Press Briefing

Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

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

ROCKY IGNACIO/PTV:  Good morning, Malacañang Press Corps. Welcome sa regular press briefing ni Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

Sir, welcome natin iyong local leaders from Ifugao.

SEC. ROQUE: Welcome po, our visitors from Ifugao.

ROCKY IGNACIO/PTV:  And Asec. Banaag.

SEC. ROQUE:And Asec. Banaag… the guest of our ever beautiful Asec. Banaag.

Yes, let me start with the good news, Monday good news. On the DBP’s medium and small scale industry program – We are pleased to announce the Development Bank of the Philippines launched two new programs – the DBP Small Business Purchase Loan and the DBP Broiler Contract Growing to support our micro, small and medium enterprises sectors.

According to DBP, the Small Business ‘Puhunan’ Loan Program provides permanent working capital from as low as P300,000 to as high as 1 million to MSMEs with existing accounts either with DBP or other banks.

The Broiler Contract Growing Program under the DBP’s Sustainable Agribusiness Finance Corporation on the other hand, facilitates a financing through faster loan processing of poultry broiler contract growing projects to encourage our contract growers to expand their businesses.

Another good news: We are pleased to announce that the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority reported an increase of 16.4% on the Abaca shipment export revenues which amounted to 59.832 million dollars in the period January to May 2017 compared from the same period in 2016. The PhilFIDA also recorded an increase in the total volume of Abaca pulp export by 12.5% reaching 9,654,000 metric tons in January to May 2017 compared to 8,577 metric tons in 2016. In addition, the total abaca fiber export grew by 33% with 7,077.75 metric tons during the 5-month period compared from 5,311.25 metric tons in the previous year.

Now, let me make a clarification. The current foreign policy with China is: for issues which are non-contentious such as investments and trade to proceed as soon as possible; and for contentious issues such as the South China Sea to proceed on the basis of bilateral negotiations. I confirm, we have protested not only the building of the islands but also the alleged militarization of the islands and therefore contrary to claims of critics, we have long protested the military use of the artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Now, contentious issues concerning the South China Seas are discussed in what is known as a Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea and the second meeting of this Philippine-China Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea will be held here in Manila tomorrowFebruary 13, 2018.

The BCM, Bilateral Consultation Mechanism was established based on the joint statement issued after President Duterte’s landmark visit to China in October 2017. The purpose of this BCM is to discuss issues of concern to either side and cooperation in the South China Sea, and identify mutually acceptable approaches towards addressing this issue. So we are not being soft on China. There are ongoing bilateral talks as far as contentious South China Sea issues are concerned.

The BCM is conducted at the level of DFA Undersecretary and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister and is to be held once every 6 months. We were busy last December, and hence it was postponed for this month of February. The Chinese delegation will be led by Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou, while the Philippine delegation will be led by DFA Undersecretary for Policy Enrique Manalo.

Now, let me announce too that the Executive Secretary has formally informed Mr. Jose Gabriel M. La Viña (“Pompee”), as well as Mr. Amado D. Valdez that their term of office, both of which expired 13 June 2017 as Commissioners of the SSS will not be renewed. The appointments of Mr. Jose Gabriel M. La Viña (“Pompee”) and Mr. Amado D. Valdez as Commissioners of SSS will not be renewed when they expire on 30 June 2017.

Q:  Any reason?

SEC. ROQUE:  No reason given.

Q:  Presidential prerogative?

SEC. ROQUE:  Yes. Well anyway, it’s expiration of term and no renewal.

Now on Kuwait, we are also pleased to announce that around 400 repatriated Filipinos from Kuwait arrived in Manila this morning. They belong to the first batch of Filipinos who have been allowed to leave after applying for amnesty in Kuwait. They include kababayans who have overstayed or escaped from their employers.

Those who opt for repatriation from Kuwait will be given 5,000 financial assistance and a further 20,000 assistance for alternative livelihood. The missions – all over the Middle East in particular – have been instructed to find alternative employment for our kababayans who have opted for voluntary repatriation from Kuwait. We are particularly keen on finding alternative employment in countries such Oman and Bahrain, both of which are signatories to the relevant ILO Convention that protects migrant workers. Questions please.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, sa SSS, the term expired June last year or…?

SEC. ROQUE:  Considering the term for Mr. Lavina, his term of office expired on June 30, 2017. And because you have been serving in the SSS in a hold over capacity, may we inform you that upon instructions of the President, your service in the SSS is hereby discontinued effective immediately.

Now for Amado Valdez, the same thing, considering that your term of office expired on 30 June 2017 and that you have since been serving in the SSS in a hold over capacity, may we inform you that upon instructions of the President, your service in the SSS is hereby discontinued effective immediately.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  Of course, reason, presidential prerogative?

SEC. ROQUE:  Presidential prerogative.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  Sir, may kapalit na?

SEC. ROQUE:  Wala pang announcement. But we also make the announcements of the replacements.

PIA/RAPPLER:   Sir, the protest, are you saying we filed a new protest?

SEC. ROQUE:  No. There’s been no protest filed.

PIA/RAPPLER:  Ah so you are not confirming any new…?

SEC. ROQUE:  There is no new protest, because there’s been—basically we have protested… what has been described as militarization or the stationing of military hardware in the artificial islands.

PHILIP TUBESA/INQ: So sir, there’s going to be a meeting tomorrow. Are you going to raise that issue about the…?

SEC. ROQUE:  All these re-issues relevant to the South China Sea are being discussed in this mechanism.

PHILIP/INQ: How will the government raise it in the meeting?

SEC. ROQUE: As I said, we’ve had this established mechanism. This is already the second meeting, it’s held every six months.

INA/CNN PHILS: Sir, just a clarification. Iyong protest, has the Duterte administration filed a protest about the…?

SEC. ROQUE:  The Philippine government has consistently filed protest; and even during the term of President Duterte, we have filed protest. In fact, tomorrow if you want, I will bring the lists of protests… just to set the record straight that we have been protesting.

If not tomorrow, I may not be here tomorrowon Thursday, definitely on Thursday.

ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: Sir good morning, pinapatanong lang po ni Ate Cel. Iyong BCM, do you think it’s just an exercise in futility, considering the continuous militarization of China in South China Sea?

SEC. ROQUE:  No, it’s being discussed seriously in the BCM.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  So why the emphasis now?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well, it’s really not an emphasis. It’s just a matter of informing the public that a mechanism has been in existence; and in response to claims that we are not doing anything. We are doing what the government has deemed best to be done.

Again the policy is for non-contentious issues of trade and investment – full speed ahead; for contentious issue – bilateral negotiations.

PIA RANADA: Sir are you saying that as long as the BCM is functioning, the Philippines will not file any diplomat protest, because it’s gonna use this avenue for such—

SEC. ROQUE: No, not necessarily, all I’m saying is we protested what was reportedly—what was presented as news which is the alleged militarization. That has been protested.

PIA/RAPPLER: Sir the Secretary of National Defense recently said that we should consider protesting the new build up based on the photos that were published. Are you saying that—

SEC. ROQUE: Well, I do not know if that’s new build up. It has been there. What the news reported is that it not has been completed. See? So it has been protested, the fact that there are military hardware in the islands have been protested.

PIA/RAPPLER: Can we expect another protest given the continuing mission of the military build-up?

SEC. ROQUE: I do not know if another protest is necessarily because it is ours, it’s in the nature of ‘a continuing protests’. And take note that even in the bilateral between the Chinese President and President Duterte in Vietnams, it was raised also, the issue of the fear particularly by ASEAN countries that there is militarization in the South China Sea which China denied.

PHILIP TUBEZA/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Sir, good morning again. Attorney Jude Sabio is saying that he fears for his life after nagsimula po iyong preliminary examination ng ICC sa information na finile niya?

SEC. ROQUE: We don’t feel threatened by the complaint. If there is any fear—we don’t feel threatened by his complaint which has been our position.

PHILIP/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: He fears for his life sir ang sabi niya.

SEC. ROQUE: Well kaya nga sasagutin ko kayo. We don’t put much importance to the complaint. We have no—we have no ill will against him. We know it will not proceed beyond preliminary examination. Let’s make sure that if there’s a threat and he should report it to the police, if there’s a threat go file a Writ of Amparo, that’s the remedy.

PHILIP/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: So are you saying na the preliminary examination will finish within the year? Do you see a similar situation?

SEC. ROQUE: Good luck! Colombia has been under preliminary examination for 13 years, 13 years.


TED TUVERA/DAILY TRIBUNE: Secretary, the President previously said that he will be asking China’s help in securing the livelihood of OFWs from Kuwait. How will the President—or how will the government act on this sir?

SEC. ROQUE: Well among others, I think the Labor Secretary is finalizing the mechanism by which we can deploy workers to China as an alternative destination. So that’s being worked out. And I hopefully, there will be bilateral agreements soon.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, balik lang ako sa China. I’d like to pick up on what the President said last week that he had foreign intelligence saying something about Ms. Loida and ICC. Medyo fragmented iyong sentence. Can you fill in the blanks for us? Ang sabi niya he knew of the impending announcements of the ICC which should have happened on Tuesday pero nangyari siya Thursday of Friday. What does the President insinuate about it?

SEC. ROQUE: I can’t annotate on what the President has said. Let’s take the President’s statement on its face value.

JOSEPH/GMA7: This is the third time that he had said that foreign intelligence has been supplying information, several topics: number one kay Senator Trillanes as far as the bank account go. Number two, Senator De Lima’s involvement in the drug war and this is the latest one of course you will not be able to tell us who the foreign government is?

SEC. ROQUE: Definitely not.

JOSEPH/GMA7: Is there an issue about foreign governments supplying intelligence to the President?

SEC. ROQUE: Not really, that’s part of our bilateral relations. We share information with many of our friends.

JOSEPH/GMA7: But this is curious. Because this is alleged foreign governments is only—well at least, that’s what the President announced, supplying information with regard to opposition figures.

SEC. ROQUE: Again I wish I were privy to the information but I’m sure it’s only given to President.

JOSEPH/GMA7: But how do we—some saying, is it true that—how do you probe aside from the President’s announcing it—how do you probe that such exist?

SEC. ROQUE: I have no basis to doubt the President’s words.

JOSEPH/GMA7: Okay, thank you.

VIVIAN: Sir, just two points, on the total deployment ban on OFWs in Kuwait. Does it cover all jobs or just for domestic workers? And what is Palace’s response to the family of the Pinay found in a freezer asking for justice?

And on the NFA: The Palace’s decision to allow the importation of rice for NFA. Some groups are saying that it is detrimental to local farmers. Your reaction!

SEC. ROQUE: Let me address the last point first. We don’t know the decision yet. Because my last conversation with Secretary Evasco who will, himself, have his own press conference, is that he has yet to confirm the verbal order of the President authorizing the standby importation of 250,000 metric tons. His earlier position is that, this is no longer necessary, because there’s 325,000 importation arriving within the month because of the minimum access volume (MAV).

So Secretary Evasco, I’m sure, will announce whether or not he has confirmed that there will be a further 250,000 metric tons importation in his press conference in a few minutes.

Now, on the total ban: Well, I’m made to understand that the ban is for all deployment of workers to Kuwait. As to the need for justice, we will hold Kuwait responsible under the concept of state responsibility. Kuwait, under international law, has a legal obligation to provide legal redress for the victims, Filipino victims of these horrendous crimes in Kuwait. And of course, if Kuwait fails in this regard, then it will incur international responsibility for an internationally wrongful act.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL: Sir, doon po sa question ni Joseph, follow up lang. Did the President admit to listening to illegally wiretapped conversation? In saying that … kasi sabi niya, mayroong binibigay and he knew about the conversation.

SEC. ROQUE:  No, he did not. What I heard him say is that, intelligence reports given to him. So it doesn’t mean that he was privy to intercepted phone conversations.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL: But sometime in September last year, sir, he had … his quote was, “they’re tapped,” patungkol naman po doon sa Mayor Mabilog, Jed Mabilog I believe—na narco-politician…

SEC. ROQUE: Again, I will reiterate what he said: He was given intelligence by foreign countries. That’s all I can confirm.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, iyong sa Kuwait, iyong ban is for new hires? Wala na tayong bagong papupuntahin?

SEC. ROQUE:  Yes, that is I understand.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: But do we expect parang retaliation from, hopefully not, may mga existing contracts in Kuwait who might feel strongly … or Kuwaitis who might feel strongly against this policy of the administration such that baka ibunton doon sa mga existing contracts ng mga tao natin doon.

SEC. ROQUE:  Let’s just say that the President is very carefully weighing our options as far as Kuwait is concerned. What I do know is that the conversation that happened before the announcement of the total ban included other agenda. But right now, I’d rather desist from announcing it while the President has yet to make a formal announcement.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Firm na ba, last na lang, sir, iyong schedule sa Kuwait?

SEC. ROQUE: I do not even know if that will push through.


SEC. ROQUE: I do not know. That’s under consideration now.

ROCKY: Thank you, Joseph. Thank you, Malacañang Press Corps. Thank you, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

SEC. ROQUE: Thank you. And I will not be with you but we will have remote press briefing tomorrow. If necessary, we will have press briefing on Wednesday instead of Thursday. Okay? Thank you.


SOURCE: PCOO – NIB (News Information Bureau)