Press Briefing

Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

Event Press Briefing
Location New Executive Building, Malacañang

MODERATOR: Welcome again, MPC. This time we continue our press conference with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. Good morning, sir.

SEC. ROQUE: Good Monday morning to all of you. Monday good news: There was a 9.8 increase in the 2017 dividend remittance from government-owned and controlled corporations, reaching an amount of 30.45 billion. This is higher than 27.73 billion collected in 2016.

The Department of Finance reported that the 2017 collections came from 53 GOCCs including the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines which had not remitted dividends for the past four years but now has emerged as one of the biggest dividend contributors.

Other biggest dividend contributors include the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation, 7.46 billion; Development Bank of the Philippines, 2.51 billion; Manila International Airport Authority, 2.22 billion; Philippine Ports Authority, 1.95 billion; Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, 1.84 billion; National Power Corporation, 1.39 billion; Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, 1.18 billion; and, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, 923.6 million.

More good news, we are pleased to announce that the Philippine Ports Authority has surpassed its target net income for the first 11 months of 2017 with the recorded 16% increase, reaching an amount of 8.310 billion compared to 7.164 billion in 2016. PPA noted that total revenues increased by 6.71% amounting to 13.846 billion compared to 12.976 billion in 2016 with NCR South (Batangas, Davao, Bataan, Aurora and Surigao) as the top five revenue earners.

We commend also the hard work of the Department of Trade and Industry in providing assistance to micro, small, medium enterprises through its Kapatid Mentor Me Program which generated 2,663 graduates last year. This program aims to help MSMEs sustain and scale up their business through ten weeks of coaching and mentoring by business owners and practitioners in different functional areas of entrepreneurship such as marketing, financial management, human resource management and operations management.

We hope to increase the number of graduates by 5,000 by adding a new program on coaching with will allow the MSMEs to be coached by local mentors in negosyo centers for two to three hours.

Further good news, we are pleased to announce that 175,000 farmers benefited from free crop insurance program with claims amounting to 1.9 billion in 2017. This is 24% higher than 1.51 billion worth of insurance paid in 2016. To further strengthen support to farmers and fisher folks, the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation aims to increase the beneficiaries of the insurance program by 32% from 1.5 million farmers covered with free insurance cap in 2017 to two million farmers this year.

Farmers and fisher folks listed under the Registry System for Basic Sector in Agriculture will be given priority in availing of the program.

Questions, which I’m sure you have a lot of?

PIA RAÑADA/RAPPLER: Sir, different issue. Sir on the Vera Files report alleging that President Duterte and his daughter did not declare 100 million in investments. Sir, will the President finally issue a waiver allowing BPI to release his bank transaction history seeing as this accusation continues to persist because he has not really done so?

SEC. ROQUE:  Pia, we can’t comment on hearsay. The reality is the law says that bank statements are in fact confidential and you need a report or a request from the Anti-Money Laundering Council to get copies of these statements. When Vera Files asked me for my comment, how could I comment when the documents are not authenticated? The whole story hinges on bank documents which they could not have had obtained copies of.

So in the same way that I can’t comment when I was asked by Vera, what can I say now? Prove first that the statements are authentic then I will comment. For now, kuwentong kutsero!

PIA RAÑADA/RAPPLER: But, sir, based on supposed hearsay, the President already promised to issue a waiver. So he actually did want to comment on it, except that the supposed waiver is too specific and given the new details in this report, no longer valid. So, will he issue a new waiver?

SEC. ROQUE:  The President has said that during the elections he has already issued a waiver, it’s there. Now, what he has said is he will never issue a waiver in response to Senator Trillanes’ request.

Now, I’d like to underscore the fact that all these bank statements are rehashed from stories that Senator Trillanes alleged initially during the elections which until today have not been proven because it is impossible to authenticate these so-called bank documents.

PIA RAÑADA/RAPPLER: Sir, but these are new allegations because there are new details. For example, this now includes a new branch in BPI, and also includes specific numbers. Hindi na po ito iyong 211 million but bank transfers which show that they failed to declare between 44.25 million to as much as 85.73 million from 2006 to 2014. So—

SEC. ROQUE: Let me be very clear, if the banks will attest that those bank statements are true, we will comment. Until such time, kuwentong kutsero, tsismis.

I challenge them, come up with certification from the banks that the statements are genuine then we will comment. But it’s really is improper to comment on tsismis. And they will remain tsismis until the banks attest to the truth and veracity of these bank statements.

TED TUVERA/DAILY TRIBUNE: Good morning, Secretary. Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that the United States has launched this ‘Operation Pacific Eagle’ since September 2017. And the report said that the Philippine government asked the United States for such help in counterterrorism measures. What do we say about this, Secretary? Why did we ask the United States for help? And why was this apparently made secret?

SEC. ROQUE:  We asked help from anyone, from all countries of the world because the threat of terrorism is not just in the Philippines, it’s a worldwide concern. So if countries want to give whatever assistance they could and they want to, it’s welcome. By I think, terrorism now is not just a subject of concern in international organizations such as ASEAN, it is on top of the priority as well of multilateral agencies such as United Nations.

TED TUVERA/DAILY TRIBUNE: Why was it not announced or made public, Secretary?

SEC. ROQUE: I do not know why we have to announce a call for assistance for anti-terrorism initiative. That’s not top secret. The fact that I’m acknowledging that any country, that can provide assistance in the fight of the entire planet against terrorism, is a welcome development. And if assistance would be given, we would gladly accept this assistance.

TED TUVERA/DAILY TRIBUNE: Last on my end, Secretary. Does this move not disregard the President’s independent foreign policy? Because before he said that he does not want such moves anymore?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, you know, an independent foreign policy recognizes that there are threats which are common to the entire humanity, and the threat of global terrorism is one of them.

DEXTER GANIBE/DZMM: Sir, may written statement na pong nilabas pero gusto ko ng sound bite. Doon sa pahayag ng Chinese authorities na hindi pag-aari ng Pilipinas ang Benham Rise.

SEC. ROQUE: Well, ang katotohanan po ‘no, malinaw po na ang Pilipinas ay may titulo. Aah sa Benham Rise, sorry. Unang-una, tama po iyon, wala tayong titulo sa Benham Rise because what we have is sovereign rights. Sovereign rights, is different from title. Sovereign rights, is the exclusive right to explore and exploit the natural and non-living resources, natural resources found in the area.

Now, as early as 2012, this was awarded to the Philippines. We made an application for an extended continental shelf. I’m proud to state that when I first became director of the UP’s Institute of Legal Studies, that was our number one project, to collate scientific data to make the submission. We did, and we were granted Benham Rise as part of our extended continental shelf.

We do not have sovereignty in the Benham Rise because what we only have in the Benham Rise as part of extended continental shelf is the right to explore and exploit the natural resources found thereat.

DEXTER GANIBE/DZMM: Kasama din po doon iyong right na ipa-allow other countries to explore it?

SEC. ROQUE:  Kasama po sa exclusive na karapatan ng sovereign rights ay iyong desisyon, iyong sovereign decision na payagan iyong ibang mga bansa na mag-conduct ng scientific studies, because it is sovereign, because it is exclusive. Ibig sabihin, desisyunan ng soberenya iyon! Soberenyang bansa kung nais niyang i-share sa iba, and we have allowed scientific research on the basis of guidelines that are already existing. And other companies from different countries can also  apply.

DEXTER GANIBE/DZMM: Do you have details, Secretary, kung nag-start na ba itong scientific research ng China?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well, I’m not sure if it has. But I think, two of the conditions that we impose, number one, Filipino scientists will participate; and number two, that the research or the result of the scientific research will be shared with the Philippines.

HANNAH/SONSHINE RADIO:  Sir good morning. Sir may directives po ba ang Pangulong Duterte, nakarating sa kanya iyong sinabi ni Joma Sison na tinatawagan niya lahat ng mga kabataan na gumawa ng mass protest against kay Pangulong Duterte po? Nakarating na po ba ito sa Pangulo at kung may ibinigay po siyang directives regarding this po?

SEC. ROQUE:  Again, we don’t attach too much important on Joma Sison. I hope he has enough grandchildren to heed this call.

PHILIP TUBEZA//INQ:  follow up lang sir. He is calling on the use to emulate the riots similar to the first quarter storm of 1970, sir?

SEC. ROQUE:  The problem with Joma Sison is he stocked in history. He never moved beyond the first quarter storm.

ROSALIE COZ/UNTV:  Reaction lang po sa statement ng NUJP and ng PPI na ang nangyari po ngayon sa Rappler is simula pa ng maraming banta against media organizations critical of the Duterte administration?

SEC. ROQUE:  Napapagod na po akong magkomento na hindi po press freedom issue ang nangyari sa Rappler, usaping salapi po iyan. Usaping salapi, fund raising initiative, nasabi ng SEC ay labag sa ating Saligang Batas.

Eh tingnan na lang po natin kung may ipapasara na tayong mga media outfits dahil critical sila sa gobyerno. Tingnan na lang po natin kung may mangyayari sa Rappler. Kung merong tangka or pagpipigil, na pigilin  sila sa kanilang pag-eksesersisyo ng  kanilang propesyon  na bilang mga mamamahayag.

Hayaan na lang po natin na iyong facts will prevail. Kasi kahit anong sabi namin na wala kaming kinalaman diyan, walang kinalaman ang Presidente, ayaw naman nilang tumigil. Pero uulitin ko po, salapi po ito, usaping pera, hHindi po usaping kalayaan.

ROSALIE/UNTV:  Pero do we expect po na ang Duterte administration is to run after media organizations na kinakitaan ng paglabag sa batas?

SEC. ROQUE:  Alam  mo kung gustong  gawin in Presidente iyon, matagal na niyang ginawa, ang ginagawa ni presidente magsulat kayo ng hindi niya gusto, sigawan nila kayo, expect sisigawan  kayo ni Presidente at mumurahin kayo, pero hanggang doon lang kami, kasi talaga namang karapatan ng malayang pananalita. ‘Wag lang kayong magagalit kapag ang Presidente ay minura kayo, dahil karapatan din niya iyon,

NESTOR CORALES/INQ:    Sir, two Mayors from Iloilo last week transferred to the President’s PDP-Laban in a mass oath taking ceremony.  They were both earlier tagged and included in the President’s drug matrix or drug list. So what does this say about the President’s stands against illegal drugs.     

SEC. ROQUE:  I believe before they were allowed to join the PDP-Laban their names were cleared. We will not knowingly allow any drug lord to join the administration party.

NESTOR/INQ:  Cleared sir, meaning they were cleared by the DOJ or ano po iyong process?

SEC. ROQUE:  I think they were cleared by the police agencies because it is the police agencies that provided the drug list.

JOSEPH MORING/GMA7:  Sir, curious lang, si Presidente hindi naman pumunta kay Isabele ‘no?

SEC. ROQUE:  Hindi po.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  Why did he not?

SEC. ROQUE:  He had prior schedules in Davao.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  Sir, iyong sa Scarborough, you said—what was your statement? You do not interfere with the intramurals between the US and China?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well, ang nagpapalitan po ng mga maanghang ng salita ay sa panig ng Estados Unidos at China. Hindi po tayo manghihimasok diyan! Ang  interes po ng Pilipino: ngayon ang Pilipinas ay iyong karapatan ng ating mga mangingisda na magpatuloy sa kanilang hanapbuhay na pangingisda diyan sa borough  ay iyan naman po ay nangyayari ngayon.

So tayo po ay patuloy na naninidigan, ang Scarborough ay teritoryo ng Pilipinas pero inisantabi  po na muna natin ang usaping titulo diyan sa  borough ‘no para po  magkaroon ng hanapbuhay ang ating mga mamamayan.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  Pero, sir bakit po nagki-claim ng soberenya iyong China sa Zambales?

SEC. ROQUE:  Eh ano ba ang magagawa natin sa kanila, eh di mag-claim sila ng mag-claim. Pero tayo po malinaw na malinaw ang lahat ng ebidensiya na nagpapatunay sa ating soberenya.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  Is that objectionable, that claim?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well, pabayaan mo silang mag-claim ‘no.  Eh ang basehan naman nila ay historic water, at meron naman pong desisyon ang International Law of the Sea Tribunal.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  Which said, that they do not have historical rights?

SEC. ROQUE:  Which stress, that there’s no basis for historical waters under the UNCLOS

PHILIP TUBESA/INQ:  So sir, where do we draw the line on China’s actions in the South China Sea?

SEC. ROQUE:  I do not know what you mean by that. Because for now, we maintain, we have title, despite China’s contrary statements. But for now, what’s important is the right of the livelihood of our fishermen and right now our fishermen are able to exercise its right.

PHILIP/INQ:  You mentioned kasi sir, before na iyong island reclamation, it would endanger or jeopardize iyong goodwill commitments?

SEC. ROQUE:  That is in connection with what we think is cover by the obligation of good faith.  So, that still holds that is the goodwill obligation that we expect compliance on the part of China that they will not reclaim or create new artificial islands.

PHILIP/INQ:  So, is that the red line for the Chinese government?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well, let’s just say that if there are new reclamations or new artificial islands then, we would then maintain that there would be a breach of the good faith obligation, but so far, no breach.

PHILIP/INQ:  And doing that would jeopardize the friendly relations   between Manila and Beijing?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well, I think at this point, Manila and Beijing know that it is, to both are interests to maintain the current good relations and that is why the status quo is being served.

Q:  Sir any development po doon sa endo.

SEC. ROQUE:  The DOLE announced that the executive order on endo will be issued soon.  I am not sure exactly when, but I know that Secretary Bello mentioned that it is forthcoming.

Q:  Sir, ending the contractualization?


Q:  Lalagdaan daw po ni President?

SEC. ROQUE:   I think so, because Executive Order will be issued by the President.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  Sir, may pinahabol lang iyong office. Iyong si second cousin ni sir, Cebu Mayor  Raminoto Durano will  face  some case in  the Sandigan for failure to reinstate city employees. He is a second cousin, so?

SEC. ROQUE:  Proof that the President does not care even if you are a relative, you breach the law,  you will be prosecuted and  punished for your acts.

PIA/RAPPLER:  Sir just on the frigate deal,  so we are able to get a comment  from the  former  Undersecretary in the Palace si Lloyd Christopher Lao and he was saying that receiving complaints  about such contracts is  a usual  course  of  procedure  in the office of SAP. So, sir—but then he also defended himself saying na his office is in charge of looking into complaints of Presidential Appointees. So, it is already the norm for Palace to look into such big ticket contracts, even if it already supposed to be implemented?  I mean why is that way?

SEC. ROQUE:  I think the reason why  they had to refer it,  was  because a communication was received  by the Palace, it’s not just the PMS that has  that course of action, even my office. I am probably the second most written office to ‘no, in the Palace. All I can  do is to refer it to the  appropriate line  agency.

PIA/RAPPLER:  But they did more than just refer it, they actually called a meeting in Malacañang to talk about the CMS selection. So, is that normal?

SEC. ROQUE:  I do not know if they actually called for a meeting. Because what you said is that they transmitted the information.  You said that Usec. Lao, then Usec. Lao admitted to transmitting that information.

PIA/RAPPLER:  No sir, he also confirmed to holding a meeting.

SEC. ROQUE:  So what I am saying is, I do not know about that as a matter of fact, if they did, so be it, because in effect the white paper is a form of complaint that had to be attended to. Are you going to close your eyes   to complaints being sent to the Palace? At least it proves that we are in compliance with the obligations under the Salonga law. Not only to reply, but to look into matters received by the Palace and as you can see there been quite a number of complaints received by the Palace, acted upon particularly on the issue of corruption and junkets.

PIA/RAPPLER:  But do you think this particular process could also be abused by contractors or private people with private interest to have the Palace speak on behalf of their private interest?

SEC. ROQUE:  Could be, but that’s why we retain very intelligent people in the Palace.

PIA/RAPPLER:  So how do sir, do we guard against this process being abused by such interest?

SEC. ROQUE:  Because we have intelligent people. Well, what else do you want me to say, there are complaints that have to be acted upon, you discern the truth form fiction, same thing about journalism. There’s a macro process involved and of course what would be deplorable, is the Palace were to ignore complaints made and submitted to it. It shows that we don’t sit on complaints.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  Sir, she said a statement na naman yesterday but on Asec. Uson’s UST recognition, what is the Palace statement on it?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well, we are happy for   Asec. Uson and I supposed that validates that her appointment was for good reasons. It is the oldest university in Asia after all and to be given this recognition must be, really a source of honor of Asec. Mocha Uson.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  How do you respond to those who are against it?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well, you know Asec. Mocha Uson can respond to them. The Palace does not have to.


SOURCE: PCOO – NIB (News and Information Bureau)