Press Briefing

Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson and Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo, Secretary Harry Roque and Department of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol

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

ROCKY IGNACIO/PTV4: Good morning Malacañang Press Corps, happy Monday. Let’s now have Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

SEC. PANELO: Good morning, beautiful friends and handsome gentlemen. But before that I’d like to make a clarification ‘no. There is an intrigue going around that Secretary Alan Cayetano has been fired. I think one columnist is trying to intrigue, that’s not true. He really resigned because he wants to run for Congress.

Now we invited Secretary Manny Piñol so that he will update us with the latest on the rice issue. Good morning, Mr. Secretary, can you join us, please? So you can address your queries to the good Secretary.

But before that I think, since I saw already Secretary Harry, kanina ka pa namin hinihintay. We will call first, Secretary Harry, para he will give his valedictory address, his farewell. He is running for the Senate and I’m going to help him to the hilt.

SEC. ROQUE: Thank you. Thank you, Secretary Sal Panelo. And of course I’d like to thank all the members of the Malacañang Press Corps for a productive almost one year. I assumed this office convinced that our services were valuable because the people do have the right of freedom of information, which is a corollary to the right to freedom of expression. We tried our very best to afford the people this right and of course we may have had misgivings, we may have had shortcomings, all of which I assume full responsibility for and apologize ‘no.

This is not the end of our public career. As I have told my staff, we were already in public service before Malacañang, Malacañang was a continuation of our public service and we move on to serve the people.

I’d like to correct the statement of Secretary Sal Panelo. I had a conversation with President Duterte last night right after the book launch of President FVR and I am taking the advice of the President. While it was always my intention to file a certificate of candidacy for the position of senator, I will actually file tomorrow a certificate of nomination for the partylist under Luntian Pilipinas Partylist, which is an environmental partylist group ‘no. I will be the first nominee and I will have Ms. Ciara Sotto as my second nominee.

And of course the choice of running for an environmental partylist was influenced largely by developments that happened of course in Itogon, as well as events that happened in Mactan and the President’s unrelenting desire to protect the environment ‘no. If you recall, the President has repeatedly said that he wants open pit mining closed and this will be the advocacy that we will be pushing in Congress ‘no.

I could not actually end my short stint as a Presidential Spokesperson without saying goodbye to the stakeholders who enabled me somehow to succeed in my endeavors, without your cooperation I would not have succeeded in whatever way that I succeeded and I look forward to working with all of you because as I said, I simply refuse to vanish into the night.

So with that I’d like to wish my successor Secretary Sal Panelo all the very best; and to all members of the Malacañang Press Corps, this is the temporary thirty, you will see Harry Roque bounce back into public life. So again, thank you very much and may our paths cross again, okay? [Applause]

Ah, may question pa pala? Okay sige.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, could you tell us ano po iyong napag-usapan ninyo ni President Duterte kahapon?

SEC. ROQUE: I took his advice that the best option right now is to go back to Congress, which is really was one of my options. Masikip talaga ang Senado, we have 7 re-electionists and 5 come backing senators ‘no in addition to the new faces ‘no and finance as I said has always been a hindrance ‘no.

Anyway when I was in Congress, I had 16 months in Congress, I had almost all of the bills of national significance as passed ‘no. I’m talking about of course, I’m very proud of my Universal Health Care which I passed as early of August last year before I transfer to Malacañang. There is the free irrigation. There’s the free lunch program and now the amendment to the HIV AIDS law ‘no, including the free tuition. So it really does not matter if I go to the House or the Senate. It’s something that I had proved that with determination and with dedication that we can in fact carry out our obligations and our functions as legislators be it in Congress or in the Senate.

PIA/ABS-CBN: But sir I understand that you’re still included in the lineup of PDP Laban. Wouldn’t that in a way answer your problem on resources, sir, in campaigning for senator?

SEC. ROQUE: No, well I do have a CONA and I wish to thank the PDP Laban for their trust and confidence in me. I also wish to thank NUP, because the NUP also issued a CONA and of course I’d like to thank both President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Mayor Sara Duterte because I was also included in the Hugpong list ‘no. But the decision really to go for Congress is an advice which I took and it’s an advice that perfectly make sense given the limitations on resources.

PIA/ABS-CBN:  Last na lang, sir. Sir, you mentioned before na ang plano talaga is for you to stay as a Presidential Spokesman for at least a year and then prepare you for—to run for senator. Do you have any regrets? Do you feel that President Duterte did not… parang hindi niya sinunod iyong pinangako niya sa iyo?

SEC. ROQUE: Not at all. I’m surprised why there’s talk about… supposedly, you know, being dropped at the end of the day. There really was no such thing because—well, I could get flack for it but I’ve always intended to file a certificate of candidacy for this year’s elections, the President knew it, I knew it. So if there was a change in plan, well it was the offer to become Press Secretary which completely came unexpected and for which I’m very much grateful and flattered. But it’s very difficult to change plans when you have—your eyes set on it and when you have basically devoted time and effort towards realization of that plan. So it’s different when you of course have your own individual mandate.

And if I have to say, I really tried to do the best that I could for the job knowing that it was time bound ‘no. So it’s difficult not to have your own personality especially when you are highly opinionated such as myself; so an elective mandate, well again ‘no, entail expressing my own views, espousing my own solutions to the many problems of the nation.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: Good morning, sir. Sir, you have mentioned before when you were still the Press Secretary some policies na parang—iyong mga stance ninyo before na hindi ninyo na ngayon stance. So will you revert back to that stance like for instance sa comfort women and others that naging—

SEC. ROQUE: Of course that’s part of the decision when I made the decision to go back and seek my own elective mandate. It’s time to be my own person again.

CELERINA/MANILA SHIMBUN: So meaning you would push for your advocacies before?

SEC. ROQUE: Yes, nothing has changed, I’m now back to the old person that I was. I knew that as a Spokesperson I had no personal views. That period has ended ‘no. I’m able now to freely advocate for the many issues that are close to my heart.

CELERINA/MANILA SHIMBUN: Even, sir, it would go against the position of the administration?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, from the very beginning, even before I was recruited for Spokesperson, I had to ask the President: You do know that voted against the death penalty. And he said yes ‘no. So that was no problem, because as a pro I knew that my personal opinions would not matter since I would have to be advocating the position only of the President.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Sir, just a follow up lang. You mentioned that kinonsider ninyo iyong advice ni President sa inyo and one of his advice actually is for you to stay in the Cabinet and be the Press Secretary. So can you walk us through how you made this decision, hindi po ba naging consideration iyong Press Secretary and why did you choose to run as a representative than taking his—

SEC. ROQUE: Well, actually I was very much surprised but flattered when the offer came. But I was surprised because I thought it was clear to both of us that I was running in this year’s elections ‘no. And I was surprised that the offer came for Press Secretary, I do not know if it still the best option. I don’t know what will happen but I do know it came as by way of recommendation from some senators in the Senate who wanted to give PCOO a zero budget ‘no. So—it was also daunting, I did not think that I was the best person for that job because I really I’m not from the press ‘no.

Being a Spokesperson can be different from being a Press Secretary because you would have to head all the state information infrastructure including an actual TV station, an actual news agency and actual news bureau and I never had any experience really as a journalist. So to me it was a very good offer for which I am grateful but it’s really a post that I did not feel I had adequate training for, that’s the truth.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, so you separated ways with the President in good terms and in—

SEC. ROQUE: Very good terms, very good terms.

REYMUND/BOMBO RADYO: And lastly, so you’ve mentioned that you will be back to your old self. So do you have any regrets being the Spokesperson or in one way or the other during your almost a year stint as the Presidential Spokesperson?

SEC. ROQUE: None at all. Because as I said, it was my intention to serve the people by serving the President and I think I was able to do that, I was able to send and communicate to the people the achievements as well as the goals of the Duterte administrations. And yes, it was a pleasure also to defend the President against his detractors because it is my firm conviction that anyone who has been given a democratic mandate must not only be respected but must be supported. And I make no—I have absolutely no regrets as far as that is concerned. It remains my conviction.

REYMUND/BOMBO RADYO: Thank you, sir, and good luck.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Sec., iyong survey results, was it a factor?

SEC. ROQUE: Definitely. I knew that it will be a very difficult climb to Senate if I were to persist. My problem too was we had three consecutive surveys and only the awareness was increasing not the conversion. So it was really a hard reality to accept that perhaps we need to do more to convince the people that we are worthy for the Senate.

ACE/PHIL. STAR: Kasi you are more—mas kilala ka bilang human rights advocate, now you are shifting to environment advocacy. What makes you qualified?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, you know the environment is a matter of human rights. In fact without the environment, without ecology we would not have life ‘no that could enable the realization of all other rights.

ACE/PHIL. STAR: So ano iyong background ninyo regarding that, sa environment? Mayroon kayong mga experience? Can you give us information about—

SEC. ROQUE: Yes. In fact as director of the Institute of International Legal Studies in UP, International Environmental Law was one of our focus ‘no. So aside from having filed the very first Writ of Kalikasan issued by the Supreme Court to prevent the reclamation of 54 hectares in Caticlan, we also had a test case to sue the biggest emitters of carbon monoxide because Yolanda ‘no because… it’s called Chart Climate Change Litigation. So that still an ongoing project where we have residents of Yolanda suing British Petroleum and Shell for tort because we are arguing that their emissions is responsible for climate change which is responsible for the damages suffered by Yolanda. And in few days we will be initiating cases also for incidents involving Benguet as well as Cebu.

ACE/PHIL. STAR: Thank you, Sec.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.: Sir, can you just expound a little bit more doon po sa sinabi ninyo nga na it’s time to be your own person again, you’re back to the old person that you were. Can you give us maybe instances in the past where you didn’t feel like you were yourself? Does this also mean that you’re okay now to maybe criticize some actions of the administration or the President because it would seem that you started last night when you were refer to the President’s kissing incident in Korea as inappropriate which is something you did not say before?

SEC. ROQUE: Well—yes, let me put that in context ‘no, because it was asked: think of an instance where the President did something which you thought was inappropriate. And I answered correctly, I mean and honestly that I thought the kissing scene was a bit too much; something that was observed also by Mayor Sara ‘no and I think by many others. But of course that was state ‘no, at the time it was state, I did not know what I was actually going to do. But I just have to be candid because it was the question. As I said, I never lie. But maybe that’s why Press Secretary would not be apt for me because whether I like it or not, I’m also very candid with my responses. Now, I don’t think that will be repeated. I do not know if the President thought it was inappropriate but I don’t think that incident would be repeated at all for the remainder of the term.

INA/CNN PHILS.: But you issuing such… iyong mga ganiyang criticisms on the President’s actions, you’d—is that something we can expect from you now?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, you see the President when he got me, made it clear that I was a very—I was a critic. He doesn’t care, his words were, I don’t care—he doesn’t care if you’re a friend or enemy. He speaks his mind. And the President says, “I like him to remain that way.”

So it was different when I was a Spokesperson because there was no distinction between myself and his personality. So I had to be very restrained ‘no. But even as my own person, I think the President has always respected who I am and will respect, you know, instances wherein I may have criticisms because he knows I do not seek to overthrowing him ‘no. I only want the best for this administration because his success means success for the entire Filipino people.

Okay. So ladies and gentlemen good bye, it’s a thirty. Yeah, I will vow, bye bye. [Applause]

SEC. PANELO:  Can we rise and give this man our appreciation.

SEC. ROQUE:  Thank you.

SEC. PANELO:  May we call now Secretary Manny Piñol.

SEC. PIÑOL:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary. First, I would like to explain that agriculture is a unique endeavor. And in the Philippines actually, we have an irregular and anomalous farm to market system. When I say seasonality, people complain of very high prices of vegetables. But you have to understand that vegetables are grown in remote areas like the Cordillera where if typhoons would come, would be affected by, you know, damaged roads, inability of our farmers to bring the produce to the market. But now, that the typhoons are gone, farmers are complaining that vegetables prices have gone down.

Also fish, a lot of uproar was made following the decision of the Department of Agriculture to bring in imported galunggung. This was not kneejerk reaction. This was part of a fish conservation program that was started in 2015 by the people of Zamboanga. You see, we have overfished our seas to the point that the people of Zamboanga, the fishermen of Zamboanga in 2015 decided that to make fishing sustainable they have to declare a closed fishing season that starts from November up to February. Now, during the closed fishing season, the fishermen are prohibited from using nets to catch pelagic fish species like galunggung, mackerel, tamban. And the experiment actually worked well in Zamboanga, because after they implemented the closed fishing season every year, the big fish started to come in, because the small fish—the rule of the sea is that, kung nasaan iyong maliliit na isda, nandoon iyong mga malalaking isda, iyon ang kumakain ng maliliit na isda. So, bumalik iyong mga tamban, bumalik iyong malalaking isda.

In the case of rice actually and the increase, the abnormal increase in the price of  rice is both the issue of seasonality and the issue of the failure of the NFA Council and the NFA in the past to agree on what mode of importation to use in bringing  in imported rice. You see,  we have what we call the lean months, pagdating sa bigas, meron tayong lean months and  these are the months of July, August and September. Ito iyong mga panahon na walang harvest. So dapat since we are still importing about 7% of our total rice requirements in the country—and by the way, let me emphasize that in 2017, we harvested the highest harvest in the history of this country – 19.28 million metric tons. That’s 1.6 million metric tons higher than the 2016 harvest. But just the same, dahil na-delay iyong importation, dapat dumating iyong importation during the lean months, hindi nakapagdesisyon iyong NFA at saka NFA Council, na-delay nung mawala iyong NFA rice sa merkado, speculators came in and, you know, manipulated the prices. Nung tumaas iyong presyo sa merkado, iyong mga traders namili ng mahal na palay sa farmers to be able to, you know, exploit the situation to the point that the only way we could stabilize the rice situation – supply and price on the market – was to bring in imported rice.

Today, the NFA has approved the 750,000 metric tons additional importation and by the end of this year, we will have buffer stock good for 134 days coming into 2019. So, there is a danger actually that we may have an oversupply of rice and that is precisely the reason why the NFA last Tuesday launched a buffer stocking program in Mindoro and we will start buying farmer’s produce to protect them from plummeting prices of palay.

In fact, I received complaints from Nueva Ecija, na ngayong bumagsak na, from a high of p25 bumagsak na sa P16 iyong presyo ng palay. So to protect the farmers, the NFA will be starting a local procurement program. We will focus on the local procurement program now, since sufficient na naman iyong ating importation. And the local procurement will form part of our buffer stocks for 2019.

When do we expect the stabilization of the price of rice in the market… starting in the market actually. In fact, I was in Iloilo last week and the millers there are starting to sell their rice at P36 per kilo. But by the end of this October, last week of October, we will be instituting reforms in the grains rice marketing industry.

Number one, we have agreed in the NFA Council – and we have had two meetings already, since it was returned to D.A – that starting this week or at the latest next week, iyong binebentang bigas sa merkado would already be clearly identified as Philippine rice or imported rice. Kasi, dati-rati hinahalo-halo iyan. And the imported rice is being passed off as fancy rice, so bibenta ng mahal.

What made things worse was in the past, the NFA actually allowed the importation of fancy rice, iyong 5% broken. So, even if they bring in a lot of imported rice, hindi nagbago iyong presyo ng merkado. In fact,  it affected the price on the market because iyong 5% broken is considered premium rice and they were selling this at P55 to P60. So, even if we bring in a ship load of imported rice, kung puro fancy rice ang pumapasok, hindi bumababa iyong presyo. So now we have come up with a policy. The importation now will only be 25% broken and that would be sold at about P38 per kilo, that’s the only way.

So ngayong, starting next week, makikita na ninyo sa palengke, i-identify na – ito local rice, ito imported rice. Also, we will do away with the deception in the marketing of rice on the market. Matagal nang reklamo ito, merong nagbebenta ng sinandomeng, dinorado na hindi naman totoo, may super angelica, mayami. We will eliminate all of those. We will simplify the identification of rice according to their broken percentage: regular milled rice, well-milled rice, premium rice and special rice. Iyong special rice, iyon yung mga jasmine, organic, iyong heirloom rice ng Cordillera, iyong totoong dinorado; and regular milled will be sold at about P38. Iyong well milled will be between P40 to P42 and iyong premium rice mga siguro mga P44.

The stakeholders of the rice industry will be meeting on October 18 to set the SRP for rice. And let me emphasize that there was never any instance in this whole period of problems with prices of rice of the market – there was never any instance that we ran out of rice, there was never any rice shortage. Because rice shortage could be defined as, you know, having money to buy, but there is no rice to buy. Ang problema natin actually, naging abnormal iyong presyohan sa merkado, which was happened to our chicken.

Ngayon, nagrereklamo iyong mga chicken growers natin, kasi bumagsak iyong presyo ng farm gate, pero sa merkado, mahal pa rin. Ito iyong malaking problema namin sa Agriculture, iyong law of supply and demand. Actually, ang supply hindi hawak ng farmer, hawak ng middle man at saka trader na may pera at sila ang nagko-control ng presyo sa merkado.

So to address this, the DA has implemented a program called DA TienDA, where we bring farmers to key areas all over the country—or rather all over Metro Manila. Yesterday, nasa Taguig kami and we were selling premium rice at P39, iyong mga gulay napakamura. And in one day, iyong Taguig TienDA Malasakit Store grossed about 3.1 million pesos in one day.

And also yesterday, nag-agree iyong Taguig at saka iyong grupo ng mga farmers sa Tarlac na mag-tie up sila. So ang Taguig now will establish what they call ‘Bigasan ng Bayan’ in populated areas of Taguig. Ang Tarlac farmers will be engaged in a memorandum of agreement, sila iyong magus-supply ng bigas at ibebenta ng City of Taguig at a very low price. Kami naman sa DA we will give incentives to the farmers, we will provide them with farm machinery and equipment and even the loaning program para makapag-deliver sila. Ang kagandahan nito iyong Taguig ngayong magiging stable iyong kanilang rice supply pati presyo. On the farmers’ side, magiging stable naman iyong income ng mga farmers, kasi merong naka-set na presyo na bilihan.

So, these are the developments right now in the agriculture industry and the problems that we have had over the last few weeks, we consider this as temporary distractions. We have a roadmap for all of the commodities that we are involved with and we will not be distracted by this momentary problems. Thank you.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO:  Hi sir, good noon. Sir, pero iyong DA TienDA natin, it seems to me na parang for a short term and limited, kasi hindi lahat may access to that place or particular market. So, when can we do away permanently this these tulisan traders na para on a normal day to day operations, iyong presyohan talaga hindi masyadong malaki iyong gap from farm gate price to the market?

SEC. PIÑOL:  You know, when I was a young boy growing up in the province, we had this weekly tienda market. In my hometown in M’lang in was Saturday. And every Saturday, the farmers would bring their pineapple to the market. This is the very same concept that we are reintroducing right now. This could be sustainable depende nga sa participation ng LGUs. That is why we are actually inviting LGUs to participate in this program, because we could supply them but they have to manage the TienDA in their area. At hindi puwedeng araw-araw, kasi hindi na namin kakayanin, hindi rin kakayanin ng mga farmers, dapat weekends lang. Pang-stabilize lang talaga ito ng presyo. But if the LGUs would like to do it on a continuing basis, we could supply them with the food commodities that they need.   

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO:  Kasi ang pinamalaking problema—kasi sa mga provinces that still exists eh, like sa amin sa ilocos, Monday, Thursday. So nag-i-exists iyong ganyang style. Pero ang problema dito sa Metro Manila, they depend on the supplies from Baguio City, from Calabarzon. So, how do we plan to make this a normal day to day na sa Metro Manila?

SEC. PIÑOL:  Well organized na iyong ating mga farmers ngayon, ang kailangan na lang namin is a positive response from the LGUs and we are happy that Taguig and Muntinlupa actually ‘no… mas nauna iyong Muntinlupa, sila iyong nag-partner sa amin, and ngayon Taguig. We are inviting other LGUs to participate in this program, because we have the goods to supply them. Ang kailangan lang namin outlets, para madirekta ng ating mga farmers saka mangingisda iyong kanilang produkto.

IAN CRUZ/GMA7:  Sec, good morning. To sum it up sa last week ng October, stabilized na po ba ang presyo ng bigas?

SEC. PIÑOL:  Yes, we will set the SRPs already on the last week of October. And on October 18, that’s a Thursday, magmi-meeting ang rice stakeholders, we will meet in my office in Quezon City at ise-set na namin iyong SRP ng bawat klase ng bigas.

IAN CRUZ/GMA7:  Bakit po ninyo mase-set ngayon, okay na ba iyong supply natin, Sec?

SEC. PIÑOL:  Yes, it’s the harvest season. In fact, sabi ko nga kanina nagsabay-sabay iyong pagpasok ng imported rice and the harvest season to the point na nagbabagsakan na ngayon ang presyo ng palay at ang nagrereklamo naman ngayon farmer. Dati ang nagrereklamo consumer dahil mataas ang presyo ng bigas, ngayon nagrereklamo naman  ang farmer dahil bumabagsak iyong presyo ng palay. That’s the problem with agriculture actually, it’s like a see-saw, it’s difficult to keep it balance. You may favor the consumers and displease the farmers. Ito iyong hindi nakita nung karamihan nagki-criticize doon sa mataas na presyo ng bigas. But it was during this period, when the rice farmers of the country actually made the best income actually. At you could ask the farmers. For the first time in their lives, nakatikim sila ng presyong umabot ng P30, first time iyon. Kaya lang hindi natin napapansin masyado iyon, kasi ang reklamo nga doon sa mataas na presyo ng bigas sa merkado.

IAN CRUZ/GMA7:   Sir, can you just expound po. Bakit po kailangan lagyan na ng label ang imported and Philippine rice na ibebenta sa merkado, bakit po ganoon?

SEC. PIÑOL:  Because, dapat ang imported rice, mas mura sa local rice. Kaya nga ang ginagawa ng dati, hinahalo iyong imported rice sa local rice para maka-command ng mataas na presyo. So, we really have to classify it. At iyong desisyon ng NFA na ipagbawal na ang importation ng fancy rice or premium rice, actually is part of our efforts to bring down the price of imported rice. Kasi kapag fancy rice ang in-import nila, maski gaano pa karaming imported rice ang bibilhin natin, hindi natin maibaba iyong presyo eh, kasi ibebenta nila ng P55, P60. That’s the reason why noong sinabi ng ating mga ibang economic managers na kapag nag-import tayo ng nag-import, bababa ng P7 ang presyo ng bigas.

Nung makita ko iyong—first day ng pag-transfer ng NFA sa DA actually, umikot ako ng palengke eh at nakita ko na ang binebenta nila P58, P60 iyong mga jasmine, imported rice. So, talagang pag ganun ang bentahan, pag premium rice ang binenta, maski imported pa iyan, the price of rice on the market will never go down. So kailangan nating baguhin iyong policy na iyan. Hindi na puwedeng mag-import ng fancy rice kung hindi Filipino farmers na lang ang magpo-produce ng fancy rice.

ROCKY IGNACIO/PTV4:  Patanong po ni Rose Novenario, kung totoo daw po na nagkasigawan sina Secretary Piñol at Secretary Dominguez sa Cabinet meeting last October 8, dahil  daw po sa rice issue?

SEC. PIÑOL:  You know, I don’t think it’s proper for me to discuss anything that transpires during the Cabinet meetings. Because whatever we do there is part of, you know, the exercise that we do, exchange of ideas, minsan siguro magtataasan ng boses, but doesn’t to mean to say na magkaka-away kami. It’s just differences in ideas.     

HENRY URI/DZRH: Secretary, iyon hong Bigasan ng Bayan, existing pa ba ho iyan? At saan-saan pa ho mayroon niyan? Kasi may mga nagtatanong sa mga …lalo iyong mga liblib na lugar na wala na po silang nabibilhan ng bigas sa mga Bigasan ng Bayan.

SEC. PIÑOL: Actually, itong Bigasan ng Bayan, nag-umpisa ito nung pinatawag ni Presidente iyong mga rice traders at saka rice millers, this was April of 2018. And this was the time na na-delay iyong importation ng NFA. And the traders and millers from Isabela actually and other parts of Luzon, committed that they could sell rice at 39 pesos per kilo. It’s still ongoing. Pero nung tumaas talaga iyong presyo, medyo kumonti iyong kanilang supply.

But right now, there are still groups – iyong AGRIS, for example – there are still groups selling rice at 39 pesos. Pero ito, kuwan na ito, imported rice na; hindi na iyong local rice. Pero kahapon sa Taguig, a group of rice farmers from Tarlac actually sold rice at 39 pesos; at magandang klaseng bigas ang binibenta nila, iyong RC160 which is actually one of the best local rice varieties that we have.

HENRY URI/DZRH: Sa nationwide ho, marami pang kuwan … lalo na sa mga liblib na lugar, Secretary, may mga ganito pa rin ba?

SEC. PIÑOL: Alam mo nakakapagtaka, sa mga probinsiya, tumaas din iyong presyo ng bigas. Ngayon pa lang bumababa iyong presyo ng bigas actually dahil tag-ani na. And sabi ko nga, ito iyong seasonality ng bigas. Kapag off harvest season, talagang tumataas iyong presyo ng bigas; kapag harvest season naman, bumabagsak ang presyo ng palay at minsan sinasabayan din ng bigas o minsan hindi rin.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL: Sec., you mentioned earlier iyong SRP iri-release na last week of October … because Usec. Castelo was here last week, and mayroon na siyang binigay na presyo. I was just wondering if these are the same prices that na-approve for the SRP that will be released in October: Regular milled – 39; well-milled – 42; whole grain – 45; fancy – 50?

SEC. PIÑOL: That will be validated on October 18. Iyon iyong mga figures na diniskas (discussed) namin, but those are not yet the SRPs for the different kinds of rice that we will sell in the market.

The exact pricing of SRPs will be determined on October 18 when we will be meeting for the final time with the stakeholders of the rice industry. Kasama na iyong mga farmers diyan, traders, millers and the others, and even the rice retailers.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL: I guess it goes without saying also, sir, na kapag ni-release na iyong SRP, ang makikita na lang po ng consumers sa palengke ay itong categories of rice?

SEC. PIÑOL: Yes.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL: No more iyong ibang pangalan.

SEC. PIÑOL: Puwede mong lagyan sa ilalim. Halimbawa, regular milled rice, puwede mong lagyan sa ilalim ng RC22 or halimbawa IR64. Pero ang title talaga ng bigas mo is regular milled rice, and then you have well-milled rice, and then you have premium rice and then special rice.

Kasi ang daming pangalan eh. Nahihilo ang mga tao sa pangalan eh. At saka hindi naman totoong mayroong Sinandomeng na variety. At saka wala namang Yummy Rice – ano iyon, hamburger?

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL: Lastly, sir. Sir, can you clarify, once and for all, iyong sinasabing …iyong una pong inanunsiyo dito na unimpeded rice importation. What role really or does the NFA still have a role doon sa importation ng bigas na sinabi po din dito ay kahit sino puwede na pong mag-import?

SEC. PIÑOL: You know, I do not want to discredit the statement of Secretary Roque, because I think it was Secretary Roque who used the words “unimpeded importation.” But to be truthful and factual, I think we could refer to the minutes of the Cabinet meeting. The President never used the words “unimpeded importation.” Indeed, he said, let’s flood the market with rice. But to say that importation will be unimpeded would mean like throwing away all of the rules in the book, and allowing just about everybody to load rice in the boat and bring it to the Philippines.

The President is a lawyer, and he knows the meaning of the word “unimpeded.” And again, I will refer you all to the minutes of the Cabinet meeting. And I can assure you that those words were never uttered by the President. But he directed us to make sure that there would be sufficient rice supply. Sabi niya, “Di baling mag-umapaw sa bodega. Di baling sumobra, huwag lang kumulang.” Those were the statements of the President.

And I fully understand the essence of the statement of the President. Kaya gusto kong liwanagin iyan. Walang words na ganoong ginamit ang Pangulo, iyong “unimpeded importation.” Kasi kinakabahan iyong ating mga farmers eh, kasi kapag sinabi mong unimpeded importation, you throw away all the rules and guidelines to the waste basket and just bring in rice. We will come up with the guidelines as the directed by the President. But this will all be based on what is legal and what is prescribed in the law.

You cannot just, you know, say that NFA will have no more role in the importation because that would effectively, you know, throw away the mandate of NFA into the waste basket. Luluwagan namin iyong importation pero mayroon pa ring mga prosesong susundin.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL: Okay. Specifically sinabi ni Secretary Roque, “No more need to secure accreditation from the NFA.” Is that right?

SEC. PIÑOL: That cannot be. Because under the law, it’s still NFA who will accredit the importers.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL: Last. So is it right to say, Secretary, that for now, it’s still AO 13, iyong latest—

SEC. PIÑOL: Yes, basically that was the essence of the statement of the President. It was just a reiteration of his statement. In fact, iyong pagdating niya nga from Bali, he again mentioned that na kailangan naming paluwagan pa; and we are doing it. In fact, we have approved the proposal of DTI.

Ang DTI na proposal ay napakaganda. Nag-partner sila with the private group pero mayroong deed of undertaking, na papayagan namin sila mag-import ng bigas. We will give them an allocation of 350,000 metric tons that they could bring in, provided they sell the rice at no more than 38 pesos per kilo. So ito iyong mga reforms na ginagawa natin ngayon.

And also, I will ask for the review of the issuances of import permits to groups who end up selling the import permits kasi wala naman silang perang pambili ng imported rice. Ang ginagawa nila, kapag nanalo sila sa bidding, ibinibenta din nila iyong mga lisensya. We will reform this actually.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL: And lastly, sir. It’s been amount since AO 13 was issued. When can we expect the guidelines that you said will be released?

SEC. PIÑOL: Actually we have already set the guidelines. Pero kung gusto pa ng Presidente luwagan, magmi-meeting ulit kami. Third meeting namin hopefully by next week o Monday next week ay magmi-meeting ulit ang NFA Council for the third time in less than a month.

By the way, I know that there are farmers in the Malacañang Press Corps. I received a lot of inquiries kanina. Kung gusto ninyong magtanim, mayroon kaming ano—ibibigay ninyo lang ang number ninyo, patatawagan namin kayo.

And by the way, let me just guide you. Mayroon tayong available na guide map ngayon sa internet. It’s farmersguidemap.gov.ph. If you want to know what crop is suitable in your farm, you just go to that website. And you can access it, it will tell you what crops should be planted in your specific area.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Sir, Secretary Roque was discussing about the full liberalization of rice importation, that’s why he used the word “unimpeded.” So it was never tackled during the Cabinet meeting?

SEC. PIÑOL: No, it was. It was tackled. But the President never used the word “unimpeded.”

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: But the full liberalization of rice importation.

SEC.  PIÑOL: Yes.

RJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: What does that mean?

SEC. PIÑOL: Full liberalization means you allow importation to come in, but still based on guidelines as prescribed by law.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: But according to Harry Roque, it meant that NFA will no longer have to license or regulate traders?

SEC. PIÑOL: Then do you have to amend the NFA mandate. You have to amend the law that created NFA.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: So how do you describe Sir Roque’s statement?

SEC. PIÑOL: No, as I’ve said, siguro medyo napi-pressure din lang siya sa mga question ninyo. Kayo ang sinisisi niya eh, tanong daw kayo nang tanong about rice prices eh. Iyon ang sinasabi niya sa Cabinet meeting eh. Iyon ang sabi niya sa Cabinet meeting namin na tuwing nagpi-press briefing siya, tinatanong siya palagi about sa bigas. Kaya sabi niya, puwede bang sagutin na natin ito. And it was he actually who used the words “unimpeded importation.”

Para lang ano … I do not mean to discredit Secretary Roque. Masyado lang excited siguro. Emotional lang iyong mama siguro. Pero let me put things in their proper perspective: The President never used the word “unimpeded importation” because that would be disservice, an injustice to the Filipino farmers.

MODERATOR: Okay. Maraming salamat, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol.

SEC. PIÑOL: Thank you.

SEC. PANELO: Baka naman ang ibig lang sabihin ng mga unimpeded, kasi dati istrikto, ‘di ba dati may mga allocation, ni-liberalize iyon. Iyon naman ang ibig sabihin noon.

IAN CRUZ/GMA7: Secretary, si Senator Grace Poe, sinasabi niya na bakit daw ang isu-suspend na tranche ng TRAIN Law ay iyong next year, iyong second. Dapat daw iyong ngayon iyong isu-suspend, iyong in effect today kasi nga mas mataas na nga daw ang mga presyo ng langis po.

SEC. PANELO: I think, that question should be addressed to our economic managers. Iyong kanilang desisyon, I think, is based on studies so we have to defer to them.

BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: But, sir, did the President already make up his mind about this recommendation po from the economic managers to suspend the next tranche of excise tax po on fuel?

SEC. PANELO: Yes, the fact that they made an announcement for that is a validation.

BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: So are you saying, sir, na magkakaroon po tayo ng parang document or order stating that President accepts the economic managers’ recommendation po?

SEC. PANELO: Certainly, yes.

BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: Sir, kalian po nakapag-decide si President about it po, sir?

SEC. PANELO: I don’t know when. But the economic managers made that an announcement so I presume that they talked to him immediately prior to the announcement.

BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: I think, sir, nagkaroon daw po ng meeting sa Bali po, recommendation po ng economic managers kay President. So right there and then po ba, did the President make up his mind?

SEC. PANELO: I was not present during that meeting. I was not present during that meeting so I have no personal knowledge on that.

BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: Pero, sir, iyong pag-accept ni President ng position ng economic managers, kalian po niya na-communicate sa inyo po?

SEC. PANELO: The economic managers made the announcement, I think, yesterday only. And so, when I was asked whether the President has already made such an announcement, I said, the fact alone that the economic managers made an announcement is already a confirmation that the President did so.

CELERINA MONTE/ MANILA SHIMBUN: Pero, sir, mayroon na ba talagang formal announcement? Kasi parang yesterday, parang mga haka-haka pa lang na first it was SAP Go who mentioned that, and then mayroong correction. And then, ito naman si Usec or Asec Lambino naman, quoting SAP Go. So apparently, mayroong confusion. Mayroon ba talaga or wala?

SEC. PANELO: There will be a paper documenting that. Hintayin natin iyan.

CELERINA MONTE/ MANILA SHIMBUN: Kasi as of now, wala po eh. Even the DoF, they did not issue yet any official statement regarding that. Kasi I was asking yesterday for the official statement, and apparently, there’s none.

SEC. PANELO: Lalabas na iyon. Siguro in the process of issuing that.

CELERINA MONTE/ MANILA SHIMBUN: So there’s really a decision to suspend the excise tax on oil for next year?

SEC. PANELO: Definitely, definitely there is a decision. In fact, it was even the President who made that the announcement.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Sir, the NOW or NOW Telecom said they want the President to manage third telco selection. And they want the bids to be presented on November 7 to the President himself because they believe the President has the moral ascendancy to choose the most deserving candidate. Is the President open to this?

SEC. PANELO: Will you please repeat your question again?

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: It’s the NOW Telecom Company said—

SEC. PANELO: NOW? Telecom?

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Yes. They said they want the President to manage third telco selection. They want the bids to be presented on November 7 to the President himself because they believe the President has the moral ascendancy to choose the most deserving candidate. Is the President open to this?

SEC. PANELO: What the President said during the Cabinet meeting is if there is no decision yet, then he will take over. That is what he said. Because there have been complaints that it has been delayed, that is why the President … by November, wala pa iyan, I’ll take over. That was taken during the tête-à-tête interview.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: So we expect by December, we already have the third telco?

SEC. PANELO: Hopefully, yes.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: Secretary Panelo, clarifications. So the Palace is not amenable for now doon sa proposal ni Senator Poe?

SEC. PANELO: That?

ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: Iyong suspension ng oil excise tax?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi pa natin alam eh, kasasabi lang ni Senator Grace. Let’s see. I will ask the President on that.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: But definitely, there will be … iyong paper, will it be a memorandum ba, suspending the increase?

SEC. PANELO: Most likely. Siyempre kailangan mayroong document.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: Wala pang timeframe kung kailan?

SEC. PANELO: Wala pa. I will ask ES. Si ES ang ano diyan eh, in charge.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: Sir, would it suffice for the President to just issue an AO or EO regarding that suspension considering that it’s stated in the law that there is some requisite in order to suspend that excise tax?

SEC. PANELO: Yeah, the law provides for a suspension clause if the President feels that it has  to be suspended.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: Even if it did not reach the 80 peso for three consecutive months?

SEC. PANELO: I think so, yes. He will—because that was already his decision.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: Follow up lang doon, Sec. Kasi ‘di ba nasa law dapat iyong average three months, eh October pa lang ngayon. So paano kung—kasi may forecast iyong DoF na baka raw hindi bumaba sa 80 dollar per barrel. So ibig sabihin, iyong suspension ba ay mangyayari kahit hindi na-meet iyong conditions na iyon, kasi nag-declare na tayo ng early announcement ng suspension?

SEC. PANELO: If I have not mistaken, I’d just watched Secretary Pernia, iyon din ang sinasabi niya eh. Parang kahit na hindi ma-reach, itutuloy. Iyon ang pagkaintindi  ko kanina. Nakita ko sa TV kanina.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: So kahit hindi ma-breach iyong 80 doon sa three months, itutuloy iyong suspension?

SEC. PANELO: I’ll check on that para sigurado tayo. I’ll check on that.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL: Hi, Sec. The President said that he will visit Boracay kapag idi-distribute na po iyong land. Can you give us an update on the status of that directive of the President na put under land reform ang Boracay? What directives or ano po ang ginagawa ng DAR if it is the concerned agency handling it?

SEC. PANELO: Wala pa. I’ll have to meet with them pa. I will respond to your question when I’m briefed with that.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL: Just to be clear: Is it DAR, sir, or DENR? Ano bang agency ang handling that directive?

SEC. PANELO: Both Departments will be involved – DAR and DENR.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL: And how soon could the land be distributed as what the President is saying?

SEC. PANELO: I’ll ask the Secretaries of both Departments. Magmi-meet kami.

MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo. Thank you, Malacañang Press Corps.

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SOURCE: PCOO – NIB (News and Information Bureau)

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