Press Briefing

Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque with Department of Finance Undersecretary Karl Chua and Assistant Secretary Paola Alvarez

Event Press Briefing
Location New Executive Building (NEB), Malacañang

 

ROCKY IGNACIO/PTV4: Good morning, Malacañang Press Corps. Happy Thursday. Let’s have Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

SEC. ROQUE: Good morning Pilipinas, and good morning ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps.

Happy Women’s Month – This month, we celebrate the accomplishments of Filipino women and honor their contributions in the home, in the workplace, in the community and in nation-building. As Women’s Month commences, the government underscores the commitment to protect the Filipino woman’s dignity, upholding women’s rights and giving women the recognition they properly deserve, not just the ‘ilaw ng tahanan’ but the ‘haligi’ as well.

We’re working towards the fulfillment of women’s rights to comprehensive health services as we introduce legislation. House Bill No. 4757 is one of such a bill, and this provides that at least 12% of annual internal revenue allotments be allotted for local health programs, including maternal healthcare. Our goal is to create the Philippines that puts forward the Philippine women as an equal partner in nation-building. Inclusive development can only be realized with equality and genuine collaboration between men and women.

Good news – We are pleased to announce that the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, Mabiga Interchange and the North Luzon Expressway, Sta. Ines-Magalang Exit are now open to the public. The Mabiga Interchange has a full diamond junction with access ramps with entry and exit to a plaza connecting SCTEX and Mc Arthur Highway. While the Sta. Ines Interchange now has a right-turning exit ramp to Mabalacat-Magalang Road with direct access to local roads in Magalang, Pampanga. We expect motorists to have a smooth, faster and convenient travel experience particularly for those who are going to or passing through Subic and Tarlac.

We are pleased also to announce that the Department of Science and Technology, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology on February 27 led the launch of the new earthquake monitoring station, the Ibajay Seismic Station in Aklan. Situated inside the Aklan State University, Ibajay Campus, the new station is expected to monitor seismic activities in the Province of Aklan and Western Visayas Region. With the expansion of the Philippine Seismic Network, the PhiVolcs aims to provide better and accurate earthquake monitoring reports covering the entire country.

And for our final good news – Good news to our farmers, fisher folks, women’s groups and agribusiness owners, they will no longer have to worry about contamination and rotting of farm commodities. The Philippine Center for Post Harvest Development and Mechanization under the Department of Agriculture has developed a multi-commodity solar tunnel drier. This solar drier is a practical alternative to using mechanical driers and drying under the sun, which exposes food products to different elements that can cause contamination and rotting. The farm commodities which can be dried using this include banana, cassava, small fish, kamias, mushroom and tomatoes.

Questions…

ROSE NOVENARIO/HATAW: Hi sir, good morning. Sir, simula po ito ng Women’s Month. As Presidential Adviser on Human Rights po ni Presidente, maaari ninyo po ba siyang payuhan na medyo mag-ingat doon sa kaniyang mga komentaryo hinggil po doon sa kababaihan? Dahil noong nakaraang araw po sa kaniyang speech, parang binanggit na naman niya iyong… parang iyong ari noong babae, iyong parang—doon po sa ano, sa—patungkol po doon sa mga rebel returnees na kababaihan.

SEC. ROQUE: Nag-explain lang naman siya, na medyo hindi naman literal iyong kaniyang nais sabihin. Medyo iniinis niya talaga iyong mga amazona ‘no, pero hindi naman literal iyong kaniyang nais sabihin. But, I will advise him as you recommended.

ROSE NOVENARIO/HATAW: Opo. Kasi ano eh, iyong naghihimok po tayo na nagbabalik-loob sa pamahalaan, parang improper naman po sa kanila na insultuhin po sila nang harapan ng isang Punong Ehekutibo.

SEC. ROQUE: Sige po, point well-taken po.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Hi, sir. Sir recently, the Chair of the National Council of PDP-Laban, Mr. Rogelio Garcia aired several grievances against Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. Number one, for apparently holding a mass oath taking for new members of the party without a mandatory basic seminar; and number two, for apparently not inviting old members doon sa anniversary. So my question sir, is the President aware of these grievances and is he doing something to appease the old members of the party?

SEC. ROQUE: The President has said time and again that the management – although he remains Chair of the PNP-Laban – the day-to-day management of party affairs has been delegated to both Senate President Koko Pimentel and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, as well as Energy Secretary Cusi ‘no.

So the question is: Does the President know about these gripes? Well the President defers to the leadership, I’m sure this will be threshed out in due course. But the President has full trust and confidence in Senate President Pimentel, Speakers Alvarez and Secretary Cusi.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Thank you, sir.

LEILA SALAVERRIA/INQUIRER: Good morning. Sir, can you explain to us the President’s concept of the joint exploration with China. Because he mentioned that it will be like co-ownership. Does this mean, we will be recognizing China’s sovereign rights or sovereignty over disputed areas?

SEC. ROQUE: Definitely not. The President just wanted to explain that joint exploration and exploitation will be undertaken by both Philippine and Chinese nationals. Now having said that, you know, ownership is not material here because really the areas that may be subjected to joint development is EEZ – Exclusive Economic Zone where we only exercise sovereign rights. So let’s not talk about ownership, because sovereign rights is different from title ‘no.

LEILA SALAVERRIA/INQUIRER: But sir, Justice Carpio mentioned earlier that joint exploration could be contrary to the Constitution because the Philippines has exclusive rights to exploit its… the resources in the EEZ.

SEC. ROQUE: Again Justice Carpio dissented, and was the minority view in La Bugal. The existing jurisprudence is ‘yes,’ we can enter into joint exploration and joint exploitation with foreign entities provided that it complies with the Constitution among others, it be pursuant to a written agreement signed by the President and submitted to Congress. That’s the majority and the jurisprudence in La Bugal versus Secretary of Environment and Resources.

LEILA SALAVERRIA/INQUIRER: Sir last na, just to be clear. Any joint exploration with China won’t require us to recognize its sovereign rights or sovereignty over—

SEC. ROQUE: Certainly not. Joint exploration is exactly what it is – it’s a practical solution for the Filipinos to utilize natural resources without having to deal with the contentious conflicting claims to territories.

LEILA SALAVERRIA/INQUIRER: Thank you.

ALVIN BALTAZAR/RADYO PILIPINAS: Good morning, Secretary.

SEC. ROQUE: Good morning, Alvin.

ALVIN BALTAZAR/RP: Secretary iyong decision ni CJ Sereno to go on indefinite leave. Ano ang take Palace dito? Palagay n’yo sir right move iyong ginawa ni CJ Sereno?

SEC. ROQUE: Eh ayaw na po naming magkomenta diyan. Minsan nagbigay kami ng mungkahi, hindi naman napakinggan ni CJ ‘no. So ang sa amin lang, iyong huling statement namin diyan, eh sana talagang magmuni-muni si Chief Justice kung ano ang talagang dapat gawin, dahil hindi lang naman ito personal na kaso lang ng Chief Justice, nakasalalay din po dito iyong integridad ng Korte Suprema at Hudikatura bilang isang institusyon.

Ang masasabi ko lang po eh wag naman pong ituro ang Palasyo sa impeachment na iyan, gaya ng kaniyang nasabi nung mga nakalipas na araw, malinaw na po na ang nagbibigay ng testimonya laban sa kana, sarili niyang kasama sa Kataas-taasang hukuman.

ALVIN/RP: Sir, clarification lang. Kung saka-sakali lang sir, na mag-resign or di kaya mag-avail siya ng early retirement. Which is better, sir, mag resign?

SEC. ROQUE: Hindi ko po alam, bahala siya. Ang punto kasi, hindi ko po alam if she is entitled to retire, because she is fairly young ‘no. I know that—hindi ko lang po alam talaga kung ano ang sistema nila and bahala na po siya mag-decide sa isyu ba iyan, ang panawagan lang natin ay sana po bigyan ng pansin yung institusyon ng Hudikatura.

ROSE NOVENARIO/HATAW: Sir, reaksiyon lang po doon sa pagsuko noong recruiter po ni Demafelis?

SEC. ROQUE: Eh, mabuti sumuko siya, dahil talagang ipapaaresto siya kung hindi siya sumuko. Iyan iyong order ni Presidente, right after the President’s declaration. I declared in the press briefing that the President’s asked, the NBI to summon the recruiter and it was because probably, eh we just wanted to find out, what exactly her side is.

But we are happy that she surrendered and spared the NBI from conducting a manhunt for her. There will be many questions that she has to answer, sino ba talaga iyong dapat employer niyan. Bakit parang nagkapalitan ng employer na hindi naman nare-report sa POEA. Alam mo ang istraktura kasi ngayon ng POEA, eh bago ka umalis dapat may aprubadong kontrata na napirmahan at hindi dapat nababago iyong mga partido sa kontrata at nakakapagtaka na parang dito sa kaso ni Miss Demafelis eh parang nabago iyong employer ‘no. so dapat nating malaman at magkaroon ng kasagutan itong mga ganitong bagay-bagay.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Hi, sir doon lang sa NFA saka sa rice supply. Sir, may mga panukala iyong mga magsasaka, iyong grupo ng mga farmers na ipinagmamalaki daw natin iyong P2 billion na additional na buwis mula sa TRAIN at saka iyong P7 billion na standby para sa pag-angkat. Bakit hindi raw natin ibili na lang sa mga commercial rice at i-subsidize at ibenta sa mga mahihirap na ang presyo ay P27 or P32. Kasi kung talaga naman daw na iyong pondo ng gobyerno ay gustong tulungan iyong mahirap at hindi na mag-angkat, kumita pa iyong farmer at nakabili pa ng murang bigas iyong mga mahihirap?

SEC. ROQUE: Well of hand, ang masasabi ko po diyan is, it’s a decision of the council, may council po kasi iyan eh. Iyong NFA administrator is the Chief Executive, pero may council po iyan na ang mga nakaupo, eh hindi lang po si Cabinet Secretary Evasco, kung hindi iyong mga iba’t-ibang departamento. At sila po iyong nagdedesisyon, iyong mga bagay na relating to policies, including yung sinasangguni ninyo na magkaroon na lang ng price support.

Ang masasabi ko lang po, pag-aaralan iyan. Pero alam n’yo po sa WTO, eh meron din tayong obligasyon na hindi nagbibigay ng price support sa mga magsasaka. Pero hindi ko naman po sinabing hindi natin gagawin iyon. So pag-aaralan po iyan, pero sa ngayon po ang masasabi ko lang ay iyong posisyon talaga ng council na wala pong shortage at hindi po kinakailangan ng government to government importation, inuulit ko po iyong 250,000 will be in due course, it would be at the hands of the private sector.

REYMUND/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, doon sa pagdinig ng House recently, may nakapansin na—will you support iyong move na parang i-restructure iyong membership ng NFA council? Dahil medyo hindi raw maganda iyong representation dahil iisa iyong umuupong kinatawan ng farmers group, tapos puro daw iyong mga nandoon, eh iyong sinasabi na puro nasa financial, nasa bangko. At hindi raw, – daw – naiintindihan iyong tunay na kalagayan ng mga magsasaka.

SEC. ROQUE: Ang Mayorya po na nakaupo sa council ay ahensiya ng gobyerno. At lahat naman po iyan ay kumuha or nanumpa na itaguyod ang kabutihan para sa ating sambayanan. Pero, it’s a point well-taken kung magdedesisyon po ang Kongreso, hindi po kami tututol na bigyan ng mas malakas na boses ang mga magsasaka diyan sa council na iyan.

VERGE LOPEZ/GMA NEWS ONLINE: Sir, yesterday si Speaker Alvarez, he proposed for the OSG to file a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court to invalidate iyong appointment ni CJ Sereno citing iyong hindi siya nakapag- substantially complied doon sa SALN requirement when she applied for the post in 2012, so this raises a legal question. Sir, can an impeachable official be removed through a quo warranto proceedings?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, hindi naman po sa akin dinirect ni Speaker Alvarez iyong kanyang request. I will leave it to the Solicitor General to provide the response to the request of the House Speaker.

BERNADETTE/BUSINESS WORLD: Sir good morning po. I would just like to know the President’s reaction of the decision of the consultative committee to adopt federal presidential form of government because I think House Speaker Alvarez revealed in 2016 that Duterte prefers a federal parliamentary form of government.

SEC. ROQUE: Well, ang masasabi ko lang po, ito ay sang-ayon din sa sinabi ni Pangulo doon sa isang SONA na ang sinabi niya, gusto niya French model. Ang ine-emphasize po niya, bagama’t gusto niya ng federal form of government, gusto niya na ang isang presidente na halal ng taumbayan.

Sa tingin ko po, nagkakatugma iyong rekomendasyon ng consultative committee sa kagustuhan ng Presidente na magkaroon ng federal, pero halal pa rin ng taumbayan ang Presidente.

JOPEL PELENIO/DWIZ: Sir may mga labor groups from Boracay ang nanawagan na i-freeze muna iyong desisyon ni Presidente na magkaroon ng closure sa mga establishments along Boracay seashore?

SEC. ROQUE: Ulitin ko po, walang ganoong order ang Presidente. Ang order ng Presidente, anim na buwan para si Secretary Cimatu to give his recommendations. Meanwhile, i-implement ang lahat po ng mga umiiral na environmental laws including the setback. At ang sabi nga ni Presidente, pananagutin niya iyong mga opisyales ng local na pamahalaan na hindi nagpapatupad nung mga regulasyon kasama na diyan iyong setback.

JOPEL/DZWIZ: So, sir walang dapat ikabahala iyong mga manggagawa.

SEC. ROQUE: Wala pa po! Ang order po ni Presidente: “magbigay ng rekomendasyon sa loob ng anim na buwan,” wala pa pong desisyon kung ano ang gagawin. Nandoon pa lang po tayo sa punto na ang nais mangyari in Presidente, ipatupad ang mga batas at regulasyon para protektahan ang ating kalikasan diyan, kasama na diyan iyong setback.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, sa DENR muna. I think on the ground, they are looking at recommending to the President parang 60-day closure and they said if you are going to Boracay this summer, maybe you might have to change your plan. Has it reach the President, that recommendation?

SEC. ROQUE: Imposible, kasi the 6-month period for… given by the President begins in February, when we had our last Cabinet meeting. 6 months is July, that’s no longer summer. That’s theoretically lean season for Boracay because it’s rainy season.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Yeah but there is already a determination from DENR who are on the ground sila Secretary Cimatu na mukhang ganoon iyong ire-recommend nila kay Presidente?

SEC. ROQUE: Hindi pa po—

JOSEPH/GMA7: Hindi pa dumadating?

SEC. ROQUE: Wala pang ganiyang official communication na ibinibigay si Secretary Cimatu. We will have our next Cabinet meeting on the 5th of March, I’m sure there will be updates on this. But that would already—that will only be the first month of the 6 months given to Secretary Cimatu to provide his recommendations.

Now I add that I also read in the papers today that the location – in Thailand – of the movie ‘The Island’ was also declared closed to tourism, to tourists for two months and also to give the island chance to recover.

So apparently this is really practiced in island destinations in different parts of the world, not just in the Philippines but as I said, wala pa pong pormal na rekomendasyon na isina-submit si Secretary Cimatu at matagal pa po iyong panahon na nabigay sa kaniya para magbigay ng rekomendasyon.

JOSEPH/GMA7: And if they do give the recommendation by the Cabinet meeting in date. Do you think that’s too soon?

SEC. ROQUE: Hindi ko po alam. Kasi I don’t know if he will actually recommend. Marami na pong mga nabubuong agenda diyan which I’m not at liberty to state but I can confirm that definitely the President would want an update on what Secretary Cimatu has found out, at least in the past month.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS: Sir a clarification. Doon po sa last briefing, you mentioned 60 days iyong ibinigay kay Secretary Cimatu, not 6 months?

SEC. ROQUE: No 6 months iyon sa Cabinet meeting.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS: ‘Yung determination.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS: Iyong recommendation—

SEC. ROQUE: 6 months talaga iyon, to come up with the recommendations.

INA/CNN PHILS: It’s 6 months. Okay.

SEC. ROQUE: Its 6 months, 6 months po.

INA/CNN PHILS: Anyway sir this is in relation to Leila’s earlier question. So what did the President mean when he used the word ‘co-ownership’ in his speech yesterday regarding joint exploration?

SEC. ROQUE: Well they will jointly develop and explore for resources. So ganoon po iyon. So it’s a joint undertaking which is probably akin but we are talking 0f title here, because as I said in the first place its really exclusive economic zone. So we are talking of sovereign rights.

INA/CNN PHILS: Sir in a joint exploration, can you give us an idea on what China could get out of it? I mean what limitations would be set by the Philippine government in such an agreement?

SEC. ROQUE: I do not know, that’s really speculative pa, because they’re still discussing. It’s not a done deal. On our part, there are political conciliations; on the part of China, there’s also consideration that they’re not used to entering into joint agreements.

So let’s not speculate what will happen. I think that it’s a decision that it will be to the best of our national interest to benefit from the resources in the disputed area but there’s no meeting of the mind as of yet.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Sec., matter of semantics lang. So why did the President use the term ‘ownership’ if kanina in-explain ninyo hindi naman pala kailangang i-recognize iyong sovereignty. Why used the word ‘ownership’?

SEC. ROQUE: Kasi parang he is trying to explain what will happen na you will jointly undertake an exploration and exploitation activity. So iyon-iyon.

ACE/PHIL. STAR: So the ‘co-ownership’ term is not necessarily mean it owns?

SEC. ROQUE: Well I don’t want to say that the President—as far as I know, what he meant was—that’s exactly the kind of relationship that that we will have in a joint exploration and exploitation. But it can’t be co-ownership in the sense that ownership is not material to the exclusive economic zone. Its only sovereign rights po, wala pong ownership kapag sovereign rights, it’s the exclusive right to explore and exploit natural resources, the right to conduct scientific research and the right to build artificial island.

ACE/PHIL. STAR: So is the President parang just simplifying parang ganoon?

SEC. ROQUE: I believe so.

ACE/PHIL. STAR: Okay.

DHAREL PLACIDO/ABS-CBNnews.com: Good morning, sir. Sir, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay described the President statement as an example of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust. Do you agree with this sir?

SEC. ROQUE: No. But he is free to file an impeachment complaint if he wants. How can it be betrayal of public trust when the Supreme Court itself has said it can be done. I believe that former Solicitor Hilbay maybe in the same opinion as Justice Carpio but they are in the minority. The jurisprudence again is La Bugal joint exploration, exploitation is allowed.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Secretary, Omidyar Network just donated its PDRs to Rappler and according to Omidyar the donation completely eliminates the sole basis of the SEC ruling against Rappler and strongly believes that the news website should continue operating unhindered in the Philippines. Will this change the Palace stance on the ban on Rappler?

SEC. ROQUE: We did not ban Rappler; it was the SEC that came up with the decision that they are foreign owned. And therefore on that basis they declared the corporate existence of Rappler Inc. as being null and void.

Now what is our view of this act of Omidyar? I think they acknowledged that their PDR contravenes the Constitution and our existing laws. It’s an admission against interest that they violated our Constitution. Because they said, “now it removes the only obstacle from… that keeps Rappler from operating.” That’s an admission and we are happy that they admitted because now we can say even Rappler now admits that they are not victims of censorship, they are not victims impingement of press freedom.

No less than they are funder violated—now admitted that they in violation of the Philippine Constitution, took steps, hoping that this will rectify it. What’s our position? I doubt if that will cure it, because it has already been declared as void. So if they want to assist Rappler, they must form a new corporation, anew.

ACE/PHIL. STAR: So you believe the SEC decision will not be changed because of this act?

SEC. ROQUE: Number one, the SEC can’t do anything about it because they have already decided and it’s now in the CA. If at all, it is the CA that can consider it.

But as far as I know, no change in circumstance could affect an issue already brought to Court; unless it would render it moot. But the issue here is was there a violation of the constitution because of the PDR issued by Rappler.

ACE/PHIL. STAR: Okay, in relation to that. Meaning, hindi pa rin makakapag-cover dito sa Malacañang iyong Rappler?

SEC. ROQUE: Of course.

ACE/PHIL. STAR: Okay, thank you, Secretary.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, iyong act po ng Omidyar. What position does it strengthen? The decision of the SEC or Rappler’s before the CA?

SEC. ROQUE: Naku, it strengthens the decision of the SEC because it’s an acknowledgement that they violated the Philippine Constitution no less, and they’re hoping to rectify it.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: And the curing cannot happen while it is in the CA?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, the curing will depend if the CA allows it. But as far as the SEC is concerned, the matter is out of the hands of the SEC already because they’ve already decided.

Many of you daw want to have been managers of Rappler. One point five (1.5) million dollars divided by 12, don’t you wish you were there instead, Joseph? [laughs]

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: I wish for a peaceful life, sir. [laughs]

Sir, sa CJ lang. Okay, so ang process of—iyong question lang ni Virgil, I want to push it lang. Under the Constitution, you can only remove a Chief Justice via an impeachment, okay. But iyong sinasabi ni Speaker Alvarez is that the validity of the appointment can now be questioned and can now be put as a question before the Supreme Court based on iyong mga questions about qualifications, about psychiatric health and all that, sir, and the SALN. It is a noble idea, sir, right? But can it be done?

SEC. ROQUE: It’s noble, but I don’t see how the Executive can be involved in this other than if the quo warranto succeeds and the court order that she should be removed, I can assure you, the Executive will implement it because we’re the chief implementor of the law.

But we will defer to the decision of Congress. We will defer to the decision of the Supreme Court itself if and when this issue is brought to its attention.

Q: Sir, sa China ulit. So any potential energy deals between Manila and Beijing, would it be government-to-government or company—

SEC. ROQUE: The Constitution and La Bugal says that it must be pursuant to a contract, written contract entered into by the President, and submitted to Congress.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, di ba may naudlot, Arroyo administration. Iyong kila MVP, iyong service … SC something number, with regard to joint explorations. Will that be resuscitated?

SEC. ROQUE: I do not know because I have not gotten official communication from the Department of Energy.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, just a sound byte on China.

SEC. ROQUE: Well, you know, okay, the sound byte is:

Kinakailangan po munang magkaroon ng kasunduan ang bansang Tsina at ang Pilipinas para magkaroon ng joint exploration and exploitation diyan sa pinag-aagawang West Philippine Sea.

Pero hanggang wala pong kasunduan na ganiyan, hindi po posible dahil sa riyalidad na parehong partido ay hindi naman pumapayag. So antayin muna po natin kung magkakaroon ng ganiyang kasunduan at kapag nagkaroon ng kasunduan naman po iyan, ipagbibigay-alam din natin sa buong bayan dahil iyang kasunduan na iyan ay dapat isumite sa Kongreso sang-ayon na rin sa ating Saligang Batas.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: If I’m going to use a metaphor ng bahay, who’s going to get permission to enter into whose house?

SEC. ROQUE: It’s not a house. It’s governed by rights pertaining to the exclusive economic zone, so it’s sovereign rights. So I don’t think comparing it to a house is the proper way to do it.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Okay. So both have sovereign rights over Benham Rise?

SEC. ROQUE: It’s disputed, that’s the problem.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Okay, so iyon iyon.

SEC. ROQUE: It’s disputed. There’s a dispute right now.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: So as far as exercising—Benham Rise, sir, ha.

SEC. ROQUE: Not Benham Rise. I thought you were talking about ano … I thought you were talking about West Philippine Sea because that’s the question.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sa Benham Rise, sir?

SEC. ROQUE: Wala naman kasing joint exploration sa Philippine Sea kasi exclusive iyan. Ang sabi ni Presidente, we don’t have to share it with anyone because it’s exclusive, iyong Philippine Rise.

Okay? Tatlo po iyan: Philippine Rise, Scarborough Shoal, Spratlys. Philippine Rise, not Benham Rise.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: No more rice.

SEC. ROQUE: Hindi meron, marami. [laughs] maraming maraming rice, oo.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, doon sa exploration sa—kasi I remember doon sa Gloria Arroyo administration, nagkaroon na rin ng parang initial na exploration noon. So this time, sir, may mababago ba na iyong magiging point of reference or term of reference ay iyong mismong batas ng Pilipinas and not of China?

SEC. ROQUE: Alam ninyo po, iyong JMSU hanggang ngayon ay nasa Korte Suprema. Wala pang desisyon ang Korte Suprema doon sa constitutionality ng JMSU – iyong Joint Maritime Seismic Understanding. So pero sa akin po, ibang-iba ito kasi iyon ay seismic exploration lang iyon. Ito, we’re talking of actual exploitation.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Can we expect China to give us fair share?

SEC. ROQUE: I think so. And as to the applicable law, because this will be pursuant to an agreement between two nations, it will be governed by international law.

Wait, wait. Hindi pa tapos because we welcome guests today to answer your questions on TRAIN. He is led by—

We have resource persons for today, Department of Finance Chief Economist and Undersecretary for Strategy Economics and Results Group, Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua; and the agency’s spokesperson, Assistant Secretary Paola Alvarez.

They will share with us updates on the implementation of the recently enacted Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, let us all give a warm welcome to Usec. Karl Kendrick Chua and Asec. Paola Alvarez. I turn over the floor to them because they are the authorities on the field. And I will ask to be excused because I have a pressing engagement. So I turn over the floor to the very able Undersecretary Chua and Assistant Secretary Alvarez.

USEC. CHUA: Actually, I’m not a chief economist. I’m just Undersecretary, Spokesperson. The chief economist is Usec. Gil Beltran so I can focus on tax reform.

Siguro before I start, I just want to thank everyone for this opportunity again to explain TRAIN. It’s not an easy reform. And one of the key question is whether TRAIN or the tax reform is responsible for the slight increase in inflation. So I would just like to give a short presentation, and Asec. Paola and I would be happy to answer your questions.

Just to give everyone an idea, the inflation is really based on a consumer price basket. This is the composition of that basket; 39% of that is food and 59% is non-food. And under food you would have food; and under food, you would have rice which is the biggest item in the basket, followed by the non-alcoholic beverages and the alcohol and tobacco.

In the non-food, you have the usual clothing, housing, electricity, transport and so on. So there are many items in the consumption basket. And this is arrived based on a survey of what typical Filipinos buy. And those highlighted in yellow are those that would typically be affected by the tax reform which I will explain later has not yet translated into the inflation effect.

The key messages as we see in January is that the year-on-year inflation was 3.95%. That is almost 4% that is being reported. Year-on-year inflation, meaning, that change in price between January of 2017 and January of 2018.

And the main finding is that it is within the two to four percent target of the Central Bank. And this is considered moderate, although it is not the higher end, it is still within target.

And one month of slightly higher inflation is not a cause for concern because the target is set for the entire year. And what makes the January a little higher is that the base effect is present. Meaning, sa January 2017, the inflation was quite low at 2.7 that is why there is room to grow the price.

In NCR, 5.45 iyong inflation. But outside the NCR, it’s really lower – 3.53. Because the poor and the low income are mostly outside NCR, we don’t think that this inflation is a major concern for our low income countrymen.

Some of you may ask if the four percent or 3.95 is high, it is actually very low and stable. Historically, we have gone through ten percent, 20% and even 50% inflation. So this chart basically says that overtime, we have been doing quite well in making our inflation low and stable. So at 3.2 last year and 3.95 this year, we expect that to remain within the Central Bank’s target, and so this is not a cause for concern.

Now, some of you may ask and to educate the public, kailan ba kinukuha ang survey ng Philippine Statistics Authority? They do it twice a month.

During the first five days of the month and during the middle of the month. And given this, TRAIN is unlikely to be the reason for the higher inflation that we have seen. Why? Because most of this firms selling alcohol, tobacco, sugar sweetened beverage, oil, are still selling old stock which they bought in 2017 and should not be levied the higher excise. So if there is any higher inflation that we have seen, it’s probably due to other reasons.

In fact, what we see is that, in petroleum, although the inflation of petroleum products is 7.2%, none of that was caused by TRAIN because the peso’s depreciation is 1.5%, and the Dubai crude increased by 19.6%. In fact, if we look at month-on-month inflation, meaning, the change in price from December to January, we actually saw it to be slightly negative at .8. So there’s no way for TRAIN to have caused the higher petroleum products, in fact, it is due to the peso’s depreciation and the higher Dubai crude.

Sugar sweetened beverage, mababa rin iyong inflation –2.8%. Alcohol, we expect it to rise four percent kasi iyong SIN Tax every year ay may four percent adjustment, pero mababa rin siya.

So iyong main message is, if these products that are affected by TRAIN hardly increased and the only reason why petroleum increase is Dubai crude, and all other products increased, there must be something else that’s driving the increase and not TRAIN. That is the key message.

Now, in terms of food, what we have seen is that overall food inflation is higher at 4.52%. However, rice is still low as of January at 1.4%. In fact, the only product in the food basket that is higher than 10% which is a cause for concern is fish. However, that reflects the typhoon that went through the middle of the country in December, and also iyong closed fishing season. Typically, November to February, hindi puwedeng mag-fish ng big fish variety.

Now, actually, what we think is the real driver of higher inflation aside from possible profiteering is that the tobacco industry is now paying the right taxes. Tobacco inflation actually in January was 17.4% when we expect it only to increase by 8%. And this is likely to be due to one company which is now paying the right taxes after being caught smuggling and producing illicit cigarette. In fact, that company, under the new management, is now paying almost two billion more per month.

In fact, if we had the situation wherein that company would still be producing illicit cigarette, therefore not paying tax, we would see our inflation to be 3.75 which is more or less the norm that we expect. But since someone is now complying and paying the right tax, we see higher prices and thus contributed to inflation.

Our estimate, as many of you have seen in previous presentation, is that we expect the TRAIN to contribute a maximum of only .7 percent to our inflation. So if the target inflation on average is three percent this year, it would be 3.7 maximum; and the .7 is due to TRAIN. And NEDA and the BSP both have confirmed our analysis.

Finally, many of you know that we came from a period of very high oil price. And then oil price went down and started to go up in the last three years. What really happened was when diesel increased from 18 pesos to 32 pesos between January of 2016 and January of 2017, that 14 pesos is at 76% increase in the diesel price, we did not see any of the key commodity items skyrocket.

Inflation overall in 2016 was 2.7%. Food inflation, 3.4%. Transport, 2.4. Housing, electricity, gas, water, 1.8%. In fact, based on the survey that DTI does every month on the price, they did not see any significant increase, if any, among the key products – laundry bar, sardines, pork, rice, yellow corn, fish, noodles. Lahat po sila ay hindi nagbago. Habang iyong diesel, umakyat na po ng 14 pesos.

So in summary, I would like to assure the public that this TRAIN has been well studied, well consulted, and the inflation is very well manageable. We have also other ways to help the poor in case inflation g0es up higher. We have the conditional cash transfer. We have the rice subsidy. We have, under the TRAIN, the unconditional cash transfer. And we are pursuing rice tariffication so that rice price will fall, by NEDA’s statement, by up to 7 pesos per kilogram.

So with that, Asec. Paola and I would be happy to address questions regarding TRAIN and its inflation effect if any. Thank you.

JOSEPH/GMA7: So sir iyong contribution for 2018, .7 lang iyong attributable to TRAIN right, the inflation? Iyong January na rate, do you expect that to taper off kasi, I think, I heard si Secretary Pernia or si Secretary Dominguez ang sinasabi niya, it will taper off as we go..

USEC. CHUA: Sa tingin namin, magti-taper off iyan, kasi in January, iyong nag-ikot po iyong DTI and DOE, marami pong nahuling mas mataas sa SRP. So pinagsabihan na sila, binabaan na nila iyong presyo. And eventually people adjust and there are many other factors lalo na pag pumasok na iyong rice tariffication. I think we can hit our target of no more than 4% for the full year.

JOSEPH/GMA7: So you think, sir that the—iyong ni-report ng PSA na mataas na January inflation, that’s ano ba, manufactured based on price manipulation, iyon ba iyon?

USEC. CHUA: Sa tingin namin, there is no reason for TRAIN to be the cause for the slightly higher inflation. And if there is, it would be other factors and profiteering might me a reason, because we have already seen some evidence of it.

JOSEPH/GMA7: Sir, tobacco lang iyong nakikita ninyo na nag-drive noong January inflation?

USEC. CHUA: Well, iyong pinakamataas, tobacco. Kasi iyong inflation ng tobacco is 17%. Iyong expectation namin, dahil sa sin taxes, only 8%. That’s if iyong company niya nagbebenta na ng new stock, pero what if old stock pa ang binibenta, so dapat walang increase. Pero, since itong better governance na tobacco industry, mas malaki na rin iyong binabayad nila, almost 2 billion per month ang additional. Kaya kung nagbabayad na po sila ng tamang tax, siyempre iyong presyo po ng sigarilyo tumaas na rin, kaya doon po natin nakita iyong higher inflation ng tobacco which contributed to the higher inflation overall.

JOSEPH/GMA7: So just tobacco and other products? Kasi parang…

USEC. CHUA: Wala kaming nakitang other products na of certain concern except iyong sinabi kong fish, because may bagyo at may close season. All other products are well under the double-digit and closer to 5% or less.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Usec, na-submit na iyong second package sa Congress ano?

USEC. CHUA: Na-submit na po sa Congress.

ACE/PHIL STAR: Ano po iyong nakikita ninyong contentious points doon sa second package, kasi iyong sa first package ang daming umalma, for example doon sa cooperatives, doon sa higher excise tax. Iyong second part, iyong nakikita ninyong pinaka-challenging na provisions?

USEC. CHUA: Well, kung walang challenge ang isang reform, hindi siya tunay na reporma. So, may challenge talaga. Pero ang nakikita namin ay balanse kasi iyong aming mungkahi, meron po tayong lowering ng corporate income tax at ngayon po ang mga small and medium enterprises nagsisikap po sila, pero sila ay nagbabayad ng 30%, iyong ibang bansa 20% na lang. Kaya kailangan natin ibaba iyong corporate income tax. Pero hindi po natin puwedeng gawin iyan, kung po natin lalawakin iyong base ng tax, that is why meron po tayong fiscal incentives, rationalization.

Iyong nakaraang administrasyon, under President Arroyo, Aquino, Ramos, sinubukan po nila iyong fiscal incentives, pero hindi po sila nagtagumpay. Ngayon po meron po tayong mga datos, galing po sa TIMTA law. Iyong TIMTA ay iyong Tax Investment Management Transparency Act, na requiring all firms receiving incentives to submit data on how much they got and what they contributed.

So iyan po ay makakatulong sa atin. So hindi po madali, pero sa tingin po namin, mas kaya ngayon.

ACE/PHIL. STAR: Kasama sa second package iyong rationalization nung fiscal incentives?

USEC. CHUA: Kasama po siya.

ACE/PHIL. STAR: Kasama po doon iyong pagtanggal noong redundant tax holidays?

USEC. CHUA: Kung redundant talaga, wala pong pakinabang sa ating bansa, siguro naman dapat tanggalin, kasi pahirap ito sa mga nagbabayad ng tamang buwis. Pero kung may magandang epekto po iyan sa ating bansa, may magandang trabaho na nalilikha or mga experts na nakakatulong sa atin, puwede naman natin iwan iyong mga incentives.

ACE/PHIL. STAR: May commitment na ba iyong Congress kung kailan nila ipapasa iyong second package nung TRAIN?

USEC. CHUA: Well, iyong Kongreso kasi dadaan sa mahabang hearing eh. So, siguro ang gusto po namin sana ay bago magtapos po iyong taon ay maipasa na po iyong second package. Pero siyempre, dapat pakinggan po natin lahat ng mga sector ng lipunan!

ASEC. ALVAREZ: Just to clarify no, what we mean by iyong sa fiscal rationalization of fiscal incentives is. Kung titingnan ninyo kasi, merong malalaking industriya na nakakakuha sila ng mas malaking kita, kasi iyong kanilang incentives, iyong kanilang holiday talagang mahaba na binigay sa kanila. Like for example, iyong iba doon, walang sunset provisions.

So what we are trying to do now, is siyempre yung iyong SMEs iyong mga small and medium, ano sila, like 30% talaga sila nata-tax, pero kung ilo-lower mo sila, dapat iyong mga mas malalaking companies na nag-i-enjoy ng mas matagal, dapat kapag nakuha na nila iyong capital, kumbaga if you are operating for 40 years, tapos hindi ka nagko-contribute sa economy, kasi nga meron kang mga holiday, dapat siguro i-rationalize natin iyon.

So what we want is not to completely remove it but for others to, for example lagyan natin ng sunset provisions, lagyan naman natin na, oh, pag ganito na iyong cut mo, dapat mag-contribute ka na sa economy. So that’s the idea why we want to rationalize.

FROM GMA NEWS ONLINE: Anyone can answer. Would you know, if iyong 200 pesos na TRAIN subsidy, has this been downloaded, I mean rolled out already to the poor households?

USEC. CHUA: Iyong 200 na subsidy, actually lump sum ibibigay iyan eh. Hindi po 200 per month, isang bagsakan iyan 2,400. Ayon po sa DSWD schedule, iyong mga 4P beneficiaries ay nagsimula nang makatanggap po ng cash transfer. Kasi top up lang po ito sa kanilang regular subsidy. Iyong mga non-4Ps, iyong mga senior citizens, ito po ay ang focus in the next few months.

FROM GMA NEWS ONLINE: When, sir nabigay iyong ano?

USEC. CHUA: Ang sabi po ng DSWD, February, kasi every February and every two months thereafter, nagdi-distribute ng 4P subsidy, so sinasabay iyan.

ARJAY BALIMBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Sir, we are heading towards federalism and can you give us bigger picture of the fiscal policy of that form of government and how it is different from the current policy. What precautions do you consider as we adopt that?

USEC. CHUA: Actually mahirap mag-speculate kung ano ang form of fiscal policy. Kasi iyong form of federalism, hindi rin ano eh, parang confirmed or final. So once may confirmation na kung ano ang itsura ng federal government, ito ba ay parang US, Canada, Malaysia.., doon po natin puwedeng bigyan ng pansin kung ano ang tamang fiscal policy.

ARJAY/BUSINESS WORLD: In the first two months of the implementation of TRAIN package 1, how do you assess it in general?

USEC. CHUA: Well, I think in general, it was quite successful. We give 10 billion peso per month at least to working people and that’s fueling a lot of the positive consumer expectation. The revenue collections in the first two months are on target, and our inflation has remained manageable. And of course we will continue to monitor and make sure that the fruits of TRAIN are going to be well-spent.

ARJAY/BUSINESS WORLD: And what unexpected challenges, sir, if there’s any, has the government encountered so far?

USEC. CHUA: Well, wala pa naman kaming nakitang malaking challenge, alam mo naman iyong TRAIN 18 months itong ano—we prepared for 18 months, it has well consulted, everyone in government contributed. If there are challenges then, I think it would be easy to address.

ARJAY/BUSINESS WORLD: Sir, any significant lesson in the implementation which can be applied in the second package implementation?

USEC. CHUA: Ang maganda naman sa TRAIN package one, maganda iyong research, 700 consultations ang ginawa namin. So itutuloy po namin iyan para marinig po ang lahat ng mga concerns po ng mga affected sector. So tuloy and we will do and build on it.

ARJAY/BUSINESS WORLD: Thank you sir.

BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS WORLD: Hi sir, I have three questions po.

USEC. CHUA: Ah three?

BERNADETTE/BUSINESS WORLD: Wala po bang plano iyong gobyerno to increase the subsidy for the poor given the increased in rice prices po? As you said po we only have 1.4 rice inflation… 1.4 percent po. Pero siyempre po we need to take into consideration iyong problem po with NFA rice. So wala po bang plano iyong gobyerno to increase the subsidy?

USEC. CHUA: Ang plano namin ibaba iyong presyo para lahat will benefit. Kasi if you give a subsidy that means you’re taking it from the budget. Someone is not going to benefit from it, what if a school, public school or a health care center needed that money more than the… those receiving the subsidy. So ang balak po namin, we tarrify the rice and that can raise some taxes but also significantly reduce the price of rice. The estimate of NEDA is by as highest 7 peso per kilogram iyong kayang ibaba once we do this important reform.

BERNADETTE/BUSINESS WORLD: Okay sir, next question sir. What does the government intend to do to prevent profiteering po?

USEC. CHUA: Well alam mo iyong profiteering mahirap iyan, hindi naman kaya nating bantayan lahat ng mga negosyante. Pero ang ginagawa natin since the first day of TRAIN is DTI and DOE have been going around monitoring prices and some of them were captured well in the media. Iyong mga nahuling mas mataas sa SRP pinagsabihan at marami namang nag-roll back ng price and besides there are many other factors that we should consider. So we just have to be vigilant, continue our work in monitoring and for the public to inform the government kung mayroon pong nagsasamantala ng price.

BERNADETTE/BUSINESS WORLD: Okay sir. Next question po. Last February 20, SEIPI or the Semiconductors and Electronics in the Philippines Foundations Inc. and Dominguez are set to meet po. Natuloy po ba iyong meeting?

USEC. CHUA: Ah hindi po natuloy, so na-postpone siya.

BERNADETTE/BUSINESS WORLD: For what reason sir?

USEC. CHUA: Schedule, mutual schedule.

BERNADETTE/BUSINESS WORLD: Okay sir. Sir may last question pa ako.

USEC. CHUA: Last?

BERNADETTE/BUSINESS WORLD: Opo. According po sa Phil Export po, the zero value added tax exemption and VAT refunds po should not be categorized as tax incentives under the package 2 po. So what’s your stand about it?

USEC. CHUA: Actually tama po sila, hindi siya talaga dapat incentive. Ang VAT kasi consumption tax. Kung may binili ka o nag-import ka magbayad dapat ng tax ng VAT tulad ng mga ordinaryong Filipino. Tapos kung nag-export diyan po kayo kukuha ng—or may apply po ng refund. So tama po sila, hindi dapat incentive ang VAT na ginagawa dati.

BERNADETTE/BUSINESS WORLD: So in other words po, you are supporting their stand po?

USEC. CHUA: Well I’m clarifying their stand na dapat hindi natin gawing incentive ang VAT, dapat lahat po magbayad kung may binili po sila.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Usec. Chua may deficit figures na ba for February?

USEC. CHUA: Mayroon pero hindi ko hawak iyong datos, pero I can send you the—may press statement daw I think a few days ago. Pero hindi ko hawak iyong datos na iyon.

ACE/PHIL. STAR: Ah lumabas na pala?

USEC. CHUA: Nandoon lumabas na po.

ACE/PHIL. STAR: Okay, thank you.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Kay Usec. Chua, sir may binabanggit ninyo—I think NEDA na magkaroon iyong—may inflationary effect kapag kataasan iyong pagbili ng NFA sa palay mula sa farmers. Can you give us how much or would be the projection ng inflation hike kapag kataasan from 17 per kilo to say 20 or 22 per kilo iyong palay?

USEC. CHUA: Actually hindi ko alam iyong detalye. Pero ang sinasabi mo, iyong NFA bibili po ng 20 instead of 17, siyempre may effect sa price iyan. Unless na i-absorb po ng NFA iyong loss. So depende iyan kung ano po ang gagawin ng NFA. Pero hindi ko alam iyong detalye.

REYMUND/BOMBO RADYO: Okay.

Q: Ito sir, two questions lang. May inflation forecast na ba for February?

USEC. CHUA: Well ang forecast namin is within the two to four percent—

Q: Ng DBCC?

USEC. CHUA: Yes.

Q: Tapos iyong sa Marawi bonds, sir… reconstruction bonds mayroon na bang update doon?

ASEC. ALVAREZ: Okay so for the Marawi, resource mobilization right now, we already have the PCNA; but for the actual costing of how much we need to fund individually, wala pa. So kung ready na kami—but hinihintay natin iyong final outcome ng study ng master plan ng NEDA, kasi sila iyong gagawa ng master plan so once they have the master plan, we would know how much we actually need at kung ano iyong individual infrastructure like anu-anong iyong mga ospital, saan-saan iyong mga eskuwelahan, iyong ilan iyong kailangan nating pondohan, so hinihintay pa natin iyon.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, iyong sa rice subsidy lang. May minention kayo parang apat yata iyon but I missed the other two – CCT, tapos rice subsidy. Ano pa iyong mga pantulong ulit?

USEC. CHUA: Well iyong under TRAIN is the unconditional cash transfer.

JOSEPH/GMA7: How is that different from the CCT?

USEC. CHUA: Well CCT is conditional, you have to attend school and go the health center. Iyong unconditional is wala talagang condition, all the poorest 10 million families get the subsidy.

JOSEPH/GMA7: So iyong sa rice subsidy papaano iyan? The operations?

USEC. CHUA: Alam ko iyong rice nagsimula na iyan last year. Hindi pa siya part ng TRAIN. Iyan iyong parang top up sa mga CCT families, kasi iyong concern po nila iyong amount ng CCT subsidy hindi na po nagbago iyan since the start of the program. So sabi po nila tumataas iyong presyo pero iyong amount ng CCT hindi nagbabago, kaya dinagdagan po ng rice subsidy.

JOSEPH/GMA7: So even before TRAIN mayroon na iyan?

USEC. CHUA: Even before mayroon na po iyan.

JOSEPH/GMA7: So not additional na cash trans?

ASEC. ALVAREZ: What we are trying to add is iyong unconditional, kasi ‘pag CCT you have to be under iyong specific conditions—

JOSEPH/GMA7: May mga requirement iyan—

ASEC. ALVAREZ: And specific qualifications. Pero minsan kahit mahirap ka hindi ka nagka-qualify doon sa mahirap nila under CCT, hindi ka makakatanggap. So we want to expand it to include iyong unconditional para kung hindi ka papasok doon sa conditional, mayroon ka pang unconditional. So we are adding 2.8 million households more.

JOSEPH/GMA7: 2.8 million households and how much is that in pesos?

USEC. CHUA: Well 10 million times 2,400 is 24 billion—

JOSEPH/GMA7: 24 what?

USEC. CHUA: Billion, yung sa subsidy for this year.

JOSEPH/GMA7: Okay thank you.

ROCKY: Okay na, Malacañang Press Corps? Thank you, Usec. Carl Cedric Chua and Usec. Attorney Paola Alvarez. May message pa rin po kayo sa mga—

USEC. CHUA: Mag-iwan lang kami ng materials kung gusto ninyo, iyong sa detalye po ng presentation, iyong PowerPoint and this one pareho lang. Iyong PowerPoint pinaganda lang namin.

ROCKY: Okay thank you. Thank you Malacañang Press Corps.

USEC. CHUA: Thank you very much.

ROCKY: Thank you. Back to our main studio sa Radyo Pilipinas and People’s Television Network.

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Source: PCOO-NIB (News and Information Bureau-Data Processing Center)

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