself, okay. Let’s let him do — follow up whatever he chooses to do so.
Mr. Tinaza: Thank you, sir.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Thank you. Yes, Mr. Ganibe?
Ms. Salaverria: Good afternoon. Sir, there’s a report that the NPA ambushed four policemen who died, how do you see this affecting efforts to revive the peace talks between the government and Communist rebels?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, the President has actually laid down some conditionalities. Well, basically, some things that he would like — he would like the CNN, not you, [laughs] the CPP-NPA-NDF, to abide by, for example, that they should stop extortion and that there should be a bilateral ceasefire.
In other words that they should also cease — cease action. That they should, in fact, take it upon themselves to be responsible for their own people and also to release prisoners.
So this is part of the — part of the expectations of the President regarding the matter. So how it would affect? It will provide some sort of influence but, however, there’s the bigger thing which is the pursuit of peace.
Ms. Salaverria: Sir, there is a report that the Tiamzons are involved in the backchannel talks. Would you know anything about this?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: About backchanneling or about the Tiamzons?
Ms. Salaverria: About their involvement in the backchanneling?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, I don’t have any information regarding that.
Ms. Salaverria: Thank you.
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star): If I remember right, Usec, you issued a statement previously which states that one of the things that the NPA should stop doing is staging attacks against members of the security forces. So, with this ambush, how would this impact on the possibility of the talks being resumed?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I just answered that, right?
Mr. Romero: So… We need a clearer answer.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Which is?
Mr. Romero: How will it… Will it have an effect?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I cannot quantify but I’m sure quality-wise, it will influence.
Mr. Romero: It will influence the —
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It will influence the talks that should be…You know I supposed the conversation would be that there should be firmer — firmer action coming from the CNN side on the people on the ground.
Mr. Romero: Okay, that’s clearer. Thank you.
Dexter Ganibe (DZMM): Magandang tanghali, Sec. Sir, may mga lumalabas ulit na isyu na may bago na daw NFA administrator? May bago bang pahayag ang Palasyo?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. Apparently, there is no official statement from the OES.
Mr. Ganibe: Pero meron na po, sir?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Wala po akong statement regarding that.
Mr. Ganibe: Okay, sir, two matters lang. Kahapon may meeting ang Pangulo with the Ayalas, sa Globe Telecom, may kinalaman po ba ito sa broadband — may mga detalye po bang maaari kayong isapubliko? Nandoon po kayo sa meeting?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Nandoon po ako. Basically, it was an update coming from the Ayala Corporation regarding some of their — the products that they are — especially the products they are introducing that may have an influence on the socioeconomic sectors especially their, I think, they are facilitating microfinance and medical — and medical care and attention — medical [how do you put it?] Medical supplies to the lower sectors — lower socioeconomic sectors through telcos.
Mr. Ganibe: Sir, telcos?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes.
Mr. Ganibe: Okay. Sir, second point. Ongoing ‘yung unang batch ng PSG training sa Russia. Previous administrations US madalas nagte-train sa mga PSG natin. Masusundan ba ito ng mga ibang law enforcers natin na mag-a-undergo ng training din with Russia or bilateral training something?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ano po as far as I know this is like a trial test and as far as I know also there haven’t been any official statements regarding the matter that it become an SOP — standard operating procedure. Wala po tayong official statement regarding that matter.
Mr. Ganibe: Pero ‘yung shift, sir, madalas ‘di ba nagte-train doon sa ating — ‘yung sa ating Balikatan meron tayo with the US, patungo na rin po ba tayo doon sa possible Balikatan with Russian?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Like I said po, basically, it’s a — it’s a…
At this stage, as far as I know, it’s a one-off. Okay.
Hannah Sancho (Sonshine Radio): Sir, can we get an update doon sa naging meeting ni Pangulong Duterte kina House Speaker Alvarez and Senate President Koko Pimentel?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Wala po akong ano… Wala kaming…It was a closed meeting and we don’t have any official reports on that.
Ms. Sancho: Suportado po ba ng Pangulo ‘yung —
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Alin po?
Ms. Sancho: Suportado po ba ng Pangulo ‘yung gustong…Iyong sinabi ni Alvarez, ni House Speaker Alvarez na ‘yung bumoto ng “no” sa death penalty like sina Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, tatanggalan ng posisyon?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, they are — independent po sila so whether the President supports him or not, they have the prerogative — prerogative to act independently.
Ms. Sancho: Is it possible na hihilingin ng Pangulo kay Alvarez na magkaroon ng compromise since ally pa rin naman ng Pangulo si GMA na huwag tanggalin kahit… Sinabi naman ng Pangulo nire-respeto niya si GMA kahit na…
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I cannot speculate on the matter po. Thank you.
Ms. Halili: Sir, follow up on death penalty. Is the President satisfied with the result of the death penalty?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think he has his ideas that it — he has certain ideas. But I think the — as far as I heard the explanation that there was going to be a part 2, part 3 regarding the addition of some crimes, yes.
Ms. Halili: Pero, sir, what’s the position of the President with regards to the other crimes like rape and plunder? Gusto niya ba na kasama iyon doon sa death penalty?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think he is…He had a pretty comprehensive presentation in the past that he wanted certain things — certain crimes to be addressed.
And…But I think he also understands that as far as it was explained, they passed the bill on a single issue. So he understands the process.
Ms. Halili: Sir, may we have your reaction regarding the statement of Senator Antonio Trillanes saying that the President may face impeachment around May because he committed some impeachable offense like murder when he was still the mayor of Davao?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Mr. Trillanes is prone to make such statements.
Ms. Halili: Is he not worth your time, sir?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s go on to other things. Thank you. [laughs]
Ms. Halili: Sir, just one more, sir. Sabi rin po kasi ni Senator Trillanes na meron daw 12 government officials na affiliated sa Communist group that may use their funds to beef up the rebel groups and oust the President. Is this somehow connected to the previous reports that there are destabilization plot against the administration?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: And this came from Mr. Trillanes?
Ms. Halili: Yes, sir.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. [laughs] Like I said…You know, some of his statements tend to become rather colorful, so it should be avoided.
Mr. Liwanag: Good morning, sir. Ah good afternoon. Sir, doon sa mga previous statement ni Pangulo, he was saying na may mga sisibakin siyang political or not political but Presidential appointee. Do we have an update on this?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Sibakan?
Mr. Liwanag: Opo.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Wala po akong ano…
Mr. Liwanag: Is there a shortlist already? Did he show the Cabinet a shortlist?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, he never showed the Cabinet….You know, the President keeps his—keeps his cards very close to his chest. But he is a listener, yes.
Mr. Liwanag: Thank you very much, sir.
Ms. Salaverria: Sir, going back to Mr. Yasay, how did the President take his rejection by the CA?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Frankly, I don’t have a…I don’t have his personal response or reaction to the matter. Wala po.
Mr. Ganibe: Sir, ulitin ko lang ‘yung naunang tanong ko mukhang mali yata ‘yung unang tanong ko kanina doon sa NFA.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: NFA.
Mr. Ganibe: Yes at NFA, ang tanong ko is—sinibak na ba ng Pangulo ‘yung NFA administrator?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: He remains to this — up to this moment he remains, yeah.
Henry Uri (DZRH): Hi, Secretary, balikan ko lang ho ‘yung isyu ni Senator Trillanes and Lascañas. I’m sorry to ask this question. Pati ho ‘yung presidential sister ay nadadawit na to the point personal na buhay na ho nung… Si Mrs. Jocelyn Duterte ho ang pinag-uusapan. Ano ang sinasabi ng Pangulo, personal na buhay na ng kanyang kapatid ang involved?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As far as I know, I haven’t heard him make any comments regarding the matter.
Mr. Uri: So plainly no comment ang Pangulo roon?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Wala po siyang binabanggit, wala siyang sinasabi unless maybe it’s done privately.
But Cabinet wise and even during political — during public interactions, he has not made any comment, as far as I know, as far as I know.
Mr. Uri: How would you describe Senator Trillanes as a senator?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: [laughs] Really, we should leave that alone.
No, it’s… You know, it’s not really within my purview to be making comments or giving opinions. I’ll try to keep it within official statements. Thank you.
Mr. Morong: Sir, with regard to the Supreme Court appointments. He will appoint at least 12 ‘no during his term?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yeah.
Mr. Morong: And so far, he has appointed two from his alma mater?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes.
Mr. Morong: Is this going to be the trend? Meaning, if you have a — if you are a graduate of San Beda, you will have a lot more you know chances of winning the SC post in the future?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Again…Yesterday I heard him say twice, you know it’s never a matter of personal interest, it’s always public interest first.
So from what we can see, from his gauge — for public interest first. He must probably had seen that these classmates — these schoolmates are — you know, were within the standards that he demanded of.
But certainly, it’s not just confined within his — within his alma mater. But again and again, he has said that he has a very limited — not very limited — his knowledge of contacts is limited within a certain scope.
However he is, like I said, he is a man who listens, he is a man who’s deeply interested, he is a man who studies his subject matter and certainly he can go beyond his alma mater.
Mr. Morong: These two appointments, sir, to the Supreme Court, will the two Justices participate in the Leila de Lima case, Senator de Lima case?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We don’t… We cannot make any comments on that. Thank you.
Mr. Ganibe: Sir, doon sa kalalabas lang na Pulse Asia, sinasabi 41 percent believe na hindi naman — hindi naman nalalagay sa disadvantage ang mga kababaihan sa Pilipinas, which is merong equality sa pagtrato sa mga kababaihan sa Pilipinas. Any statement from the Palace?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, in the Philippines actually the Philippines by nature seems to have really established gender equality.
So it’s a safe place to be a woman in the Philippines.
Happy Women’s Day everybody!