Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella
Courtyard by Marriott Riyadh Diplomatic Quarter, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
11 April 2017
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ERNESTO ABELLA: I will be reading a short statement then I will be open for a few questions. Are we good?

Executive summary.

This is the President’s first state visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the first of a Philippine President in the last eight years.

The state visit is an opportunity for the Philippines to strengthen the bilateral relations founded on people to people ties can strive for stronger partnership for progress. The President, in his meeting with His Majesty the King and the courtesy call of Ministers of the Cabinet, can discuss the expansion of the different areas of Philippine-Saudi Arabia cooperation; express appreciation for assistance to Mindanao, specifically on the  pursuit of for just and lasting peace; explore new growth areas in two-way trade and investments; discuss closer cooperation on security issues that is terrorism and violent extremism, trade in illicit drugs, and other transnational crimes; and to express appreciation for hosting Filipinos in Saudi Arabia and to discuss labor issues confronting overseas Filipino workers.

The President will also meet with Saudi business leaders to push for the Philippines as an investment destination of choice. The President can stress that the Philippines is one of the strongest— one of the fastest-growing economies in the world with growth anchored on strong macroeconomic fundamentals and a leadership resolved to bring genuine reform, combat corruption, and address criminality.

The President will also meet the members of the Filipino community to thank them for their support for the Duterte administration’s reform agenda.

End of statement.


Henry Uri (DZRH): Hi, sir. Good afternoon. You did mention something about our OFWs on death row may we know ano po ang mangyayari dito. Mayroon po bang reality na yung sinasabi ng Pangulo bago siya lumipad papunta rito na may iuuwi po siya na mga OFWs na nasa death row.

SPOKES ABELLA: All right. I think we need to be careful about delineating the two aspects, ok. When he was asked about the death row matter we need to clarify that first, the process has not yet reached the level of the King. In which case there is no place for us to be asking for clemency at this stage. So let us wait for the process regarding death row issues.

However, regarding amnesty, he did make mention that he would like or that he is planning to bring home some of those who would like to take advantage of the amnesty program regarding  violators of immigration rules.

Mr. Uri: But our president is going to be talking about this to the King?

SPOKES ABELLA: Which one? Which in particular?

Mr. Uri: Yung mga nasa death row.

SPOKES ABELLA: Like I said, it is not yet the place. It is not yet the time and the place to discuss the matter since it has not yet reached his level.  Ok, only when it has reached his level.

Mr. Uri: So ang sigurado po ay yung mga nasa amnesty.

SPOKES ABELLA: Opo. Next question.

Ace Romero (Philippine Star): Meron na ho bang amount ng expected investment pledges to be generated by the visit ?

SPOKES ABELLA: Wala pa pong signing so we just have to wait on that.

J.V. Arcena (TV5): Sir ConGen Arribas has already mentioned about ire-raise daw ni Presidente yung tungkol sa drugs. Kasama po ba yun sa definite na—

SPOKES ABELLA: Ano po in particular yung sinabi niya. What was he—

Mr. Arcena: Cooperation daw in combating drugs.

SPOKES ABELLA: Yun po. I think that is one of the items that is going to be the items that’s going to be discussed. Example discuss closer cooperation on security issues especially terrorism and violent extremism and trade in illicit drugs. I think that will be one of the topics that will be dealt with.

Mr. Arcena: Pag-uusapan din po ba yung mga may kaso ng Filipinos na involved sa drugs?

SPOKES ABELLA: Patungkol po sa mga nasa death row. Is that what you are saying?

Mr. Arcena: No. Hindi naman po necessarily. Yung mga drug related cases ng mga Filipinos.

SPOKES ABELLA: Maybe, we have to verify that.

Mr. Arcena: So ano yung expected na tulong sa Philippines from the Saudi government dun sa illegal drugs.

SPOKES ABELLA: That is something that will be clarified. That will be amplified on later. I believe tomorrow when the acting secretary will be facing the press also. We can clarify that to him.

Yes, sir.

Alan Nawal (Philippine Daily Inquirer): There had been reports that said cooperation on anti-terrorism is one of things in the the agenda of the President. Just— Bago lang po nagkaroon ng isang attack sa Bohol involving the Abu Sayyaf, which is known to be associated with the Jemaah Islamiyah, how would Saudi come into this scenario, I mean papaano po natin pag-uusapan kung ano yung makukuha natin from Saudi Arabia in terms of cooperation against terrorism.

SPOKES ABELLA: Regarding— You mentioned two things. We still have to further clarify the identity of those who waged the attacks. On the other hand, regarding the support, it will have to be worked out on, especially in terms of, most probably, policy.

Mr. Nawal: Sir, with regard sa amnesty, sasagutin ba ng pamahalaan yung airfare ng mag-a-avail ng amnesty?

SPOKES ABELLA: Subject to final verification but sa pagkakaalam ko po the President has offered to charter a plane to bring home some.


Mr. Romero: Any statement on the attack on Bohol?

SPOKES ABELLA: Right now, there is no statement we can prepare. We’ll wait on Sec. Jun Esperon to and/or Sec.  Del Lorenzana tomorrow.

Ben Pulta (Presidential News Desk): Sir, do you have details yung possible na improvement of halal rating ng mga Filipino products?

SPOKES ABELLA: Pag-uusapan po nila yan. I think that is one of the matters that’s going to be— the agreements to be signed on are— let me check. Number one memorandum of understanding regarding political consultations between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines at tsaka po agreement on labor cooperation on general workers recruitment and employment between the Ministry of Labor and Social Development of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Department of Labor and Employment of the Republic of the Philippines. Wala pa pong specific tungkol sa prices so it maybe something that may be raised up later with Sec. Mon Lopez.

Pat Esmaquel (Rappler): Sir, bakit po kasama si Imee Marcos dito sa trip ni President Duterte, ano po yung purpose?

SPOKES ABELLA: We’ll verify that. But she has been on certain trips especially business related trips.

Mr. Esmaquel: Sir, yung kay Mocha Uson, you said awhile ago in your statement that she will boost the morale of the OFWS here in Saudi Arabia. Can you tell us more about that?  

SPOKES ABELLA: Its a very simple matter. Si Miss Mocha has a large following in the area, and apparently, they want fellowship with her. It’s just a question of basic fellowship and encouragement.

Mr. Esmaquel: Sir, who is funding her trip to—

SPOKES ABELLA: We can find out, but I think, I believe she was invited.

Mr. Pulta: Sir, did the fact that 77 percent of those who voted here voted for President Duterte influence the decision to visit here.

SPOKES ABELLA: Influence the decision?

Mr. Pulta: To visit Saudi.

SPOKES ABELLA: I am sure that is part of that. The President is very appreciative of the support of the people. He’s very close to especially those who work, those who labor. Their condition is very close to them.

Mr. Esmaquel: Sir, just a follow up when you said Mocha USon was invited does that mean the government funded her trip to the Middle East?

SPOKES ABELLA: She was part of the entourage. I’m not sure, but I’m assuming she was.


Ron Gagalac (ABS-CBN): Sir, we also saw former MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino, sir. In what capacity was he—

SPOKES ABELLA: I’m not in (inaudible) about Francis— sir Francis. I saw his name but I’m not sure if I met him and if I saw him in doing the ano—

Mr. Gagalac: Sir, he was in the radio of the RTVM, sir.


Mr. Gagalac: Of the RTVM, sir.

SPOKES ABELLA: Whereat, in the place?

Mr. Gagalac:  In the Guest Palace.

SPOKES ABELLA: OK, let me verify that.

Mr. Nawal: Sir, did the President also extend his invitation to the members of the Royal Family to visit the Philippines?

SPOKES ABELLA:  I supposed that would be part of a— what do you call it— part of the compliment, you know, part of the protocol.

Mr. Nawal: Ba’t kaya (inaudible) ang invitation ni ano—

SPOKES ABELLA:  As far as I know.

Mr. Nawal: What about Saudi’s role in the development of Mindanao, particularly the Moro areas?

SPOKES ABELLA: Well, in fact, they have already extended much assistance in Mindanao, and that is specifically for that the President will make mention about appreciating that (inaudible) especially on the pursuit of just and lasting peace.

Anything else?

Emil Sumangil (GMA-7): Sir, yung kay Arthur Lascanas, sir. Yung pagka— yung willingness nyang makipagtulungan sa International Criminal Court para sampahan doon ng reklamo si Presidente. Ano pong masasabi po ninyo?

SPOKES ABELLA: I have no comment regarding that at this point.

Mr. Sumangil: Sunod-sunod po yung pagyanig sa atin.  Sunod-sunod po ang pagyanig— mga earthquakes. Ano po ang naging direktiba ng Pangulo bago po sya lumisan ng—

SPOKES ABELLA: Of course, ang ano nya is about— to be watchful, take care, and to listen especially to government announcements, especially for warnings regarding the matter to prevent undue disasters and deaths due to disasters.


Ian Cigaral (Business World): Sir, kahapon ba may sinabi po si President Duterte. Ito po yung sinabi nya, “we do not mean harm to China; we are friends. As a matter of fact, and maybe if we get rich, very rich, I can sell the land to you for— inyo na if the spectacle of the war is gone and nothing is dangerous to the Philippines.”

Sir, ano po yung nire-refer nya dun sa “I can sell the land.” Ano po yun? Kasi I remember reading a report na President Duterte na apparently was referring to the islands.

SPOKES ABELLA: Basically that is a light-hearted way of saying that we’re friends. Basically, he was underlining that. And if you notice the context of the it says when there is no more trouble, and that we are reaching out. In the sense, that is really a thing that is for our future. That will be the end result of our friendship and negotiations with China.

Mr. Nawal: Sir, after the President denied that there is a division among the ranks of the Cabinet members, the reports have been persistent.

SPOKES ABELLA:  Sir, I think we’ll need to clarify ano— We need to be able to be, in this matter, we can do slice thinly. First, as Sec. Pinol said, we have disagreements, but disagreements are not necessarily quarrels. It shows that there is healthy debate in the Cabinet and in our current relationship we can agree to disagree. So basically there is no quarrel.

Bhong Concha (GMA-7 Middle East): Sir, sa campaign po ng Presidente against sa illegal drugs sa Pilipinas. Aware po ba ang Presidente na mas mataas ang bilang ng mga Pilipino na nasasangkot sa illegal na droga dito. Ano po ang reaksyon nya kung alam nya po, sir?

SPOKES ABELLA: Aalamin po natin yan and we will find out.

Mr. Concha: Ay hindi pa po nya alam, sir?

SPOKES ABELLA: Hindi ko po alam kung alam nya o hindi. Basta ang pagkakaalam ko inuuna nya ang nasa Pilipinas. Pero kung sinasabi nyo na mas mataas ang percentage, then it’s a matter that should be looked into. Thank you.

Mr. Arcena: Sir, pupunan ba ng Presidente yung bagong ambassador dito sa Saudi Arabia kasi hanggang ngayon wala pa din daw ambassador dito sa Saudi.

SPOKES ABELLA: There is a consul general. We’ll just wait on his actions.

Mr. Arcena:  Di ba ito medyo nakaka-apekto sa preparation sa state visit?

SPOKES ABELLA: Things are working out all right, naman. But, you know, these things are really household matters. The President is very conscious about the people he puts in, even so in times that how they put it, conscious that he has already been, he’s given his tips to find that some of his— some of them can be found one thing.

Mr. Nawal: Sir, this is just a light question for the benefit of the people in Davao. How did the President react to the presence of Mayor Sara Duterte at the airport during the sendoff ceremony?

It’s the first time for the mayor to do so.

SPOKES ABELLA: It was very heartwarming, in fact. I think he was— being a father myself, I thought he was visibly touched that his daughter was there. And, of course you, appreciated that the mayor of Davao City was actually there.

The mayor, herself, showed much respect dun sa ginawa nya— he put his hand to her forehead, which shows great respect. It was a very touching moment.

Mr. Concha: May mga concern ang mga Filipino community dito sa Saudi Arabia na buong akala nila pag-meet nila kay Presidente ay magkakaroon ng parang forum pero ang nangyari ay parang pumunta sila doon para— Wala po bang chance makausap sila ng Presidente?

SPOKES ABELLA: I’m sure if ano— if they approach him; they make these things clear. There’s maybe a chance for that but as far as I know about here, the local protocol is very strict, and has, in fact, sized down the actual limit.

Mr. Concha:  Kasi mayrooon pang galing ng Jeddah, galing ng Al Khobar na talagang pumunta dito para ma-meet ang Presidente.

SPOKES ABELLA: Kung kilala nyo po ang Presidente natin ay talagang buong araw, buong gabi ay makikipagkita sa kanila. Kaya lang po talaga ay kailangan sundan po natin ang protocol ng, ang local protocol po.

Mr. Arcena: Sir, pinagbabawal po ang malakihang gatherings.

SPOKES ABELLA: Mukhang ganoon, eh. Mukhang ganoon.

Mr. Esmaquel: Sir yung sized down ano ba— ano yung target ninyo dapat sa Palasyo. Ano yung gusto nyo sanang—

SPOKES ABELLA: Aba’y kung gusto ng Presidente ay silang lahat, nandyan silang lahat. Kaya lang mayroong local ano yata limitation.

Mr. Esmaquel: Ano po sir yung limitation?

SPOKES ABELLA: I’m not entirely sure but isa o dalawang libo lang yata ang ina-allow. Sa pagkaalam ko lang po. Anything else? Kung wala na po eh di maraming salamat. Sino po ang taga tri-media—

Reymund Tinaza (Bombo Radyo): (inaudible) Military honors sa pagdating ng Pangulo sa Golden Palace yung mga tinatawag na mga honors na kaakibat ng tawag ng state visit. Mayroon bang mga ganoon?

SPOKES ABELLA: Ang pagkakaalam ko ay iba lang talaga ang pamamaraan nila dito. Pero ang pagkakaalam ko ay mataas na paggalang ang ibinibigay sa Presidente.

Reporter: Kayo po ba sir walang joint statement na tulad sa mga ginagawa sa mga state visits sa atin.

SPOKES ABELLA: Sa pagkakaalam ko iba yung pamamaraan nila dito. Anything else?

Mr. Nawal: Last na natin. Iilan lang po sa mga world leaders ang na-invite sa private residence nung King. Yung Presidente po natin na-invite sa private residence, any comments on that?

SPOKES ABELLA: Hindi naman po anecdotal itong narinig ko ano pero pagkakarinig ko ay, pagkakaalam ko ay tuwang-tuwa yata ang mga liderato dito sa personalidad at pagkatao at leadership ni President Duterte. Mataas yata ang paggalang nya sa kanya. As conveyed by the fact that na naimbita nga sya sa residenya ng mahal na hari.

Mr. Arcena: Saang aspeto kaya talagang tuwang-tuwa o hangang-hanga?

SPOKES ABELLA: Doon sa kanyang pagka-decisive yata, being a decisive President.

Mr. Cigaral: Sir, meron po kayong names sana ng mga companies na kasama sa business delegation. Would you know of any company.


Mr. Cigaral: Opo.

SPOKES ABELLA: We can find out. We can supply it to you tomorrow. Okay, thank you very much.

– END –