Press Briefing

Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella and Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr. – Director General for Operations ASEAN 2017 National Organizing Committee

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

OPENING STATEMENTS: 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning, Rocky.

Today we have Ambassador Marciano A. Paynor Jr. as our guest speaker. He is currently the Director General for Operations of the ASEAN 2017 National Organizing Committee.

He served as the Protocol Chief under the Duterte administration for a few months, and to former Presidents Fidel Ramos and Gloria-Macapagal-Arroyo.

Under the Aquino administration, he was appointed as Undersecretary and Director General of the National Organizing Committee for the country’s hosting of the APEC 2015.

He’s a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, Class Matatag in 1971.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, please welcome Ambassador Paynor. Sir… 

AMB. PAYNOR: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

Colleagues from the Malacañang Press Corps, friends, ladies and gentlemen.

In 17 days, we start the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits. And for that particular series of meetings, we have been preparing since about a year and a half ago, in order that the meeting will go unhampered and hassle-free.

For this — and just as a background, we have a total of 282 meetings for the whole year’s hosting of our chairmanship of ASEAN. And of this 282, 243 have so far been completed.

And even as we speak, four more are ongoing. One of the most important of which is the Defense Ministers 11th ASEAN Defense Ministers meeting and 4th ADMM-Plus in Clark, 22 to 25.

We had recently conducted a second advance receipt for the members of security protocol media of the various different ASEAN member-states and dialogue partners who are coming here.

And we did this on 16th to 17th October. We have also conducted several dry runs of motorcades, et cetera. And then planning out on how best to ensure that the movements of leaders will be unhampered but will not affect or seriously affect the movement of others within the various different places.

And for that, the President has declared the — Proclamation 332 declaring 13 [to] 15 November as special non-working holidays, not only in the National Capital Region but also in the provinces of Bulacan and Pampanga.

This is because leaders travels to and from Clark will take the NLEX and which will pass through these two provinces.

Yesterday, we met with the local government executives of both Pampanga, Bulacan, and Metro Manila to discuss with them the implication of such movements and to also request their support and their collaboration in terms of 1. security; 2. traffic; 3. cleanliness.

This is to ensure that all of the places where the motorcades will go will — are more or less ready.

So between now and the 12th or rather the 11th of November when the leaders are expected to arrive, we will continue to do our dry runs both in the movements of convoys as well as movements of leaders within the venues of the meeting.

So, thus far I can say that we are more or less prepared and we are ready to accept and meet up all of the various heads of government, heads of state, heads of government who are coming here.

We will have a total of 21 heads of state, heads of government, plus the Secretary General of the United Nations.

Thus far, we have not had any indication of anyone not coming. So as far as… As long as they have not indicated that they are not coming, we assume that they are.

So the… We will have one guest of chair and that’s Timor Leste. So that’s 10 ASEAN member-states, eight members of the East Asia Summit, and two others who are celebrating the 40th Anniversary of ASEAN collaboration and that is ASEAN-EU and ASEAN-Canada.

So both the President of the economic community, plus the Premier — Prime Minister of Canada are also expected to arrive here.

Other than that, I think… Well, pretty much everything is set. Most of all, our security elements are really on their toes because that is the one area that we cannot really prepare for 100 percent. So we keep on trying.

I’m open to questions. Thank you.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

Rose Novenario (Hataw): Hi, good morning, sir. Sir, ano po ‘yung recommendation niyo sa security cluster sa pagtataas po ng red alert po ba, heightened alert po ba sa — during the summit po or before and after the summit?

AMB. PAYNOR: It will be highest alert. Red alert is as far as I know is the highest ‘no. But even with just red alert, it will be even higher than that.

All of the security elements within the areas of where the leaders will be, will be on full security alert.

However, the whole country will also be on alert because we would not want anything happening anywhere in the Philippines during those days.

So as far as security is concerned, it will not only be those elements that are here in the Metro Manila area, as well as Pampanga and Bulacan, but everywhere else.

All police stations, all Armed Forces camps, all other security agencies including Coast Guard et cetera will be on full alert.

Ms. Novenario: Thank you po.

AMB. PAYNOR: Thank you po.

Maricel Halili (TV-5): Hi, sir. Good morning. Sir, will there be any bilateral meeting or side meetings during the ASEAN Summit?

AMB. PAYNOR: There will definitely be bilateral meetings. As far as I know, there will be one bilateral visit. Meaning one of the attendees to the summit will stay on for a so-called bilateral visit to the Philippines.

There will be — I would presume more… A good number of bilateral meetings between and amongst the various different leaders who are coming in here but mostly from the dialogue partners.

They will want to meet with each other or with ASEAN leaders. So we have provided bilateral meeting rooms at PICC, at Sofitel, at Solaire.

Because we expect just like in the 30th Summit in April, there were about close to a dozen bilateral meetings between and amongst members of the ASEAN member-states.

Ms. Halili: How about, sir, with President Duterte specifically?

AMB. PAYNOR: Yes, exactly with the President, there have been several requests but we have put everything in abeyance because except for the bilateral visit which is being considered after the summit.

Primarily because the President is Chair and as Chair he cannot leave the meeting. Many of the bilateral meetings are held between coffee break, during coffee breaks, before the actual meetings or after the whole meeting process.

And it is normal that bilateral meetings extend all the way to 10, 11 in the evening. Primarily because that’s about the only time that they have.

In the case of the President, I do know that there are already two bilateral meetings within the meeting proper itself. Unfortunately, I cannot divulge this because until there is confirmation from both sides, we cannot say.

Ms. Halili: But at least may we know, sir, which countries requested for meeting with the President and included po ba dito si US President Donald Trump?

AMB. PAYNOR: Yes, quite a number. Many… It is expected that all the dialogue partners would want to pay a call on the President separately on a bilateral basis, even while they will be meeting, the President will be meeting with them as a group or individually during the meeting proper.

But on a bilateral basis where they will discuss issues between the two countries, that’s the full bilateral — I mean that’s the bilateral meeting. Right now, I think there are four — four or five. Yes.

Ms. Halili: Thank you, sir.

AMB. PAYNOR: Yes. Thank you.

Reymund Tinaza (Bombo Radyo): Good morning. Sir, just to clarify. Where will be the exact venue of the ASEAN Leaders and Related Summits? Will there be in PICC? Or there will be other meetings in Clark?

AMB. PAYNOR: There will be meetings in Clark. The preparatory meetings will be held in Clark and that’s the Committee of Permanent Representatives and the Senior Officials Meeting, the Senior Economic Officials Meeting, and the RCEP. RCEP is related something… I… Too many acronyms.

But anyway, there’ll be three — one preparatory meeting of the permanent representatives and one of the Senior Officials Meeting, the political and the economic.

Then they transfer… The meeting is transferred to Manila. The Ministerial Meeting will be held here as well as the summits.

Mr. Tinaza: Kumusta naman po ‘yung — I understand you conduct regular briefings to the President specially — I understand this would be the first time that he will be hosting the East Asia Summit?

AMB. PAYNOR: Yes. There will be a… There have been briefings for him, you know, on particular issues I think. But there will be a full briefing starting — full series of briefings starting next week.

Mr. Tinaza: Sir, meron kasing nabanggit on a recent speech si Pangulong Duterte na “Bantay kayo ha.” ‘Yung sa EU, US, doon daw sa ASEAN Leaders Summit. So what’s your feel or any anticipation when the meeting of ASEAN and European Union considering his recent words against the EU?

AMB. PAYNOR: I am sorry I cannot make any comment on that ‘no because again there are quite a number of issues on the ASEAN side. There are issues on the bilateral side.

For ASEAN, it will… He will only be as Chair acting as the convenor. And therefore, many of his views representing the country are usually conveyed during the bilateral meetings or during the side meetings of what they call the pull aside meetings.

So is he… There’s a difference between him giving a statement when he’s a member of the group and somebody else chairing in which case he can expressed the country’s views.

But when he is chairing, it’s a totally different hat he’s wearing. He is wearing the hat of representing all of ASEAN.

And therefore, his views, country views are in a way a little bit more subtle, cannot be pushed. As much as he would have been able to push if he were sitting as part of the meeting, rather than as chair.
So we have to distinguish the two roles that the President will have. On a bilateral basis, yes, he can espouse full country positions.

In… During the ASEAN Summit itself where he is chair, he must be seen as neutral and trying to be arbiter and put things together.

Mr. Tinaza: Thank you, sir.

Rocky Ignacio (PTV): Sir, clarification lang daw if isa ang US sa nag-request ng bilateral meeting kay Presidente? Clarification lang daw po. 

AMB. PAYNOR: I cannot clarify that. Sorry. But… 

Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Sir, have any of the leaders confirmed if they will be bringing their spouses and what are programs for them? Will Ms. Honeylet Avanceña be the one in charge of them? 

AMB. PAYNOR: As of now, yes. There will be a brief one day, maybe half a day spouses’ program on the 13th.

The details of which I am unfortunately not able to convey to you right now because it’s still a work in progress.

There have been confirmations of some leaders who will bring spouses and the confirmation is rather indirect because we asked them to submit measurements for the dress that the President and Madam will give as a gift.

So if they don’t send the measurements, it’s a definite indication that the spouse is not attending. If they do send, then more than likely, the spouse will attend.

So offhand, at the top of my head, I am sorry I cannot — or I cannot remember all. Thank you. 

Ms. Salaverria: Thank you.

Tina Mendez (Philippine Star): Good morning, sir. Last week, sir, sa high-level meeting sa ASEAN, the President said the Philippines made a good move sa South China Sea issue and he rallied na for the sharing of resources rather than continuing claims. Will he rally the entire ASEAN regarding the same? 

AMB. PAYNOR: That is still under discussions ‘no. In fact, many of the things that will happen during the Summit will still be discussed during the preparatory meetings. Meaning the SOM, SEOM, which is really  where all the work is done. And then at the ministerial level where the recommendations are now formalized and sent to their respective leaders.

I think that that is a win-win situation and solution for all ‘no and which I believe will be agreed to by most leaders.

Again, it is sometimes — as always, the devil is in the details and sometimes, in the details, there’s one aspect that might not be agreeable to one and because these are consensus, it has to be threshed out. So I’ll say, in principle, yes, of course, that is one objective of ASEAN.

Ms. Mendez: Sir, on economic sanctions, na-mention din ng Pangulo that the ASEAN should be stronger tapos to prevent other countries from imposing ASEAN countries. Will you push that? 

AMB. PAYNOR: That is being discussed. The manner in which this is to be conveyed is usually the most difficult — in a manner of conveying a particular message ‘no.

So this is all being discussed at the level of the SOM, the senior officials, okay.

Ms. Mendez: The President will push for these two agenda? 

AMB. PAYNOR: Yes. If the President says and that is his directive, it will be.

Ms. Mendez: May we know other topics or agenda for… 

AMB. PAYNOR: Right now, I’m sorry, I’m not the one that has all the details ‘no. Our Department of Foreign Affairs senior official, si Usec. Manalo, will be able to reply to you in detail.

Ms. Mendez: Thank you, sir. 

AMB. PAYNOR: Thank you. 

Llanesca Panti (Manila Times): Good morning, sir. 

AMB. PAYNOR: Good morning.

Ms. Panti: Good morning. Sir, about economic sanctions. Can you clarify what specific economic sanctions? Would it be just like the US sanctions being imposed on Iran, North Korea? How do we go by this? How would ASEAN go by this considering ASEAN has been very firm in its non-interference stand and yet we are considering economic sanctions so I see a disconnect there. 

AMB. PAYNOR: Exactly. But I apologize, I cannot give you the details of that because personally, I am not aware ‘no.

Someone who sits in all of these meetings and who has a, well, a perspective of the way that things develop would be able to reply to you I think in substance.

But I think, all I can say is that all of this is being discussed as of now.

Ms. Panti: Sir, another. About the Rohingya — the plight of the Rohingya. Would that be on the table for the ASEAN leaders? Because considering that Suu Kyi already spoke about it and the international community is pressuring ASEAN to take action about it. 

AMB. PAYNOR: Another point that’s under consideration, I know that one ASEAN member has been — has had very strongly worded comments about this.

As to whether it will be included in the meeting as an agenda item, all of those things are still under discussion. 

Ms. Panti: Last na lang po. About… The President has said a lot about the European Union and about aid — refusing aid with conditions. Are we not worried that this might send — this might alienate our dialogue partners — the Philippines, the dialogue partners of the Philippines and the ASEAN as well, considering that the Philippines is the chairman of the ASEAN? 

AMB. PAYNOR: That’s why I said earlier, we have to distinguish between the President being Chair and the President being head of Government of the Philippines.

I think all of those statements were said in his capacity as head of Government of the Philippines. Therefore, it is a bilateral issue between the Philippines and the EU.

When he sits down as Chair, he puts on a hat as ASEAN Chair and therefore, those issues, if not brought up by the others — there is a way by which they do it ‘no, somebody else brings it up.

But since it’s a bilateral issue, it will not affect ASEAN’s —

Ms. Panti: relationship. 

AMB. PAYNOR: — relationship with the EU.

Ms. Panti: Sir, how about the Philippines? I mean, don’t we feel that we are alienating EU? EU is not just one country — 

AMB. PAYNOR: I know. Yes. 

Ms. Panti: — it has 28 members. 

AMB. PAYNOR: Yes. I think the President has a point ‘no. If you really look at — let’s go beyond delivery, let’s go beyond rhetoric.

The President has a point — again, from my personal perspective. So I… These things affect relationships when in… As we move forward, policies of the Philippines change if and when the real… I mean, reality says, okay, the Philippines starts — stops accepting aid and starts — okay, distancing itself from the EU. Then there will be a — the relationship between the EU and the Philippines will be affected.

However, again, this is something that I cannot second-guess the President ‘no. This is… And since I am not a member of Cabinet, I do not know what is being discussed in Cabinet. I cannot reply to you on that.

So my view is that of someone from the outside looking at and assessing the President’s statement.

Ms. Panti: Thank you, sir.

Ms. Halili: Hi, sir, just a quick follow-up. Sir, what will be the role of Ms. Honeylet Avanceña? Meaning, she will be the official hostess? 

AMB. PAYNOR: She would be the official hostess, yes. So in all of the so-called social events like the Gala Dinner on the 12th, evening of the 12th and the Spouses’ Program on the 13th, she is the official hostess of the President. 

Alexis Romero (Philippine Star): Ambassador, just a background. How do you describe the relationship between ASEAN and the European Union under our watch as Chairman? 

AMB. PAYNOR: Under our watch as Chair. There has not been any — the issue between the European Union and the Philippines is different from ASEAN and European Union.

The ASEAN and European Union interaction has been very robust. In fact, well, we are celebrating 40 years and that’s why the President invited, as Chair, invited the President of the EU and so the President of the EU is coming.

So I feel that the issue between the Philippines and EU on a bilateral basis will be put in the background.

So that’s why I say they should distinguish between the role of the President as Chair and as Head of Government.

Mr. Romero: Thank you, Ambassador. 

Mr. Tinaza: Just a quick one, sir. Do you see any relevance of the final resolution of the Marawi conflict considering some of the foreign jihadist or terrorist came from Indonesia, Malaysia, which are also members of the ASEAN? 

AMB. PAYNOR: Yes. If you recall, there was a… Immediately after Marawi, there was a trilateral meeting amongst the Foreign Ministers of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. In fact, Indonesia was the one who requested it.

They expressed their own concerns about some of these jihadists being nationals of their own respective countries, both from Malaysia and Indonesia and… But that’s something really beyond their control.

It was, in fact, in that meeting that Indonesia also said that they have quite a number of this ultra… Well, the jihadists, they’re… I cannot remember the exact term that the Foreign Minister used but they do have their share of fundamentalists with their — a better word for it.

So the three countries are together sharing information so that movements of these people can be known to all the others so that we can be proactive in terms of preventing a similar occurrence. 

Jorge Cariño (ABS-CBN): Ambassador, we have Proclamation 332 but the Metro Manila Peace and Order Council has already approved 16th and 17th as no classes day. Are there any ASEAN-related activities to warrant the suspension of the 16th and 17th? 

AMB. PAYNOR: There are… Well, as far as the Leaders’ Meetings are concerned, there is no direct effect.

I would like to think that this is in order to give children, well, straight holidays rather than for them to have five days holidays, that means from the 11th to the 15th. And then come… Go to school on 16 and 17 and then again there’s a weekend.

So they are only coming two days, might as well give them those two days so that they have nine full days for school. 

Mr. Cariño: But right now, students are now trying to make up for the classes lost during storm-related suspension — 

AMB. PAYNOR: Yes.

Mr. Cariño: Will the National Organizing Committee not consider talking to MMDA so that these matters can be attended to? 

AMB. PAYNOR: I am sure that when they discuss this, they consulted with the Department of Education and CHED ‘no.

Mr. Cariño: That’s prior to Proclamation 332. 

AMB. PAYNOR: Prior to Proclamation 332, they already knew that 332 will be issued because we discussed this with them way before. When the President agreed in principle months ago, we had to inform them because for planning purposes.

They did not make any announcement, neither did we. So the only official announcement came yesterday.

I am not… I can only surmise that there were — their purpose there is to allow the children to have full nine days and this can be — there can classes, remedial classes later on, two days, two weekends. 

Mr. Cariño: Sir, it stays? It stays? 

AMB. PAYNOR: It stays, yes. They are well within their authority to proclaim the two days — for school.

Mr. Cariño: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.

AMB. PAYNOR: Thank you.

Cedric Castillo (GMA-7): Sir, good morning, sir. Sir, can you give us an overview of the flight logistics in Clark and will this affect, if at all, flights in NAIA, sir?

AMBASSADOR PAYNOR: Okay. Thank you very much. Very important question.

The… All arrivals and departures in principle, will be at Clark Airport. This is on the directive of the President that no commercial traffic must be affected at the Manila International Airport.

In our APEC experience, close to 450 flights were canceled and another 200 were affected during the arrival and departure. So this is a cumulative total.

The 200 were those flights who were coming in and then had to be put on hold because leaders’ aircraft were coming and therefore a quasi-emergency state was declared.

And when that is declared, there are no movements, no landings, no takeoff within that time and usually it was 30 minutes before landing. So — but if there were three landings and takeoff every three minutes for 30 minutes that meant 10 flights. Yes, 10 flights affected. So they were all just going around.

And for APEC there were 20 economic leaders who came in. There was a particular delegation whose requirement anywhere they go is one hour prior to arrival, no movement in the air and on the ground, and 30 minutes after. So that’s an hour and 30.

So you can imagine how it was. And I recall that there was a certain mayor who was affected by these flights way back when. And the mayor expressed his disgust about the traffic, et cetera. I think he had to walk some distance to get to his car.

So that mayor became President, so he said that, “Okay, we will host but do not affect traffic.” Because, truth is, we, unfortunately during that time there were again security considerations and therefore the timings of landing, et cetera, we cannot determine.

This is at the convenience often, usually, because that is what their schedule requires, of leaders coming in. So when they come in, we declared the quasi-emergency.

So in answer to your question, the President said let’s not affect traffic in Manila. Therefore, all the arrivals will be in Clark.

Mr. Castillo: Sir, it is expected, sir, that NAIA flights will not be affected at all?

AMBASSADOR PAYNOR: That’s correct. Now, traffic to NAIA may be affected a bit. But what we are now doing, like what we did in the 30th ASEAN Summit in April is a stop and go scheme.

In other words, when the leaders are moving, 15 minutes before or a few minutes before they are expected, we close, so that the leaders’ motorcades can pass unhampered.

As soon as they pass, we open again for public use. This is really because when leaders move, it is very difficult to secure if other vehicles are also moving. There is no way for us to tell which are bona fide just vehicles running and people with ill intent.

And therefore, the best way to resolve that issue, because we don’t have enough roads is to close the road when they are moving. Okay.

Ms. Ignacio: According to Jorge Cariño, paano naman daw po ‘yung mga flights doon sa Clark?

AMBASSADOR PAYNOR: Okay. Flights in Clark, there are fewer flights in Clark, commercial flights than there are here, of course.

But even then, we are already talking to the — those airlines there that will be affected and on how to resolve the issue.

As much as we can, we will try not to affect their flights. Okay? So we will also have them in mind. Again, choice of X number of flights here and about a tenth of this number in Clark, I mean, it will be easier to resolve the issue.

Mr. Castillo: Sir, quick follow up lang. Sir, sa Clark po, how many flights are anticipated to be affected?

AMBASSADOR PAYNOR: I did not… I don’t have an exact count ‘no. I’ll get back to you on that.

But it’s in — my estimation, it’s nowhere near the 450 flights and the 200 that were canceled here. Maybe 50 in total.

Again, may I just say that I will get back to you on that because there are now domestic flights — go — flying to Clark. And there are quite a number of international flights as well, coming from Dubai, coming from Singapore, some come — and Korea. Okay?

Thank you very much. Thank you.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESRERSON ABELLA: Other aspects. On student fair discount:

Students can now avail fare discount all year round starting this Saturday, October 28.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) released a Memorandum Circular which allows students to avail 20% fare discount from Monday to Sunday including summer breaks, legal and special legal holidays.

The student discount, however, does not cover post-graduate students including those taking up medicine, law, masteral and doctoral degrees.

We appreciate the message of US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, recognizing the valiant efforts of our troops in bringing to an end the Maute terrorist group’s siege of Marawi City.

The government is grateful for the US government for helping us defeat the ambition of the Islamic State-affiliated group to establish a caliphate in our country by providing us with technical expertise, men and equipment that bolstered the capability of our military in our campaign against the Maute group.

While we have defeated the Maute group here, it cannot be denied that IS remains a global threat.  It is therefore necessary for us to continue our cooperation and alliance with our friends in the international community to halt the spread of IS menace.

On the resignation of COMELEC Chairman Andres Bautista:

The Palace has accepted the resignation of Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Chairman Andres Bautista effective immediately.

As an independent commission, the COMELEC will resolve among its remaining Commissioners as to who will be its Office-in-Charge until such time the President appoints the new Chair.

On the launching of Tapang at Malakasit Alliance for the Philippines:

The launch of Tapang at Malasakit Alliance for the Philippines is a gathering of the President’s supporters from across sectors.

The landscape has been dominated recently by political noise and Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte thought it is time for the voices of the President’s supporters to be heard and reach out to other communities who share the same vision for genuine change.

It is also a good opportunity to renew people’s pledge for a better country and their commitment to be better citizens.

On the EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World in 2016:

We take note the EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World in 2016 for acknowledging the efforts of the Philippine government in walking the extra mile for peace, particularly in what EU described the “new momentum provided to the Mindanao peace process.”

The Report likewise stated the Philippines’ very high ranking on gender equality ratings and EU’s full support in the full implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, which the President included in his 10-Point socioeconomic agenda.  In addition, PRRD signed Executive Order No. 12 which aims to attain and sustain “zero unmet need for modern family planning.”

While the Report discussed the significant gains, it likewise mentioned what it called “a serious deterioration in respect for the right of life,” and so forth.

It cited the war on drugs and the prevailing culture of impunity of human right defenders and media workers.

We note, however, that the EU’s report covers the period of last year’s elections and many of its alleged findings are a rehash of criticisms aired by the political party whose candidate lost to the President.

The allegations that the EU report highlights were made way before the Philippines’ third cycle Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in May this year.  The Philippine government has already responded to these allegations during the said UPR, the report of which was unanimously adopted by the UNHRC last month.

Again, for the public’s continuing awareness, we reiterate that the Philippines is investigating allegations of drug-related killings, extrajudicial deaths, and media violence to ensure the accountability of perpetrators.

It has to be underscored that all the drug-related deaths arising from legitimate police operations have been done based on rules of engagement.  Thus, while they remain as suspects, their violent resistance against police officers whose lives were put at risk are considered actionable offenses.

And Congressional hearings were convened to look into these allegations and have proved that the State does not sanction wanton and unjustified killings. Impunity does not have a place in this Administration.

On the graft case [filed] against former DOTC Secretary Abaya, former DOTC officials and BURI: 

The filing of graft charges against former Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and other officials from the then Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) over an allegedly anomalous deal with Metro Railway Transit 3 (MRT-3) maintenance provider Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI) is long overdue.

Our people, especially the long suffering commuters of MRT who would experience daily train breakdowns during their travel, surely welcome this development.

Public office, as we often hear, is public trust.  Let this be a good reminder to all public officials to perform their official functions with competence, integrity and compassion for they are accountable in all their action.  Similarly, let this be an opportunity for the Office of the Ombudsman to show its true independence in fighting corruption in the corridors of the power.

We are open to a few questions.

Ms. Salaverria: Good morning, sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes, ma’am?

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, the EU report actually mentioned that the right situation deteriorated in the second half of 2016 when President Duterte was already in power. Sir, what are we going to do about this? Are we — since EU representatives are expected in the country, are we going to correct or clarify this with them?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We’ll just have to… Unless there is a need to do that, we will go as stated.

Ms. Salaverria: So how do you see this report affecting the relationship between the Philippines and the European Union?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, like the President has said, it may affect certain things, for example, if — especially…  Trade wise, the European businessmen may continue to do business with the Philippines.

However, it may affect certain things like — like aid along those lines. But which the President has continually encouraged the people to — quickly to be able to deal with these matters in a mass circumspect manner.

Ms. Salaverria: Could we expect the President to bring this up?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: With?

Ms. Salaverria: With the EU leaders?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: There’s no indication so far.

Kaecee Alvarez (GMA News Online): Sir, clarification lang on COMELEC Chairman Bautista. Meron na bang list si Presidente ng candidates na papalit sa kanya?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: So far ma’am, wala. As far as we know, they may choose their own OIC but until such time, we don’t have any indication of who he may appoint. Yes, ma’am?

 

Ms. Mendez: Sir, is it true that Presidential Legal Adviser Salvador Panelo is eyeing the COMELEC post?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: Eyeing the COMELEC post?

Ms. Mendez: Yes.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: I think you should refer to him. No, that makes it sound it’s a personal ambition. But I’m not sure.

Ms. Mendez: Thank you.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: Yes, ma’am.

Deo de Guzman (RMN – DZXL): Sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: Yes, ma’am — ah yes, sir?

Mr. de Guzman: Sir, sa EU lang po.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: Yes?

Mr. de Guzman: Sinabi rin po nila sa report nila that they remain concerned about the drug-related killings in the Philippines and the human rights situation in the country. But they should not be seen as interference in the country’s domestic affairs. Any comment on this?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: Well, that’s their statement. And of course, we also need to understand that we need to make their statement — their report in context.

Much of it has really been anecdotal. For example they — you know, they listen to media basically — media reports and alleged human rights watchers. So basically, we need to see it [inaudible] in context.

Mr. de Guzman: So you’re saying, sir, that their investigation was based on media reports and not —

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: That’s what they say. That’s what they say if you read the report.

Mr. de Guzman: Okay, sir. And then with regards to the trade relations between the Philippines and the EU —

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: Those are two entirely separate things, you know.

Mr. de Guzman: Yes sir. Would you — would it be affected by the declaration of the President that the country will not accept any grants from the EU?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: Well, like I said, it’s — these are two separate things, you know. The business people apparently continue to be upbeat about the Philippines.

They continue to see the Philippines as a healthy economic grounds. And so we look forward to do that.

Mr. de Guzman: Let me just be clear about this, sir. Would the President or the country accept a grant from an EU member country?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: You mean bilaterally?

Mr. de Guzman: Yes, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: It would be — let me be very clear, you know. Those grants and those grants that the President’s refusing are basically supposedly aid coming from the EU as a whole and tied to certain conditionalities.

And so I don’t know about certain bilateral relationships.

Mr. de Guzman: Thank you, sir.

Mikhail Flores (Nikkei): Sir, good morning. Mikhail Flores po of Nikkei. Sir, related to the EU, particularly on the business climate. Because if you look at the FDI data from the BSP, it’s actually is a net outflow for net equity capital. So I think based on BSP data, the business climate — well, the data says otherwise that the Philippines continue to be an investment destination for European companies. And also, I think the Chamber also has expressed concerns over the political situation — over the political noise that, you know, that make investors take a second look into their investment decisions especially, particularly to the Philippines. So how do you — like how do you reconcile your previous statement based on these data and the pronouncement by the Chamber that there are indeed concerns that the political noise are affecting the —

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: Concerns and actions are actually two different things. Of course, there are concerns that they continually raise because of the political noise that certain parties in their community make.

However, they themselves apparently see — this is based on… I cannot specifically refer to anyone now but given [what’s his name?] the Secretary of Department — the Department of Trade has indicated that they continue to — the outlook continues to be upbeat ‘no.

It’s just a question of translating and being able to take action on the actual implementation. There are other factors, you know, regarding the actual investments. There are other factors that need to be considered.

But as per — as per outlook, it continues to apparently, to be upbeat.

Ms. Halili: Hi, sir, good morning. Sir, aside from the report of EU, there’s a — SWS has released yesterday I think, another survey saying that the skepticism — public skepticism has grown with — in terms of the statement of PNP about the “nanlaban.” What can you say about that, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: It’s worth noting that surveys are snapshots of the public mood at a given time and we need to go back to the fact that this is actually — that particular report that you have a hold of is actually still part of that large survey that was done during that particular time just after the National Day of Protest, okay.

And I you need to understand that the Day of Protest was a bold initiative of the President when the people could vent actually what they felt in some sentiments. Again, like we said, may have spilled over.

But given the trust and confidence of the large majority, the administration continues of course, to work hard to address the public’s urgent needs and to deliver the exact services that the people need to bring a comfortable life for all.

So we enjoin everybody to set aside self interest and together build a nation worthy of the next generation.

In other words, what we’re saying is that yes, we take note and this was… Again, we remind ourselves that this was part of that big survey that was done last time and we continue to move forward to bring about change.

Ms. Halili: And, sir, following the order of the President na PDEA na lang ‘yung sole agency —

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: Opo.

Ms. Halili: Opo, to head the anti-drug campaign. Do you expect an improvement when it comes to the perception of the public of the Philippine National Police?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: Well, the President himself has said, “Let’s see.” You know, “Let’s await the results.”

So it’s difficult to speculate on matters like these but the President has certainly invested himself in making sure that all venues and all avenues of solutions are properly addressed.

Ms. Halili: Thank you, sir.

Mr. Castillo: Sir, balikan ko lang po ‘yung EU, sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: Yes, sir.

Mr. Castillo: Sir, just to be clear about it, the Philippines will still be accepting aids, bilateral aids from EU members sa  — individually?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: I’m not saying they will. I’m saying it may be something that — it’s officially, I don’t think the statement covered basically the entire bloc, okay.

So I cannot categorically say that we will. But so — but trade, we continue to do that.

Mr. Castillo: Sir, hihingi lang kami ng update po doon sa mga appointments sa DOH, DSWD, I understand parang may mga OIC pa lang sila.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: Probably within the day.

Mr. Castillo: Within today? Thank you, sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: Okay.

Ms. Panti: Sir, good morning po.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: Yes, ma’am?

Ms. Panti: About EU, ‘yung trade, about the trade situation. Kasi the President also mentioned about ‘yung conditionalities na sinasabi, “aid with conditionalities.” He mentioned about GSP Plus kasi ‘yun din ‘yung — there have been warnings from members of the European Parliament and some European-based non-government organizations. These GSP Plus, sir, is a trade — is a trade agreement basically because it lowers the tariffs and other duties, tax duties of Philippine export products to the Union. So if we — are we also go — if… Are we also refusing this GSP Plus? Because this is the — this trade agreement is also a —

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: Ma’am, let’s not confuse the two. Let’s not confuse the two, okay? Iba po ‘yung pinag-uusapan na trade, iba po ‘yung pinag-uusapan na —

Ms. Panti: ‘Yun nga po, sir, kasi I would like to be clarified kasi GSP is concerns trade.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: Okay.

Ms. Panti: It gives our products a critical access to the EU market.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: Okay.

Ms. Panti: So if we are go — so but this GSP Plus program, we enjoy this program based on our compliance on international conventions. So is this also included in the list of aid programs from the EU that we would refuse?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELA: Ma’am, it’s not considered an aid program. It will be an action from their part whatever they choose to, hindi ba?

As far as I’m concerned, as far as we understand it, it’s not a — [Tama po ‘yun no?] — It’s a trade agreement. So hindi po siya ano, hindi po siya covered nung ano. Hindi po siya isang bagay na nire-refuse natin, okay.

Ms. Panti: But ‘yun nga, sir, eh. This trade agreement has conditions also. So kung… If it’s a trade agreement tapos may conditions, okay lang? Tama ba? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ang alin po?

Ms. Panti: Kung trade agreement —  if it involves trade, even if there are conditions, okay lang?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ma’am, as clarified to me by the Ambassador, trade agreements are negotiated. So these are matters that are to be negotiated upon.

Ms. Mendez: Sir, following Malacañang’s congratulatory remarks sa victory ni PM Abe, is a trip to Japan forthcoming?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As far as I know, I have nothing official on my desk.

Ms. Mendez: But there are talks of a possibility of the President going there?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That should be interesting, okay.

Ms. Mendez: Before the ASEAN?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ma’am, I cannot categorically say yes or no. Thank you.

Ms. Mendez: Okay, sir.

Mr. Flores: Sir, related to the acceptance of EU grants, will the Palace or any specific government agency issue an issuance, an order, or a related document which outlines what will be the policy in terms of accepting these kinds of grants from the EU?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: These things will have to be discussed properly by the agencies concerned.

Mr. Flores: Sir, what — sir, which agencies are reviewing the process? Kasi, sir, I —

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m sure the economic… Yeah, the economic cluster, I’m sure is the one that’s taking the lead regarding these matters.

Mr. Flores: Sir, any timeline from the government on when will they issue like a clear guidelines so as to guide also these grant — these aid-granting countries and as well as those receivers on how will they go about this change of policy or a shift in policy?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I cannot give you the specific date. However, they’re on top of these matters.

Ms. Ignacio: Thank you, Mikhail. Phone-in question, sir, pasensya na po. Galing kay Leo Palo. Pasuyo daw po. Ang Tapang at Malasakit po ba ay paghahanda allegedly ng partido ng Pangulo sa susunod na halalan pantapat daw po sa Tindig Pilipinas?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Hindi po. Sa pagkakaintindi ko po — ang pagkakasabi ni Mayor Inday, sabi niya, ito, para ma — kumbaga magkaisa ‘yung suporta, para magampanan — ma-accomplish ‘yung mga pinaplano ng Presidente para sa bayan.

Mr. Tinaza: Sir, just your reaction sa a certain Ricky Serenio alleging former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and Senator Frank Drilon and Mayor Mabilog in the alleged illegal drugs operations as “protectors”?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Wala po akong… I don’t think anything — as far as I know, that thing has not prospered.

Mr. Tinaza: What can you say that —

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Sir, hindi po ako nag-i-speculate ng mga bagay.

Mr. Tinaza: Does this — somebody has came out to name somebody in the illegal drugs operation.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Sir, hindi po tayo nag-i-speculate sa mga bagay na ‘yan.

Mr. Tinaza: He already presented his affidavit and aren’t you happy that somebody stood up and claimed, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Sir, ang atin, trabaho lang. [laughs] Ganun din po ‘yung inyo. [laughs] 

Ms. Panti: I’ll rephrase the question nalang po. Does this vindicate the President’s pronouncement that Iloilo is one of the “most shabulized”?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ma’am, antayin nalang natin na may talagang dumating kaganapan ng panahon at para makita natin kung talaga namang may laman ‘yang sinasabing ‘yan.

Yes, ma’am.

Ms. Novenario: Ay, sir, kay Ambassador Paynor po. May nakalimutan lang. Sir, ano po ‘yung official na damit ng mga delegado po ng ASEAN at sino po ‘yung napiling designer o couturier para gumawa po nito? At paano po ito pinili?

AMB. PAYNOR: Lahat ho itong mga ito ay hindi ko masabi ngayon ‘no dahil kuwan… Ang pagkakaalam ko merong grupo na gumawa ng concept ng kung ano.

Kasi ‘di ba we just had APEC, then we had the 30th Summit last April. Ngayon ‘pag — new thing ‘no, so…

We’ve always had the barong. Then last time we had the Mindanao-inspired fabric.

This time, ‘yun na nga merong — basta meron. Merong inano ‘yan. Ngayon, who’s making it? Lahat ‘yan bidding.

Naka-bid ‘yan kaya nga kung minsan ‘yun ‘yung mahirap eh ‘no. Kasi kung minsan, meron tayong gusto sanang ipalabas na everything is already there and then when we go to the bidding process, doon nagkakaroon ng mga problema.

And then at the end, somebody else wins who does not have any idea about the concept, but because the bids and awards committee who is not part of the group that conceptualized the idea will just look at everything that’s on paper. So it goes to pesos and cents. And in the end, it is something that we spend on and the objective is not met.

Kaya ho very difficult ito. It’s a very difficult exercise and then we have people who say, “Kailangan pa ba ‘yan?”

Kasi ang palagi kong sinasabi, kung hindi na kailangan, ‘wag nalang tayong mag-attend ng ASEAN or APEC or all of these other multilateral meetings.

Kailangan ho dahil, one, it shows we are trying to manifest what it is that we are, our culture, et cetera, in dress.

And if you go to the people who weave this, and it takes them months to do just one piece, you can understand why there is a premium to the cloth, et cetera. To the story in fact.

So ‘yun ‘yung mga tinitingnan ho natin na mga bagay na hindi, kung minsan hindi nakikita nung procurement process natin.

Ms. Novenario: Thank you.

AMB. PAYNOR: Salamat po.

Mr. Castillo: Sir, nung na-mention niyo na rin kanina. Pero, sir, pa-expound lang ako, sir, nung travel naman from Clark to Manila nung leaders po.

AMB. PAYNOR: Kwento ko nalang sa’yo mamaya. [laughs] Kasi please understand that movements of leaders are — usually we don’t want to discuss in public.

We give you general ideas but we do not want to go on specifics, so… But…

Mr. Castillo: ‘Yung overall scheme lang, sir.

AMB. PAYNOR: Basta we will transfer them from here, from Clark to Manila and it will not affect…

Mr. Castillo: Yes, sir. ‘Yung lanes. What should the public expect in terms of…

AMB. PAYNOR: Yes. Okay, that’s why. Stop — the scheme is stop and go. When the leaders will pass through and we already know the time, we will stop traffic prior to — a few minutes prior to in order to decongest the lanes forward.

‘Pagka nakadaan na, we open it up again. Ganun. Pero kung let’s say sunod-sunod sila, eh we will hold the traffic for a while.

All of these plans will be finalized perhaps on the 10th of November. When we know for sure when leaders are arriving because they’re all coming from Da Nang.

Two-thirds of the member of the countries that are attending the ASEAN Summit and Related Summits are coming from the APEC Summit in Da Nang. This will be a back-to-back summit.

It’s always been like that. If APEC is hosted here in Asia, we always — the ASEAN host always coordinates with the APEC host para nang sa ganun, the leaders coming from all the way from the US, Canada, et cetera, when they come in here, they don’t have to return and then come back again after a few weeks.

Mr. Castillo: Sir, curious lang po. Sino ‘yung head of government na nagre-require ng one hour prior to arrival?

AMB. PAYNOR: Hindi ko po masabi.

Thank you very much, everyone. Thank you for your cooperation and your collaboration. Thank you.

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