Nov. 02, 2016 – Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III
|Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III|
|Press Briefing Room, New Executive Bldg., Malacañang|
|02 November 2016|
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. Welcome back after the long weekend. This morning we’re going to be… We’ve invited Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez.
Secretary Dominguez has over 40 years of experience managing various organizations in the public and private sectors. He is a shareholder and board chairman or member of over a dozen corporations across various industries such as power, agriculture, mining, banking, hospitality, real estate, and investment.
Notable positions held by Mr. Dominguez were Cabinet Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources and Agriculture during the presidency of Corazon Aquino.
The past president of leading Philippine corporations such Philippine Airlines and the Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corporation and the former bank of the Philippine Islands Agriculture Bank.
He has a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the Ateneo. And attended the Executive Management Program of Stanford.
Members of the Malacañang Press Corps, let us give a warm welcome to Finance Secretary, Secretary Dominguez.
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps. It’s nice to be here. This is my first time. I have a short statement to make, if you don’t mind.
Over the next six years, we expect increased public spending to further boost overall growth performance. We need to rapidly build new roads, railways, ports to decongest our cities and reduce the logistics cost for the most basic goods of our people.
While doing this, we aspire to expand and deepen the financial system. We need to broaden public access to banks and capital markets, support small business industries with accessible credit, and raise capital for industry.
With the liberalization of our banking industry, we welcome partnerships with bigger banks in our part of the world.
With the ASEAN Financial Integration, there is now an opportunity to take advantage of the regional population of more than 600 million people, to raise the production frontier and multiply our economies of scale.
The new government has put in place a clear, coherent economic strategy to reduce poverty rates effectively in the medium term and lift the Philippine economy to high, middle-income status with the space of a generation. We call this the 10-point socio-economic program of the Duterte administration.
With the growth momentum, a low inflation rate, stable currency and strong political leadership, the Philippines earnestly opens our doors to do business with our neighbors. The new government has taken decisive steps to improve the ease of doing business in the country. This will allow us to respond helpfully to assist in the inflow of investments.
The comparatively high growth rate sustained by the Philippine economy is due in part to the ample headroom for expansion.
During the two decades of fiscal consolidation, we did not spend enough on building infrastructure. We need to do that today. There are numerous investment possibilities open to our regional partners. We have expanded our public-private partnership program to include unsolicited proposals from potential investors.
The energy and transport sector are key areas needing more investments. Our banks are seeking new partners. Our primary industries are open to new ventures. Our recent trips to China and Japan have provided us opportunities from these two countries.
There are 13 cooperation documents we signed in China, three of which I signed myself. Investment pledges from China is estimated at 15 billion US dollars, covering several projects in railways, rapid bus transport, real estate, projects like smart city projects for the BCDA, and transportation and logistics infrastructure projects. Power, telecommunication, hotels, steel, manufacturing, port development, agricultural production, bridges, and other manufacturing industries.
In Japan, I signed a 6.8-billion loan agreement for the maritime safety capability improvement project for the Philippine Coast Guard involving the supply of patrol boats and high-speed speed boats.
Business-to-business deals worth 1.8 billion were also signed between our private sector and the Japanese companies. The deals consist of seven letters of intent, five memoranda of understanding that would generate 250,000 jobs. These include a joint venture for a solar rooftop project, feasibility studies on the Clark Green City Development, production of the wing van body sets for trucks and car manufacturing.
Marubeni verbally committed to get involved in a 3.2-billion worth of projects and 14 billion medium and long-term projects in mass transport, roads, highways, water and power.
The DA also secured an annual supply of five billion pesos.
Now, I’m open for questions.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Marlon Ramos (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Sir, among the big ticket projects ano ‘yung uunahin po ng Duterte administration?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: Well, we received pledges from China for six billion dollars worth of ODA and three billion dollars worth of loans. Of course you know, this is the first time we are doing ODA or Official Development Assistance with China so we don’t have a complete list of projects yet. However they have…we have not submitted to them yet the projects. However among the projects in our pipeline are a big irrigation project in the ARMM in Mindanao. We have the two hundred billion peso project for a railway from Manila to Bicol and we have of course, a lot of infra projects within the Greater Manila Area.
But our projects really are going to be aimed outside of Greater Manila Area because we want to create jobs for people there, good jobs, so that we can reduce poverty in those areas. The infrastructure projects outside of Metro Manila will also connect the farmers and small businessmen in the outlying areas to the main consuming areas of Manila. So those are the projects as I mentioned for the China ODA pledges.
Of course as I said, there were fifteen billion dollars worth of private B-to-B or private sector to private sector in China and these involve projects like a hotel chain opening here in the Philippines. I think they’re aiming at two thousand rooms. There are also projects in, of development of infrastructure in the Clark Green City area.
Mr. Ramos: Sir, how do you respond to criticisms that some, at least three or four Chinese companies na naka-deal po ng Duterte administration during the last visit were actually involved in some issues pertaining to World Bank-funded projects in the past?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: I’m only aware of only what I read in the papers and they only mentioned one. In fact, I called up the chairman of BCDA Vince Perez and I asked him about it and he said, you know we are just in the stage of doing the feasibility studies so there is no commitment that these companies are going to get the contracts.
The feasibility studies were covered by an agreement I had with the Ministry of Commerce there, where the Ministry of Commerce agreed to fund for free for feasibility studies here. This project with one of the companies that supposedly has a—had a problem with the World Bank projects is only on the feasibility study stage. Once the feasibility study is done according to Vince Dizon—sorry, not “Perez”—Vince Dizon these projects will be bid out and of course, if a company is not acceptable in the international field, they will not be able to bid for the project.
Mr. Ramos: We all know that besides illegal drugs, the President is very concerned about corruption. So how do you vet the companies which enter into agreement with the Duterte government?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: President Duterte has verbally agreed to designate the Investment Coordinating Committee of the NEDA, the President is the chairman of the NEDA and we have an investment coordinating committee there and he has verbally agreed to designate that group to be the focal point of the management of our relationship with China.
Once the President has actually signed an order to do that, the ICC will go to China and ask the Chinese government to designate a single focal point also in China so that the dealings can be government-to-government and the ICC will ask the Chinese government to designate and accredit the companies that they believe can do the projects to accredit them so that we will—so that the Philippine side will know which companies to deal with in China.
Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Sir, the US has reportedly stopped the sale of firearms to the Philippines because of concerns over human rights. Do you have concerns that actions like these will extend to business deals, trade agreements, because of the changing ties between the US and the Philippines? And what are you going to do or what do you plan to do to ensure trade and commerce between the two countries won’t be affected?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: Well first of all, I just know what I read in the papers about the supposed concern of the US and its effect on the sale of the firearms. First of all, my understanding is that the Senator Cardin, I think that’s his name, has indicated concern but I don’t believe he has said he would stop it. I don’t think, I think their system in the US is the same as here where a senator can express concern but that doesn’t necessarily stop the deal. So I’m not really sure, I just know what I read in the papers.
Secondly, I’m sure the police chief will, the police general will report this to the Cabinet in our next meeting.
The next point I want to bring out is that there are many business transactions between the Philippines and the US and actually, these business transactions are really based on mutual benefit to each other and I think they will continue if there is a mutual benefit.
If the US, say manufactures, like for instance, Texas Instruments, they have a big manufacturing facility in Baguio, I think they will continue manufacturing here if the Baguio facility is cost-efficient. Now, if it’s not cost-efficient, then that’s something else.
I don’t know exactly how these policies of the government will affect—government on both sides, will affect the business decisions. I have scheduled a meeting with the American Chamber of Commerce, I think its supposed to be on Saturday, I’m not sure though if they have agreed to the meeting but we’re open to meeting with them and discussing with them all their concerns.
Ms. Salaverria: Sir, do you think the new foreign policy of the administration will change their attitude towards doing business or investing in the Philippines?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: You know, I had a talk with the State Department officials informally and in my discussions with them, they encouraged us to have good relationships with China, with Japan, with all our neighbors.
In fact, the US State Department official mentioned to me that they have a very good relationship but complicated relationship with each of these countries. You know, we are in discussions with everybody, I think the new policy of the President is to open doors to all. And his economic policy, particularly, with regards to China is very sound.
You know, China has a population of 1.3 billion people and they need products that are produced in the Philippines—agricultural products, as well in the future, manufactured products. So it makes sense for us to have a good relationship with them just as the US has a good relationship with them and so have the Europeans.
Ms. Salaverria: Sir, last nalang. On another topic. The Japanese businessmen said they’re looking forward to the lifting of economic restrictions in the Constitution so that they could invest here. Do you have a timeline on when you want this to happen to maximize ‘yung their interest in investing in the Philippines?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: Actually, there are two ways we can lift the restrictions in the Philippines. One is, there are administrative restrictions. It’s called a negative list and these are areas where administratively, the government does not allow more than x amount of percent of foreign ownership. And the window will open for us to review that in May of 2017 and certainly, the economic team is going to look at lifting administratively some of those restrictions.
The other restrictions are restrictions that are from our Constitution. Now that takes a little more doing and frankly, we cannot put a timeline on it since this will be done in cooperation with the Congress of the Philippines because they have to either one, constitute themselves as a Constituent Assembly or two, they will call a Constitutional Convention.
So either way, it’s not going to happen tomorrow, it’s going to take a bit of time. Now, according to the President, he has, he wants to open all areas of the economy to foreign investment with the exception of land, which is a very cultural and touchy issue. So I hope I answered your question there.
JP Bencito (Manila Standard): Hi sir, good morning. Sir, meron na po ba tayong listahan nung administrative restrictions that we’re eyeing to remove for next year, ‘yung doon sa May 2017 na meeting po ninyo?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: We will have that list in about a month’s time. The Department is going over that list first and then, we will discuss it with the members of the economic team of the President, which includes NEDA, the Budget, and the line departments such as DOTr, Department of Public Works and Highways, and Department of Agriculture, etc. So we don’t have a definitive list yet at the moment but as I said, in May of 2017, the window for reviewing this, we’ll be definitely open.
Mr. Bencito: Sir, on another topic po. Sir, the peso has been on a slide for, it’s the seven-year low, it’s 48.61 last October. Sir, do we see this as a weakening of the peso now that the President’s statements are gearing towards separation with the United States and dealing with other partners, sir?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: As you know, there have been talks about the US increasing, the US Central Bank, which is called the Fed, increasing their interest rates and actually, with the speculations such as that, practically all currencies in the world have slid against the US dollar.
The Philippines, in the last month, actually from September 21 to October 28, went down by one and a half percent. The Thai Baht went down by one percent. The Yen went down by three and a half percent. So across the board, across the world, currencies have been depreciating against the US dollar and primarily, it’s because of the potential increase in interest rates in US dollar.
People are buying US dollars in order to be able to position themselves if and when the Fed increases interest rates in the US. So that is one of the reasons, okay. And I think that’s a major reason for the slide in the peso.
Secondly, the slide in the peso is not all bad. You know, you have, how many, about 11 or 12 million OFWs who send money home and that’s 25 billion dollars a year more or less. You have a BPO industry that earns close to 23 billion US dollars a year and you know, when the peso slides, let’s say, 50 centavos, that means to say you have 25 billion more pesos in the Philippines for people to spend. For people to buy condominiums, for people to spend for education for their children. So it’s not all bad. Agricultural products that are exported will certainly benefit. So a slide in the peso is not necessarily a bad thing.
Benjie Liwanag (DZBB): Sir, good morning. Sir, on the infrastructure project, which is one of the thrust of the Duterte administration, public spending, now, will this not affect, again, our problem in traffic especially in Metro Manila? While we’re waiting, while the President’s still waiting for the emergency powers from the Congress?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: Now, the infrastructure spending is because we have what we call an infrastructure gap. You know, the amount of infrastructure that we need in the Philippines is really tremendous, okay. You just go outside of Metro Manila. You will see the condition of the roads, the bridges, the ports, the airports, the power, telecommunications. These are all infrastructure. This is to connect the country together physically so that goods can flow physically so that cost will go down.
We really have a problem. Okay. So most of the infrastructure will be spent outside of Metro Manila because we want to raise people out of poverty and the poor people are outside.
I’ll give you an example: the gross national income per capita per year in the Metro Manila area is 400,000 pesos. Do you know what is in the ARMM? You could guess. It’s 26,000. Yes, sir. About 5 percent of what is in Metro Manila.
So that’s why we have problems there. We have problems of poverty; we have problems of rebellion; we have problems and because there is no infrastructure so we want to put more irrigation there, more roads so that people can be more interconnected. So this gap has to be closed and that is why the thrust of the President is really to raise people out of poverty and I think that’s what he’s doing.
You know, the President has only three goals: the first goal of the President is to raise people out of poverty. The poverty rate has been over 20 percent for many, many years. It’s very hard to bring it down and we are going to raise the poverty by doing the, partly the socio-economic plan.
The major factor there is number one, we have to bring in more infrastructure. Number two, we have to implement the RH Law, okay. We have to improve investment in education, we have to improve investment in social services. So that’s how the President will tackle the first goal.
The President’s second goal is to make this country more law-abiding. Maybe like Japan, where people voluntarily obey the law. So he’s going after the most, the worst violation of crime in the country is the narcotics trade. Because it destroys families, it destroys people, it destroys the future. So he’s really going after that and the goal is to make the country really more law-abiding.
And third, his third goal is to achieve peace. Peace with the NPA. Peace with, peace with the Islamic separatists and peace with our neighbors. So those are really the three goals of the President and if you look at him, all his actions are focused on that.
Mr. Liwanag: Sir, next, BPO is asking an audience with the President. Kailan po mangyayari ito?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: I’m not the one who schedules the President but I’m sure it will happen. Now, I understand other groups like the Makati Business Club have also been asking for audiences with the President.
Now, the Department of Finance is holding a Philippine Development Forum in Davao City for November 8 and 9. And I would like to invite all these to groups to participate in the Philippine Development Forum. Because there, they can air their concerns and we can discuss the future direction of this, of our country.
In this forum, we’re also going to be inviting a lot of other NGOs. We are going to be inviting World Bank. We are going to be inviting ADB. We’re going to be inviting foreign embassies so that you know, we can all discuss with the international and the local community the direction of the Philippine economy.
And you know the groups such as the one you mentioned are welcomed to participate.
Mr. Liwanag: Thank you very much sir.
Ian Cigaral (BusinessWorld): Hello po sir. Do you have any idea po kung kalian po magrere-convene ‘yung LEDAC and kung ano po ‘yung mga agenda?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: Soon, I hope. Soon because we have a lot of pending, pending legislative issues. And I was told by the Secretary, the Executive Secretary that we were supposed to convene I think on the 4th or the 7th. I’m not really exactly sure. But, he was going to let us know when the LEDAC is going to be convened.
Mr. Cigaral: Sir, 4th and the 7th?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: 4th or the 7th if I remember right.
Mr. Cigaral: Of this month sir?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: Yes.
Mr. Cigaral: Pero wala pa pong list po ‘nong agenda po, ‘nong mga agenda po?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: It’s with the Executive Secretary. I supposed there will be a long list of agenda items on both sides, from the House and from the Senate, as well as, from the administration.
Ms. Sisante: Sir just going back to what you mentioned earlier about the scheduled meeting with the American Chamber of Commerce, may we know what some specific items on the agenda–?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: They asked for the meeting. I’ve actually met with them already before. I think in August, August 9. I met with AmCham already. And again you know, we explained our 10-point economic program. They seem to like. I don’t know exactly what we will discuss now on Saturday but we’ll see.
Mr. Palo: Sir, habol ko lang. Dalawang question lang. Is it safe to say na mabibigo itong mga financial analyst sa allover the world against the Philippines doon sa sinabi ninyong pag-slide ng piso o ng peso against dollar?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: I don’t know what’s your question exactly.
Mr. Palo: Is it safe to say na magbi– Mabibigo sila, they will fail doon sa kanilang–
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: You know this is all speculation and a bet okay. That’s not… I don’t do that. I don’t speculate.
But I think that, you know, if you look at the fundamentals of the Philippines. We are in very good position, okay. Number 1, the inflation rate is low. Number 2, our currency is basically stable, okay. I mean going up and down a little bit within a bad of two percent is okay.
We have a very young, intelligent, active, population, okay. Compared to other countries in the world, I think we have a very good work force in the Philippines.
We have very stable and good macroeconomic policies. We have a budget that is… we have a budget that is solid, okay. People are saying, what about the foreign debt? Okay. Our total foreign debt is 77 billion dollars, okay. Our total foreign reserves is over 86 billion dollars. So I don’t think there’s too much to worry about, okay.
Next our total foreign debt right now is roughly 43 percent of our GDP. When I was Secretary of Agriculture, our foreign debt was over 70 percent of our GDP. So we’re in a fairly good position.
Mr. Palo: So bale wala po ‘yung kanilang mga sinasabi, ‘yung kanilang basis that dahil doon sa inaaway ng Pangulo natin?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: When you look at the fundamentals, is really hard to see where we could go wrong, okay?
Mr. Palo: Okay sir, last na lang sir. Under mo po ang Customs and BIR, ano pong marching order niyo for thos last quarter?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: Collect, collect, collect. Because we need the money to spend on the infrastructure. It’s not collection so that we have a big bank account. We have to collect to spend on infrastructure. You know, when there is no infrastructure, people suffer, okay.
When you have a traffic a situation like in Manila because of lack of infrastructure, the cost, according to JICA two years ago, the cost was 2.6 billion pesos a day. Isn’t that– We cannot afford that. We better spend the money, eh but… to spend the money, Captain Faeldon has to collect and Commissioner Dulay has to go out there and collect as much as he can.
Mr. Uri: Secretary, just a follow up doon sa tanong lang po ni Leo. How would you address corruption at the Bureau of Customs? Well, they are perceived to be the most corrupt agencies under your helm. Paano ho ninyo inutusan si Commissioner Faeldon na mag-zero corruption siya doon sa BOC?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: You know, I’ll tell you ha. I used to be DENR head. One time I had a talk with the people in the DENR because noon corrupt din ‘yun. I don’t know what it is now. But at that time, the image of the DENR was very corrupt.
So, you know, we were talking of corruption and everything and one of the guys raised their hand and said: Alam ho ninyo, kami we are like a river. If the source of the river is dirty, all of us will be dirty. So I think it has to start at the top. Good example at the top that people do not accept bribes or… are clean.
I think the leadership factor is very important, number 1.
Number 2, we have to be smart about… we have to be smart about catching corrupt people. You cannot always catch them like, you know, playing cops and robbers. We have to catch them by going after checking their lifestyle, checking their bank accounts, checking how many cars they own, right? We have to do forensic analysis. That’s why part of our legislative agenda is to make sure that the lost, the privacy lost on bank accounts will allow the government to look into the bank accounts of people that have very strong evidence of corruption or tax evasion.
If we do not do that, we can hardly catch them. So we are going to ask the legislature to please loosen up the… to allow the government to look into the bank accounts of people suspected of corruption, tax evasion, and crimes like that.
Mr. Uri: So Secretary, ipapa-lifestyle check niyo ang mga taga-Bureau of Customs?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: Absolutely. Thank you very much.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We’d like to give a brief summary of statements that President made on several matters.
He said he was thankful to former President Ramos for serving the country despite his age and that he would continue to listen to the former President’s advice.
Although, he would continue also to pursue his own track.
The letter, which was submitted to the Office of the Executive Secretary, was itself civil and respectful and I’d like to quote a few statements:
“Given that your State Visit to the PROC was officially wide-ranging, which has resulted in renewed bilateral relations between our two countries, kindly allow me to step down as the special envoy of the President to the People’s Republic of China. We’d like to believe that the efforts of our team, of the special envoy, played a modest but productive role in the breaking of the ice that led to your successful visit. This letter is my resignation as your special envoy to China. But more important, it is also an affirmation of my full support of the national interests of our Team Philippines of 100.5 million Filipinos that you now lead.”
Based on the statement, the President and former President FVR continue to have a solid and respectful relationship as we course a new phase in our evolution as a nation and Filipino society.
Next, regarding the US State Department’s reported decision to stop the sale of assault rifles to the Philippine National Police, the President made reference to the availability of other sources for the same material.
As to the matter of this being turned into an HR issue, an invitation has already been sent to the UN inviting them to come and see for themselves. However, the invitation itself does not preclude a careful process on procedures to be agreed upon between the Philippine government and the UN.
Number 3, regarding checkpoints. This is a mere clarification. There will be no more fixed checkpoints but when and where necessary, mobile checkpoints can be set up from point to point depending on the need of the hour.
Thank you very much.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Rose Novenario (Hataw): Good afternoon sir. Sir may sinabi po kagabi si President Duterte na nais niyang ipasuspinde ‘yung Deputy for Intelligence ng Bureau of Customs. Ano po kaya ‘yung dahilan nito at sino po itong opisyal na kanyang tinukoy?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: I think the… There is no, there is only a OIC Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence. Intelligence ba ‘yun? Intelligence. There’s only an OIC right now. But a new OIC will be appointed actually today.
Ms. Novenario: Sir, sino po ‘yung ia-appoint na bago at sino po ‘yung tatanggalin as OIC?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: We will release that this afternoon.
Ms. Novenario: Hindi ho pwedeng ngayon?
SECRETARY DOMINGUEZ: Hindi, mamayang hapon na. I’m the one to sign that order eh.
Ms. Novenario: Sir, ano po ‘yung reason ng pagkaka-alis po doon sa officer in charge?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We are not privy to that matter. Thank you.
Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): On the Panatag Shoal issue, what steps will the government take to ensure that, the fact that Philippine fishermen can access the area will be made permanent and even go beyond the six years of the Duterte administration?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, presently it’s a, it’s a, it’s going by the friendly agreement that has been raised. So we’ll go, we’ll proceed along that lines.
Ms. Salaverria: When will we bring up the arbitration ruling?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It will be raised up when necessary, as he had said so.
Jam Sisante (GMA News): Sir, regarding the Panatag Shoal, fishermen are allowed to fish around the area but they’re not allowed to actually to go to the shoal. They’re still barred by the Chinese coast guard. May we know why is this the situation? And what were agreed upon regarding the presence of the, continued presence of the Chinese coast guard, why do they remain there?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, nothing official has been declared regarding the matter so—But they, the fact remains that as the President has promised, the fishermen are now allowed, are not—the fishermen are now free to harvest in the area.
Ms. Salaverria: But sir is there any guarantee that–?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: At this stage, we’re not talking guarantees, we’re just going by the fact that they, the fishermen can now just go—
Ms. Salaverria: Does this mean any day they can be barred again from going there?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s just put it this way. According to, according to the way, according to the present arrangement, they just go and fish.
Marlon Ramos (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Just to clarify, but there is no formal agreement between the two governments?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Not that we have, not that we have, not that we have knowledge of. No formal agreements.
Mr. Ramos: So ‘yung pagpayag po ng Chinese coast guard for Filipino fishermen to venture into that area is just temporary?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We don’t know if it’s temporary but at this stage it’s allowed and as the President said, if and when the time comes—not if and when. When the time comes, they need to be discussed, the President will not go beyond the rulings that have already been credited to the Philippines.
Mr. Ramos: Sir, did the President ask the Chinese government to order the coast guard ships to leave that area?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: They had their own conversation. They had their own conversation which we are not privy to.
Mr. Ramos: It’s between President Duterte and President–?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes.
Ian Cigaral (BusinessWorld): Sir, why is the President flying to Thailand po?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: To give honor to the King, to the late King.
Mr. Cigaral: Sir, in the economic aspect po, may… Ano po ‘yung parang dahilan bakit po siya pupunta po?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t think there will be any discussions along that matter. I think it’s just a… He’s just paying respects. I think it’s just a very brief meeting.
Benjie Liwanag (DZBB): Sir, with the resignation of former President Ramos as special envoy to China, tinanggap na po ba ito ni President Duterte?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: He has said thank you, you know. He has actually given his appreciation.
Mr. Liwanag: Sir, formally, he’s resigned as special envoy?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: In terms of actual statement that he had just accepted it, we don’t have that. But he has, he has apparently received and he said thank you for the efforts.
Mr. Liwanag: So we’re going to wait until Executive Secretary Medialdea will – what do you call this? – address that problem?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think that would be the better thing to do.
Mr. Liwanag: Okay. Thank you very much sir.
Mr. Bencito: Sir, balik lang po ako doon sa Scarborough. Sir in the past administration, they’ve been, the United States is trying to build a concession na hindi na… to prevent Chinese coast guard from blocking off Filipino fishermen. But now in this new administration sir, President Duterte himself brought the issue to China and apparently merong nangyari. Was there any failure on Washington’s side na parang they’ve done nothing in the past administration, in the how many years—?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It’s not for us to comment on whether the Washington, the China-US relations. We only, we only have—We can only comment on Philippine-PROC relationships. That’s not for us to comment on that.
Mr. Bencito: Okay. Thank you sir.
Tina Mendez (Philippine Star): Sir, sa ngayon po, how would you classify ‘yung pagbalik ng mga fishermen sa China? Ay, sa Scarborough, sa boundaries lang not inside Scarborough Shoal.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s just put it this way. The fishermen are back to fishing again. And I think at this particular stage, we can say the President has said, he has done his part in saying antayin niyo lang, makakapangisda na rin kayo uli.
Ms. Mendez: Pero sir, this cannot be seen as an assertion of ownership?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Which one?
Ms. Mendez: Territorial ownership sa Scarborough? From China or–
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As far as I know, nobody owns that place. You know. These are just economic rights that we, that we are accessing.
Mr. Ramos: Sir, update lang daw po doon sa EO on the ban nationwide ng smoking?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. We’ll get back
on—I think it will be discussed in the next ano, on the next Cabinet meeting.
Mr. Ramos: Sir, last night, the President made it clear again na ‘yung concerns niya when he ran for the presidency was illegal drugs, corruption and anti-criminality. Just last night and the other night, six people were killed by masked men. These were… ‘yung incidents na ‘to, were not the cause of actions ng any law enforcement agencies but assassins, masked men, na pinatay ‘yung mga tao doon sa isang lugar sa Makati o sa Mandaluyong. Paano ia-address ‘to ng Duterte administration, ‘yung klase ng killings na ‘to which are no longer related to the government’s anti-illegal drug–?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Part of the process of the ano, it comes special under the Philippine National Police. Okay. It will undergo to the normal processes of investigation.
No, I was going to say that I like now to answer those questions that were asked the last time. There were three questions, first of all, the ambush, death of Maguindanao Vice Mayor, the investigation is currently going on. Initial accounts point out that the convoy of Dimaukom was peacefully stopped for inspection during a checkpoint but they opened fire with local police.
Number 2, regarding the presence of Mr. Marcos, Sandra Cam, and Greco Belgica in the China delegation list. They were not part of the President’s official list of delegation to China. However, they went there on their private capacities.
The third question about China communication construction company has already been sufficiently answered by Secretary Dominguez.
Thank you very much.