Interview with Acting Presidential Spokesperson and Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar by Pinky Webb – The Source, CNN Philippines

WEBB: Secretary Andanar, welcome back to The Source. It’s been a while, thank you for your time.

SEC. ANDANAR: Thank you so much, Pinky. Good morning to all your viewers and it’s great to be back.

WEBB: Good to see you, sir. Let’s talk about the 2.5 billion ayuda first, the first tranche. So the DBM has already said that it has been released from the DBM and it will be up to the LTFRB to distribute these. Will you be able to tell us or the public transport sector exactly when nila matatanggap itong ayuda nila?

SEC. ANDANAR: Well, this is exactly what we talked about during the mini Cabinet or the Talk to the People with President Duterte last Monday, the recommendation to release the 2.5 billion pesos subsidy for the transport sector. So this is already in the Government Appropriations Act, it’s just a matter of distributing like what you said, Pinky, when and where. What’s important is the money has been downloaded and we have an agency called the LTFRB that is directed to do the distribution.

WEBB: So it’s really up to the LTFRB to distribute this? How much will they be getting, sir? Is it 6,500 pesos each?

SEC. ANDANAR: I don’t have the exact numbers with me, Pinky. I’m sorry, I can’t answer that. Let me get back to you on that.

WEBB: Okay. But it’s been said that it’s about 6,500 pesos each. Iyong tanong po dito, Sec. Andanar, is sino ho ba iyong makakatanggap nito – drivers po ba ng bus, jeep, taxi, TNVS? Papaano po iyong mga delivery riders and tricycle drivers, has that been ironed out?

SEC. ANDANAR: I understand first and foremost it will be the drivers of the jeepneys and the other transportation modes. If it includes the drivers of the last mile delivery, I’m not so certain about that. Let me find out if that is included in the original policy. As we all know we have different subsectors in the transport sector that have sprung like the last mile delivery, the Grab, food delivery, the Food Panda and etcetera.

WEBB: Opo. Iyong mga delivery riders nagtatanong ho kasi sila kung kasama sila sa ayuda. In fact, even taxi drivers but I believe taxi drivers are included pati iyong mga TNVS. Would you be able to tell us at least for those watching us, what is the process by which they need to follow to be able to receive this Pantawid Pasada ayuda?

SEC. ANDANAR: The LTFRB and the Department of Transportation already have an existing mechanism how to distribute ayuda or subsidy from the government especially during times of oil crisis. Now with the details exactly, I don’t have the exact details how they do that but I am supposing that it is similar as how the DSWD would distribute their ayuda to the sectors that are vulnerable.

WEBB: I’m not sure if you’re aware, Secretary, but there are some drivers complaining that they might not be able to get the full amount because this is supposed to go to the operators first by which the operators will transfer this to the drivers. Any idea on possible problems in the event that hindi po mapunta talaga ito sa mga drivers?

SEC. ANDANAR: You know, there’re always concerns and worries and it’s great that our fellow—or the drivers, the Filipino drivers, as usual they would raise these concerns just to remind the government to ensure that the mechanism is properly followed so that the money will go direct or straight to the driver – iyong kung saan sadyang ibigay ang pera ay dapat makarating doon. Now if there are any concerns of drivers having not been able to receive the ayuda, they can always contact the Department of Transportation or my office or the presidential hotline 8888.

WEBB: Okay. So, obviously it’s certain that you don’t know too much about this. This is probably really between the DOTr/LTFRB and the operators and drivers. But apart from that, Sec. Andanar, kasi pinag-uusapan po iyong ayuda para sa public transport sector. Is there going to be such a thing as ayuda for the rest of the public because we can expect increases in prices of basic commodities? Was there any talk of such with the President last Monday I believe or Tuesday?

SEC. ANDANAR: When the NEDA explained or presented its recommendation to the President, the NEDA was practically showing us the value chain. So from the drivers in the transport sector all the way to the farmers of the agricultural sector, obviously ‘pag tumaas ang langis at ‘pag hindi natulungan, hindi na-subsidize ang ating mga transport groups or mga drivers na bumibili ng gasolina o diesel ay tataas iyong presyo ng pamasahe; ‘pag tumaas ang presyo ng pamasahe, maaapektuhan iyong tao.

Ganoon din sa transport sa agrikultura because if oil goes up then the price of rice goes up, corn goes up, ‘pag tumaas iyong corn tataas din ang bilihin ng mga manok, ng mga livestock na dependent sa corn as feeds so it’s an entire ecosystem in the agricultural sector na maaapektuhan.

So the NEDA, the economic cluster, they recommended a few policies to President that can apply to stave the effects of the looming energy crisis. Now iyong ating—isa nga ‘yan, iyong 2.5 billion pesos na ibibigay sa transport groups tapos—it’s good that you asked about the other drivers because when you say other drivers, that includes those who bring the agricultural products from the farm to the market. Siyempre apektado rin sila so it’s great that you raised that.

WEBB: Okay. But napag-usapan din noon, Sec. ‘no, 2.5 billion initially and there was a proposal to add another 2.5 billion for the public transport sector – that’s a total of 5 billion pesos. And you mentioned farmers and fishermen, there’s also 500 million pesos na ayuda para sa kanila and an additional 500 million pesos which totals one billion pesos for the farmers and fishermen as well.

So just to go back to my previous question, iyon pong ayuda for the others – tanggalin na po natin iyong public transport, farmers and fishermen. Was there any talk of possible cash aid to other people, sir?

SEC. ANDANAR: Alam mo that is the reason why the DBM also raised concerns about the excise taxes na kapag ito ay inalis pansamantala ay maaapektuhan ang ating ibang serbisyo especially on the socials services – DSWD, the DOH and you know, the possible TUPAD program – kawing-kawing na ito, Pinky. And of course napag-usapan iyon kaya nga maraming mga nagbibigay ng kanilang rekomendasyon about the excise tax at the same time ang DBM naman, sila ni OIC Canda ay sinasabi nila kung ano iyong mga posibleng mangyari.

Mayroon ding mga suhestiyon na taasan iyong minimum wage. Of course we want people to have more or higher salaries compared to what the minimum wage earners are making now but you also have to consider the employers kung kaya ba nila.

WEBB: The plight of the employers.


WEBB: Okay. So fuel prices seems like we can expect another round of increase next week but we need to take a very short break. The Source with Secretary Martin Andanar will be right back.


WEBB: You are watching the Source on CNN Philippines. I am Pinky Webb, our guest today acting Presidential Spokesperson Martin Andanar.

Secretary just for the record. Is government averse, are they against the suspension of excise taxes?

SEC. ANDANAR: No, no. The government is not averse to that. It’s been discussed during the Talk to the People of the President and there were recommendations as well.

Now, it is really just a matter of balancing act. You need to consider also which services we have in government that are dependent on the excise taxes like the DOH, the DSWD, and other agencies in government that get their sources of funds from the excise tax. Remember, if you don’t have the source of fund there is no uses of fund to talk about.

WEBB: I spoke to Senator Gatchalian yesterday, and he gave us a figure that excise taxes were to be suspended, government will be seeing P90 billion in loses, again, if suspended. But right now Sir, there are a number of measures that government is implementing such us well the Pantawid Pasada to the drivers and of course, ayuda for farmers and fishermen as well.

But what is the standard you think – kasi marami pa ring calls Sir, to obviously suspend excise taxes which should be easier for government to implement, I am assuming – by what standard or measurement was it talked about will government actually really consider suspending the excise taxes?

SEC. ANDANAR: We talk about the possible non-stop increase of oil. Just as the DBM, the economic cluster was also talking about 80 dollars per barrel ceiling before we consider giving the ayuda or the transport ayuda of 2.5 billion and we are talking about three months of average 80 dollars per barrel.

WEBB: 80 dollars per barrel, yes!

SEC. ANDANAR: That’s the consideration. Now, according to so many forecasters, economist it’s possible that oil could rise to P120 per barrel and inflation could double from three to six percent.

So, these are factors that government is seriously looking into, we have to look into this before we consider any solution like the one suggested about the excise taxes. So, mahirap Pinky, iyong balancing act. You know we are still not out of the woods sa COVID pandemic and then now, we have this.

WEBB: Understandable ‘no, Sir, because maraming pinagpopondohan iyong nakukuha sa revenues from excise taxes. But, wala ho bang napag-usapan na kapag umabot na ng “so and so”, a hundred fifty dollars per barrel, automatic na kailangan na nating tanggalin itong excise tax para matulungan ang publiko. Was there such talk?

SEC. ANDANAR: Wala namang napag-usapan na ganiyan. Ang napag-usapan lang din ay iyong halimbawa, iyong pag-expand ng supply and reduce price by extending the lower tariff to 50% in quota pagdating sa pork, sa baboy tapos, napag-usapan din iyong—

WEBB: Minimum access volume.

SEC. ANDANAR: As usual, buffer stock for rice. Iyong volume, iyong price, buffer stocks, na palakihin iyong buffer stocks, hindi lang ng national kung hindi ng LGU. Ways we can avert a possible economic crisis, there is a band aid solution you know as you understand and our decisions would depend on the escalation of the problem in Ukraine obviously and Russia.

WEBB: Opo. What about a special session, is the President inclined to call for a special session?

SEC. ANDANAR: Napag-usapan din iyan, Pinky. When it is needed then the President would do that. As a matter of fact it was also discussed in the Talk to the People that apart from the special session, and prior to that would be the recommendation of changing some policies when it comes to excise taxes.

WEBB: What about this call of Congressman Salceda for a state of economic emergency, is the President open to that, and really what does that mean or what does even entail?

SEC. ANDANAR: The President is open to all of the suggestions. I said in one interview that the entire government is listening, ready to listen to some more suggestions. There are so many experts that we have out there, that’s the advantage of President Duterte, I suppose, he listens to so many people so many suggestions, no one has monopoly of solutions to the problems and he is very careful on deciding.

Marami kasi, there are so many that is confluence of so many events. I mean there is an election in a couple of months and nandiyan iyong COVID-19 we need more people vaccinated.

So far, we have over 60 million fully vaccinated Filipinos. We still have about 50 million to vaccinate, the reopening of the economy and now this war in Ukraine that could possibly escalate to war in Europe or perhaps huwag naman sana – world war!

WEBB: Oo. But it’s a serious concerns certainly Secretary, for the public right now because again next week there is that talk dahil tumaas po iyong barrels again, but this will have to be average on a weekly basis.

We understand that fuel prices get an average in one week before the actual increase is definitive, how much it will be increased a week after, I think that happens every Tuesday. So, sa ngayon wala pa pong calls for special session?

SEC. ANDANAR: Wala pa po. But we have another meeting on Monday and we shall be updated by the Department of Finance and the NEDA, the Department of Trade and Industry. Napakahirap talaga sapagkat, first of all we are not an oil producing country like Middle East. So, tayo ay umaasa lamang sa langis ng ibang bansa kaya every time, we are affected. We have OFWs all over the world, we still have a COVID situation, general elections coming and we only have three months, barely four months before we exit, before the President steps down.

So, the marching order of the President is to ensure that a proper transition is being done and it can only be done if we solved this looming economic crisis, or perhaps lay the foundation to solve this.

WEBB: You had mentioned before we go on a break, sir, iyong nangyayari nga sa Russia and Ukraine na there was a statement made by ambassador Babe Romualdez. Basically, I will quote ‘no. He says, sabi po niya, ‘if they are asking for support of the Philippines,’ sabi po ni Ambassador, he was very clear – that means the President – if push comes shove the Philippines would be ready to be part of the effort especially if this Ukrainian crisis spills over the Asian region. Sabi po niya, and they add, especially to our ally, the United States in using our facilities, any facilities that they may need,’ sabi po ni Ambassador Romualdez. And these facilities could be open for the US including Subic. Zambales, Clark in Pampanga. Any more information on this, was this also discussed during the Talk to the People last Monday?

SEC. ANDANAR: It wasn’t discussed during the Talk to the people, because Ambassador Romualdez was on another room and I wasn’t privy to that meeting.

But then, judging in what the President mentioned just a few days ago that the Philippines is ready to receive victims of the war in Ukraine, just as President Quezon did with the Israeli’s back in the day. Now, if you ask me about how the Mutual Defense Treaty and opening up—all the agreements that we have with the United States, I would defer to Secretary Lorenzana.

WEBB: Ambassador. Pero, sabi po ninyo, we are open to receiving refugees. Is that what you meant?

SEC. ANDANAR: Yes, yes, we are.

WEBB: And we are prepared for this in the event that happens?

SEC. ANDANAR: Yeah, we are. I think we are more than prepared, prepared more than ever. We have done this in the past, we are a country that’s battered by typhoons, more than twenty times a year. We just had the COVID-19 lockdowns, we have all the facilities that can be used as a temporary refugee camps.

WEBB: Have any been identified?

SEC. ANDANAR: None yet. But I am just assuming.

WEBB: Opo. Okay. Again, we need to take a very short break. This is The Source on CNN Philippines. Please stay tuned.


WEBB: You are watching The Source on CNN Philippines, I am Pinky Webb. Our guest today, Acting Presidential Spokesperson Martin Andanar!

Sec, let’s talk politics: Sino po ba talaga ang ei-endorso ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte? Mayroon kayong mga hints kahapon.

SEC. ANDANAR: May last conversation with the President was when he had himself interviewed by yours truly and he said that he may or may not endorse a presidential candidate. It will depend if there is a compelling reason to.

If we look at the body language of the President and his pronouncements, he obviously said that he is supporting Inday Sara, his daughter, pero leaving that presidency position vacant. And he also encouraged us in the Cabinet to stay away from the presidential derby, not to side anyone, lest we be accused of using our machinery, makinarya, our position or bureaucracy para manalo ang isang tao and that’s what we’re doing, yeah.

WEBB: But didn’t you give hints, didn’t you say, iyong i-endorso niya may letter O? O kung may letter O, halos lahat iyong lima o anim na – well, Bong Marcos, Leni Robredo, Isko Moreno, Manny Pacquiao, Ping Lacson.

SEC. ANDANAR: [laughs] It was a very tricky question from former CNN correspondent Ina Andolong and Mike Fajatin. So, I, you know—obviously there’s so many O so I don’t really know, who he is endorsing.

The President was recorded in Narvacan saying that, ‘pumili na kayo kung sinong Ilocano ang gusto ninyo.’ As I said he like to joke around, sometimes he says all of these things and kapag sineryoso namin, eh kami lang mapapahiya eh.

WEBB: [laughs] Wait a minute. But, iyong sinabi ninyong may letter O, so marami iyon. Pero dinagdagan mo eh, walang letter U. So, just for the record, iyon po ba ay… were you joking or is that true? Because if walang U, that takes away Pacquiao and Leody De Guzman. So, marami pa pong pasok, [laughs] pasok pa si Bong Bong Marcos, pasok pa si Leni Robredo.

SEC. ANDANAR: [laughs] Talagang lumaki talaga iyong istorya. Again, that was one of the fast talk questions. So, I didn’t know the questions ahead of time. So, I need to just… [laughs] trust on my instincts which letter I should mention na hindi puwede. That wasn’t from the President that was only from me.

WEBB: That was what, sir?

SEC. ANDANAR: That wasn’t from the President, the comment there. It was from me.

WEBB: So, that’s just you, assuming, tama po ba, who the President could possibly endorse?

SEC. ANDANAR: Yeah, because obviously if I say ‘O’ then—

Lahat sila pasok.

SEC. ANDANAR: Number of candidates that have the letter O in their names and when I said U, it was an answer based on my instinct. Sabi ko, sino ba ang may mga pangalang U, parang kakaunti lang naman ang tao sa mundo na may letter U iyong pangalan. So, I had to choose U [laughs]. But iyon pala mayroon pa lang dalawa. But, to ka Leody and to Manny Pacquiao, that was just me comment, that wasn’t the President.

WEBB: Okay, so at least we are clear on that. Let me clear my video, hold on. Okay. So malinaw na po tayo doon na inyo lang po iyon, that was you just hinting and assuming or … assuming, sir, because sabi mo based on the body language of the President, parang ganoon na lang po kayo nag-i-evaluate kung sino iyong kayang i-endorse, if at all he endorses everyone.

SEC. ANDANAR: The President holds his cards very close to his chest that no one can see it. We’ve had the President for five years and seven months and he does that all the time. He doesn’t play by the playbook, he has his own playbook and his playbook evolves all the time. It’s so difficult to catch him, even if you are there in proximity. Mahirap, I guess, that is his style and he will continue doing that until the last day of his presidency.

WEBB: Then you might have a very difficult job as Acting Presidential Spokesperson.

SEC. ANDANAR: [laughs] Well, good thing, there is an election. So, people won’t talk about me. [laughs]

WEBB: You just have a couple of month. Secretary Martin Andanar, sir. Thank you so much for your time.

SEC. ANDANAR: Thank you, Pinky. It’s great to be back and really it’s a privilege to be here in your show.

WEBB: Take care, sir, and thank you for joining us here on The Source. I am Pinky Webb. You are watching CNN Philippines.


News and Information Bureau-Data Processing Center