Press Briefing of Presidential Ernesto Abella with Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay and Department of Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno
Press Briefing Room, New Executive Bldg, Malacañang
27 September 2016
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. You’re going to be privileged this morning by having two Cabinet secretaries who’ll be talking about pertinent subjects and issues facing us today.

The first one we’d like to call on is Secretary Perfecto Yasay. Secretary Yasay is former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman and was cited by Businessweek Magazine as one of the stars of Asia, along with 50 other prominent Asian leaders.

Secretary Yasay is an outstanding lawyer with experience in both the Philippines and the United States, and has litigated numerous corporate, civil, and criminal, and immigration cases under the Philippine and American legal and judicial systems and in various quasi-judicial and administrative bodies.

A practicing lawyer, specializing in corporate law and securities regulation, Secretary Yasay obtained his Bachelor of Laws degree from University of the Philippines; Bachelor of Arts Major in Political Science from Central Philippines University in Iloilo; and secondary education in Davao City National High School in 1961.

Secretary Yasay is the author of two books to date, ‘Out of the Lions’ Den: The Travails and Triumph of a Public Servant’ and ‘Terminal Four: Corruption in America’s only colony in Asia.’

Ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, let us all welcome Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay.

SEC. YASAY: Hi. Thank you, Ernie. I just got back from the UN General Assembly meetings in New York. I had the privilege of being able to make a statement for the Philippines. I am sure you’re well aware of what I’ve said. So I will leave it at that. And if you have any questions on that regard, I’d be very happy to answer them.

I also have the chance to go to Washington D.C. and meet with some officials, particularly the… two co-chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and talk about their concerns with respect to certain issues raised about the Philippines, violation of human right, and so on. So I gave them a, the explanation about the true situation here. I emphasized to the two chairs that they have to trust the institutions that we have in the Philippines.

If they are simply basing their conclusions or apprehensions of the basis of unverified news reports that will not be fair to the Philippines. I hope that I had explained well and addressed the concerns that they have raised.

I also had a chance to meet with some members of the national security advisor of President Barack Obama in the White House. And again also talking about our claims in the South China Sea and also tried to address their concerns particularly about what has been apparently reported abroad to the effect that, we are veering away from our traditional friendship with the United States in favor of China which of course is completely unfounded and not true.

And I hope that I had assuage their fears in this regard, the important thing is that as a result of this discussions, we have all agreed that this is now a matter that should give us the confidence and the opportunity to move forward insofar as strengthening our relationships are concerned.

I am very happy with our participation in the United Nations. This was my first official appearance with the United Nations General Assembly. There were a lot of other side meetings that I attended.

First, prominent of which was the large-scale migration meetings that I had to participate in as well. I also had the opportunity to meet with the various Philippine community groups, both in Washington D.C. and in New York and also spoke before the Center for Strategic International Studies, also in Washington D.C. and before the Philippine U.S. Business Society, also based in Washington D.C.

So these are the things that I would like to mention to you. I know that you have some questions and clarifications that you’d like to make.

I am open for any question that you like to raise in this regard.

Dexter Ganibe (DZMM): Hi, Secretary. Good morning. President Duterte mentioned yesterday that he is about to cross the Rubicon with the relations… with the US–

SEC. YASAY: He is about to?

Mr. Ganibe: To cross the Rubicon. Any statement?

SEC. YASAY: Well, I… Maybe he was again saying that in a manner to dramatize what he feels are the areas that would need further strengthening insofar as our relationship with the US is concerned.

I do not think personally that he meant it in the context of veering away from our commitments with the United States, particularly with our agreements and treaty or with respect to the close and special relations that we have with the United States.

I would like to emphasize that reading and listening to what the President had been saying in this regard, he just simply wants to undertake an independent foreign policy where we would not overlook, that we are part of an international community and that the Constitution in fact mandates that we should carry on amity amongst all nations, particularly with China in this regard, that is our neighbor, it is a reality that we have to contend with and in fostering better relationship with China, which we must understand had been, had cooled off under the previous administration.

This is something that we would like further strengthen. We have disputes with China insofar as the South China Sea is concerned. But this is not going to negate or prevent us from pursuing other aspects of our relationship, insofar as strengthening trade relationship, cultural ties, people-to-people connectivity, even infrastructure development as they have offered.

So when he says as you say, crossing the Rubicon, I understand it in the context of the fact that he is just simply emphasizing that there is a… in his administration he wants to make sure that the relationship mandated by the Constitution insofar as carrying out an independent foreign policy and at the same time, meeting… pursuing amity with all nations are complied with.

But it should not be understood as meaning that we are veering away from our commitments with the US or our close friendship with the US which is very strong and as I’ve said to you, as a result of my meetings in Washington D.C. we have agreed that we will move forward to strengthen even this relationship in the future.

Ace Romero (Philippine Star): Secretary, can you elaborate on the proceeds of your meeting with regard to the South China Sea with US officials? What did they say about the dispute in the context of the recent statements of the President?

SEC. YASAY: They were concerned about the fact that maybe perhaps, we were going to erode whatever gains we might have achieved insofar as the arbitral tribunal ruling is concerned. And I assured them that no, in fact, our President has made it very clear that because of the ruling of the arbitral tribunal, the legal basis of our claim has been further strengthened and because the arbitral tribunal itself does not have any enforcement capability and even the United States is aware of this and the United States supports the fact that this should really be pursued on the basis of the diplomatic processes that is required or mandated by the, by international law and the 1982 UNCLOS to make sure that this dispute will be peacefully settled.

So this is what we had discussed with the United States and they full agree that these are the steps that we must take and in fact, they continue to have even closer ties with China, notwithstanding whatever differences or conflict they might have because this is precisely how we should undertake our foreign policy, our foreign policy must always be predicated upon the pursuit of the paramount national interest.

Ted Tuvera (Manila Standard): Secretary, good morning. President Duterte and yourself has been asserting independent foreign policy. Why is there a need to discuss the South China Sea issue with Washington officials?

SEC. YASAY: Oh, I did not go there to discuss the South China Sea issue. It was them that wanted clarifications on how we were going to move forward insofar as the South China Sea issue is concerned. And I told them that at this point in time, it is not in our national interest to pursue multilateral negotiations with other countries who are not involved insofar as our dispute with China is concerned. That will just complicate the issues, it will have the tendency to bring about other concerns of other countries that will prevent the peaceful settlement of our own.

Because particularly, our dispute with China insofar as our 200-mile exclusive economic zone is concerned is really just simply a dispute between China and the Philippines and we would like to make sure that this dispute will be settled amicably in the context of the arbitral tribunal decision then it should involved only China and the Philippines, insofar as bilateral engagements are concerned.

Mr. Tuvera: One last, on another issue sir. Regarding the President’s statement of crossing the Rubicon, he mentioned yesterday that he told the Russian Prime Minister that I’ll be needing you on the predicate of that he’ll have a… having that… describing his relationships with the United States in the next years as somewhat crossing the Rubicon sir. He said, the told the Russian Prime Minister, I’ll be needing you. What does that mean sir?

SEC. YASAY: Well, as I’ve told you. I told you my understanding of what the President meant by that statement, maybe at this point in time, if you would like to get more details about what the President meant, our Presidential spokesperson would be the best person to answer.

I just told you exactly on the basis of the Department of Foreign Affairs appreciating all of the statements in the light of how we are proceeding with our foreign relations and shaping our foreign policy that he did not mean breaking away from our traditional friendship or intending to renege on our commitments and agreements with the United States because we want for instance to become closer or foster better relationship with China that has been somehow marginalized in the past.

Vic Somintac (DZEC): Secretary, good morning. Vic Somintac po from Radyo Agila. Sir, follow-up lang po doon sa gusto ng Presidente na maging independent ‘yung ating foreign policy. Meron din siyang binabanggit nga kahapon na pwede niyang imbitahan ‘yung Russia at tsaka ang China para pumasok na ng investment dito. At sinabi pa ng Pangulo na kung ‘yung US or European Union ay magwi-withdraw ng kanyang, kanilang investment, sabi niya, just go, be my guest. Doon po sa US, ‘nong galing po kayo, paano po nila binabasa ang mga statement ng Pangulo lalo na po sa foreign policy?

SEC. YASAY: Well, kaya nga itong sinasabi ko, initially nagkakaroon sila ng apprehension which is very understandable but after explaining to them and I told them particularly that in pursuing an independent foreign policy, as I’ve said also to you, the primary consideration of the Philippines is that we want to pursue that independent foreign policy in the light of the paramount national interest.

Now, meron ding tinatawag nating a convergence of mutual interests between other countries, like with the United States, like with China, with Japan, and the other, the rest of international community. When there is a convergence of this mutual interest, we must also pursue to that to the hilt to make sure that we will be able to get into an arrangement that will be mutually beneficial to all concerned.

So, the concept of carrying on an independent foreign policy must be seen in the context of promoting the national interest on one hand and on the other, where there are convergence of mutuality of interest, we must also pursue to that the hilt for the mutual benefit of the other countries concerned that we’re dealing with.

bJust follow-up lang, kasi binanggit din po ng Pangulo kahapon na kung bubuksan niya ‘yung pintuan ng investment with Russia and China, willing ang Pangulo mag-offer ng 60 years na parang kontrata, renewable for another 60 years. Anong ibig… Paano makakaapekto ito sa atin lalo na ‘yung relasyon natin sa US at European Union?

SEC. YASAY: Alam mo, ang sinasabi ni Presidente sa pagkakaintindi ko, is that kung may inoofer ang mga bansa, na ibang bansa, kagaya ng Tsina or Russia, insofar as let’s say engaging our country with trade relationship and such other arrangements or assistance that they’re willing to offer, we should not be arrogant to… to reject it, you know, we have to pursue that because this is precisely in pursuance of our national interest.

Now, when he said na he was opening up all of these possibilities with China and Russia, he said it also in the context of the fact na kung mga ibang bansa eh magbibigay ng tulong sa atin, pero napakaraming kondisyones, we in the pursuit of our national interest will also have to make a decision kung talagang sinong susundin natin. And the best way to do it is precisely to entertain all possibilities and see what will be in best interest of the country.

So ‘yan ang proseso. At ‘yan ang sinasabi ng ating Pangulo na karapat-dapat niyang gawin. But the details of that is far from being firmed up. Wala tayong pinag-uusapan na anong gagawin natin ‘no. He’s just opening up this possibility that will be subject to a lot of negotiations. And then in these negotiations again, we will also have a second look about what will be in the paramount national interest.

Again, as I’ve said, if there is a convergence of mutuality of interest, itutuloy din natin ‘yan to see how we will both serve, both countries, insofar as promoting our mutual benefits are concerned.

JP Bencito (Manila Standard): Hi, sir. Good morning. Sir I’ll press on two topics. Sir, first doon sa Russia and China, sir, so far do we have an update on what are the investments or promises that are offered already in the table now, offer by Russia or China? Second sir, ‘yung, sir can we get an update on the harassment of Filipino fishermen in the Scarborough Shoal sir?

SEC. YASAY: Okay. Unang-una sa lahat, your first question is that there are no specifics, there are no details as yet insofar as what we would like to pursue with China or Russia is concerned. This is precisely why we are opening up all of this possibility.

We would like to make sure that the possibility of engaging China and Russia insofar as promoting trade relationship, economic ties, even cultural ties, educational ties, are pursued. And this is what we are opening up. Wala pa tayong mga detalye diyan ‘no. As I understand, it’s very possible na China will… and or Russia will even offer us certain assistance in beefing up our enforcement capability pero wala tayong response diyan until we’re able to see what is there to offer and the quality of the kind of offer that they are giving to us then we compare this with the other offers from countries.

The important thing is kung ano man desisyon natin, it will be in the paramount national interest. So that’s my answer to your first question. ‘Yung second sinasabi mong harassment sa—

Mr. Bencito: Sir, the National Security Council just released a statement today that there are various harassments on Filipino fishermen on the Scarborough Shoal. Sir can we get further details about this and what is the response of the Philippine government to this new set of harassment sir?

SEC. YASAY: I know that in the past few weeks that there were suppression of some Chinese vessels in addition to the Coast Guard vessels that are already patrolling the area or nearby.

We have verified that these vessels are not the small kind of vessels that normally traditional fishermen would be using in accessing Scarborough Shoal as I understand, we all agree with China, Vietnam, and the Philippines that Scarborough Shoal had been the traditional fishing ground of these three countries are concerned.

Regardless of what the arbitral tribunal has decided on the matter, this area, Scarborough Shoal had been the traditional fishing grounds of the Vietnamese people, the Chinese people and the Filipino people.

Now, ‘yung presence ng mga barko na ito na parang, would seem to create a semblance na there is commercial fishing diyan. That is not in the context of traditional fishing. So we’re trying to thresh this out with China and see kung totoo nga ito. So far nakikita naman natin na walang fishing activity sila doon eh. Wala naman… meron silang mga equipments for fishing pero wala naman tayo nakikita in the [inaudible] of our surveillance and patrolling na talagang nangingisda sila doon.

So tinatanong natin diyan, we’re verifying kung ano talaga ang nangyayari diyan. I also know that during the past week or so, two weeks, or three weeks ago, meron tayong mga fishermen na lumapit diyan, mga traditional fishermen na lumapit diyan at pinapaalis ‘no, ng Chinese coast guard. Of course, we’re also trying to verify this and trying to determine bakit ito ginagawa ng Tsina especially so na meron tayong nabalitaan na noon na they have allowed our fishermen to fish in Scarborough Shoal.

So these are matters that we are looking into. And we would hope that we would be able to thresh out these concerns and issues with the Chinese in a peaceful manner and hope that the mutual interest of our two nations in that area will be preserved and protected.

Mr. Bencito: Sir, follow-up lang doon. You said that parang hindi naman nangingisda ‘yung mga Chinese fishermen. Sir, sa tingin niyo po ba they are pursuing reclamation on Scarborough Shoal and Defense Secretary Lorenzana earlier said that the Philippines is mulling to file a note verbale against Beijing. What’s the update on this sir?

SEC. YASAY: Our intelligence information, as I understand, it would seem to verify at this point in time na hindi naman sila nag-uundertake ng reclamation activity. In fact ‘yung information na shine-share sa atin ng mga Amerikano in this regard, on the basis of our their own surveillance will also confirm na itong mga vessels na ito are not intended for reclamation purposes.

So insofar as the issue that issue is concerned, mukhang walang basehan ang ating mga suspicion or apprehension na they intend to pursue reclamation activities but again, these are matters that we will always readily bring out to the Chinese and try to make sure na talagang hindi nangyayari ito and we’re trying to do this in a very quiet diplomatic way.

Mr. Romero: Secretary, you mentioned about stronger ties with US and the need to maintain amity with other nations. How can we achieve those goals when the President is talking tough or issuing harsh statements against the statement or EU? How can we reconcile those two things?

SEC. YASAY: I disagree with the premise of your question saying that the… suggesting as if it is the President who is saying these harsh words without any provocation on the other side.

When the President says things in frustration, in disappointment, in anger, which people might think that are harsh words, it is a reaction to what these countries, like the EU for instance have been doing or for that matter, even the rapporteurs of the United Nations and for that matter also the statements of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

So this is a reaction to what statements have been made that the President feels are completely unfounded and arbitrary and has no basis in fact. So, that to me should be [inaudible] the proper perspective. Ano naman sinasabi niya sa EU. EU has made a… the parliament of the European Union has made a decision as if confirming that we have a state-sponsored extrajudicial killing or violation of human rights in the Philippines. Of course, it is not true.

Nakikita naman natin ang institusyon natin dito sa Pilipinas. We have an independent Human Rights Commission that is mandated by the Constitution, that is doing its job. Wala naman silang [inaudible] kalokohan.

I would like believe that the Commission on Human Rights is doing their job properly. You know, they investigate any allegations of human rights violation. Then you have even a Congress that is investigating all of these things. I mean… just to show you that the contention being made by the European Union parliament is completely unfounded. The fact that are Congress is looking at it. The fact that are Congress is investigating it, is investigating even our enforcement agencies. Just goes to show that we do not have a state-sponsored violation of human rights or extrajudicial killings.

And I’d like to assure everybody, especially the international community, even the President is concerned about extrajudicial killings, even the President is so much concerned about violation of human rights and [inaudible] instructed that this must be investigated to the hilt and those responsible for any must be prosecuted and brought to justice.

Mr. Romero: So it’s possible to strengthen our ties with these US, with the UN, with the EU, despite these differences?

SEC. YASAY: Of course. Yeah. We have not burned our bridges with them. I hope they have not burned their bridges with us. As you will know, I’m sure you will all agree with me that diplomacy is not about burning bridges. It is about building bridges and strengthening weaker ones. And this is what we’re trying to do.

Trisha Macas (GMA News Online): Hi, sir. Good morning. Just want to get your reaction on Senator Bam Aquino’s move to file a resolution seeking for an inquiry on the foreign policy direction of the government. He cited conflicting statements from the President and the government officials. Can you please give a reaction to this?

SEC. YASAY: Who said this?

Ms. Macas: Senator Bam Aquino. He wanted to have a Senate inquiry on the government’s foreign policy direction amid, he said, conflicting statements from–

SEC. YASAY: I’m sure as a Senator of the Republic, that is well within the prerogative of any Senator to inquire into. And as a matter of fact, the Senate is already inquiring into that. This is a matter that will probably be more a concern of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that we have shared by Senator, I think, Alan Peter Cayetano. So if he wants to air his concerns, then he brings it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. So the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will be able to investigate this matter.

Ms. Macas: Sir, just to follow-up. Sorry. So there’s no… sir are you disputing Senator Bam Aquino’s statement saying that there’s no conflicting statements on the government’s foreign policy direction?

SEC. YASAY: Well, he will probably have to point out to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee what are these conflicting statements so that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee can look into it. And if the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will call the Secretary of Foreign Affairs to explain this, then certainly insofar as I’m concerned, I do no think that there is any conflict, insofar as the statements of our President is concerned.

The President has always been consistent in explaining that in carrying out an independent foreign policy, we should always pursue the paramount national interest. And then the President has also said that other nations must respect our right insofar as addressing our domestic challenges without any undue interference.

This is always a consistent statement made by the President. And I do not see any conflict in all of these statements that he has made. Thank you.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Alright thank you, Mr. Secretary. We’ve also invited this morning Secretary Ben Diokno, specifically to address some matters of concern regarding the Philippine peso.

Secretary Benjamin Diokno is a professor of economics at the University of the Philippines. He has also served as the Secretary of Budget and Management, fiscal adviser to the Philippine Senate, and Chairman and CEO of the Philippine National Oil Company Corporation, and Chairman of Local Water Utilities Administration.

Secretary Diokno has had extensive experience in reforming the public sector as a Budget Secretary in 1998 to 2001, and Budget Undersecretary in 1986 to 1991.

He was directly involved in major policy reforms in the Philippines, reducing the scope of government tax reform, deregulation, privatization, decentralization, medium term budgeting and procurement reform.

He has also served as Senior Adviser Consultant of the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Commission and USAID for Work in the Philippines and China, and some transition economies such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Mongolia.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, let us welcome Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno.

SEC. DIOKNO: Thank you very much. I think I was invited here to talk about the peso, not the budget.

Well, the depreciation of the peso is, as far as I’m concerned, no cause for concern. Okay. We’ve seen peso going to 55 in the past, right?

The depreciation of the peso is a result of the strengthening of the dollar more than the weakening of the peso, okay. And why is the dollar strengthening? Because of the impending increase in the interest rate by the Fed.

This has been ongoing for several quarters already and the guessing is that before the end of the year, the Fed will eventually increase the interest rates so that it is now more attractive for hot money to go back to the US. Okay, that’s basically it.

Now, there are winners and losers in the depreciation of the peso. Clearly, the winners are the families of the OFWs so that the peso value of the remittances are higher; and also the winners are the exporters.

Now who are the losers? Those who have… those who crave for imported goods, like maybe imported shoes, imported bags and so forth.

Okay so to me, it’s not a big deal, okay. In fact, I have not seen our gross international reserves at its heftiest. Right now, the gross international reserves, that’s with the Central Bank, is at 85.7 billion dollars, okay.

That’s equivalent to ten months of our import requirements. The rule of thumb is three months. If you have the equivalent of three months of imports, you’re okay. We have the equivalent of ten months, alright.

Now the other, the other fear is that the depreciation of the peso will result in higher inflation. Again, that is misplaced because in fact our inflation target, official inflation target is 2 to 4 percent. We are much lower than 2, okay.

The last time I looked at it, it’s 1.4 percent. And that basically because of the sharp drop in oil prices a year and a half ago, remember? From 135 dollars per barrel, it’s now down to around 40 dollars per barrel. And I think it will remain that way for a long, long time. Alright. Any questions?

Mr. Romero: So Secretary, are you saying those assessments that the peso weakening has something to do with the President, these are not, these are not unfounded assessments or these have no basis?

SEC. DIOKNO: Will you clarify your question? It’s kind of convoluted. What is your statement?

Mr. Romero: Okay. There are assessments that they seem to be blaming the President’s pronouncements for the weakening of the peso–

SEC. DIOKNO: So it has nothing to do with the President’s statement. It is, as I said, basically because of the strengthening of the dollar, okay. And outflow of hot money which are now taking advantage of a stronger US economy.

Mr. Bencito: Good morning sir. Sir, the reactions from the international community particularly the business community also, they are somehow fearing that the pronouncements of the President which are somehow not that very sure when it comes to the… on charting the economy. Will this have an effect later on sir? This, what’s your–?

SEC. DIOKNO: Well, when I talked to investors, I tell them you have to focus, you have to focus on the forest, not the trees, okay. All these noise about maybe some statement by the President, I think if you are an investor and your focus is the long-term prospect of the economy, I think we’re in pretty good shape, okay.

We’re the fastest growing country in Asia, including China and India and inflation rate is pretty tame. I have not seen this kind of inflation rate. We can borrow money at a very low rate. I have not seen this kind of interest rate. And so, and we got a good program, the ten-point agenda of the President. So you focus on the economic fundamentals. They’re pretty good, okay. So if I were an investor, I’ll see the forest, not the trees.

Mr. Bencito: Sir, can we, can you please clarify to us what are the growth targets in 2016 and 2017? And sir, if I’m not mistaken, you have predicted somehow a big increase in growth in the next six years. Sir, can you please give us the figures–?

SEC. DIOKNO: Now, we’re talking of the budget and the economy, right?

Mr. Bencito: Opo.

SEC. DIOKNO: This year, we’re, we have actually downgraded our growth rate to between 6 to 7 percent, right. We’re really out of the 6 percent range. We’ll probably end up around 6.7. So, we really try to be conservative, okay. That’s, that’s a different stance from the previous government. We try to be conservative in our forecast, so that when we don’t meet our target, we don’t have to explain, okay.

But when we overshoot the target, then that’s something we can be proud of, right? So that’s a different tack. So this year our, as I said, 6 to 7 percent… 6.5, we have exceeded that. So, I think we only have to grow something like 5.1 percent in the second half of this year to hit the 6 percent, and that’s pretty easy to do, right?

So 6 to 7 percent this year, next year is 6.5 to 7.5, so that’s 7 on average. And then, towards the end of Mr. Duterte’s term, around 7 to 8 percent.

As I said, these are pretty conservative estimates, we can hit more than that if we succeed in our infrastructure program. And you know our infrastructure program, this year we’re setting aside 5.4 percent, that’s close to 900 hundred billion pesos in one year. And this is, over and above these are the PPP projects.

These are purely national government budget, and our target is between 2017 and 2022, we will be spending something like 8.2 trillion pesos, okay, 8.2 trillion pesos for infrastructure. So that’s very ambitious, okay.

Mr. Ganibe: Magandang umaga po, Secretary.

SEC. DIOKNO: Good morning.

bBalikan ko lang po iyong issue about doon sa strengthening ng dollars. Nakikita ba natin kung gaano siya katagal or gaano siya magkakaroon ng epekto sa ating Philippine peso, at ano iyong ginagawa ng ating pamahalaan?

SEC. DIOKNO: The BSP has consistently said that it is looking at the situation carefully. But there will be no change in policy stance at the moment because there really is no need to react to the depreciation of the peso at this level, okay.

I would think that this will not take very long, and it will not—because the policy of the Fed, as I see it, is also gradual, okay. Quarter of percentage point increase before the end of the year, and maybe another quarter increase first quarter of next. This is very gradual, okay. And remember, we’re starting from a very low base, near negative, near zero level okay.

Mr. Ganibe: So, follow-up lang po. How long is that not so long?

SEC. DIOKNO: Well, I’ll be comfortable with this level until maybe the end of President Duterte’s term, that long. Okay.

Mr. Romero: Secretary, will there be an assessment of macroeconomic or fiscal targets in the immediate term or–?

SEC. DIOKNO: No, we just made an assessment last July, first week of July. We usually do this every quarter. And of course every year we have an annual review, but we have a quarterly review. So, maybe sometime first week of October we’ll look at the situation again.

Mr. Romero: Okay. When… I do, I know you haven’t started it but do you see drastic changes in the targets or hindi naman masyado?

SEC. DIOKNO: Hindi. I think naka-set na ‘yung target namin more or less. There’s no reason why we should change them. Actually the difference between this administration and the previous administration is we are also focusing on that the poverty incidence, ‘no.

As you know, during the entire six years, there was no change, practically no change, 26 percent. We are carefully monitoring the poverty incidence.

Our hope is that we can reduce poverty incidence by 1.25 to 1.5 percent every year, okay. Of course that’s the responsibility of NEDA, but also it’s part of our, the responsibility of the economic team of the President.

Mr. Romero: Thank you Sec.


Mr. Bencito: Sir, pwedeng on another topic sa budget?

SEC. DIOKNO: Okay. O sige.

Mr. Bencito: Sir, the President has repeatedly made statements that he would be increasing the salaries of soldiers, teachers, policemen. Sir can we get a clarification? Can we meet these, these targets of an– How should we categorize this or qualify this? Is this incremented increase or what’s the proper term? Will we meet the President’s deadline of a December 2016 increase in the budget?

SEC. DIOKNO: Doubling the salaries of military and uniformed personnel, that’s what they call them ‘no, military and uniformed personnel, meaning the PC, rather the PNP, the Coast Guard, talking of another hero, right? The Coast Guard and even the jail guards, right?

I can always say that that’s not possible by the end of the year, okay. Simply because there’s nothing there in the budget for that. Okay, we cannot spend something which is not authorized by Congress.

We’re going to be at… There’s going to be an adjustment if it is not been announced yet by the President for the military and the, military uniformed personnel. And there will be, they’re part of these four tranches.

Remember there’s a plan. The first tranche was given in 2016. There will be a second tranche in 2017, third in 2018, and the fourth… The military and the uniformed personnel are included in those tranches.

And on top of that, they will have additional allowances. Okay. So, let’s just wait for the President to make the announcement as it comes, okay?

Mr. Bencito: Sir, last na lang po. Sir, the President is giving out 250,000 for… every camp visit he’s giving 250,000 for soldiers, for military and uniformed personnel. Sir, where are we getting this in the budget, the 2016, the current budget that you are using right now? Saan po nanggagaling iyong 250? Is it already disseminated, or what’s, paano po ba?

SEC. DIOKNO: What’s that 250,000? For every—?

Mr. Bencito: For every soldier, sir. The President is making… in every camp visit sir, he’s making a promise to every soldier that he will be giving 250,000 pesos, sir.

SEC. DIOKNO: For what? For dying? For being wounded? Or what? I think you have to be specific, right? I don’t recall anybody getting 250,000 just for being a soldier. Okay?You got to do something to benefit that 250,000, correct? Am I not getting this right? I mean what’s the announcement? 250,000 per soldier, for what?

Mr. Bencito: Siguro sir, we have to clarify also with the—

SEC. DIOKNO: You have to clarify. Baka usually pag ka wounded or—

Mr. Bencito: Kasi sir, the President has made—

SEC. DIOKNO: He cannot give it to all. If it’s got to be, there’s got to be special deed that has been done by the soldier to merit an increase or a one-time reward ‘no? Baka naman one-time reward ‘yun?

Mr. Bencito: Siguro sir we have to also clarify to—

SEC. DIOKNO: You have to clarify—

Mr. Bencito:… Presidential Spokesperson Abella.

Benjie Liwanag (DZBB): Sir, good morning.

SEC. DIOKNO: Good morning.

Mr. Liwanag: I would like to clarify po doon sa on top of the salary, the uniformed personnel will be given allowances. So sinasabi po kasi ng Pangulo it will be doubled your salary—

SEC. DIOKNO: Yeah, I think, kasi ‘yung salary is a generic term ‘yun eh. Alam mo meron kasing peculiarity ‘yung salaries ng military at salary ng uniformed personnel. Sa Armed Forces, ‘yung pension ng Armed Forces, meaning the Army, the Navy, naka-index doon sa current salary ng military… So once you increase the pay of the military, automatically ‘yung mga retirees nai-increase sila sa pension. So that… And this, I call this the elephant in the room. Nobody wanted to touch it, okay.

Si Erap hindi niya ginalaw ‘yun, si GMA for ten years hindi niya ginalaw, si PNoy ayaw din niya galawin kasi nga napaka-sensitive noon ‘no. So, until we have addressed that problem, mahirap mag-adjust ng pay ng military. Okay.
The situation right now is that the amount we, the taxpayers, pay for military pension is much higher than the current salaries of the soldiers. So, pagsama-samahin niyo na ‘yung sweldo ng mga sundalo ngayon, talo pa sila ng pension na natatanggap ng military, okay.

Remember the military, they retire early. They retire at 56, and they live longer than usual, okay. That’s fortunately or unfortunately. Look at the FVR, he’s still there, right.

No, no, no. I mean that they are very healthy, let’s put it that way. They play golf all the time, right? And so ‘yun ho ang malaking problema natin and we really have to look for the solution for that military pension.

Mr. Liwanag: So, you’re looking… you’re seeing a solution as giving them allowances, additional to—

SEC. DIOKNO: Ang ano po, mga combat, pay ganon… kung totoo naman ‘yun. Eh, kung naroon ka lang naman sa office, eh siguro dapat hindi naman mataas ‘yung suweldo mo ‘di ba? ‘Yung mga combat pay, we adjust that ‘no, plus remember part of the tax reform bill ay bababaan natin ‘yung income tax from 32, magiging maximum 25.
So, ‘yun increase na rin ‘yun sa take home pay as a result ‘no. So ‘yun, ‘yung mga combination ho na ‘yun, I think we’ll get there, we’ll be able to double the salaries and the pay of the soldiers.

Mr. Liwanag: Sir, sino pong magpapaliwanag sa uniformed personnel, kasi ‘yung sinasabi nga ng Pangulo eh it will be doubled so—?

SEC. DIOKNO: Pinapaliwanag naman natin, may mga memo naman tayo sa Presidente.

Mr. Liwanag: Okay. Thank you very much, sir.

Mr. Romero: Sir, clarification. So ‘yung sinasabi ni Presidente na doblado. So pwedeng in the form of allowances ‘yan kasi kung allowance hindi ‘yun makakasama ‘yun sa basic pay eh. Hindi ‘yun magiging kasama noong pension requirements.

SEC. DIOKNO: Tama ‘yan.

Mr. Romero: So pwedeng allowances—?

SEC. DIOKNO: It’s a combination of allowance and increase in pay, okay. Hindi naman pwedeng allowance lang ‘no. So it’s combination of allowance and increase in pay. Ang importante naman kasi to take home pay eh ‘di ba? ‘Yung magkano ba ang naiuuwi mo sa pamilya mo. Okay.

And in addition by the way, just like the CCT, ‘yung CCT meron silang 20 kilos of rice per month, for one entire year, ang mga sundalo, meron din sila equivalent. Oo. They are also entitled to rice allowance at 20 kilos per day per month rather.

Mr. Liwanag: So, sir, kasama po iyon sa pagkwenta ‘nong—?

SEC. DIOKNO: Hindi, hindi. That’s on top of–

Mr. Liwanag: On top of that, okay. Thank you very much, sir.

Ros Coz (UNTV): Sir, ibang topic naman po. Kasi kahapon po, pinirmahan na po ‘yung IRR ng Centenarians Act. And meron pong napaulat na next year, wala pa rin daw po sa proposed budget ‘yun pong incentives para sa higit sa—?

SEC. DIOKNO: I can assure you, makakahanap tayo ng pera para sa kanila for next year.

Ms. Coz: Pero hindi… Clarify lang po namin kung kasama pa rin po ba sa—?

SEC. DIOKNO: Hindi siya kasama ngayon doon sa as submitted by the President. But in the period of amendment, we’ll find somehow, somewhere, an accommodation for our octogenarian… right, the 100… centenarian pala. But, meron silang maaasahan next year.

Ms. Coz: ‘Yun po ‘yung assurance natin.


Henry Uri (DZRH): Secretary, magandang tanghali po. Si Henry Uri po sa DZRH. Paki-personalize lang po ‘nong message ninyo sa mga sundalo at pulis. Kasi medyo kami lang ho ‘yung kinakalampag ng tanong na “akala ba namin doblado pagdating ng Oktubre, Nobyembre, Disyembre.” Maraming nakikinig at nanunuod na mga sundalo at pulis, can you go on personalizing your message with them?

SEC. DIOKNO: Ako, ayaw kong pinagsasabong niyo kami ni Presidente eh. Let’s listen na lang to the President ‘no. I bring to him the problems. Kailan ma-accommodate ‘yan, antayin na lang natin ang announcement ni Presidente. Okay? Thank you.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: All right. Since you’re all rushing off to meet with the President. No, basically, I’d just like to give a short summary of what happened.

We were in New York for several days and just to observe the Fil-Am communities and their responses to current news. Just like to be able to transmit to you the fact that on the ground, the Filipino communities in San Francisco, Washington, and New York have shown very positive responses to the President.

They’re very, they are highly committed to the President and his plans. They’re very, very supportive. And that in spite of a little bit of noise, they continue to be very upbeat about what’s happening in the Philippines, and continue, like I said, to support the programs of the President.

Thank you very much. Any questions?

Mr. Ganibe: Sir, just a follow-up. Kasi ‘nong nandoon kayo sa New York, may lumabas na balita na sa, na may mga grupo ng Fil-Am na merong pinaplanong destabilization sa Pangulo.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ano naman siguro. There are rumors, of course. There are whisperings and everything and kasama naman siguro sa process ‘yung the people begin to question what’s happening. But, yeah, there were some, there were some noises, but are basically, they are noises at this stage.

Mr. Liwanag: Sir, good morning. Hindi po ba natatakot ‘yung mga Filipino community doon sa mga statements ni Pangulong Duterte on—?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: You know, surprisingly, hindi. Surprisingly, they’re very grounded, and they seem to understand intuitively and instinctively kung saan nanggagaling ang Presidente. They seem to have a firm grasp of the President, a firm understanding of where he is coming from, kung saan nanggagaling ‘yung mga statements ni President.

Mr. Liwanag: Thank you very much sir.


Mr. Bencito: Sir, good morning. Sir, the President yesterday said that he has meetings with the former President Estrada and the, and he had a, and he had a dinner with the Tiamzons. Sir, can we get an update on these meetings? What transpired?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I cannot give you any indication regarding President Estrada. But regarding the meeting with the NDF, first, it was a, it was a parang meet-and-greet. We call it a meet-and-greet. Basically, they were saying ‘thank you’ for releasing of their consultants. And they were, they also mentioned their willingness to cooperate in the socioeconomic reforms of the President, as long as both parties are in an agreement with whatever reforms are being discussed.

They also hope, they said, that there would be no cancellation of the peace talks. And that they, but they, they, but they were all very supportive of and they were all very enthusiastic about the progress of the current peace talks.

Mr. Bencito: Sir, did the NDF consultants mention to the President about some violations committed on both sides, by the military and the NPA?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: If they did, it most probably under private matters.

Sandra Aguinaldo (GMA): Sir, on, we just want an update on Peter Lim. I understand that the NBI is investigating pa rin at the moment. Have you heard any information as to why it’s taking a long time to build a case against him?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, I don’t have any information at this stage. I don’t have any updates. Thank you.

Ms. Coz: Phone-in question lang po. ‘Yun pong recently nahuli ng PNP na mga supplier daw po ng high-powered firearms sa ASG. One of them ay sinasabi po na supporter po ni President Duterte last election. Meron po bang comment po ‘yung Malacañang?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Wala po tayong comment regarding that matter. Thank you.

Mr. Tuvera: Secretary, regarding the, ‘yung sa destabilization nga po na isyu. You mentioned earlier na ang description mo doon ay noises, whisperings. But Secretary Andanar told us here last week na the government is taking it seriously, sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We take all, we take all… all those seriously, but we also learn to delineate between the chaff and the grain.

Mr. Tuvera: Has the President, has this information reached the President already sir?


Mr. Tuvera: ‘Yung destabilization–

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, it’s been going around ‘di ba? It’s been going around. Thank you.

Thank you. If there’s anything else aside from that, thank you very much. You’ve been a good—

Thank you very much. Okay. Alright.