Press Conference of Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Former National Security Adviser Jose Almonte
Press Briefing Room, New Executive Bldg, Malacañang
06 OCTOBER 2016

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. Magandang umaga sa lahat. This morning, like as — like we promised, it’s going to be part of a series of personalities who we’ve asked to share on the first hundred days of the President.

And part of this is trying to under[stand] — not just to know what he has done, but also to try to understand the President himself and the way he applies himself to what — to his — to his work as a President.

This morning… No, before that… We began with… We began with George Barcelon of PCCI and also Donald Dee, former PCCI head. And then yesterday, we had Peter Wallace of the Wallace Business Forum.

And today, we have Secretary Jose Almonte.

He was the… Actually, he was a subject of an article in Esquire magazine in 2013. It’s called: “The Unfinished Revolution of Jose Almonte.” And maybe just to give a little bit of backgrounder, just a short intro that says: “Jose Almonte is not as scary as some people paint him to be. Upon closer scrutiny, the ‘sinister’ former National Security Adviser is someone with a deep-rooted Christian faith and an indomitable love for the country. Now, in his 80s…” Does he look 80? [laughs] Ah, 84. “He has something to say and anyone who won’t listen, they say should be shot for treason.”

Okay, let me just try to give you, just a brief backgrounder.

Secretary Jose Almonte was National Security Adviser and Director-General of the National Security Council in the Cabinet of Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos from ‘92 to ‘98.

He’s a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy in 1956. He won the Distinguished Conduct Star for gallantry, serving with PMA, with the Philippine military contingent in Vietnam from ’66 to ’69.

Just like the job, there’s a whole lot to be said. In ’95, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in Public Administration by the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. And in ’98, he was given the country’s highest award, the ancient Order of Sikatuna, for outstanding government service.

He has published four books: “Toward One Southeast Asia” in 2004; “My Part in the 1986 People Power Revolution” in 2006; “We Must Level the Playing Field” in 2007, and “Endless Journey, A Memoir” in 2015.

I heard him speak in a short — in a roundtable discussion yesterday and I felt he was — what he has to say is worth hearing.

So, we’d like to welcome Secretary Jose T. Almonte.

ALMOMTE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary for the kind introduction.

I have so much to say but I was told by Rocky I have to brief. Well, I’m here because yesterday I was invited to a roundtable discussion. And the Secretary was present, and he felt that I must share my sense of the situation with you distinguished ladies and gentlemen.

So let me just be brief. I worked with President Ramos from ’92 to ’98. And one of the things I did really is to address the poverty, inequality, corruption in the Philippines.

And to be able to do that, we have to look at the sources of these. Why are we in this situation? And again to be brief, in my sense is this, we are here because number one, we have not solved our internal problem of fighting each other.

We have… We may not be aware of it but we are engaged in an internal war for the last many years, I would say since we recovered our independence in 1946.

This is the longest communist insurgency in the world. And we are at the same time, having a problem of separatist movement in the South. So that’s number one.

Number two, our broken politics. The problem is this, only a small group, special group, that in a — in general formulate the policies, national policies of this government and it is implemented for their interest.

And this happen, as you know, every after election, as we know, the center of political power, where we are in this country, is under the hands of this small group that funded the election. Okay.

Number three, again to be brief, we have a problem of inequity. We have a problem of how business is run in the Philippines. The unholy alliance between politics and business.

So as I said and I published a book on this, which was one of the materials we used during the time of President Ramos is how do we level the playing field? Both in terms of business and in terms of land.

So that is why during the time of President Ramos… By the way, that regime had only 24.3 percent of the votes of the people. So we didn’t have like President Duterte who has over 40 percent, et cetera.

So our authority to that extent is influenced by that outcome of the election. So the most we were able to do is really to dismantle the PLDT monopoly, we changed the rules in the inter-island shipping, in insurance, in banking and others.

But we have so many problems that has to be addressed yet. And that remaining problem is the unfinished revolution that the Secretary told you earlier. And what are these? This is what I mentioned earlier. This is our internal war, our broken politics and the business which is monopolized by a few in the politics.

Now, incidentally, this is what President Duterte is primarily addressing. And to me, the misfortune is this. And this is what I am also afraid.

In fact, this is the reason why I agreed to speak here because I felt that if we can solve these three basic problems, this nation will become rich in a decade or so, even less.

But if this is derailed, it will be very tragic again for all of us. And I am afraid that the concentration of, let’s say the media, you might get angry with me, but that is I think the truth. But anyway off the record ‘no. [laughs] Live? I see, really. Sorry. Alright.

Well, I will — taking it back. The truth is this: We are… The national attention is focused and I cannot blame the nation in terms of the extra — the extrajudicial killings, which is a component of the campaign against drugs. This is the concentration.

And then, the other one, other concentration which distracts the nation is the colorful language of the President. Am I correct?

Now, alright. To me, these are, if I may say according to three real things, we can correct this. The most important thing are the three points that I have stated.

And as I said, I repeat, the reason why I agreed to talk to you and this is among the few times that I talk to the media this way is the — the reason is, my fear that the three things — fundamental things that President Duterte would like to address, may be jeopardize because of these things that I have mentioned earlier.

So maybe, Mr. Secretary, I understand I have only a few minutes that will be okay as a backgrounder.


Reymund Tinaza (Bombo Radyo): Sir, good noon, ay good morning. Sir, just your views perhaps on the shaping new foreign policy of the Duterte administration, especially on his track going away with that US, and moving closer with Russia and China.

ALMONTE: Let me put this in perspective. Firstly, so we will understand this more fully. The foreign policy of a nation can never go beyond the strength, internal strength of that nation. Okay? In short foreign policy is merely an extension of the national situation. Okay?

That is why if we had to have an effective foreign policy, we have first to ensure that our nation becomes rich, prosperous, and strong so that we can relate with the people outside, not as a dependent, but as somebody who could be useful to the world. Okay, okay.

Having said that, let me say this, that in general, the sense is that we have to be friends of everybody. Even our enemies, we have to befriend them because they are potential friends.

And, you know, our friends could be potential enemies. This is the reality in the world. This is a reflection of who we are as human beings and this is the raw material that where we all play together.

So the question, may I go to your specific question. Let me say this, that the Philippines could remain as friends with our old allies like America. But at the same time, we can be friends of all others, even the enemies of America and that will be the best policy given, in fact, a situation where we are not as powerful as the rest.

So I repeat, to me the best foreign policy is: let’s maintain our friendship with our old allies, but at the same time, let us work very hard to become friends of others, even if they are enemies of our allies.

Mr. Tinaza: Sir, so, I also have read your sterling record, especially as an intelligence officer during the Vietnam war. So based on your experience as that, what could you advise to, if you may as necessary, you may advise to our President on how to successfully gain what you have just said to be friends with everybody and, yeah, and even to the US.

ALMONTE: Yes, you answered it. What do you want me to say?

Mr. Tinaza: No, considering he is doing otherwise, just what you have said because —

ALMONTE: I see, I see. Well, we have already expressed what is

in our view should be done. And he is the one who will decide, not us.

Mr. Tinaza: Thank you, sir.

Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines): Good afternoon. Good morning, sir. What do you see as the possible consequences of the possibility of the Philippines breaking its ties with the US or at least becoming less dependent on the US?

ALMONTE: Well, ‘yung last one is very good. The best way is how to be less dependent, not just with US, but everybody. May I put it this way? I had a personal experience on the issue, which I will not give the details.

But I know that President Obama’s view is this: He believes that a strong Philippines, a successful Philippines will be in the best interest of America.

You know we are part of the so-called first line of defence. And given our situation, we are perceived by the region and the world as the weakest in the chain.

So it is in the interest of the allies that we become rich, we become prosperous because we will be a — rather than a dependent partner, we will be — not just independent but a contributor to the partnership.

So let met put it that way, that I’m not speaking, I’m not the spokesman of the United States. But let me say it categorically that it is in the interest of America that this nation progresses.

Henry Uri (DZRH): General, good morning. Positive claims that the extent of proliferation of illegal drugs now has reached to classify as a national security threat. Do you agree, sir? And if you agree what should be the national security strategy to eliminate this threat?

ALMONTE: Well, first you have two components in your question: that the drug problem has become as national security threat. I am inclined to agree with that premise.

And, let me tell you that in relations with nations, it has been historically shown that those who would like to destroy other country for their advantage, they used drugs to weaken the fiber of that national society. It happened to China and this is what they claim.

In fact, the rationale for really, you know, recovering their old glory is because they do not want to — the indignities of the past because of drugs to repeat.

Okay, having said that, the other one is, I agree on the strategy. Is that your question? Alright—

Mr. Uri: What should be the strategy?

ALMONTE: Well, look. This drug problem is not unique with the Philippines. This is a problem all over the world. It’s a problem in America and a big, big problem.

Now, some states in America try to rectify the problem by legalizing it. But, much of the states of America is not doing that. Now, other countries they use less violent options, by education, by rehabilitation. But there are also those who use violence.

Now by experience, it appears that the result, even with those who applied violence, like in Bangkok, just a few years ago, when Shinawatra was the Prime Minister. It did not end, it did not end the drug problem.

So, you asked me what is the best? I wish I can tell you then I’ll be President.

Mr. Uri: But do you agree how the President handles the problem?

ALMONTE: Well, again. That’s a nice question ha, you are putting me on the spot. Well let me put it this way, this is not, I think a… I am speaking more than my capacity, my competence.

But let me say just the same. This problem, I would suppose, I mean the strategy or the present program of the President, I think it’s not permanent.

Now, we are not sure if these things, you know, if the drug problem in his view is now manageable, he will change the strategy, I suppose.

And I think, if you agree, he might change it sooner than later.

Mr. Uri: Thank you, sir.

Pia Ranada (Rappler): Good morning, sir. Sir, you used to be the National Security Adviser. What do you think of President Duterte’s recent pronouncements on defense agreements with the US, for example, his desire to end the war games with the US and also to review the EDCA? What do you think of this in light of the West Philippines Sea dispute we have with China?

ALMONTE: Well at the surface, the impact at the surface is negative. But I say at the surface because I don’t want to underrate the strategic thinking of the President.

Now, I don’t want to elaborate on this because I do not want to pretend that I know him better. Let me just give you an example although it’s not a very good one, but it will indicate to you what I am trying to say.

Before the election or just after the election, he said so many things against his vice president, am I correct, do you recall? Iyong magka-away sila, tama ba ‘yon? You recall? Vice President Leni.

[Someone says: “Hindi pinapansin”.]

Hindi pinapansin, tama? At saka mayroon pang mga salita na medyo maanghang hindi ba? Alright.

But look, later on, President — Vice President Leni went to Malacañang, he even kissed her hand. Am I correct? I saw it on the picture. Tama ba ‘yon?

So what does this mean? Oh, you make the conclusion, okay?

Ms. Ranada: Sir, just to follow up…

ALMONTE: You have to think more than — more than the surface, you know.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, earlier you said the impact on the surface would be negative, what do you mean by this?

ALMONTE: Well, because if you take it as it is, the…Remember our allies like President Obama, the United States, they have their own feelings.

The military who conducts this, they are planning. So if you say they will not continue, you know if you are in the organization like the military, when you conduct an exercise that is not done just like that in one week. That is prepared for months. And they have to simulate, they have to practice by themselves.

Why? Because in the military, for exercises, the maximum allowed casualty, if I remember correctly, is three percent, one percent.

If they have a casualty more than that in a military exercise, the commander will be court-martial.

So it’s not that easy. So you could see that there are negative feelings because of organizational or operational constraints.

Mr. Tinaza: Sir, just to clarify your statement that you believe that US wants us to prosper and to be strong? You have said that US actually wants us to progress and to be a strong country?

ALMONTE: Of course, yes.

Mr. Tinaza: Do you believe so? I mean correct my thinking because — is that the actual considering that they are giving us ships from their junks — refurbished one?

ALMONTE: You know, we are live on TV, ‘no?

Mr. Tinaza: Yes, sir.

ALMONTE: If I say this to the public, I have no permission to express this on TV from people who talk to me.

But you read…I have published a book, “Endless Journey,” you read the epilogue there and it is there.

I narrated this there because it is written because if there is any objection at least I have a basis to answer there. But for here, if I would say that baka naman sasabihin ng US Embassy or what, I’m trying to promote myself, you know.

But it is written there. You look at it. It is available in Fully Booked and National Bookstore, “Endless Journey”, epilogue, it’s written there. Who, why and what, okay?

Mr. Tinaza: Sir, last question because I think as far as the statements of the President publicly on where he is coming from against US and why he wants to cut, actually to break up with US is because we aren’t getting what we should be getting as allies of the US.

ALMONTE: You are right. I have experienced that myself before when I was in the government and I cannot blame the President.

But I was also told before like, for instance today, we bought FA-50s from South Korea. There are no missile weaponry according to the publication.

Well, I do not know the arrangements between the PNoy government and South Korea. But what I know in the past, all of this technology which comes from America exported to South Korea, when they re-export it to another country, they have to ask permission from the source.

And this is true for everybody, Israel and others especially Israel because they are the ones who are very active on this. Now the missile system is — they have to ask permission. But I don’t know how much is the cost now of the missile system.

So maybe we will only buy it when we exactly need it already. If we do not need it now, there is no need to spend. You can spend the money somewhere else.

But look I am not competent to really explain this. But it’s just my personal sense. That’s why there is no weapon. But if you want the weapon you can buy it anytime. But if you don’t need it yet, there is no need, okay?

Mr. Tinaza: Thank you so much, sir.

JP Bencito (Manila Standard): Hi, sir good morning…

ALMONTE: San ito?

Mr. Bencito: Hi, sir. I just like to press on the earlier question, sir. You mentioned that the President…Many people are fixated to the colorful speech of the President. Sir, is it good for the President to continue cursing other world leaders — US President Obama, the EU, the UN, sir?

ALMONTE: You know I am here to speak — according to me — to the best of my ability to speak for the people not for anybody. Okay, that’s why I’m here.

So to answer you, I don’t want to be misunderstood because I might be misunderstood, o dito masyadong kuwan, partisan ‘no. No. I would say that even the President may not — realize that it is not good. So I am hopeful that he will change when the time comes.

Mr. Bencito: Sir, thank you po. Sir, on a personal note. Sir, do you explore the possibility of joining the Duterte administration in the future, sir?

ALMONTE: Ah, hindi po. [laughs] No, I’m not. I’m sorry, Mr. Secretary. I am old already. I could no longer work, you know.

I am just here really as an extension thus to be able to still be useful. In fact, I was hesitant to talk to all of you because I don’t want to be misunderstood. I am happy this is live.

Alden Monzon (Kyodo News): Yes, sir. Sir, as a national security expert who has dabbled in the South China Sea issue. Do you think that if the Philippines thus go through with breaking ties with the US, do you think it could affect its relationship with other US allies in Asia like Japan, South Korea and — I am not sure if Thailand is already — is still a US ally. But do you think it might affect that do you think they might shun us away?

ALMONTE: Okay, I think the answer to that is more complex than just saying this and that, you know. Do we have time? I will explain it a little bit.

You know in the Asia-Pacific…Indo-Asia Pacific today, the situation is really defined by the relationship between China and America, okay? That is the reality.

Now in the South China Sea, the problem is this: China believes that the South China Sea is an integral part of their dream. Now what is their dream? Their dream are three according to Mingfu in his book, “Chinese Dream”. One, the first one is internal design, they call it; then the regional design and a global design.

Since 1978, the reform of Deng Xiaoping up to today, they feel that they have already attained the internal design. They are rich and powerful.

Now they are on a regional design and among them is about the South China Sea and the others, hindi lang South China Sea. Then after this, they will go to a third one, the global design. Okay let me explain this.

The South China Sea is not merely a source of minerals or whatever. In terms of their global ambition, it functions like the Sea of Okhotsk. The Sea of Okhotsk is north of this Japan Sea between Kamchatka and I think the Kuril is in the north. This was the severed nuclear submarine [inaudible] of the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Now, the South China Sea, according to experts, is being viewed like that. In fact, the islands now that have been converted — the rocks converted into islands; and some of them now have vessels that can berth or sustain these vessels are among them — these things I am telling you.

So we could say that the South China Sea is an integral part of the Chinese thinking.

Now, the problem for the US is this, and I give this to you: If China will control the South China Sea, by merely using waters, sand and patience, this will have an irrevocable, irreparable, immense implication to the security of the United States, especially in terms of its global leadership position.

So, in that sense, it will be very difficult for America to allow this to happen. Correct? Now, I’ll go to your question. If this happens, you know in the Asia Pacific, the Philippines is part of the so-called first island chain. Okay?

Now, if it so happens that in the future, China controls the South China Sea, now there will be a serious re-examination of the partnership alliances in this part of the world.

Now, how about the Philippines? The Philippines is as you know, and as they say, is the weakest in the chain. Now, your question is what happens if we quarrel with America, and then et cetera?

Well, you have now to imagine the consequences in terms of the context I told you.

Mr. Monzon: Okay. Sir, given your statement, sir, saying that the nations in Asia is defined by their affiliations either with the US or China, how do you think it would be possible for the Philippines to remain neutral because the logical conclusion to that, sir, is it’s either we are with China or either we are with the US?

ALMONTE: Correction, excuse me. I did not say that. What I said is the situation in the Indo-Asia Pacific is defined by the relationship between America and China. Now what is their relationship?

They do not want to go to war with each other. They know that. It is counterproductive for them. So what are they doing? If it is possible to cooperate, they cooperate. If it is necessary, they compete. If the competition becomes so serious, they relax and then review the situation, look for points of consensus and return the equilibrium to the old one. This is their strategy. Okay?

This is what is happening today. And this is the, this is the thinking of both. By the way, China says, not Xi Jinping, Hu Jintao visited America in January, several years ago. He said it’s very difficult for America and China to go to war.

We have 95 points of institutional contacts. And this is being reviewed every year by the strategic economic dialogue that is being held alternately in Washington and in Beijing, participated in by the highest officials.

The result is reviewed by the President of China and America. So they’re so confident that these things will not happen. That is in that sense.

Now, ang sabi mo, ano ‘yun? Pilipinas, America…

Mr. Monzon: My question, sir, is can the Philippines remain neutral, sir, in its relationship with either China or the US?

ALMONTE: Itong sinasabi ko in the beginning. We maintain our relationship with America. But at the same time, let us befriend all the others, including China. Now you call that neutrality, I don’t know. Maybe you can call it active neutrality. Is that good enough? Ha?

Mr. Monzon: Okay, sir, because–

ALMONTE: No, no. You must be convinced because you are going to write.

Mr. Monzon: Okay, sir. Sir, because you told us, sir, that there’s conflicting interest between the US and China in the South China Sea. So if we side with one, if we side — go ahead, sir.

ALMONTE: You know, this is not black and white. As I told you, they are enemies. But they don’t want to go to war. Okay?

Should they cooperate when there is reason for cooperation. They compete when there is — it’s impossible to cooperate. This is the relationship between…This relationship it is…

The friendship here is different between you and your girlfriend. I’m sure you. This is a very practical and utilitarian friendship if I will give it to you.

Mr. Monzon: Thank you, sir.

ALMONTE: You can write it well?

Mr. Monzon: Yes, sir.

Mr. Uri: Sir, if I may ask you this question. A while ago, you have mentioned that our country’s problem are internal war, broken politics, and monopolized business. Our President has already on his way on making our country’s into another 100 days. But the first 100 days. How would you rate his performance?

ALMONTE: Well, if I look at it in terms of these three fundamental problems of the Philippines, and let me repeat, if we cannot solve these three problems, our nation — or put it another way, we can never build a Filipino nation the way we want it to be.

So these three must be solved. And President Duterte is confronting it. That’s why I‘m here talking to you. Because I think that’s best for the nation.

Now if it’s best for him as President, excuse me, is really incidental. Because, I believe, personally because this is what I done during the Ramos administration. And I’ve written it afterwards because we were not able to finish it. It’s “the unfinished revolution” according to Esquire although I did not say it that way.

Now, you are asking me how do you rate him? I say this based on what has been done for the next 100 days — exceptional. Exceptional.

And look, he has…He has… I mean, in ordinary things what he did is not really conventional. He assigned the Cabinet positions to known leftist. Correct?

He has now arranged an indefinite ceasefire with the Left. Is that correct? And he is now negotiating the social-economic component of the peace process that they are hammering out. Correct?

And this is very important now he is talking to the MNLF and the MILF, using his personal influence to do that. Now, this is key to our development as a nation.

Otherwise, we cannot correct our corruption, or inequality, or poverty everything including the corruption of the judiciary.

But if we can solve this three, all of these will follow believe me. I hope the nation is listening.

Mr. Uri: Pwedeng isa pa. This is a private question from our colleague Deo de Guzman of DZXL. He said, “is it prudent for President Duterte badmouthing USA in terms of security? He even said that CIA is trying to kill him.” What is your…I think he is asking for your opinion on that.

ALMONTE: Well, I really… I hope your friend will understand I cannot comment on speculation, you know? Please, if privately we’ll discuss. Let him see me.

Benjie Liwanag (DZBB): Good morning, sir.

ALMONTE: Good morning.

Benjie Liwanag (DZBB): Sir, can you react doon sa mga statements in Presidente lately with the soldiers “paghandaan natin ang terrorism”. As a former National Security Adviser, what’s your assessment on this?

ALMONTE: Well you know, is it not only President Duterte who thinks that way? All leaders I know in the world, especially in the developed world or in the free world so called, feels that way. Because the fear today is the convergence of mass destruction weapons with the terrorists. That’s the fear.

All right. You know, insofar as terrorism is concerned there is a complex background of that, why there is terrorism in the world today? And you will understand why in France there is so much terrorist action. You will understand why the 9/11 happened in the United States.

Now, the historical antecedents that converged to create the situation so that young people are motivated to engage in a symmetric actions at their expense is because of this kind of situation that developed.

Now, I think the Pope and the others understand this and they are doing something about it, if I may say so, to their credit by their statements.

But this thing, this problem, which has accumulated for centuries cannot be solved in one century, if I may say so.

This will take time and this is part of the development process I think of mankind. So that later on we become a — we elevate our qualitative human condition to a better higher way you know. As of now, we…Sometimes, our lesser angels dominate us.

Mr. Liwanag: If we are going to compare the terrorism before when you were the National Security Adviser and the terrorism right now, sir, how would you assess?

ALMONTE: You know that’s a very good question because ako I was a National Security Adviser you know.

During that period, si S, SKJ, the Sheikh Mohammed, Khalid Mohammed.

Mr. Liwanag: Yeah.

ALMONTE: The one who claimed he planned the 9/11. He was here in the Philippines for a few years.

And he was our subject of investigation, you know? And if you recall what happened in the explosion in Malate where General Razon recovered these CDs about the plan of these terrorists to bomb Washington…I mean…White House, CIA, and the Pentagon.

Mr. Liwanag: Task force Bojinka.

ALMONTE: This…Yeah. Oplan Bojinka. There’s a book published in England. That’s ours. That’s here.

You will note that this — the preparation of this was during our time. And it happened after us already.

So the impression that it has — it is worse today than before is there. But if you ask me it has always been there. Although the actions now are worse than before.

Mr. Liwanag: Okay. Thank you very much, sir.

Ian Cruz (GMA-7): Secretary Almonte. You mentioned po kanina na “exceptional” ‘yung mga nagawa ni Presidente sa kanyang 100 days.

ALMONTE: Exceptional sa three…

Mr. Cruz: Sa three…Oo.

ALMONTE: Yeah, please make that clear.

Mr. Cruz: Opo. Sa three problems…

ALMONTE: Three fundamental problems that ito I feel this nation has to confront, has to resolve, in order to become a real nation state.

Mr. Cruz: Opo. Pero nababanggit nyo po na may distraction ano dahil dun sa colorful language ni Presidente.

ALMONTE: Tama po, oo.

Mr. Cruz: And extrajudicial killings.

ALMONTE: Tama po.

Mr. Cruz: Paano po natin ma-a-address ito? Nakausap n’yo po ba ng Pangulo tungkol dun sa dalawa hong…?

ALMONTE: Ah hindi po. By the way, I hope the President does not take it against me. I have not met him. So I do not know him personally.

But I am saying this because what I read in the papers as what he wants to do is this. And by coincidence, I believe, that this is what is best for the nation as the Secretary said, I have said it before.

And by the way, I kept that secret because I do not want to dilute the President’s thinking you know? I do not want people to interpret that I have anything to do with his thinking, there is none.

It just so happen that what he’s doing is what I thought before. And that is why I am here to talk to you. I was asked. And the reason is I believe that he is doing the right thing on this.

Mr. Cruz: Sir, you also mentioned that you are hopeful that he will change? What kind of change po?

ALMONTE: Yeah. I am hopeful.

Mr. Cruz: What kind of change po?

ALMONTE: Yes, yes, yes. Well, if he can make his colorful statements colorless that’s a big change for me. Ano pa. Ano pang problema ni Presidente. Iyon lang naman siguro e. Ano pa? Meron pa bang iba?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: May tanong kayo sa akin? Iyong mga tanong kahapon I still need to get back to them by tomorrow.

Alright. We just like to stress a few points for this morning. I just like to first say thank you to Secretary Almonte. Joe Almonte. You know, you can just appreciate the way he is able to go through very complex issues with a very fine comb and able to distinguish certain issues in a very — how do you put it — in a very significant manner.

And we also like personally, one of the reasons why we asked people to come in here was to be able to see clearly, objectively, the results of the first 100 days. And it was, you know, it was quite a thing to hear him say that the first 100 days according to the three points was exceptional.

Taking off on that, I’d like to point out that for today, the latest…

President Duterte ended his first three months in office with a net satisfaction rating. The first for the current Chief Executive that bested those of most of his post-EDSA Revolution predecessors except for Fidel V. Ramos, according to a Social Weather Stations survey.

As you very well know, it says that the Balance of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao found 76 percent satisfied, 11 percent dissatisfied and 13 percent undecided regarding Mr. Duterte’s performance in his first quarter — of the first quarter of his presidency.

Piggybacking on that is the World Bank report that the Philippines is expected to accelerate by another six — to accelerate to 6.4 percent. According to the newly-released East Asia and Pacific Economic Update among other large economies, prospects are strongest in the Philippines where growth is expected to accelerate to 6.4 percent this year.

Also another point of interest is that the BOI, the Board of Investments on Tuesday, October 4, said that investment commitments approved in September this year soared to 200 percent — soared 200 percent to 51 billion from 17 billion a year earlier reflecting strong investor confidence in the Philippines and indicating that growth is sustained and accelerated.

For the first nine months, approved investments grew by 50 percent to 286 billion, the BOI said.

Investments are coming in are in sectors that will elevate our competitiveness such as power and infrastructure, Ceferino Rodolfo, Trade secretary and BOI managing head said. Okay.

The investment pledges were generated from a 192 projects with a total estimated job generation, with 37,487 expected at full operations.

Rodolfo also noted that imports have also increased basically driven, of course, by the coming Christmas season.

The tax reforms, in a conference, tax and other economic reforms are also expected to spur capital market activity. In a conference organized by the international law firm Latham & Watkins, government officials and business executives cited that 10-point socioeconomic agenda outlined by the administration in consultation with private sector.

And they said that the planned reforms will allow capital markets to play a bigger role in financing companies that invest in projects, supporting economic expansion.

In other words, there’s a thrust, not just towards hot money but actual foreign direct investments.

We’d like to confine the questions here, if there are any.

Maricel Halili (TV 5): Hi, sir, good morning. Sir, where can we attribute the very good net satisfaction rating of the President?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It was based on apparently the perception of the people that he was doing his job. Okay.

Ms. Halili: But what particular message does this survey convey to the critics of the President?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That the people trust what he’s doing. Okay.

Ms. Halili: And that there’s no basis?


Ms. Halili: Critics?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That’s not saying that. It’s simply saying that the people, in spite of the noise, are continuing to trust the President.

Ms. Halili: Sir, can I just have a confirmation with regards to the appointment of the Ambassador to China and Malaysia.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes, that’s already confirmed, Chito Sta. Romana.

Ms. Halili: How about Charles Jose, sir ?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ah wait…I don’t have word on that yet.

Ms. Halili: Are there any other new appointees?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: None so far that I know, but Chito Sta. Romana was confirm. I got the confirmation last night.

Ms. Halili: Okay, thank you, sir.

Hannah Sancho (Sonshine) : Sir, reaction po sa sinabi ni Defense Secretary Lorenzana na na-misinform lang daw po ang Pangulong Duterte?


Ms. Sancho: Okay.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: He corrected that. It was their mistake. No, he was saying that perhaps they were remiss. Okay. So, he corrected that statement.

Ms. Sancho: So clarification, sir, hindi po ‘yung — hindi po wrong ang information nakukuha ng Pangulo?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, ang sinasabi nila na baka sila ang nagkulang.

Ms. Sancho: So there’s a possibility na magbago po ang isip ng Pangulo regarding sa joint military exercise kapag nagkaroon po nang mas magandang assessment ang DND?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ang sinasabi lang po niya is kulang sila no, not — mukhang sila ang nagkulang and they made—and they still awaiting for actual — anong tawag nito — actual decisions coming from the President.

Ms. Sancho: Sir, saan po nakuha ng Pangulo ‘yung basis niya na walang pakinabang po ‘yung joint military o mean hindi napakinabangan ng mga Filipino soldiers ‘yung joint military exercise despite na ilang beses naman tayo nagkakaroon ng war games with the US forces?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Part of it siguro na, for example, katulad ng sinabi nila—sinasabi nila na ang talaga namang…

Sa pagkakaintindi ko ha, pagkakaintindi ko na ang talagang nagkakaroon ng benepisyo ‘yung kanila—‘yung mga sundalo ng Estados Unidos dahilan sa sila ‘yung natututo.

Hindi naman sinasabing wala tayong nakuha meron din naman tayong natutunan. Pero sinasabi parang mas — mas nagiging ano sa kanila, mas nagiging pakinabang para sa kanila kaysa sa atin.

Ms. Sancho: Sir, na-mention na ng Pangulo ‘yung , i-re-review ng legal team natin ‘yung EDCA…


Ms. Sancho: At parang ang dating lang naman ‘no, parang papunta na ‘yung Pangulo doon na gusto niyang— kino-consider niya na baka i-scrap ang EDCA. In the previous administration ‘yung VFA po, pinag-aa— I think, ni-review nila tapos hanggang natapos nalang ‘yung termino ni Aquino, wala na pong nangyari, kung ano nangyari doon sa pagre-review nila. Sa Duterte administration ba, i-re-review na rin po natin VFA? At ano ang posisyon natin sa VFA po?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ay ano po, talagang pinag-aaralan po ang lahat ng ating mga treaties. Iyon lang po ang masasabi natin at this stage. Any other questions?

Reymund Tinaza: Sir, just your reaction to the new US State Department statement. Una, mahaba raw po ang kanilang pasensiya. Pangalawa, ‘yung they believe that the bilateral relationship of the Philippines and US remain strong. At tanungin niyo pa daw ‘yung mga bawat Filipino would say that. Also ayaw daw nilang makipag-hiwalay, kahit gusto nang makipag-break ang Pangulo?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Katulad po siguro ng pagkakasabi kanina ni Secretary Almonte. ‘Yung ano, ang ginagawa naman natin ay hindi pakikipag-putol, kundi nilalawakan lang natin ang ating options for relationship.

Ms. Tinaza: Siguro pag sa relasyon po makikipag-cool off. So paano natin ma…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Hindi po. Nilalagyan mo ng salita ang aking bibig, okay.

Mr. Tinaza: No, no…


Mr. Tinaza: No, no it’s from me. So siguro maaaring tawagin siya ‘pag sa relasyon cool off kasi hindi naman total break-up. So eh ayaw ng US. How could we actually apply what the President want to?


Ms. Tinaza: Kung ayaw…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Hindi naman po siguro cool off, kundi open relationship. Okay thank you.

Mr. Cruz: Secretary, Usec, nandoon po pa kagabi sa meet— sa Senate anniversary sa old senate si Presidente?


Mr. Cruz: May reaction po ba kayo tungkol —


Mr. Cruz: Napabalita po kasi na pumunta siya doon sa…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m sorry. I don’t have information on that. I was at another event.

Mr. Cruz: Opo, kahapon naman po nagsalita si Senator De Lima doon sa isang forum at nabanggit niya ang Pangulo doon. Ano po ang reaction ninyo doon?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Again, siguro what we can say is a — she is entitled to her own opinion. Thank you

Mr. Bencito: Hi, sir, good morning. Sir, would it—pressing on the statement of Secretary Almonte. Sir, would it be helpful for the President to lessen his curses against other world leader, sir, because of the colorful language that he has been making these past few days?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As we said. We need to look beyond the style and into the substance of the President.

So from were we stand, we allow the — you know it is the President’s call to moderate or to modify whatever he wants to do. Okay thank you.

Mr. Liwanag: Sir, can you ano—can you give us information doon sa meeting, with the— ‘yung President with the DOTR Secretary Tug[ade]—Secretary Tugade yesterday?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t have a — input regarding the matter. Thank you, okay.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, what how about what happened to meeting between the President and the the American groups, ‘yung Philam Life and ‘yung American…


Ms. Ranada: Yes po, the American insurance company.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think that was a close-in meeting.

SOURCE: PND – Transcriber