Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Commissioner Prospero de Vera III Commission on Higher Education (CHED)
|Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Commissioner Prospero de Vera III Commission on Higher Education (CHED)|
|Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building, Malacañang|
|20 June 2017|
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Our resource speaker for today is Commissioner Prospero “Popoy” de Vera of the Commission on Higher Education.
Dr. De Vera is also an adviser of the Philippine Negotiating Panel with the National Democratic Front/Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army, and Commissioner of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
He’s a professor of Public Administration at the University of the Philippines and has served as its Vice President for Public Affairs from 2011 to 2016.
I had a very interesting conversation with him. It turns out he’s very tech savvy.
So ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, let us welcome CHED Commissioner Dr. Popoy de Vera.
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
I just wanted to announce that the P8.3-billion allocation for free public higher education is now being implemented. Last April 20, we signed the implementing rules and regulations for the P8-billion tuition assistance for all undergraduate students in 113 state universities and colleges all over the country.
And last May 31, we signed an additional implementing rules and regulation for the 317- million fund to provide tuition assistance to medical students in eight state universities and colleges all over the country.
This P8-billion allocation for free undergraduate education is now being implemented in state universities and colleges that opened classes in June. The others are opening in August.
And we are anticipating that as this will be implemented, we will see whatever problems will come out and we’ll do the necessary adjustments for the different state universities and colleges.
The 317-million tuition assistance for medical students is unique because it provides for a return service agreement. So the students who will apply will have to give back to the country as public service.
For every year that they enjoy the tuition assistance, they have to stay in the country for one year. So it’s a one-to-one return service agreement.
And they can do the return service in various capacities, like they can do their residency in tertiary hospitals of the government. They can serve in provincial and district hospitals or even become doctors to the barrios.
Yesterday, I was in a lunch meeting with the Dean of the College of Medicine of UP Manila because UP Manila already has a return service agreement in place.
So we’re organizing a technical working group to draft the return service agreement for the other six state universities and colleges basically using the UP Manila College of Medicine model.
We need to work with the Department of Health to make sure that the transition of the students from medical school to their residency program is fast so that they’ll be accepted in government hospitals and work with local government units. So that those who want to serve at the local government hospitals, we can also facilitate their return service agreement.
These medical students tuition assistance has no income requirement so as long as you are enrolled in a medical school, you can apply for it. You have to apply for it because there’s a return service agreement, meaning you don’t want to do return service then don’t avail of the tuition assistance coming from government.
So these are eight state universities and colleges: Mariano Marcos State University in Ilocos Norte; University of Northern Philippines in Ilocos Sur; Cagayan State University in Region II; Bicol University in Region V; UP College of Medicine in Metro Manila; West Visayas State University in Iloilo; MSU in Iligan and Tawi-Tawi; and the UP School of Health Sciences in Leyte.
We are expecting about 2,000 students currently enrolled in these medical programs as students who can avail of the program.
Now, the last announcement is that the other day, we also signed the implementing rules and regulations to provide an additional P5,000 financial assistance to public and private students enrolled in Yolanda affected areas.
So this appropriation of about 540 million is residual money coming from Yolanda funds that were not utilized in 2016.
The Office of the President instructed CHED to expedite the use of this money. So we are ready to… We are sending notices to all the public and private universities in Yolanda- affected areas that the money will be available to them.
So this will be disbursed by the universities to students as financial assistance starting this month as soon as the necessary paperwork is done with the state universities and colleges.
So that’s the all the good news that we have as far as CHED is concerned this past couple of weeks.
What else? As far as schools affected by the Marawi problem. In terms of opening of their classes, MSU Marawi and Iligan open their classes in August.
So there’s no big problem right now in terms of disruption, in terms of the opening of classes.
The school authorities are working on it, monitoring what is happening. Right now, in both campuses there is a significant number of evacuees that they are managing and I am in constant touch with President Habib Macaayong of MSU Marawi and Chancellor Sukarno Tanggol of IIT. And we will provide the necessary assistance as needed if there are problems that they encounter as far as their students are concerned.
CHED will be issuing in the next couple of days an advisory to all universities to immediately accept students coming from Marawi-affected areas if they want to transfer.
This is like what we did in the case of Yolanda. We issued an advisory to the schools that they should accept transferees even with incomplete records. Immediately accept them in light of the problem that we are encountering in Marawi, so that the records can come later.
So we are issuing that advisory within this week. The Commission en banc has already approved this particular advisory in its last meeting three days ago.
So that’s the good news far. If there are questions on other CHED-related matters, I’m willing to answer.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines): Good morning, sir. Just points of clarification, sir. How many students, sir, will benefit from the P8.3-billion allocation?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: For the 8 billion pesos, we won’t know until all the money is used up, okay.
The 8 billion amount was put together from the tuition receipts of the state universities and colleges. So this is the tuition they collected from — in school year 2016-2017.
So we are allocating the same amount that they collected in the previous year for academic year 2017-2018. The premise being that instead of the students paying for tuition, government will provide the money to the state universities so that they don’t charge tuition anymore, okay.
There are anticipated problems because we found out that some universities underreported their tuition receipts, okay.
But that’s not the problem of DBM and CHED. If they underreported, we can only give them what they reported as tuition receipts.
So the President in his budget instruction said, the money should give priority to poor but deserving students.
Our definition of poor and deserving is, you are deserving if you are a regular student in a state university or college. Meaning, you comply with the admission and retention requirements of that state university.
Now, the poor component is income dependent. So the implementing rules and regulations provide that when students enroll, in the enrollment form there is indication of income and proof of income and the money, the tuition assistance will be given starting from the poorest students going up.
We are hoping that the money will cover all students. But if there is underreporting by the university, then we will make sure that the poor and deserving get it first.
So in terms of who will — how many in the end, we will only know it after the enrollment period has been completed.
But the total, of course, if you look at the enrollment in state universities and colleges is that it’s more than a million students all in all. So that’s the potential pool of beneficiaries.
Ms. Andolong: Meron din po ba, sir, prioritization in terms of the poorest provinces maybe?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Wala. Because the instruction of the President was only poor but deserving students. So we have to comply with the instruction of the President.
Ms. Andolong: Okay. And lastly, sir, ‘yung P5,000 assistance, that’s a one-time?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Yeah. It’s a one-time assistance. The students can use it to pay for their miscellaneous fees, you know, to pay for their books, et cetera. It’s a one-time cash assistance long overdue because this is Yolanda-related but we’re making sure we are able to expedite the release. So this is funds coming from the 2016 Yolanda fund. There is no Yolanda fund in the 2017 General Appropriations Act.
JP Bencito (Manila Standard): Hi, Commissioner, good morning. Sir, on another topic po sana o ‘yung doon sa reinclusion po ng Filipino sa General Educational Curriculum. Sir, can you just give us a background, overview bakit natanggal before ‘yung Filipino sa GE then paano siya nabalik?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Okay. A little bit of history. Of course, this was before I got the CHED ‘no so I can disavow any connection to it.
There was a decision by the Commission during the Arroyo administration to take out the six to nine units Filipino in the General Education Curriculum.
This was in light really of internationalization, the idea that the advantage of Filipinos in the use of English should be given priority by government and also in anticipation eventually of the K to 12 program. The thinking being that Filipino can be downloaded to senior high so you don’t have to take it at the university level. That was the thinking then ‘no.
The professors and supporters of the Filipino courses sought relief from the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on the Commission to — prohibiting it from implementing the policy of taking it out.
Now, there is a little it of you know, [how would you call that?] oversight so that when we… When the Commission approved the PSGs, this is the curriculum for the new courses starting academic year 2018, medyo nakalimutan ‘yung Filipino, okay. And we are thankful for the groups who told us that there was a mistake in taking it out.
So yesterday, we had a meeting with the groups that are protesting and the Commission has already issued a new memorandum instructing that all degree programs must retain the Filipino requirement in compliance with the instruction of the Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order.
Mr. Bencito: Sir, following the TRO, is the position now of the Commission is to implement Filipino all throughout or mag-a-appeal pa ba tayo to remove it?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: We will wait for the Supreme Court to actually hear the issue ‘no because we want to look at all the angles of it.
So the Commission has not discussed or taken up the issue yet because this was before our time, before my appointment as Commissioner. So I… We have not discussed it ‘no.
We’ll wait for the procedure of the Supreme Court to commence. Anyway, as long as the Supreme Court has not taken out the TRO, then it’s still part of the curriculum.
Mr. Bencito: Clarification lang, sir, ‘yung internationalization na parang dahilan, do we maintain this, sir, up to this very moment or the present leadership of the CHED has a different view on this?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: No, we have not taken up the issue in the Commission. So I wouldn’t be in a position to say the position of the Commission. You want my personal position? I want to retain the Filipino requirement.
Mr. Bencito: Last na lang po, sir. Ano pong gagawin ng CHED doon sa mga Filipino departments na na-dissolve as a result of the initial move to remove Filipino from the GE Curriculum?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: That’s really up to the individual universities to work out ‘no. What is important — because these are internal academic matters that is beyond the control of CHED ‘no.
The internal governance of state universities and colleges is exercised by their Board of Regents.
So the Board of Regents of each SUC should deal with the problem and for the private schools, it is guided by the policies of the private universities.
So we cannot intervene in the internal governance of higher education institutions.
Mr. Bencito: Sir, doon ulit sa free tuition. Sir, ilang SUCs ‘yung covered po natin?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: 113.
Mr. Bencito: 113?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Yes.
Mr. Bencito: Then, sir, covered din ba doon ‘yung mga nag-o-offer ng Socialized Tuition?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Yes. Okay, magkaka-problema nang konti sa Socialized Tuition, okay.
Malaki ‘yung possibility ng underreporting in the Socialized Tuition System. Let me explain why there is underreporting.
In some state universities and colleges, they reported only the actual tuition income they collected. But for example, they have the scholarships for their athletes, the scholarship for those in the — in their dance troupe, et cetera. These are scholarships given internally by the state university kasi wala namang loss of income sa university ‘yan if you add 20 — you know, 20 athletes or 50 athletes, give them full scholarship. That is technically no loss ‘no.
Iyong ibang state universities, they don’t report that because these are internal scholarships within the SUC ‘no.
They did not anticipate that they will have to factor this in in their computation. Now, they have to cover all of that.
There are also scholarships given, for example, by local government units na matagal magbayad. Towards the end na magbabayad or towards the end of the year. Syempre mabagal ang release ng funds diyan. Iyong ibang SUCs, ang ni-report ‘yung initial income collection lang.
So there are variances across SUCs. There are SUCs that did a very good job of reporting. So doon sa hindi nag-underreport, there should be no problem.
The other thing to consider is when they reported their tuition income, out of the four years that they had, first year kokonti ang enrollment because of senior high. Second year, third year, fourth year, full employment — ah full enrollment, okay.
Their fourth year is graduating. Their incoming freshmen is also very few. So theoretically, they should have less students overall this coming year than in 2016.
So theoretically, the money should be enough because you have the same set of collection of tuition to cover fewer students.
But we don’t know the extent of the problem until all the enrollment comes in. My own thinking is that it will not be a big problem.
Maybe you have couple of universities that have a problem but majority of the state universities and colleges, the money will be enough to cover everyone.
Mr. Bencito: Sir, on the case of the UP system, kaya… Covered ba natin ‘yun entirely up to the bracket E hanggang bracket A, ganon or depende?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: I wouldn’t know because the UP Board of Regents has not discussed the issue as far as I know, ‘no.
And I don’t know the extent of underreporting that they have. There’s a problem when you have a Socialized Tuition System is because you don’t tend to report the lower brackets where students are not paying tuition. You don’t report that as income. But then you have to cover all of them now.
So UP has to deal with it. The Board of Regents has to deal with it. It may become a problem for UP because their enrollment is high. You have about 57,000, 58,000 students.
So any underreporting, you multiply it by the number of students then the problem can become bigger. In most state universities, when the enrollment is a little lower even if you underreport, you should be able to cover it.
If your enrollment is 15,000 students, you can underreport a little bit, but it should… So the potential problems are with SUCs that have big enrollment: Mindanao State University, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, University of the Philippines.
These are the three biggest enrollment ‘no, ranging from 58,000 to about 71,000 students per university. Doon, baka magkaproblema.
Elijah Rosales (Business Mirror): Good morning, Commissioner. Regarding po doon sa return service para sa mga medical students, gaano po katagal ‘yung return service?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: One is to one (1:1). Every year that you are given tuition assistance, you have to stay in the country one year. So if your medical program is four years, then you stay four. If it’s five, then you stay for five years.
Mr. Rosales: Ano po ang possible consequences kung hindi nila sundin ito?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Ah, okay. The students and the parents have to sign a surety agreement. If you don’t comply with the terms, you return the tuition assistance of government plus interest.
No, we have to take this seriously ano because it’s a contract that has to be observed. That contract is already existing in the UP, all the health-related courses in UP Manila are now covered by a return service agreement.
Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, Physical Therapy, they are all covered. So UP has been doing it for about — maybe about eight years now.
So there is sufficient experience on the part of UP on how to implement it and potential problems.
So the technical working group we created are predominantly composed of people from UP Manila so that they can use their experiences to craft a very good return service agreement for all the eight — for all the other six state universities and colleges.
Mr. Rosales: Sir, for the record lang po, ano po ‘yung — magkano po ‘yung interest kung sakaling….
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Gagawin pa lang nila ‘yan. Gagawin pa lang. That will be the output of the technical working group ‘no.
Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning, sir. Sir, ‘yung advisory niyo for colleges to accept students from Marawi, does this cover both private and public?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Yes, yes.
Ms. Salaverria: Sir, do you have…
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: We did that for Yolanda, by the way. So no necessary requirements.
Because you know, if you’re from Marawi, you know, your records may not be there. Just to accept them and then let the documents follow.
Ms. Salaverria: Sir, do you have an estimate on how many college students from Marawi?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: We wouldn’t know. We’ve only received, you know, individual parents asking what to do with their children, et cetera. So we don’t know how many will be transferring.
In Yolanda, by the way, I was still with the University of the Philippines then, we accepted all the students from UP Palo and UP Tacloban, and gave them financial assistance while they were with the University of the Philippines until the facilities in Tacloban were rebuilt.
Now, we don’t know yet how that would roll out in this case, but we’ll have to talk with the universities concerned. But it’s just to facilitate things, so that the victims will not be — will not have problems transferring to other schools.
Ms. Salaverria: Sir, will there be any special financial assistance to students from Marawi or do they have to avail themselves of programs na available to everyone?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Sa ngayon, wala pa. We’ll look at the gravity kung gaano karami. Baka hindi naman masyadong marami.
So… Or maybe they’ll transfer to universities in Mindanao so that the cost implication may not be that significant.
Maricel Halili (TV-5): Good morning, sir. Just to follow up on Leila’s question. Will you also encourage the college students in Marawi to transfer to other universities just like what DepEd did to elementary and high school?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: It’s really the choice. We wouldn’t know… We wouldn’t know the actual situation on a student — per student basis.
What we want to do is to facilitate the process so that they don’t have to worry about acceptance from other schools.
Because we have received reports that some parents who were trying to transfer their students, the schools in Cebu were a little bit hedging because they didn’t know how to deal with it. So the issuance of an advisory will solve that problem.
Ms. Halili: How about, sir, assistance to professors who also want to transfer to other universities?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: It’s something that we will discuss. We still have to discuss in the Commission.
Rose Novenario (Hataw): Good morning, sir. Meron po kayong programang in place or assistance doon po sa mga guro na nawalan ng trabaho dahil po doon sa full implementation po ng K to 12? ‘Di ba po walang enrollees ‘yung first year, ‘di ba wala po ‘yung freshman?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Yes. Congress passed a K to 12 Transition Fund in anticipation of the transition period because of senior high. They passed it in 2016, if I’m not mistaken.
And CHED is implementing this K to 12 program. This will cover both 1) scholarships for faculty members who want to retool themselves while senior high is going on because there was an expected reduction in enrollment of students. So there are faculty members who might not have classes to teach so we urge them to take their Masters and their PhD to complete their degree programs.
Faculty members who would lose their jobs and can be seconded to other government agencies or can do professional work is also for faculty members who want professional retooling. Not necessarily a degree program but professional growth, et cetera.
And also for projects of universities like, for example, you want to do a workshop for history teachers, you know, while the transition is going on.
So we’ve been doing this over two cycles already. There were some very interesting things that came out.
It seems that the expected significant reduction in enrollment did not happen as badly as it was imagined. That’s the first finding.
So a lot of the K to 12 money is underutilized as far as the anticipated number of affected faculty members is concerned.
In many state universities and colleges, what they did was to accept senior high students.
Remember, the DepEd put senior high but they did not have facilities in many areas. Wala silang classrooms. So they asked the state universities, “Can we hold the classes in your facility?” And the ones teaching it are the faculty of the state universities and colleges.
There are also enrollees who are life-long learners. Meaning, they did not immediately enroll in freshman and during the transition period decided to enroll. So the reduction was not as — was not in the worst-case scenario, okay.
So there are still funds in the K to 12 program for those types of interventions. And we encourage… We keep on encouraging the faculty members to avail of it and for the schools to have programs that the K to 12 Fund will pay for.
Hannah Sancho (Sonshine Media): Sir, may consequence po ba tayong gagawin sa mga schools na hindi po i-a-accept ‘yung mga students from Marawi?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Well, ang experience naman namin sa CHED is if you issue an advisory and you call their attention, they comply.
There’s no compelling reason naman for them to not to accept the students. And also because we see this as a temporary situation, so that eventually the students might want to go back.
So this is not a burden that we impose on the universities, it is an assistance that they must provide during times of, you know, of crisis.
So in our experience in Yolanda, wala namang university na nag-reject. They were very open and they accepted the challenge given to them.
So we do not anticipate higher education institutions flatly telling students, “You cannot enroll”.
Ms. Sancho: Sir, wala naman pong na-report, sir, na hindi tinanggap because of — dahil mga Islam sila, Islam students?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Wala pa naman. Wala pa naman, yeah, wala pa naman.
Ms. Sancho: Sir, are there plans po na magdagdag po tayo ng other courses na ililibre na rin po ‘yung tuition fee next school year?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: For?
Ms. Sancho: For… Ngayon for medicine po ‘di ba like for Nursing students?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Ah. Iyong sa Medicine, unique ang Medicine because we have problems with medical professionals historically in the country. There’s no debate anymore that we lack doctors in many areas in the country especially in far-flung areas.
That’s why this intervention or this program of the Duterte administration is a response — is an immediate response to that problem.
UP Manila was the one who initiated this a couple of years back, because when they studied their graduates, as many as 90 percent of the graduates of UP College of Medicine immediately leave after they pass the medical boards to do residency abroad. Many of them. And when they do residency abroad, they tend not to come back, okay.
That’s why UP put the residency mandatory return service in place ‘no. And if you look at the case of UP, it has addressed the problem significantly because by staying in the country, the students will have to take their residency here. And while doing their residency, then you have doctors.
Because these are already — they already passed the medical boards. So they are full-fledged doctors working in the residency program of hospitals.
So that is the idea. It is to require them to do public service and we hope that by doing public service, they will be encouraged, they’ll like to do it, and they’ll stay in the country after that. That is the — that is the dream or the plan — that they’ll get to like what they are doing.
What we have to make sure is that their transition from medical school to their residency is very good. So there is no reason for them not to comply with it. Which means, we have to work with local governments, as far as provincial hospitals and district hospitals are concerned; with the Department of Health, for government hospitals; and the local governments and the Department of Health for the Doctor to the Barrios Program.
Because the medical students or the new doctors may opt not to do their residency first. They may opt to practice immediately as Doctor to the Barrios. And that is also a very good option if they want to postpone their residency later on and practice immediately.
So that’s ah — that’s the… That’s the objective of the program.
Dexter Ganibe (DZMM): Hi, Commissioner. Good morning. Sir, clarification lang doon sa Yolanda. 540 ‘yung…?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: P540 million.
Mr. Ganibe: Sir, ito ay cash?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Yes.
Mr. Ganibe: Or doon sa eskwelahan lang ibibigay kapag nag-enroll na ‘yung estudyante?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: No, no. The students will apply in the school. Because the school has the records, eh. And the school will be able to check if they — if they are students from Yolanda-affected areas. And then the cash assistance will be given by the school to the student.
Mr. Ganibe: In cash?
COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Yes.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I would like to begin by giving the Joint Task Force Marawi updates on the situation in Marawi as of 6 p.m. of 19th June 2017.
Just a few changes.
Terrorists killed: 258 or up by one since yesterday.
Recovered firearms by government troops from terrorists now at 255, up by five
Government casualties killed in action: 65 from 62.
Successful clearing of 16 buildings and two in progress.
I would like also to give an update on the donations and, as of yesterday, as of 2 p.m. 19th of June 2017, for the families of our soldiers killed-in-action, there has been deposited P224,000 as of 2 p.m., 19th of June. And for the evacuees from Marawi, as of yesterday also, same time, about P21,000.
I would like to show a short video. Ah it’s on Facebook. It was supposed to be shown here. Okay. All right.
I’d like to… On to other matters.
Philippine growth prospects remain bright. This is from Oxford Business.
The Oxford Business Group released “The Report: The Philippines 2017,” saying that the Philippines ranks as one of the best-performing economies in Southeast Asia.
This growth is driven by factors such as the rapid increase in the domestic consumption, high foreign direct investments and an upward growth of the services sector.
“It is now safe to say the Philippines is now well established so investors know what the opportunities are and they are well marked,” said Mr. Paulius Kuncinas, Oxford Business Group managing editor for Asia.
Also, the Philippines goes up a notch in Global Innovation Index:
In the 2017 Global Innovation Index (GII) report, the Philippines has improved its overall GII rank reaching 73rd place, one notch higher than its previous rank of 74th last year.
Specifically, the report has also highlighted the country’s improvement in the Information Communication Technology (ICT) services export making the Philippines the lead country in this sector among ASEAN countries.
The Duterte administration, through the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022, aims to have tangible improvements in the information and communications technology sector in the country to further enhance sectors such as agriculture, education, business, and other services.
Also a bit of good news, CALAX Laguna segment breaks ground:
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has officially announced yesterday, June 19, the start of the construction of an 18- kilometer Laguna Section of the Cavite-Laguna Expressway (CALAX) requiring an amount of P35.425 billion.
The road project is expected to decongest traffic along Governor’s Drive, Aguinaldo Highway and Santa Rosa Tagaytay Road, which will lessen the travel time from CAVITEX to SLEX by 45 minutes once completed by 2020.
We are open for a few questions.
Tuesday Niu (DZBB): Sir, what is the President’s reaction or take in the new attack of New People’s Army in Maasin, Iloilo?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, first and foremost, it’s unfortunate that the NPA raid of the station in Iloilo happened on the same day that the government reciprocated the NDF’s declaration to refrain from undertaking offensive operations in Mindanao.
However, although the attack was not in Mindanao, the act was clearly, like we said opportunistic.
So we have asked the NDF to call on their servant — on their armed comrades on the ground to, you know, to respond in kind and show genuine sincerity on the confidence- building measure initiated by both the government and their side.
So basically, we want a firmer response.
Ms. Niu: Sir, there are some calls from some Senators urging the President not to pursue with the peace talk anymore with the CPP-NDF considering that they cannot control their armed — armed group from launching attacks. Will the President heed to this call?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As of this moment, there is no instruction from the President to discontinue the government’s peace negotiations.
Ms. Niu: Thank you.
Ms. Salaverria: Good morning, sir. Sir, some US Senators are concerned that Marawi is becoming the latest hub for the Islamic State, and they are suggesting that the US expand its role in Marawi, sort of joining actual combat. Is the Palace open to the idea of increasing the US’s stance in the fighting?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, at this stage, I suppose we’ll have to take the position that it’s unlikely for Marawi to become a new hub for IS fighters.
The Philippine military has already preempted the Maute group from establishing a wilayat or province in Marawi.
So the role of the US in relation to the IS is to provide technical assistance as prescribed by the Constitution and we will abide by that.
Ms. Salaverria: How about increasing the amount of assistance their providing just to hasten the end of the conflict, is the Palace open to that idea?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s go by what is already present, technical assistance.
Ms. Salaverria: Sir, is this an indication that the relationship between the Philippines and the US has — is improving?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, it was always existing like that, okay. The… As Padilla… As General Padilla has expressed that that particular aspect of agreement has always in existence.
Ms. Salaverria: But the President earlier said he doesn’t want to see any foreign troops in the country. So is he wavering on that position?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: He has accepted the situation at this stage, okay.
Ms. Salaverria: Sir, pending the release of the 10-billion “Bangon Marawi” fund, what is the government doing to help the evacuees who are suffering from illnesses and some of them are dying?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As ano… As we have already reported a few days earlier also, this matter is under the DSWD and DOH.
And I think they have already made… They already made their own assessment of the situation and they made their own efforts regarding that matter.
Mr. Bencito: Hi sir, good morning. Sir, on the rehabilitation pa rin, possible kaya na mangyari din ‘yung ginawa sa Yolanda na hindi na pinabalik ‘yung mga residente doon sa mga conflict-affected areas?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We’ll have to wait for the ano, for the assessment regarding that matter, okay. We cannot… Huwag po nating pangunahan ‘yung situation.
Rosalie Coz (UNTV): Sir, hingiin lang po ‘yung update regarding po doon sa ad interim appointments kung nag-release na po ba ang office ng Executive Secretary, since June 2 pa po na bypass ‘yung mga secretary designate?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay, officially we have not yet received any — any updates, okay?
Ms. Coz: Sir, official statement po ng Malacañang regarding po sa OFW acquitted from murder sa UAE?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: All right. [It’s not yet official also?] DFA will have to come out with official statement and then we will refer to the matter.
Ms. Coz: Sa side po natin, sir?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Come again?
Ms. Coz: Reaction, regarding the…
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We don’t have an official notice on the matter.
Ian Cruz (GMA-7): Secretary, good morning po. May assistance po ba ‘yung mga sailors natin ‘yung mga Filipino doon sa Japan, ‘yung nagkabanggaan po na USS Fitzgerald at saka ‘yung ACX?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We’ll have to wait upon recommendation of the Embassy in Tokyo.
— END —