Press Briefing

Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

Event Press Briefing
Location Malacañang Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building

ROCKY IGNACIO/PTV4:  Good morning Malacañang Press Corps, happy Monday. Good morning Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

SEC. ROQUE:  Good morning, Rocky. Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps at magandang umaga po sa buong Pilipinas.

Monday good news! Well we welcome po the April 2018 report on the McKinsey Global Institute entitled “The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in Asia Pacific” na nagsasabi po na ang Pilipinas po ang pinakamagaling na performer in the region on gender equality in work. So the country was commended for performing best on women’s participation in professional and technical jobs, with female to male ratio of 1.42 reflecting that more women are in those positions than men and lastly on leadership positions with the female to male ratio of .96.

Now as this figures highlight the gains in the private sector, the Duterte administration will seek to do better in the public sector by implementing the Magna Carta of Women which states that women in the third level or managerial posts in government shall be incrementally increased to achieve a 50/50 gender balance.

We are pleased to announce that the Land Transportation Office is now offering online services to the public. Four LTO Districts have now opened online renewal of driver’s license and motor vehicles registration. These districts are in Pasig, Muntinlupa and Novaliches. Interested motorists will have to accomplish a form and schedule an appointment in their website. After the online processing, actual appearance at the district office is still requiring to complete the application.

Now the Business Monitor International Research, a group of the Fitch Group, reported that it has moved its gross domestic product projection for the Philippines to 6.5 percent from its previous projection of 6.3 percent. BMI Research attributed the positive outlook on the country’s economy to government conception of fixed capital formation, both of which were driven by the Duterte administration’s expansionary of fiscal policy. It shows that the government is on track to achieving its target GDP expansion of 7 percent or higher through the implementation of TRAIN and substantial spending in big ticket infrastructure projects through the build, build, build program. Questions?

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Prepared ka naman, sir. Game. Over the weekend I think the US Pacific Command hosted our Secretaries – si ES and then si SFA and sila DND. Who initiated that meeting?

SEC. ROQUE:  I have no information who initiated that meeting—

JOSEPH/GMA7:  Akala ko naman prepared ka? [laughs]

SEC. ROQUE:  I’m prepared to answer questions on the supposed presence of bombers in—

JOSEPH/GMA7:  But before we go there—

SEC. ROQUE:  The West Philippine Sea.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  The meeting with the Pacific Command, what do we know about that?

SEC. ROQUE:  I do not know who initiated that ‘no. All I know is from the Middle East the Secretary of Foreign Affairs flew to Hawaii where he was expected to be joined by the Executive Secretary, the Defense Secretary and that they were going to meet with the Admiral of the Asia Pacific fleet. And of course the United States has stationed almost the entirety of its overseas fleet to Asia now ‘no, it’s so-called pivot to Asia.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  What does it mean now in the context of our issues now with the WPS and South China Sea?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well I can only surmise that the visit is intended to reassure the United States that while we are pursuing an independent foreign policy, we have not actually—we have not abandoned our traditional ally the United States, that its probably to reassure that we value the continued friendship and security cooperation that we have had with the United States throughout the years.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  Remember the President said that if China is building up their… whatever ‘no, the facilities there. It’s not going to be used against the Philippines and probably maybe against an American influence. Now we have this meeting with the Asia Pacific Command. Where are we exactly?

SEC. ROQUE: I don’t know what the question is, but ang sagot ko po diyan siguro iyong pagpupulong eh para nga lang po mabigyan ng assurance ang mga Amerikano na habang tayo po ay nagiging independiyente sa ating panglabas na relasyon ay nariyan pa rin iyong pagbigay ng importansiya sa ating pagkakaibigan din sa mga Amerikano.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  Are they worried? Is the US worried about our close relations with China?

SEC. ROQUE:  Hindi ko po alam, perhaps the White House Press Secretary can answer that.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  Okay sir, sa bombers iyan, you are prepared.

SEC. ROQUE:  Well alam ninyo naman po the issue of the presence of supposed bombers ‘no. Unang una po, again, we have no independent verification ‘no. But nonetheless we take note of the reports that appeared and we express our serious concerns anew on its impact on constructive efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region.

Now we also would like to highlight an ASEAN declaration, a statement that we—that was adapted in the recent summer [summit] in Singapore and this reiterates the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of activities that could further complicate the situation in the West Philippine Sea.

Now the Philippines reaffirms the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, avoid actions that would escalate tensions and peaceful resolutions of disputes in accordance with international law including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and like the other issues that have been reported by a major daily, we will bring this issue again in the bilateral mechanism that we have agreed upon with China. This bilateral mechanism meets twice a year and I was told that there would be a scheduled meeting for the second quarter, possibly in June but not yet confirmed. So the matter will be brought up in the bilateral mechanism that we have established on the West Philippine Sea specifically with China.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  In other words hindi baliwala itong mga actions ng China sa atin?

SEC. ROQUE:  Hindi po, hindi naman po. Hindi naman po natin binabalewala, as the DFA has said, hindi naman pupuwede na lahat ng issue on foreign relations ay nag-iingay tayo.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  How much is too much?

SEC. ROQUE:  I don’t know but as I said, we view it with very serious concern.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  Okay.

DEXTER GANIBE/DZMM:  Sec., good morning.

SEC. ROQUE:  Good morning.

DEXTER/DZMM:  Ah sir, follow lang doon sa issue sa West Philippine Sea. Last week din nakipagpulong si National Security Adviser Esperon sa kaniyang mga counterpart sa Russia. At ito iyong kasagsagan ng init ng issue doon sa West Philippine Sea. May kinalaman po ba doon?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well, malinaw naman po ang ating bagong polisiya, ‘di ba? An independent foreign policy means we want to be friends with all the states, with all the stakeholders, we will not take sides but the recent steps perhaps taken to meet with US officials is only to highlight that the independent foreign policy does not mean we are abandoning our traditional friendship and alliance with the United States, we have not.

DEXTER/DZMM:  Kasi po ang China is—at saka Russia medyo malapit din, may—nakiusap ba tayo sa Russia na pakiusapan ang na mag-lie low sa West Philippine Sea?

SEC. ROQUE:  Wala po akong pagkakaalam, ang alam ko lang eh lahat kinakaibigan natin at dahil nga dito sa bagong pagkakaibigan sa mga bansang Russia, sa bansang China, sa bansang India, even Australia and Japan eh napakadami na po nating inaani lalong lalo na pagdating sa ating ekonomiya.

DEXTER/DZMM:  Thank you sir.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL.:  Hi sir. Sir, is there any way for us to sort of invoke or use our alliance with the US to possibly address the situation in South China Sea considering or specially amid itong ongoing militarization of China?

SEC. ROQUE:  In the absence of an actual attack, the Mutual Defense Treaty is inapplicable because and kailangan po doon is there be an actual armed attack on the Philippine territory or any of the islands ‘no. Now—so iyong build up lang po hindi po puwedeng maging basehan iyan at ang problema nga po sinabi lang ng Presidente over the weekend ‘no, gustuhin man natin na mag-ingay diyan sa isyu ng China, ang Estados Unidos naman pagdating sa pinag-aagawang mga isla ang palaging punto de vista eh hindi sila nakikialam sa agawan ng teritoryo. So hindi rin maasahan naman ang Estados Unidos pagdating sa isyu ng West Philippine Sea na pinag-aagawang teritoryo.

INA/CNN PHILS.:  Sir, you mentioned earlier iyong ASEAN declaration which reiterates the call po—

SEC. ROQUE:  Statement.

INA/CNN PHILS.:  Statement reiterating iyong non militarization or self-restrain, but many are waiting for is for the government or the Philippines to actually address a similar statement to China. Are we addressing—

SEC. ROQUE:  That’s a common statement of ASEAN and we voted for the statement. So that’s a collective stand of ASEAN and I think in dealing with China, its best that we speak as one as ASEAN. So that’s why we are reiterating the ASEAN statement ‘no, calling for non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of activities in the West Philippine Sea.

INA/CNN PHILS.: So we will be taking the approach of coming from the ASEAN and not—let’s say a statement from the Philippines directly to China?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well, right now it appears unnecessary to issue an independent statement because the entire region at least the 10-member states of ASEAN have agreed on that statement.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Si dating NSA si Secretary Golez parang sabi niya dapat daw i-convene ninyo na iyong National Security Cluster, do you think there is a need in the face of all these developments?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well it’s the President’s call really ‘no and right now the President does not see any immediate threat. As I said, we do not consider China to be a threat to our security right now because of our new found friendship with China

RALPH:  Would you know po iyong mga sinasabi po ni President na aalisin daw po?

SEC. ROQUE:  I was waiting for instruction and authority. I know only of one. But I figure it’s not good to announce on a Monday. We might announce tomorrow.

Q:  Why?

SEC. ROQUE:   Because it’s the beginning of the week, good news Monday. No, I was not furnished the names and I was not given authority to announce. There was no authority to divulge even the one name that I have and there are no other names. Usually the President himself will authorize me, please announce. And I think the reason is he would rather that officials voluntarily resign. So, it is—siguro na lang, let’s leave it at this, marami nang mga nag-resign, quietly, because they were asked to go. But iyong mga kinakailangan sabihan na mag-resign are those who have not resigned despite notice for them to do so.

So the President, I suppose ‘no, would want to give them a chance to voluntarily leave their positions. But honestly, I only know of one name.

PIA GUTTIERREZ/ABS-CBN:  Sir, from what agency?

SEC. ROQUE:  Let’s wait for tomorrow. Sandali lang naman iyan, 24 hours lang iyan ano, come on.

PIA GUTTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: But isn’t that good news against corruption, sir?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well, of course, it’s always good news. But there must be a reason why I was not authorized to announce it. Believe you me, as soon as I am authorized, we will announce it.

PIA GUTTIERREZ/ABS-CBN:  Sir, on the similar topic. Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat has given her Undersecretaries and Assistance Secretaries until today to resign. Is the Palace supportive of this call?

SEC. ROQUE:  Very supportive. Of course all Cabinet secretaries, especially those who are  just been appointed enjoy full trust and confidence of the President and we would want them to have a fresh start and we would want them to pick their own management team, so that they can be the most effective in their jobs.

PIA GUTTIERREZ/ABS-CBN:  Sir, we have heard… may mga names na pong naririnig na magre-resign today. But for those who will not resign, will the Palace also pressure these officials to heed the Secretary’s call?

SEC. ROQUE:  Let’s wait for the end of the day, baka naman lahat sila mag-resign.

PIA GUTTIERREZ/ABS-CBN:  Last na lang, sir. What is the President saying about the new DOT Secretary’s pronouncement on supposed corruptions in the DOT?

SEC. ROQUE:  She was appointed with the expressed mandate to do good and to fight corruption and she is doing just that. The President is very pleased.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS:  Sir, you will announce iyong isang name tomorrow, tama?

SEC. ROQUE:  Hindi ko alam kung bibigyan na ako ng authority to announce.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS:  Sinabi mo na eh.

SEC. ROQUE:  Believe it or not, I always have to be authorized, you know.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS:  Okay, but you said that the President is also giving the others a chance to voluntarily leave. Up to when is that? Especially since may sinabi na siyang lima.

SEC. ROQUE:  I don’t know, maybe it’s as early as tomorrow.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS:  Hanggang bukas na lang?

SEC. ROQUE:  I don’t know. I’m speculating now. But I intentionally came out later than 11, because I gave notice that I am about to begin with my presscon; and there is no advise as of yet. So I take it, it will have to wait until tomorrow.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS:  There are reports some saying na mula daw po sa PAGCOR. Is that true?

SEC. ROQUE:  I read it in a newspaper, so I know as much as you do. But this happened over the weekend, apparently there were officials who went top Cebu to lobby and the President did not like that. But I have no other information other than what has been reported. I just read it in the papers like you. Yes.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Corrupt people gets to lobby with the President?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well, I don’t know if corrupt people gets to lobby, but he did not like apparently,  based on newspaper reports, he did not like the fact  that certain quarters were lobbying.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Lobbying for what, like to stay in their position?

SEC. ROQUE:  No, I think the newspaper said they were lobbying for gambling interests or casino interests. Yes. And the President has been firm: No to news casinos.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Anywhere.

SEC. ROQUE:  Anywhere in the Philippines.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Even in the Philippine Rise, ‘no. Sir, but these are appointees of the President, right?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well, yes. Unfortunately, he has lamented the fact na kung sino pa iyong malalapit sa kanya dahil tumulong sa eleksyon, sila pa iyong mga sinisisante niya ngayon dahil sa korapsyon. So nalulungkot nga po ang Presidente, pero it shows na seryoso po ang Presidente sa kampanya laban sa korapsyon. Walang sinasanto kung sino pa ang malakas, kung sino pa ang malapit, iyon po ang nauunang masibak.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Si Agot Isidro daw is one of the senatorial candidates ng LP?

SEC. ROQUE:  No information po.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: But if she is – in-announce naman – sir, reaksyon?

SEC. ROQUE: Good luck to them.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Iyon lang?

SEC. ROQUE: Iyon lang.

CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQUIRER:  Sa West Philippine Sea. Just to clarify lang. You said that we also expressed concern doon sa Chinese bombers and yet you said China is not a threat to us. So, how could you reconcile those statements… those two statement?

SEC ROQUE:   I have said it before, even if we don’t feel that China is a security threat to us, for as long as there are weapons there, there could be mistakes in the discharge of these weapons and any threat of the use of force in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes, which happens also to be the sea lane where our oil supply passes through and bulk of our exports and imports pass through is a reason for concern to us.

CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQUIRER:  Iyong doon sa—all these resignations and iyong maraming umaalis, ano iyon, sir parang may purging ba or nagkataon lang that we—

SEC ROQUE:  No. Seryoso lang talaga ang Presidente: kung corrupt ka, umalis ka, kahit sino ka pa.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS:  Sir, are we just gonna wait for—I mean, wait and just to watch China expand their militarization in disputed areas?

SEC. ROQUE:  Wrong assumption, we are not waiting.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS:  No, I am asking, I am asking.

SEC. ROQUE:  No. We are not waiting.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS:  Because you said that there’s no threat yet, because they are just there, wala namang ginagalaw. But obviously they are building up something there, for eventual use. Are we doing something to prevent that?

SEC. ROQUE:  We are. We are addressing it diplomatically. Ang position ng DFA, hindi naman nila kinakailangang pangalandakan sa publiko kung ano ang ginagawa nila, because obviously diplomatic communication and relations and negotiations is subject to exception to freedom of information and likewise, of course, we have always expressed serious concerns, it’s not as if we take it sitting down. But again, we go back to what the President has said – the realities that they are there.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Sir, iyong sa bombers, di ba, Vietnamese claimed iyon. I mean, ang nag-o-overlap doon China and Vietnam. Right?

SEC. ROQUE:  Paracels.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Paracels. Now can China land any of its bomber planes in the territories that we claim?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well, can you please ask China ano, because they control the islands. And they have three artificial islands in areas which according to arbitral tribunal fall within our exclusive economic zone.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  No, if they do, what are we going to do?

SEC. ROQUE:  We will again exert diplomatic initiatives. Obviously we are in no position to physically stop them, but we will take all initiatives open to us.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR:  Secretary, just for the record. Sabi ni President Duterte, he will dismiss five officials and then he mentioned a head of agency na apparently nagbigay ng maraming lease contracts or franchise, then meron pa siyang binabanggit na gaming officials and then may binabanggit pa siyang  fraternity brod. So ilan po talaga iyong maalis sa puwesto?

SEC. ROQUE:  I think iyong binanggit niyang fraternity brod, isa na iyong sa Assistant Secretary which we’ve announced. Hindi ko lang alam who amongst the two is his fraternity brod. But as I said, I’m awaiting instructions to make further announcements in this regard.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR:  So more than five definitely?

SEC. ROQUE:   Well, the President mentioned five over the weekend. So I’m asking for the names of the five.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR:  Five, kasama na ba iyong head of agency na sinasabi niya or kasama na iyon sa lima?

SEC. ROQUE:  Again. I know as much as you do, baka lima lang po iyon.

HANNAH SANCHO/DZAR:  Sir, doon sa speech ni President Duterte sa Cebu nagpakita po siya ng matrix. I-clarify lang po namin kung—hindi kasi pinangalanan iyong Priest na sinabi doon. Kung is Father Mark po iyong nasa picture na pinakita po ni President Duterte?

SEC. ROQUE:  Titingnan ko po. Tomorrow naman meron din tayong press briefing. Di masasagot ko iyan. Please remind me ha, titingnan ko po kung sino iyong picture na iyon.

HANNAH SANCHO/DZAR:  Sir, nag-express po si Joma Sison na… dahil may substantial moves na daw iyong peace talks na baka bumalik na po siya ng Pilipinas. May plano po ba ang government na tumulong sa pag-process ng pagbalik niya?

SEC. ROQUE: The President has said, he will takes steps to ensure that he can come back to the country. He will guarantee his safety, he will probably even absorb the cost for Joma Sison to come home and participate in the peace talks.

ROCKY/PTV4:  Okay, no more question.  Okay, thank you  Malacañang Press Corps.

SEC. ROQUE:  Okay, see you tomorrow.

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