Press Briefing

Press Briefing by PCOO Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan, DFA Spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar and NCRPO Chief Oscar Albayalde

OPENING STATEMENTS: 

ASEC. ABLAN: Good morning. Magandang umaga po. Maayong buntag. Dagiti gagayyem ken kakabsat ko nga taga-Ilocos ken daduma pay nga Ilocano nga agbuya ita Facebook Live ken PTV ken RTVM, dita New Zealand, Australia, US, Qatar, Middle East, Europe, naimbag nga naimbag bigat kadakayo amin apo.

All right. So today we are fortunate to have Department of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar and National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Regional Director, Police Director Oscar D. Albayalde, the Task Group Commander for ASEAN.

They will share with us the preparations in place for the 50th ASEAN Foreign Minister’s Meeting which will be held in Manila from August 2 or tomorrow and will end with a culminating activity on August 8.

Some updates on ASEAN from our end at PCOO.

It’s going to be a very busy week for the ASEAN meetings starting from August 2 all the way up to August 8 as to be explained by Ambassador Robespierre later on.

We have the 50th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting or AMM and Post-Ministerial Conferences.

There’ll also be the 18th ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Meeting and the 7th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, as well as the 24thASEAN Regional Forum. All happening between the period of August 2 to August 8. And this will happen in CPP area, particularly in Sofitel and PICC.

On August 8, we will be celebrating the 50th year of the ASEAN and we will have a grand commemorative celebration happening at the CPP area in front of the CPP, to be led by the NCCA, among other government agencies.

We’ll also be having an ASEAN-Pop Festival in the evening.

I was also informed that all over the Philippines, the different local government units will be celebrating the 50th ASEAN Anniversary with us and I think it will be later explained by the DFA that there will be a blowing of horns all over the Philippines.

So don’t be alarmed. So that’s all I’m trying to say ‘no. Don’t be alarmed on August 8 if you hear blowing of horns, it’s not the end of the world. It’s the celebration of the 50th ASEAN — Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

All right. Having said that, ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, let us all give a warm welcome to DFA Spokesperson Rob Bolivar and NCRPO Chief Oscar Albayalde. 

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat. Good morning friends from the media.

Good morning Asec. Kris and thank you for inviting me and thank you for promoting me. Hindi pa po ako Ambassador.

But as Asec. Kris mentioned, allow me to go through the preparations that we are undertaking for the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting.

We are both fortunate and humbled and honored to have been the host, the chair of ASEAN during this milestone 50th anniversary.

So foreign ministers and senior officials from 27 countries will gather in Manila for the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and Related Meetings at the Philippine International Convention Center on August 2 to 8, 2017.

As ASEAN celebrates the 50th anniversary of its establishment, a grand celebration of this milestone event will be held on August 8, the founding date of ASEAN.

We will have a landmark lighting at the CPP. This is going to be the culminating event of the ASEAN Ministerial Meetings.

The annual AMM and its related meetings bring together the foreign ministers of ASEAN; ASEAN Plus Three which is China, Japan, Korea; the East Asia Summit; and the ASEN Regional Forum; as well as the Post-Ministerial Conferences where ASEAN meets with each of its 10 dialogue partners.

Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter S. Cayetano will chair the 50thAMM, the 18th ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the 7thEast Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and the 24th ASEAN Regional Forum.

And will also lead together with the Canadian Foreign Minister, the ASEAN-Canada Post-Ministerial Conference because we are the outgoing country coordinator for ASEAN-Canada relations.

He is also set to participate in the Post-Ministerial Conferences with other dialogue partners. The Secretary will also lead the ASEAN Foreign Ministers in its interface with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, as well as the meeting of the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Commission.

He will also join the foreign ministers of the Southwest Pacific Dialogue for its 15th Ministerial Meeting.

Under the Philippine chairmanship of Partnering for Change, Engaging the World, the ministers will primarily review the progress and future direction of ASEAN community building efforts.

They will also exchange views on pressing regional and international developments.

Before the 50th AMM and Related Meetings commence on August 4, preparatory meetings at the level of senior officials and the committee of permanent representatives to ASEAN will take place starting tomorrow.

If I may go through briefly the schedule for the entire AMM and Related Meetings.

On… Tomorrow, August 2, we have a meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN. On August 3, the Senior Officials Meeting will begin.

At the end of that day, we will have the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone. This is senior officials level.

We will also have the senior officials meeting of the ASEAN Plus Three; the East Asia Summit; and the ARF.

On August 4, we will have the first meeting at the ministerial level which is the SEANWFZ Commission, the Commission of the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone.

The ASEAN Ministers will also have an interface with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission On Human Rights Representatives on August 4 and we will have a few senior officials meetings of the sub-regional groups like the Mekong-Japan Senior Officials’ Meeting, the Lower Mekong Initiatives et cetera.

On August 5, we have the formal opening ceremony of the 50thASEAN Ministerial Meeting and we are hoping that the President will be able to grace this occasion to address the ministers at the opening of the AMM.

We also have scheduled all the meetings related to the AMM including the retreat session and the plenary, as well as the launching of the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation Publication entitled Symposium on Principles, Mechanisms, and Practices of Peace and Reconciliation Processes.

On August 6, we have scheduled all the Post-Ministerial Conferences, the whole day and also the ministerial level meetings of the sub-regional groupings, including the South West Pacific Dialogue which the Secretary is going to attend.

On August 7, we have a continuation of some of the sub-regional meetings. We also have the ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers Meeting, the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers Meeting and the ASEAN Regional Forum.

On August 8, as we mentioned earlier, we have the grand celebration of the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN and the closing ceremony of the 50th ASEAN Ministers Meeting.

Now, before I turn over the mic, let me just highlight a few of the milestones that we are celebrating as Philippines as member of ASEAN which may not be that well-known to the public.

The ASEAN… The first Secretary-General of ASEAN from the Philippines was Ambassador Narciso Reyes on July 1, 1980.

The Philippines led in the adoption of the Manila Declaration during the Philippine chairmanship of the 3rd ASEAN Summit in Metro Manila in 1987.

The Manila Declaration aimed to foster closer political and economic cooperation among its Member States and Dialogue Partners.

Ambassador Rodolfo Severino became the second Filipino to serve as Secretary-General of ASEAN in January 1998, 18 years later.

The Philippines spearheaded the establishment of the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity in 2005 at the University of the Philippines Los Baños during the 9th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment.

The ACB, as it is called, is the first regional initiative that aims to preserve the rich biodiversity of ASEAN.

And lastly, the Philippines took the lead in the adoption of the landmark ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers during the 12th ASEAN Summit in 2007.

The ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers provides protection to documented migrant workers and their families in the region.

So mga kababayan, marami po tayong ise-celebrate at the 50thanniversary. And all of these were the contributions — the significant contributions among others of the Philippines to this regional grouping.

Maraming salamat po.

ASEC. ABLAN: Thank you Spokesperson Bolivar. May we know call on General Albayalde po.

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Thank you po. Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat ulit.

I did not prepare a press statement but what has already been said. Of course, we’ll be celebrating the 50th ASEAN — 50th Foreign Ministers’ Meeting this coming August 2 to 8 ‘no.

And we have actually started preparations on security matters since last year for this big event ‘no. And we have already monitored arrivals of some delegates who will be billeted in 21 hotels here in Metro Manila, particularly in parts of Parañaque, Pasay and Makati ‘no.

And we’ll be expecting around 1,700 visitors here, VIPs. So this is practically a very huge task for us where we will be utilizing more or less 13,000 uniformed personnel here with 1,286 attached personnel from other agencies.

So as of this time, we have already have our skeletal deployment in some hotels because as I’ve said earlier, about 24 delegates from some countries have already arrived.

So we have deployment in some billets or in some hotels already and, of course, our route securities are in place.

And we expect, as earlier said, huge participation coming August 8 where there will be a parade ‘no for the ceremonial lighting of ASEAN lantern from Luneta or Kilometer Zero going to CPP Complex at around 4 p.m. in the afternoon, followed by a concert at the Amphitheater in BGC in the evening.

So these are all the activities that we are preparing and actually, we have made walkthroughs since yesterday with the other security officers of ASEAN Ministers.

And I think with all the preparations that we’ve made, the country is very much ready to host this 50th Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.

Thank you.

ASEC. ABLAN: Thank you Police Director Albayalde, for giving us the updates. Hopefully, it’s not going to be that traffic around Roxas Boulevard and CPP area ‘cause I pass that route.

All right. This is not Mindanao Hour day but I’ll give you some updates on what’s happening in Marawi.

Today is 1 August, Day 71 of the rebellion in Marawi.

Data as of 19:00 or 7 p.m. 31, July 2017:

Number of enemy killed, 502. There are 11 additional enemies killed.

Civilians killed, non-combatants, there’s 45

Firearms recovered, we have increase of eight firearms so the total is now 592.

Civilians rescued – 1,724

Buildings cleared – 4. And as of July 30, 15.

So killed in action, we have 114 of our soldiers.

In addition to that, before we proceed with the open forum. This coming Friday, we will be having a We Build Marawi Forum which the PCOO is organizing together with Task Force Bangon Marawi or TFBM which is headed by Undersecretary Cesar Yano.

As you understand… As you know, the Task Force is broken down with several sub-committees: a sub-committee on livelihood, a sub-committee on housing, a sub-committee on peace and order, and a sub-committee on — a new sub-committee on information.

And so, you will be meeting the different designated undersecretaries of these particular sub-committees to explain to the public what’s happening in Marawi and how are we rebuilding the city.

You have noticed that starting last Friday, we’ve invited Assistant Secretary Toby Purisima of the OCD who is the Deputy of Undersecretary Yano and the TFBM spokesperson and who attends now the Mindanao Hour briefings on Monday and Friday to brief the public regarding not just what’s happening on the ground with our soldiers but how is the government rebuilding the city of Marawi.

With that, we’d like to open the floor for your questions, which I hope, I can fill in for Spokesman Abella. If not, we have the DFA Spokesperson and the NCRPO director in charge of ASEAN.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:

Tuesday Niu (DZBB): Good morning, sirs. To Director Albayalde, sir. Sir, on the security for the ASEAN. ‘Yung… How will you ensure, sir, na walang mangyayaring mga insidente of some sort of terroristic activities on the ASEAN events katulad nung nakaraan na may mga pagsabog sa Quiapo although hindi naman siya related to the ASEAN pero ‘yung assurance for our visitors, sir?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Well, ‘yung… Actually 100 percent foolproof ‘no hindi natin pa masabi ‘yan not unless na matapos ‘yung ASEAN without any incident whatsoever.

But we have done our part. The preparations have been made since last year. I think with all our efforts ‘no, we are very much ready to secure the leaders, ‘yung mga ministers coming here.

We have task groups actually ng peace and order at tsaka ‘yung sa security.

The peace and order will be handling doon sa ibang concern natin. Like ‘yung mga target-hardening measures natin that we have to undertake, ‘yung mga operations natin related dito sa gaganaping ASEAN meeting ‘no.

Hindi lang kasi pagse-secure ng mga leaders ang ginagawa natin dito kundi ‘yung pati ‘yung mga target-hardening measures natin like we conduct the One- Time Big-Time operations sa mga critical areas and other areas that we suspect to be — being utilized as lairs or safe houses of suspected threat groups ‘no.

As of this time, so far wala naman tayong nakukuhang threat, although we are monitoring all these critical areas, ‘yung mga enclaves na sinasabi rin natin ’no at we are monitoring some groups who are actually present here in Metro Manila, who are Balik Islam and other former members of the ABB, who suspectedly nag-Balik Islam ‘no. So these are all being monitored in relation to this meeting.

Ms. Niu: Okay, sir, follow-up lang po. Any info, sir, na baka may Maute members na nakarating dito sa Metro Manila?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: With regards to the specific group na Maute, wala tayong nakukuha especially those coming from Mindanao, particularly in Marawi for that matter.

Ang tinitingnan lang naman natin ngayon dito is ‘yung mga — as I’ve said earlier — ‘yung mga former members ng mga ABB na nag-Balik Islam. So ito ‘yung mga present dito sa NCR.

But as of this time, wala naman tayong namo-monitor na movement nila that would probably disrupt this ASEAN meeting.

Ms. Niu: Thank you, sir.

Kris Jose (Remate): Sir, kasama rin po ba doon sa ginawa niyong paghahanda ‘yung mga street children, ambulant vendors?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: No, the street children will be taken care of by the DSWD. Of course, ‘yung lead agency diyan is the DSWD with assistance from our office and probably from MMDA.

Ms. Jose: Makikita po ba natin sila sa streets, sa mga daan na maaaring daanan ng ating mga bisita, sir?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Most probably, mukhang hindi siguro ‘no. Baka dalhin sila doon sa mga bahay-bata o kaya doon sa mga facilities ng DSWD.

Ms. Jose: In short, sir, itatago muna sila pansamantala?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: I really don’t know. We have no arrangement as of this time with DSWD. Wala namang nire-request ‘yung DSWD.

And if you will see naman, ‘yung dadaanan nila, basically the Roxas Boulevard, wala naman na tayong nakikitang mga batang nagkakalat sa kalsada diyan.

Ms. Jose: Thank you, sir.

Patricia Mangune (TV-5): Hi, sir, good af — ay good morning po.

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Yes?

Ms. Mangune: Sir, ano po ‘yung mga road closures? Meron po ba and re-routing?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Yes, that will be announced by the MMDA, probably starting this week ‘no dahil on…  Although ‘yung mga pagdating nila, there will be no road closures except, of course, ‘yung vicinity ng PICC, CPP Complex and Sofitel ‘no.

But on August 8, ‘yung parada, the ceremonial lighting nung ASEAN Lantern coming from Luneta or Kilometer Zero going to CPP Complex, that portion, yung papuntang Cavite or south ‘no, going south, it will be closed. It will be closed probably one or two hours before the start of the parade.

Ms. Mangune: Thank you, sir.

Celerina Monte (Daily Manila Shimbun): Good morning, Celerina Monte from the Daily Manila Shimbun. Sir, specifically what are these enclaves that you are monitoring? And if ever, how many Balik Islam or this ABB that you are also monitoring?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Well, there are just a few ‘no — few people lang naman ito tinitingnan natin na mino-monitor, continuously being monitored by our intelligence operatives, both from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

‘Yung mga tinatawag nating mga “critical areas,” of course, o ‘yung mga enclaves na pwedeng pagpugaran ng mga suspected terror groups, most critical of which, of course, ‘yung sa Maharlika dahil napakalaking village niyan ‘no and dito sa Manila, City of Manila, ‘yung Quiapo and doon sa Baseco Compound, ‘yun ang mga tinitingnan natin ngayon.

Although wala naman tayo talagang namo-monitor. But then again, we have to conduct these target-hardening measures to prevent any untoward incident for this ASEAN meeting.

Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): For Spokesperson Bolivar. Good morning, sir.

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Good morning, ma’am.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, the Foreign Ministers are expected to endorse the framework on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. Following this, sir, what’s next and how much closer are we now to having an actual binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea?

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Yeah, okay. Thank you for your question. First and foremost, let me just say again that we have a commitment from ASEAN and China to finalize, to approve the framework of the Code of Conduct within the chairmanship year of the Philippines, which is this year.

So we expect… Having said that, we expect that the foreign ministers will endorse the framework as it is currently approved by the senior officials in — last May — to endorse it during their meeting on August 6 in Manila.

And then your next question is where do we go from here? The framework basically presents an outline of the Code of Conduct. So after it is endorsed, after the approvals process has been done, dealt with, we expect that the talks on the actual Code of Conduct will begin in earnest.

Ms. Salverria: But do we have a timeline on when we at least hope to see the actual Code of Conduct?

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: We don’t want to put a timeframe on that. But definitely, it will begin as soon as the approvals process of the framework is over.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, kasi it took 15 years from the first Joint Declaration to come up with a framework. So while we’re still the ASEAN Chair, is there anything that we are going to do to make sure to hasten — or maybe not hasten but to see to it that the Code of Conduct will come sooner rather than later?

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Well, this is actually a very big step that we have a framework that will be endorsed by the ministers in a few days.

As you may recall, there was a different strategic environment in 2002 when we were — when we adopted the Declaration of Conduct to Parties in the South China Sea.

For this particular year, in fact since late last year, we have a commitment from ASEAN and China to complete this framework and this is already a major step towards realizing the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

Ms. Salaverria: Thank you.

CCTV: I would like to know, because Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, he visited the Philippines last week and he will come to join the ASEAN AMM next week. So I would like to know, what kind of achievement are you expect between the meetings like between China and the ASEAN countries?

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Well, first and foremost, we expect that the ministers will issue two outcome documents: the first one being the Framework of the Code of Conduct; the second one being the extension of the ASEAN-China Centre.

I believe there will be a signing ceremony for the MOU on the extension of the mandate of the ASEAN–China Centre. And that is a very concrete manifestation of the renewed commitment between ASEAN and China to strengthen — further strengthen the partnership.

CCTV: Can you give us some details about the ASEAN–China Centre?

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: The ASEAN… We have centers between ASEAN and several dialogue partners.

So the ASEAN–China Centre is responsible for facilitating functional cooperation between ASEAN and China: academics, science and technology, cultural exchanges.

So we have an institution, if you will, that facilitates this cooperation and that is the Centre. And the Ministers have decided to renew the mandate of the Centre because I believe it expired late last year.

CCTV: Okay. So because China has the One Belt, One Road cooperation initiative, which we called OBOR here. And China always said the ASEAN countries are all the important part of this cooperation. So as Chair Country this year for the Philippines, do we have any plan to push this kind of cooperation blueprint to the practical actions?

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Well, as mentioned during the press conference of Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Secretary Cayetano last week, we try to find convergences between our own national development plans, President Duterte’s 10-Point Socioeconomic Agenda and our AmBisyon Natin 2040.

We try to find convergences between our priorities and the One Belt, One Road initiative of China. Having said that, I’m sure the other ASEAN member states are doing the same thing.

And I’m sure that the One Belt, One Road initiative will be part of the discussions on the economic cooperation during the AMM and related meetings.

CCTV: Thank you so much, sir.

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Thank you. 

Aricel Saludo (Fuji TV): Aricel Saludo from Fuji TV. Sir, last week, representatives from the DPRK went here. Was that Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho? Is that correct?

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Vice Foreign Minister.

Ms. Saludo: Vice Foreign Minister. Will they be attending the ASEAN — the AMM and the ASEAN Summit this coming August?

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: The Foreign Minister of the DPRK will be — – has confirmed attendance to the ASEAN Regional Forum next week, 7th — I’m sorry, 6th, on the 6th.

Ms. Saludo: How many delegates will come from the DPRK?

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: I don’t have the exact numbers but definitely, Foreign Minister will be here, most likely the Vice Foreign Minister will also be here to accompany his Minister.

Just to clarify that DPRK is here as a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum. They will not be here… We don’t expect them to be here at the Summit in November because we don’t have an ARF Summit. ARF is only at the Ministers’ level.

Ms. Saludo: That’s right. So, are we going to have bilateral talks with the DPRK as well or do you have any —

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: We don’t have any arrangements for that as of this time.

Ms. Saludo: As of this time. All right. Another question for General Albayalde. Sir, I just wanted to know if there are like roadblocks along the — along the area in CCP wherein traffic will be blocked or whatever?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Yes, there will be lockdown along the vicinity of the CCP Complex, the PICC and Sofitel. This will start probably this — tomorrow, when our delegates will be starting to arrive.

But then, with the roadblocks on other streets from — from Makati to PICC, there will be no roadblocks. Except, of course, when the minister will be passing by ‘no. There will be momentarily — the traffic will be momentarily stopped until the minister would pass by.

There will be no lockdowns here. Except, as I’ve said earlier, during the parade on August 8.

Ms. Saludo: Are we going to be provided with a map of the parade?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Yes. The MMDA will be providing the — will be issuing the public information on this.

Ms. Monte: To Mr. Bolivar. Sir, there was this report regarding this draft — supposedly draft Foreign Ministers’ statement. According to reports, it would be a watered-down statement not to include — to mention the militarization in the South China Sea. What is the likelihood that this draft would be changed and there would be a — like a stronger statement against China’s activities in the South China Sea?

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Thank you for that. Let me just put it in context. We are expected — oh, sorry. The Ministers are expected to issue several documents during the course of the week.

There’s the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting Joint Communiqué, which is a negotiated statement — negotiated among the 10 member states of ASEAN. And then the Chairman Statements for the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the various Post-Ministerial Conferences, the ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and the ASEAN Regional Forum.

So aside from the AMM, which is a negotiated Joint Communiqué, all the others are Chairman Statements.

Now, I don’t think we can comment as yet on whether the draft you say is circulating, is an actual draft, is an accurate draft, because these drafts evolve very quickly.

We are a few days away from AMM and the Related Meetings. So, there are now more enhanced, more vigorous consultations among the ASEAN member states, and then of course, with the dialogue partners for the respective Chairman Statements.

So, we’ll just have to wait until we actually see the Joint Communiqué or the Chairman Statement to see what actually comes out. But, as Chair, it is our role to make sure that there is an accurate reflection of what was discussed during these meetings.

Ms. Monte: Sir, how many foreign ministers will be attending in this meeting?

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: The most number of foreign ministers who’d be at the ASEAN Regional Forum, we expect 28 — ah, sorry, 27 — 27 ASEAN and dialogue partner and ARF member foreign ministers.

Ms. Monte: So, all are represented, sir?

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Yes. They have all confirmed attendance.

Henry Uri (DZRH): Hi, sir, good morning. Based on the schedule of ASEAN activities, when and what particular event will the President attend during the events?

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: We have invited the President to address the foreign ministers during the opening of the AMM, which is on August 5, the formal opening. And I believe we are trying to arrange a courtesy call of the foreign ministers on the President.

Mr. Uri: Wala pa pong confirmation kung a-attend siya or what?

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: I believe there is a confirmation, but you would have to check with the Palace on that.

Mr. Uri: Thank you, sir.

Reporter: Sir, good morning, Ronron of [inaudible] Sir, just… Can you just give us a preview of how the South China Sea issue will be tackled as well as the North Korean ballistic missile activities will be discussed during these meetings? Thank you, sir.

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Thanks, Ronron. In many of these meetings — AMM, ARF, East Asia Summit, and a few of the Post-Ministerial Conferences, we expect an exchange of views on regional and international security issues of concern.

And since the issues you mentioned are a concern for several countries in the region, then we expect a candid and free flow of discussions during that time, on these issues.

Tina Mendez (Philippine Star): Good morning, sir. May we have update on the bicameral consultative mechanisms set up last May in Guiyang province? Ano na ba ang developments at this point?

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: The Bilateral Consultative Mechanism between the Philippines and China — this is a mechanism we set up after the state visit of President Duterte to China last year. It is set up primarily to discuss issues of concern in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea.

 

So, we… This is the mechanism that we have — that we convene on a regular basis to discuss these issues of concern. As you mentioned, they have had the first meeting in May in China, and we are now organizing the subsequent meetings of the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism.

Ms. Mendez: So, no related — no subsequent meetings will —

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: We are quite focused on the AMM right now. But I’m sure that in the course of the year after the AMM, we will try to schedule another meeting of the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism.

Joseph Morong (GMA): Kay Asec. Ablan po, sir. Kay Asec. Ablan. Para makaupo naman kayo, sir. Sir, just to — a couple of things. The UN High Commission on Human Rights released a statement calling on the President to address the growing reports of human rights violations, including threats against indigenous peoples and the summary execution of children. I sent the link of the statement to you. Any reaction from the Palace, please?

ASEC. ABLAN: Yes. I just read this statement from the — from the UNHR, specifically the experts, including the Special Rapporteur, Ms. Callamard. It’s a very strongly-worded statement and we anticipate a more detailed report regarding the allegations mentioned here in the report — the article rather.

The article mentions that the human rights ex — the UN human rights experts has been in contact with the government of the Philippines regarding these concern — these concerns.

We are curious what agencies of government did they coordinated with. As far as the PCO is concerned, they have — OP has not been contacted by the UNHR. If is… If it’s perhaps the CHR, then we’d like to reach out to the UN to coordinate with the OP.

Mr. Morong: Sir, I remember the President extending an invitation orally ‘no na — kay Dr. Callamard, to come over here, but on his terms, right? Like, magde-debate sila and all that. Is that still standing or — given the new statements again of the UNHR?

ASEC. ABLAN: Again, it’s just now that we read the statement from the UNHR experts and — I’ll be coordinating with the Office of the President regarding if that invest — invitation still stands.

 

Mr. Morong: Okay, sir. Second topic, sir. Si CPP Founding Chairman Joma Sison called the President the “number one drug addict”. And if there’s going to be a target of the police operations, it should be him. Any comment?

ASEC. ABLAN: Regardless if Mr. Sison is outside of the Philippines, he remains to be a Filipino citizen. He has a Constitutional right to freedom of expression. If he wants to call the President that, that’s within his Constitutional right.

Mr. Morong: Okay, sir. Just one last. The Congress — Senate and House — are investigating the BOC. Any directions from the executive department as far as the officials in that bureau is concerned?

ASEC. ABLAN: As we’re speaking right now, I think the House is currently having an ongoing committee hearing on — on that particular issue. The Palace does not have any… It’s too early for us to issue any statement.

Mr. Morong: Thank you, sir, for your time.

Ms. Mendez: To General Albayalde, sir. Can we just please have a clarification on your statement about the ABB joining Balik Islam? Are you referring to the Alex Boncayao Brigade?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Yes. Yes, we have monitored a few of them who converted into Balik Islam.

So, as… As what we have observed, kung makikita niyo, ‘yung mga extremist ‘no, na involved diyan sa — or members of the threat groups are basically — most of them are Balik Islam, although not all Balik Islam are extremists ‘no, let me make that clear. So, ‘yun ang tinitingnan natin ngayon.

Ms. Mendez: Sir, kailan po sila nagsama, ‘yung Alex Boncayao Brigade members and Balik Islam, just recently as a result of the President’s campaign?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Well, it started basically siguro matagal na rin. It’s because the ABB has been declining since few years back ‘no. Medyo hindi na rin aktibo ‘yan and probably they are looking for another group that would probably support them.

So, iyon ‘yung naging option nila, that they would go to the other group. So ang option nila is to — for them to be converted.

Ms. Mendez: Sir, as you mentioned, the ABB has been declining through the years. We are also surprised by this development. Can you identify leaders of this ABB joining the Balik Islam? Kasi…

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Well, as of this time, we cannot divulge their identities. So, these are all being monitored by our intelligence operatives.

Ms. Mendez: Are these old members of the ABB, I mean the elders or new members? Because even when I was in high school, may ABB na.

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Yes, ‘yung mga — ‘yung marami kasi diyan wala na. Halos nag — ‘yung mga most of them are — went back to the folds of the law o sa gobyerno, nag-surrender na ‘no.

Ito ‘yung mga — mga — may mga datihan na rin ‘no. Although they went low, they lied low.

So, ito ngayon ‘yung mga… Baka nakita kasi nila ito ‘yung parang sumisikat ngayon eh. Especially, the — ‘yung alam nating nangyayari sa Mindanao, ‘yung Maute groups, most of them are Balik Islam.

So, iyon ‘yung most probably naging option nila to be active again.

Ms. Mendez: Sir, one last question. We know there’s martial law in Mindanao and the President has declared war against extremist terrorism. And with the recent developments sa failure ng peace talks with the NPA, how — how will you give the assurance to the public that the connection between the ABB and violence — violent extremism is not just a ploy to go after the left-leaning groups?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Well, ‘yung pag — ‘yung coalition or probably ‘yung relation, affiliation — or probably ‘yung what you’d say connection between the CPP-NPA at tsaka itong mga threat groups ngayon ‘no, that has not been validated yet.

Iyong mga information na ‘yun is yet to be confirmed. Wala tayong confirmation whatsoever doon sa pag-join ng forces ng CPP-NPA and the Muslim extremists. Wala pa ‘yun. Hindi pa natin na-ano ‘yun — na-monitor. Although we’re looking into that.

There’s a possibility — kung sasabihin mo — there’s, of course, there’s that possibility. Pero, iba kasi ang — ang pinu-push na — well, what they say, the ideology, kung meron man sila, ng Muslim extremists at tsaka ng CPP-NPA.

Ms. Niu: Sir, to Director Albayalde. Sir, ‘yung sabi ng Al Jazeera, may na-interview sila na mga fishermen saying na ‘yung Manila Bay, tapunan daw po ng maraming mga patay from — pinatay because of transactions sa illegal drugs. Is this happening, sir? Saan nangyayari? Sakop ba ng NCRPO ‘yung mga ganyang incidents na tinatapon daw sa Manila Bay?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Well, as of this time ‘no , we have not received any report of recovery of dead bodies in Manila Bay. I don’t know where they got that information. Since the start of the war on drugs, wala pa tayong na-recover na patay sa Manila Bay whatsoever.

Except, of course, ‘yung doon sa may bandang Tondo. I don’t know if it’s part of the Manil— Manila Bay. Hindi yata. Kasi that’s just a river. Remember ‘yung pinatay na isang civilian volunteer group na 17 years old na ginagamit nila for their illegal activity like pushing ng drugs? Noong hindi na makapag-deliver ‘yung bata ay pinatay nila.

But, ‘yun pa lang ang alam namin na drug-related na na-recover sa isang river, not in Manila Bay. So far, wala tayong na-recover in Manila Bay.

Ms. Niu: Okay, sir.

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Not even a single dead body.

Ms. Niu: Okay, another, sir. Narco-politicians, sir, in Metro Manila. Meron ba kayong namo-monitor na—? Meron na ba kayong mga under surveillance na mga narco-politicians dito sa NCRPO?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Kung sa level ang pinaguusapan ‘no, if we’ll talk about the list of the President, mayors pataas, wala doon sa listahan niya.

But barangay captains down, we have, ‘yung councilors. Of course, yes mga city councilors meron ‘no. Doon sa original or doon sa least coming from the President, meron.

And remember, here in Metro Manila, we have arrest barangay officials already involved in illegal drugs. So it’s not far-fetched that there are still or there are more politicians probably barangay councilor or city councilors down are still involved in illegal drugs and some probably will just be involved in protection.

Dahil alam naman natin kung minsan ‘no this politics in our country, so kung minsan kahit mali na ’yung ginagawa ng isang tao because of the vote, eh tino-tolerate ng ating mga local officials.

Ms. Niu: But none from the mayor — mayor?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Walang naka-list from mayor pataas. We have no list. Walang kasama doon sa listahan na from mayor pataas.

Ms. Niu: Last, sir, from my end. Chief PNP Director General Bato Dela Rosa, sabi niya kahapon bibigyan ng 15 days ang lahat ng RDs na ipatigil ang illegal gambling. Sisibakin daw niya ang mga RD, sir, ‘pag hindi ito nagawa in 15 days. Kakayanin mo ba, sir, RD?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Yes, of course, ‘no. We will follow the orders of the Chief PNP. Actually that is true because the…

Remember the STL has started. Here in Metro Manila, we have already three companies that are — that have started with their STL operations ‘no.

So ang ginagawa natin dito basta nanghuhuli tayo but then in a few days back ang nahuhuli din ‘yung mga nage-STL mismo.

So this is one way of seeing to it na sila talaga ang legal ‘no. Kasi pwede kasi nilang bukisan din — tama ‘yung sinabi ng Chief PNP — na pwede din nilang bukisan din ‘yung sarili nila ‘no just to earn kasi napakalaki ang kailangan nilang bayaran sa PCSO ‘no. So ‘yun ang tinitingnan din natin.

Here in Metro Manila, may tatlo na, in southern, northern and Quezon City. Meron ng tatlong accredited STL operators, company STL operators.

Ms. Niu: And will you also look into some— sabi nga nila, sir, protector na mga mas mataas na opisyal dito sa mga illegal gambling operators?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Yes, that will be a part of our counter-intelligence effort, ‘no. Meron tayong CITF. I think it will be a part of their mission also na tingnan din ‘yung mga tumatanggap o nagbibigay ng protection ‘no.

At sabi nga ni Chief PNP, ‘yung RD can always relieve his provincial directors or district directors and the district directors or the PDs can always relieve their chiefs of police kung kinakailangan at kung mapatunayan na sila ay nagbibigay ng protection dito sa mga illegal gambling na ito.

Ms. Niu: Thank you, sir.

Cliff Venzon (Nikkei): Sir, Cliff Venzon from Nikkei. Sir, I think last month there was a trilateral meeting between — among Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia on the issue of terrorism. This time, how will ASEAN tackle the issue considering that there’s an ongoing crisis in Marawi? Do we expect an ASEAN-wide discussion? And what kind of outcome do we expect?

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Well, thank you, Cliff. Definitely counterterrorism and countering violent extremism is high on the agenda of ASEAN and we expect the ministers to have a fairly extensive discussion on the topic.

It’s good that you mentioned that. Under the auspices of the ASEAN Regional Forum last February, the Philippines and the European Union co-chaired a workshop on mainstreaming countering violent extremism in Brussels.

So that’s part of the commitment of the Philippines as Chair and of the European Union as co-chair to find a way for ARF in ASEAN as well to cooperate in addressing violent extremism and terrorism.

And we also have a very active intercessional meeting on counterterrorism and transnational crime in ARF.

And we expect these intercessional meetings to report to the ministers the outcomes of their activities for the last year. And also, we expect the ministers to approve activities that are planned for the next intercessional year, so from August to the next year.

Mr. Venzon: Sir, do we expect a separate statement or joint statement about terrorism alone? I mean dedicated to terrorism, especially with what’s happening in Marawi.

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: I think there is one in the works but I cannot really go into the details yet as of now. But I think that’s one of the expected outcome documents.

Mr. Venzon: Sir, another question. What are the bilateral meetings scheduled for Secretary Cayetano? Specifically, will there be a bilateral meeting between him and Secretary Tillerson of the United States?

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: It’s normal for visiting foreign ministers to meet with the Chair of ASEAN. But as of this point, we are still fixing the schedules of the bilateral meetings.

So as soon as we have something confirmed, we will share it with you.

Mr. Venzon: Thank you, sir.

SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Thank you.

Mr. Morong: Kay Director Albayalde po. You should have a long table next time I think. Sir, doon sa ABB lang. Why would they join Balik Islam?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Well, probably for… Unang-una ‘yan suporta ‘no. Kailangan din nila kasing mag-survive eh ‘no.

‘Yung usually ‘yung iba there’s a monetary consideration there already. Like ‘yung mga recruitment ngayon ‘no. Unlike noon, talagang merong ideology silang pinag-uusapan.

Nowadays, meron ding mga monetary consideration na ‘yan ‘no. Isa ‘yun, that’s one ‘no. That’s one — isang malaking factor ‘yun.

Mr. Morong: Support to do what, sir? Support to do what? What kind of activities?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Well, depende ‘no. Depende kasi ‘yan eh kung ano ‘yung activity. Probably alam naman natin kung anong activity ng mga ABB before.  Mga involved ‘yan sa liquidation ‘no. Basically those are the liquidation squad of the CPP-NPA before ‘no.

And probably they can be trained also. They can be trained on other things. So ito ‘yung tinitingnan natin talaga. Although most of the ABBs before are involved only in liquidation.

Mr. Morong: How big is this organization?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Ang na-monitor natin is just a few. Itong ano…

Mr. Morong: Just a handful?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Halos wala na ito eh. Halos wala na ito. And most of them ‘no nag-ano… And these were…

Before this, the ABB were very active doon sa Nueva Ecija before. Kaya ‘yun ang tinitingnan natin. May mga members before from Nueva Ecija noon ng ABB na very active at doon sila medyo marami.

Mr. Morong: What could they do now? Why are you interested in them again? What could they do now? In the context, sir, of the ASEAN meet, what do you think can they do?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Well, hindi naman most probably related sa ASEAN ang gagawin nila. But what we’re avoiding here is any incident even outside the venue or even outside dito sa Parañaque or Pasay kung saan ‘no.

Like what happened before doon sa Quiapo. Then people would always relate things that would happen outside the venue doon sa ASEAN. So ‘yun ang iniiwasan natin.

That’s why we have these target-hardening measures that we conduct all over Metro Manila ‘no. Ayaw kasi natin magkaroon ng isang incident that would — that probably people would relate it to the ongoing ASEAN.

Mr. Morong: Okay, sir. Thank you, sir.

Alvin Baltazar (Radyo Pilipinas): General Albayalde, magandang umaga po. Sir, ihabol ko lang po. Sir, paano niyo tinitimbang ‘yung kaso ni PO2 Taytayon? Ano pong update ngayon? Kasi apparently talagang pino-provoke din siya nung mga bata, ‘yung dalawang magkapatid. Anong update doon sa kaso ni PO2 Taytayon?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: He’s facing pre-charge evaluation ‘no. After the pre-charge evaluation, kung meron talagang evidence laban sa kanya, then he’ll be facing the summary hearing procedure already ‘no.

Although nakikita natin, even the netizens ‘no, bumaliktad ‘yung ano nila — pananaw nila na talagang na-provoke sila nitong mga bata na ‘to. And apparently, medyo walang galang talaga sa nakakatanda lumabas itong mga bata na ‘to.

But PO2 Taytayon filed charges against those two kids and the parent of those two kids also filed a countercharge naman doon sa — kay PO2 Taytayon.

And PO2 Taytayon is now presently assigned with the Regional Personnel Holding and Accounting Unit sa Camp Bagong Diwa ‘no. And he was relieved of his firearms and badge while the investigation is going on.

Mr. Uri: General Albayalde, all of a sudden biglang nabuhay ho ‘yung ABB, ano po. And based on your statement, kilala ito sa liquidation and assassination. Sir, any intel report of possible assassination on the President?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: On?

 

Mr. Uri: Possible assassination ng ABB sa Presidente? Any info?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Wala, wala whatsoever. Ang namonitor naman natin dito is just a few, maybe around — mga more or less mga two pa lang naman nakikita natin dito and tinitingnan nga natin ‘yung ibang grupo pa nila.

Kasi these were inactive for so many years already eh, itong ABB. So ito ‘yung tinitingnan nga natin but with regards to the assassination particularly and…

Even with other political leaders or politicians, wala tayong namonitor. Ang mino-monitor lang natin is ‘yung pag-palit nila, ‘yung pag-Balik Islam nila. That’s all that we’re monitoring as of this time.  Kung meron pa sa kanila ang talagang — at kung ilan sa kanila ang nag-Balik Islam.

Mr. Uri: Walang nakaka-alarma na galaw ng ABB?

DIR. ALBAYALDE: Yes. Wala pa, wala. ‘Yun lang ang tinitingnan natin, ‘yung pag balik — ‘yung palit nila o ‘yung pag-Balik Islam nila. ‘Yun ang tinitingnan lang natin.

Mr. Uri: Thank you, sir. 

— END —

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