Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Ambassador Marciano Paynor and Robespierre Bolivar Acting DFA Spokesperson
Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building, Malacañang
19 April 2017


PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. This morning we are going to be dealing with two important topics, the ASEAN which is coming up and also the — a brief summary of the Middle Eastern trip.

Today, those who’ll be helping us out will be Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr.

Ambassador Paynor has a wide foreign service experience as he served as Philippine Consul General to San Francisco, Washington DC, Gabon, Budapest, all over the world practically.

He was a former Undersecretary for Malacanang’s Protocol Office. He also served as director-general of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation National [Organizing] Council in 2015.

He’s a graduate of PMA and he was in the military until 1983 with a rank of lieutenant colonel.

We’d also have this morning acting DFA spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar. 

Our resource person, Mr. Bolivar, serves in a concurrent capacity as acting DFA spokesperson and as the officer-in-charge of the Office of the Undersecretary for Policy.

Prior to these, Mr. Bolivar served as Deputy Chief of Mission and Consul General at the Philippine Mission to the European Union and Philippine Embassy to Belgium and Luxembourg, based in Brussels in Belgium.

Mr. Bolivar has also served in various capacities at the Philippine Embassy in Moscow, Russia, and the Philippine Consulate General in Vancouver in Canada.  

DIRECTOR-GENERAL PAYNOR: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, Mr. Spokesperson. Friends, ladies and gentlemen of the media.

Philippine hosting of ASEAN in 2017 — is a total number of 137 meetings, two summits, 17 ministerial meetings, 42 senior officials meetings, and 76 technical working group meetings. This is compared to 46 total meetings of APEC in 2015.

We have as of today completed 51 of the 137 meetings of which eight were ministerial, 20 senior officials, 23 technical working groups.

We have ongoing meetings today: One, the 7th Annual Meeting of the Civilian Nuclear Energy Cooperation Sub-Sector Network and this is being held at Sofitel up until tomorrow.

And the Intercessional Regional Economic Partnership Trade Negotiating Committee which will be held today until Friday in Panglao, Bohol.

The Office of the Director General for Operations handles all the preparations for these meetings. And today we are busy preparing for meeting No. 56 which is the 30th ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings which will be held from the 26th to the 29th of April.

This will start on the 26th with the meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN; on the 27th, the BIMP-EAGA and the ASEAN Senior Officials Preparatory Meetings; on the 28th, the IMT-GT Senior Officials Preparatory Meetings. IMT-GT is Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand Growth Triangle Senior Officials Preparatory Meetings.

Then we have the ASEAN Business Advisory Council Prosperity for All Summit; we have the 14th ASEAN Leadership Forum; the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting; the 15th ASEAN Political Security Council Meeting; and the 19th ASEAN Coordinating Council Meeting.

All these happening on the 28th which will also coincide with the visit — state visit or bilateral visit of Indonesian President Widodo.

I might also add that on the 27th we have the bilateral visit of His Majesty Sultan Bolkiah of Brunei.

On 29th April which is the actual summit, we will have all 10 leaders meeting up at the PICC and we’ll have a retreat at the Coconut Palace.

They will return to PICC for the rest of the meetings. And this will be culminated by a gala dinner hosted by the President.

On 30 April, we will have the launch of the Davao-General Santos-Bitung Ro-Ro sea linkage route. This will be participated in by Indonesian President Widodo and President Duterte and this will be held in Davao.

So those are the highlights of the preparations for ASEAN and leading on to the summit.

Thank you very much.


Reymund Tinaza (Bombo Radyo): Sir, I understand you also served as the national chairman of the — the chairman of the National Organizing Committee during the previous APEC Summit.


Mr. Tinaza: Sir, in comparison, can you give us at least details on how are we facing the preparations for the ASEAN Summit compared to that of the APEC Summit?

DIRECTOR-GENERAL PAYNOR: We had more time preparing for the APEC Summit because as early as 2012, the previous administration had already started — had created the National Organizing Council at that time.

And I was taken in — in 20 — end of 2013 towards 2014. So all through that time, preparations for the meetings which were held from December 2014 to November 2015, 36 meetings altogether.

Preparations for ASEAN, on the other hand, were started sometime in 2014. However, we lost a bit of time in the preparations because of the turnover of the administrations.

The previous administration decided and rightly so to allow the incoming administration to decide how it wanted to host the 2017 ASEAN meetings.

However, our administrative rules, including procurement laws made it very difficult for us to prepare because bidding process usually takes all of three months.

If it fails, you need another three months.

And you wouldn’t believe it that until this — even as we speak, we are still bidding for suppliers for the subsequent meetings, which ideally all of these should have been finished before the start of the meetings in January.

So that is the basic and significant difference of the two.

Mr. Tinaza: Sir, I understand the President already made rounds with his counterparts with his state visits to consult their positions on some issues to put on the table. Sir, may we know now if you can share us what could be high on the agenda considering the previous positions of the President towards the regional issues?  

DIRECTOR-GENERAL PAYNOR: Okay, insofar as that particular aspect of your question is concerned, I apologize I will not be able to answer even while I am privy to some of those discussions.

It is customary that a new President of the 10 ASEAN States makes his round, introducing himself first of all. But because we are now chair for 2017, it is also his duty as incoming chair to raise views and issues with his counterparts.

All of these are in process. Both of being assessed both by our side and theirs and then collectively amongst ASEAN. And there is a so-called ASEAN process so it goes into whatever is — whatever was discussed between the leaders is now passed on to the technical working groups, the senior officials meetings, and the ministerial meetings to process.

And the final processing as it were would have — will still be on the 26th, 27th, and 28th. So many of these issues are still in flux.

Mr. Tinaza: Thank you, sir.  

Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines): Good morning, sir. I understand there’s an ASEAN-related activity in Bohol today or tomorrow, I’m not sure? 


Ms. Andolong: Did any of the participants express concerns about the security situation there? And did organizers make any adjustments to the security preparations following the incident there last week?

DIRECTOR-GENERAL PAYNOR: Thank you very much. The meeting that is being hosted by Bohol is the 7th Annual Meeting of the Civilian Nuclear Energy Cooperation Sub-Sector and this is hosted — the lead agency here is the Department of Energy.

When the incidents unfolded last week, we, of course, had an emergency meeting. And as part of the National Organizing Council, we have a Committee on Security and Disaster Preparedness. So they went to Bohol, I did go also and we had a brief meeting.

And our position was that we left it to our Committee on Security to make the proper recommendations because they had the competence to say whether the meeting should go on or not.

And up until yesterday, they felt that the situation has been contained and therefore, the meeting should go on. It was natural, of course, for some of the embassies to ask us our plans.

We have, of course, alternate plans and that meeting would have been held here in Manila had it been necessary to do so. But we always say we will not be coerced or held hostage by these actions. 

But at the same time, we need to be sure that we can assure the safety of the delegates. So as of now, the meeting is a go.

Ms. Andolong: Are you looking at any security threats, sir, for the activities in Manila next week?

DIRECTOR-GENERAL PAYNOR: That’s always number one, top of mind ‘no and number one in terms of our Committee on Security’s priority that each — in a sense zero incident type of meeting. It’s very difficult to prepare for something that you are not really totally and fully aware of.

So we try as much as we can to — so-called hardened tar — hardened venues et cetera, in our security preparations. Keeping in mind also the President’s directive that we should not hamper or hinder the normal flow of daily activities here in the Metro Manila area. 

So we’re doing all that and because of this most recent incident, we are beefing up our security elements. 

Ms. Andolong: Last from me, sir. You mentioned earlier that may ongoing biddings for some suppliers. I’m just curious, ano pa po ‘yung kulang na hindi pa nabi-bid out na kailangan? 

DIRECTOR-GENERAL PAYNOR: Well, in the course of the meetings, there are so-called “must-have” events like, for instance, when senior officials or when ministers host their welcome dinners, we usually have a cultural presentation. Even that cultural presentation has to be bidded out.

So and as there have only been eight ministerial meetings finished out of a total of 17, so the other half are still being bidded out. Wherein the past, all of these had been taken care of before the start of the hosting.

Mikhail Flores (Nikkei): Hi, good morning, Ambassador. I’m Mikhail Flores of Nikkei. What are the outcome documents that are being prepared already for the ASEAN Summit?

DIRECTOR-GENERAL PAYNOR: I know and I’m aware that there are outcome documents. In fact, we’ve discussed that internally but like I said earlier, because… All of these documents are still in process ‘no. And because we need the concurrence of all ASEAN member states, specifically the nine other member states.

We… I am not at liberty to discuss that. I’m not sure which of these outcome documents can already be shared with you but I’ll leave that up to our Committee on Substantive Matters.

Mr. Flores: And also, sir, are there scheduled bilateral meetings with President Duterte and his counterparts in the region? 

DIRECTOR-GENERAL PAYNOR: Yes, there have been requests made. But the schedule is so tight that we may need to have just informal bilateral meetings and not the formal bilateral ones.

The first, the two formal bilateral meetings, of course, are with Brunei on the 27th and Indonesia on the 28th.

Laos had also… Laos having been the previous host, also requested to pay a call on the President and we’re still looking for a time.

The activities start at 10 in the morning and almost without pause, will go until about 10:30, 11 in the evening. And then right after that, the two Presidents will have to fly to Davao for the Ro-Ro launching, which starts at 9:30 in the morning the following day. So really very, very tight. Yes.

Mr. Flores: So, sir, what’s certain so far is that the President will be having bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Brunei, Indonesia and Laos? 

DIRECTOR-GENERAL PAYNOR: Brunei and Indonesia. Laos, we are still looking for a time slot. 

Mr. Flores: Okay. But for the other seven?   

DIRECTOR-GENERAL PAYNOR: The other seven will perhaps have what we call a “pull-aside.” You know, when there is a break, they go and then discuss whatever matters they may wish to bring up with President Duterte.

But for the most part, these are just pleasantries and, you know, reiteration of cooperation between the two countries and stuff like that. 

Mr. Flores: Thank you, sir. 

Pia Ranada (Rappler): Sir, you’ve been having briefings with the President on his hosting the ASEAN Summits. So far, recently has he voiced any concerns or what’s his top of mind concerns about the upcoming events with ASEAN? And how ready is he to take on the chairmanship?

DIRECTOR-GENERAL PAYNOR: Yes. We all must understand that this is his first time to really host. He had attended the Laos ASEAN Summit and the Lima, Peru APEC Summit.

So he has a fairly good idea of how it is like from the other side of the bench so to speak ‘no. Now that he is hosting, he did say, ‘O, hindi lang pala ganon kadali.’

So we are running him through what he needs to do from 10 — in fact, from 9:30 in the morning all the way up to the finish the following day in Davao. Just so the whole sequence of events will sink in and so his frame of mind can be set for the meeting.

It is difficult to chair a meeting, one meeting of an hour or so, but to chair subsequent and series of meetings is really very difficult. And to think that many of the issues here are relatively new to him. He has been reading on and we know that he’s a very — he’s an avid reader so he has been reading on all of these issues. 

Ms. Ranada: Sir, may we know which issues in particular pose a challenge for him?  

DIRECTOR-GENERAL PAYNOR: I think we know what those issues are but I am not at liberty to articulate it at this point.

Ms. Ranada: And, sir, just to ask on the November meeting, as early as now, would we know who the leader — which leaders have confirmed attendance? For example, is US President Trump going to be there?

DIRECTOR-GENERAL PAYNOR: Yes, we… Multilateral meetings of this sort, we usually expect 100 percent attendance. And many of the leaders who do not attend do so because they have internal issues and — which prevents them from coming.

But as of now, President Trump for instance, when President Duterte called him up to congratulate him, had already indicated that he was coming in November.

So at least verbally he said he was coming. I am almost sure that the nine other ASEAN member states will also be coming back in November.

The usual dialogue partners — Japan, Korea — China, Japan, Korea, I am sure, Australia and New Zealand, they have never missed any of these meetings.  

So there will be one or two who may not be able to come but this is because of let say internal issues with their individual countries. Thank you.

Maricel Halili (TV-5): Sir, just a quick follow-up — you mentioned earlier that there will be a bilateral meeting with the leaders of Brunei and Indonesia. May we know what will be the agenda of those meetings?

DIRECTOR-GENERAL PAYNOR: As bilateral meetings go ‘no, it will be specific to issues that — well, relate to both countries. For Indonesia I think it will be a follow-up of what President Duterte and President Widodo had talked about in Jakarta when the President went there for a visit.

This is a return state visit of President Widodo. And I would imagine that security of our sea lanes, cross-border traffic and patrol, agriculture, I think, may be one of the issues that will be discussed with Indonesia.

With Brunei, similar issues that I feel will just be reiterated and perhaps further elucidated. 

ACTING DFA SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Sorry, hindi po Undersecretary, just the acting DFA Spokesperson.

Thank you for the invitation and thank you for the kind introduction Secretary Abella.

I would just like to briefly touch on two things: the first is the very successful trip of the President to three Middle Eastern countries and secondly a brief rundown on the substantive aspects of the ASEAN Summit next week.

Firstly, on the Middle East visit, as we all know it was a very successful visit. The President visited The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, The Kingdom of Bahrain and the State of Qatar. It ended on a high note and he brought home with him millions of dollars worth of investments and, of course, hundreds of Filipino workers who were granted amnesty from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

More than 150 of our kababayans, in fact, came home with the President which is part of the ongoing amnesty program of the Kingdom. During the three-country visit, the President witnessed the signing of over $925 million worth of investment deals involving businessmen from Saudi, Bahrain and Qatar, which are expected to create 62,000 jobs here in the country.

The President also witnessed the signing of agreements on investment, labor cooperation, strengthening of diplomatic ties, air services, avoidance of double taxation, cooperation on culture, health and technical and vocational education and training.

He also, of course, met with thousands of our kababayans in the three countries. And as you may have read in the papers, these were very successful, very well-attended gatherings.

Now, briefly on the substantive preparations for the ASEAN Summit, of course, by now we know the six thematic priorities of our chairmanship: people-oriented, people-centered ASEAN, peace and stability in the region, maritime security and cooperation, inclusive innovation led growth, promotion of ASEAN’s resiliency and ASEAN as a model of regionalism and a global player.

All of these tie in to our theme of “Partnering For Change, Engaging the World.”  And this is also our effort to build on the progress of the last two years since the establishment of the ASEAN communities.

And so with that we can open the floor for questions.

Ayee Macaraig (Agence France-Presse): Hi, sir, good morning. Ayee Macaraig from AFP. Sir, on the substantive agenda for the ASEAN Summit, how will the Philippines tackle the South China Sea issue? President Aquino in past ASEAN Summits would usually raise this especially in relation to the construction of artificial islands in the sea and also the Code of Conduct. So this time under President Duterte, how will the Philippines tackle the maritime row? Thank you. 

ACTING DFA SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Thank you for the question. We expect, of course, issues of regional concern, of regional import to be raised not just by the President but by the other ASEAN leaders.

And the Philippine position is well known and the President has stated on numerous occasions that the primary consideration for his foreign engagements is the national interest.

So… And the Philippine position on the South China Sea, the West Philippine Sea issue is already very well known. On the Code of Conduct, as Secretary Manalo and the President have also mentioned a few times, we are hopeful that we will have a framework on the Code of Conduct within our chairmanship year. 

Joseph Morong (GMA-7): Sir, may report po kami that sometime in the first week of April, some of our fishermen from Bataan were turned away by gunfire by the Chinese coast guard. How do we see this action from — by China?

ACTING DFA SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: On issues like that, we would defer to our Defense and Coast Guard colleagues because, of course, reports like that will have to be verified on the ground. 

But, of course, if there was a threat to our fishermen, then we would undertake the necessary diplomatic actions as far as the DFA is concerned. 

Mr. Morong: But at this point, sir, no report has reached the DFA yet?

ACTING DFA SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: I am personally not aware of any confirmed report from our colleagues in the Defense and the Coast Guard.

Ace Romero (Philippine Star): How does the Philippines intend or what strategies will be employed by the Philippines to ensure that there will be a framework within our chairmanship? 

ACTING DFA SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: We are… First and foremost, we are more hopeful now than we were maybe a year or two years ago that we would have significant progress. And there’s a commitment from ASEAN and China to complete the framework, in fact, by mid — middle of this year.

So that gives us hope that we would have some significant progress. There have been two meetings of the Joint Working Group to discuss the framework in Bali and in Siem Reap. And there will be succeeding meetings all throughout the year.

So we hope that ASEAN and China will make more significant progress. There has been increasing level of trust and confidence among the parties. And we are very hopeful that we will complete the framework by 2017.

JP Bencito (Manila Standard): Sir, good morning. Sir, may we just know what are the contentious issues just in case during the discussions of the Code of Conduct between countries if you’re free to discuss them, sir?

ACTING DFA SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Because of the nature of the talks right now, we can’t really go into that.

But as Secretary Manalo yesterday said, once we complete the negotiations then we will be, of course, free to talk about the discussions. 

Mr. Bencito: Sir, on another topic lang po ‘yung sa state visits. Sir, can — may we know the exact dates lang of the visit of the Sultan of Brunei and Indonesian President Widodo? Then, sir, are there any side events that they will be doing here in the country within their state visits? 

ACTING DFA SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Ambassador Paynor… Just to reiterate what he mentioned, the Sultan of Brunei will be conducting his visit on the 27th of April and President Joko Widodo on the 28th. 

And then after the Summit on the 29th the following day, there will be a launch of the Davao-General Santos-Bitung Roll-on Roll-off network. So that’s probably the side event that you’re referring to as far as President Widodo is concerned. 

Mr. Bencito: Thank you, sir. 

Mr. Morong: Sir, when we negotiate the Code of Conduct, how much of advantage will the WPS ruling have on the Philippine side?

ACTING DFA SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Well, of course, the ruling is there, it’s part of international jurisprudence on maritime zones. And definitely that’s always in our minds.

Again, let me reiterate that going into this and other negotiations, the primary consideration is the national interest and the President has clearly enunciated the national interest on several occasions.  

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Thank you. I would like to start off by stating a few things on the horizon. 

Number one, is a global survey finds Philippine millennials among the most bullish.

We welcome the result of the Deloitte’s 2017 — Deloitte’s 2017 millennial survey conducted by Navarro Amper & Co., one of the leading professional services in the Philippines, which shows that 89% of Filipino millennials expect improvements in the country’s overall economic situation in the next 12 months.

This is significantly higher than the global average of 45% and the regional average of 53%. The same survey also showed that 84% of Filipino millennials have expressed a positive outlook on the country’s social and political situation, higher than the global average of 36%. In total about 8,000 millennials from 30 countries participated in the said survey.

Also, from BusinessWorld. Philippine business found among the most optimistic. 

We are pleased to announce that the recent report done by the world’s leading mid-market business survey, Grant Thornton International showed that Philippine business leaders are among the most optimistic business leaders in the world gaining a rate of 98%, placing the country in second place next to Indonesia. 

This is 18% points higher than the 80% in the fourth quarter of 2016 and also the highest level gained by the Philippines since 2003. The results of the survey reflect the sentiments of 2,400 business leaders in 36 economies. 

We also would like to greet Manila Mayor Estrada a happy 80th birthday.

We are open to a few questions. 

Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Sir, good morning. On the SWS survey, you mentioned in a statement that there’s a very good satisfaction with the administration’s illegal drug campaign. But this also represented an 11-point decline. So how is the Palace taking this?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well like I said, we balance it… We look at it from the bigger perspective. And considering the fact that these things — the survey was conducted during times of — there were several issues undergoing, it tells us that in spite of all the deep appreciation of the Filipinos is reflected in this survey.

You know, apparently the Filipinos’ sentiment is such that — even in the travels abroad, the Filipino communities are extraordinarily warm; extraordinarily savvy about what is happening here. But in spite of the fact, they also understood — they seem to really connect with what the President was saying about preserving the patrimony, the next generation.

So it seems that there truly is a — there really is a very significant cultural prism from which people view it. And they view it in terms of… They view it in terms of the President doing the country a favor in terms of preserving common good and the next generation. 

Ms. Salaverria: But, sir, given the apparent downward trajectory in the survey, does the administration see no reason to change the strategy it’s currently implementing? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Like I said, you know, there are seasons, there are certain cycles regarding that… But you know all these matters are directly being addressed and still the satisfaction rate is high. And there seems to be quite a consistency in the way the public continues to appreciate the efforts. 

Ms. Ranada: Sir, you also emphasized in your statement on the survey that a lot of — there are less people who are worried about their public safety but at the same time the poll also mentioned that majority of Filipinos are still worried that they could be the next victims of EJK? So how will you address this worry, this concern?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, among other things, you know, you just have to also understand that there are certain sectors that would be more concerned regarding these matters. But on the whole, in general, there is a general sense of safety.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, but the number cited for people who are still concerned that they could be victims is 73%, this is a majority. So a majority of Filipinos, in fact, have this concern.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: A majority of those who were surveyed, yes, especially certain sectors, yes. 

Ms. Ranada: It’s still a majority, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We understand, we understand. But it balances out because people also are satisfied, right? So you look at it from the bigger picture.

Mr. Morong: Should I address you as Asec. or Secretary?


Mr. Morong: Sir, shift tayong topic ha. UP. Iyong UP wants to confer the — a doctorate degree on President Duterte. Is he inclined to accept?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, if it’s offered, I suppose he would. But it doesn’t really matter if it’s offered or not.

Mr. Morong: Pero na-communicate na po ba ng Board of Regents?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As far as we know, there’s no official statement.

Mr. Morong: Official communication also?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Official communication, none.

Mr. Morong: But he would accept it?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Why not? It’s not something that he runs after. 

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, kasi Vice Mayor Duterte issued a statement saying the President doesn’t give a heck about this award. So have you… Has he communicated whether he is open to this because he has mentioned in previous speeches that he doesn’t — 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, you know, it’s a — it would be a… 

Although he doesn’t run after awards, you know, it would be a sign of goodwill towards the highest, well, the most — one of the most premier, one of the three premier institutions. All right.

It would be, of course, it would be a quite — a quite an honor to receive that, but it’s not something that he is, you know, angling for. Of course, a sign of res — mutual respect would be in place here.

Ms. Salaverria: There has also been a backlash from some people on the Internet saying that the President doesn’t deserve the award. 


Ms. Salaverria: Thank you.

Mr. Tinaza: Sir, good noon. Sir, during the Filcom meeting of the President, he made mention that he will be collecting taxes from Mr. Lucio Tan. Sir, this is… Is this an order already toward the BIR to initiate the law process to actually collect the unpaid taxes of Mr. Lucio Tan?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s defer to BIR, okay. The matter is really under their supervision.

Mr. Tinaza: So we expect that this is just not a joke? Not just words but actually a decision to actually collect taxes from Mr. Lucio Tan and BIR should collect?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: You know it’s a task, it’s part of the responsibility of the bureau to do such things.

Mr. Tinaza: Thank you, sir.

Deo De Guzman (RMN – DZXL): Magandang tanghali po, sir. Nagkausap na po ba kayo ni Secretrary Piñol regarding doon sa kanyang statement yesterday na parang dissatisfied siya sa comm group ng Malacañang dahil parang nababagalan siya doon sa paglalabas ng mga balita?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Hindi po kami nag-usap but, you know, that is his opinion, he’s entitled to that. But like I said, these are matters that are best talked about among ourselves. I mean not among — between departments. 

Mr. De Guzman: Hindi… So sinasabi niyo po na hindi po kayo mabagal? Na nagdi-disagree po kayo doon sa statement niya na mabagal ang spokesman?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think we are very aware of how we work here, right? Okay. We give way to you first, okay.

Mr. De Guzman: Thank you, sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s be clear about that. We could be faster than you but we give way to you.

Rosalie Coz (UNTV): Sir, pwede po namin malaman kung ano po ‘yung date nung issuance nung ad interim appointment po nung na bypass po na mga Cabinet members?


Ms. Coz: Date po nung pong issuance ng ad interim appointment?


Ms. Coz: March 16. Pwede po malaman kung bakit lately lang po na-advise?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Iyong pagpapalabas lang po, ‘yun ang na-ano. Pero apparently it was signed 16th. March 16th.

Ms. Coz: Pwede po namin makuha ‘yung official document, copy?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We’ll make sure that you get a copy of that, okay?

Ms. Coz: Thank you po.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, just a question on EO No. 18. Because the President repealed EO No. 235 saying that the EO was making the processes of getting contracts for defense equipment tedious and slow. But in fact the EO No. 235, which was signed by former President GMA was meant to speed up the process of defense contracts. And basically, the whole EO takes away powers of the Defense chief to approve and delegate the approval of contracts for defense equipment. May we know the rationale behind the EO and what were the delays that the EO No. 235 made — that made the whole process slow?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m not sure I can refer to the second part of your question but as to the first part, let me just read a short statement: The President signed EO 18 to promote and I quote, “transparency, impartiality, accountability in procurement transaction.” Not so much speed. Take note. 

Executive Order 18 repealed Executive Order 235 which limited the authority of the SND to delegate approvals of procurement contracts and establish a single Bids and Awards Committee for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

This resulted in unnecessary delays in the procurement of important defense projects. As we all know, the President wants effective and efficient delivery of service which runs contrary with the setup of EO 235.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, in what instances or what concrete examples did the — that EO that was repealed caused delays?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We do not… I do not… I can… We can find out. We can find out. All right. 

Mr. Morong: Sir, I’ve already asked the DFA but I’d like to get the Palace’s statement with regard to the Bataan incident. Is there such a thing, sir, that China fired upon our fishermen? How are we going to view such actions from China given that you know, you wanna foster —?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think what’s important is to verify the circumstances not just the actual fact. But the circumstances behind that in which case we defer to DND and NSA.