Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella and Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion III
Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building, Malacañang
26 January 2017
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. Today we have as our resource person Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship, Mr. Jose Maria Concepcion III.

He is the president and CEO of RFM Corporation, a major food and beverage company in the Philippines. He currently holds the position of chairman of the board of Unilever, RFM ice cream and director of Concepcion Industrial Corporation.

He has been hailed by Forbes Asia as one of the 48 Heroes of Philanthropy in 2011. He was also a recipient of the Anvil Award of Excellence for Advocacy, Public Relations Society of the Philippines in 2007, 14 and 15.

He is young, innovative and progressive. Last night I joined their dinner for ASEAN Business Advisory Council and I was pleasantly surprised to hear him talked about — and this is the first time I heard it from big business — when he talked about inclusive prosperity.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, let us give a warm welcome to our distinguished guest, Mr. Joey Concepcion.

MR. CONCEPCION: Good afternoon. Good morning. First of all as an adviser to the President on entrepreneurship and concurrently I hold the ASEAN BAC chairmanship for the private sector.

The last two days, we’ve launched the ASEAN initiatives, together with the President, in Malacañang with Secretary Mon Lopez. And yesterday afternoon, we had our first meeting with the council. About 20 of the council members from the nine ASEAN countries came here for that meeting.

The vision really I have since I started as an adviser to the President for entrepreneurship, is basically to look at greater prosperity for a lot of Filipino people.

If we look at the level of poverty in the Philippines, it has remained basically the same for the last so many years. When I look at our ASEAN neighbors around, we seem to be lagging behind, not progressing. Let me share with you some information.

For example, like, this is a 2014 year data that was given to me. The Philippines then was about 25.8 percent; Vietnam was at 13.5 percent; Indonesia is at 11.3 percent; Thailand is at 10.5, Malaysia is 0.6 and, of course, Singapore has no problem together with Brunei.

But what is quite clear here is that the Vietnam poverty rate has fallen down from 60 to 20 percent over the last two decades.

The challenge that our country faces is that 99.6 percent of enterprise in this country belong to the micro, small and medium, just .4 percent belong to the large and extra large corporations out there, including our corporation and that is reflective of the current level of poverty in our country today and one of the reasons why our President won the elections. How do we make growth more inclusive? And that’s the biggest challenge.

And that’s why as the council basically accepted my recommendation that the theme for this year for the business sector is really partnering for change, prosperity for all.

It mirrors what we are doing locally in the Philippines today. We have partnered — the movement of Go Negosyo has partnered with Secretary Mon Lopez of the Department of Trade and Industry. And likewise, we’ll be partnering also with Secretary Piñol of the Department of Agriculture.

Mentorship is really a powerful tool. We can’t wait for our educational system to improve. There are many entrepreneurs out there already who need a lifeline, advice, guidance and direction on how they can move from basically survival entrepreneurship to sustainability.

That’s why 70 percent of those at the 99.6 percent of the entire enterprise in this country that belong to MSMEs are really more micro and small. And mentorship is one tool that is gonna be employed this year together with the Department of Trade and Industry and likewise, with the Department of Agriculture, we are going to do a lot of mentorship program.

But then, another call is, I think the government has to look at a change in direction towards — to, me, the conditional cash transfer.

We give about 65 billion pesos to those that are really at the bottom of the pyramid, which is fine, which is good. But frankly, it does not really teach them how to fish, we’re just giving them the fish.

So we have to change that and my proposal and I’ve asked, proposed this to some of the secretaries that maybe over the next 10 years, that should move towards more government intervention.

Maybe 10 percent of that should gradually move to interventions like more funding towards DTI’s shared service facility; the Department of Science’s program called SETUP. More money should be spent in Department of Agriculture, giving our smaller entrepreneurs, farmers equipment.

Likewise, I’m told that the President soon will launch the loan initiatives that will be given to micro and small entrepreneurs. The vision is one billion for every region.

So I think and I encourage the government to really move towards this direction. I mean, not cutting out their conditional cash transfer overnight. But doing it over a period of 10 years and shifting that fund towards — still the poor entrepreneurs, the micro entrepreneurs and small entrepreneurs who don’t mind paying an interest but their challenge is really on collateral.

Many of them don’t have collateral to be able to borrow money. So they will have to look at mechanisms like these initiatives of government interventions to SETUP, SSF and lending them equipments to their cooperatives, to give them a chance so that eventually, with mentorship and government intervention and helping them get their business beyond survival to sustainable, then we can change eh.

If we look at the other Asian countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, especially Thailand, the other sector is agriculture. We are challenged by this because poverty in this country will forever be there unless we really fix our agricultural sector. One can say that the agrarian reform program did not work.

It’s my belief that it actually made things really harder. You cannot compete with the big guys who own 100, 200, 300 hectares and practice corporate farming versus a farmer who tills the land for three to five hectares. How can he compete? Yes, okay, you can encourage them to join cooperatives but even through cooperatives, we can know that when there’s so many owners, sometimes the challenge is the management of the cooperatives.

So we are proposing a different way of thinking and I’m glad that we have two secretaries that are very open-minded. So in the recent meeting we had with the President, together with the very large conglomerates last week, one of the discussions really was for our large ‘kapatids’ or some of you call them ‘taipans,’ is for them to engage not only growing their business.

We all have to do that. We are all publicly listed and it’s part of our mission to really invest in the Philippines and expand and hire people. What we are trying to do now was a project that we started December 19 with the President on Sulu.

It was the initiative that we felt that the President wanted to see how we can bring about the business community to really help the people in Sulu as, you know, war is going on against the Abu Sayyaf. And I’m glad that many of our big conglomerates, our big kapatids, have responded.

For example, in the case of Michael Tan. They promised that they will start flying to Sulu by July, which is going to be a first. The MVP group is fixing all their telecom facilities that have been damaged by the bombings.

He has promised to look into a virgin coconut oil plant that has been abandoned there. He is finalizing the list of equipments that he would donate to the hospital in Sulu. 

Ramon Ang is looking into a power plant among other things. We have another entrepreneur Rosalinda Wee is looking into the seaweeds that are abandoned in Sulu. She is the largest carageenan producer. 

We have another entrepreneur Tennyson Chen who is looking into poultry. We have a group of mentors headed by Toto Barcelon who is going to help them through small-scale farming. And the list goes on.

Of course, a lot of initiatives from the other entrepreneurs who are going to offer homes to Gawad Kalinga which would be built by Gawad Kalinga. The classrooms are gonna be built by the Filipino-Chinese Federation. 

So there are countless of initiatives that we are going to be doing the next months to help Sulu. They list among the areas with highest level of poverty. And, likewise, we have also decided as a group to look at the other 10 areas. So the other nine areas that have extreme poverty.

Initially, we are looking at the top 10. But of the top 10 basically eight come from Mindanao. So that leaves two areas for Visayas.

So we decided to just rethink that whole plan and follow the Department of Agriculture’s model, which basically allocates four areas in Mindanao, three areas in Visayas, and three areas in Luzon. So that all different regions will at least have some support from the private sector. 

So this was our commitment to the President during that dinner. That beyond our business of growing and hiring people, we will do this effort to help our President fulfill his promise of change and uplift the lives of the poorest of the poor.

Of course, we can’t, you know, focus on the entire Philippines. There is just poverty everywhere. So we have to focus on the areas that have what we call extreme poverty and that was our commitment.      

And, again, this is going to be a project that we will do with the Office of the President and with the support of all the different government agencies that will — especially in Sulu properly secure us because we know that there is a lot of conflict in Sulu. 

So in short, I also shared this with Secretary Bello that the current contractualization that is being discussed today has to have one thing in mind.

It should not be either pro management or pro labor. It should be pro jobs. To me, that is the fundamental objective. If we are looking at inclusive growth, greater prosperity, we have to look at greater job generation. To me, that is important.

And if contractualization is gonna [inaudible] for job creation, then we will not be able to achieve greater prosperity for all. When I talk to the other council members in different ASEAN regions, there is no minimum wage in some of their countries. They don’t have anything as contractualization.    

So, we have to understand that we are not alone in this region. We compete like us, in the private sector, we compete with the other guys. We fight for that market share.

In the same thing, we compete even if ASEAN is one and trying to be one, we still compete with these countries. And what makes an investor want to come to your country? Is not on the ease of doing business but what is the most important is that they remain  —  that country has to be competitive. Competitive in terms of labor rates, power rates, all of that.

So if we are going to make it a challenge for the private sector to make the cost of labor just increase when we will lose our competitiveness. I am not saying that, you know, labor should not get their fair share. What I am saying is that we have to create more jobs. That is the bottom line.    

With President Trump being elected. He is rethinking the entire landscape of how America will move forward. He is not talking anymore of, you know, I am sharing America’s wealth with the other countries in the world. He wants to bring back jobs to America.

Well, many people will say that it is impossible and difficult. Yes it maybe, he may realize that. But the mere action and threat can prevent companies from moving forward and expanding.

For example in call centers, you will see in the newspapers today that there are less interest of expansion. So that fear, that President Trump is sharing with the business community will cause people to hold back for a while.

So we have to keep all of these in mind. The topmost mind in our focus is simply be job generation. Prosperity for all. Entrepreneurs out there who are surviving we have to bring them to sustainability.

We have to increase the workforce because more and more of the young kids are joining the workforce. We are seeing still an exodus of people looking for greener pastures overseas. And to a large extent, we can’t stop that. And, in a way, does have bring about inclusivity and that’s why when we thought of branding inclusive growth, we said, “Oh, the best brand really is to call it ‘kapatid’.”

Because I see it with our OFW workers. To me they epitomize what inclusive growth is from an individual level. When you see relatives who live in America, American citizens, still remitting money to their family. To me, that is sharing, big brother sharing to a brother sister or the children or the parents the remittances for education, housing. Hindi lang negosyo. 

So that to me is very symbolic in the entire Filipino community. And that’s what inspired us to call inclusive growth “kapatid.”

And that was my basic call to all our big brothers especially our conglomerates, our taipans, and the large even medium-sized entrepreneurs that prosperity cannot be achieved if we are not inclusive.

And among the ASEAN brothers that we have, I told them, what is the use of celebrating 50 years if we cannot achieve prosperity among all of us 10 nations? And they all agreed. And they all agreed to adopt the MSME program that we are looking at this year.

And for the first time this year, we ASEAN Business Council will maybe abandon will change the event for this year. Instead of having an Investment Business Conference in November, which is the event for all the medias who will be coming here. 

We will be doing something different. We will be doing where all ASEAN council members will come and help our micro and small and medium entrepreneurs and mentor them. So, it will be a different thing.

Everybody will not be coming here and wearing suits. They will be out here to mentor, to teach, to inspire many of our entrepreneurs in various sectors from the services sector to technology to agriculture and most especially agriculture.

And, again, unless we really change the landscape of agriculture. To me, agri is the game changer for poverty eradication. If we don’t and we do not achieve that then this country will forever be a poor country.

And Secretary Piñol understands that. His heart is in it. But he needs the entire support of the private sector. And we are glad that many are responding. They started responding by buying from the onion farmers, their onions. When we didn’t ask them to buy.

And we want more farmers to be able to sell to the large supermarkets — the SMs, the Robinsons, the Puregolds, the Rustan’s and all of them. They are responding.

So that to me is the real essence of inclusive growth wherein the private sector and government really come together as one and really help fight poverty.

Thank you.  


Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning, sir. Sir, what was the response of the government officials when you pitched the idea of scaling down the CCT over 10 years. Were they receptive to this because I understand this isn’t just parang social tool it can — it’s also a political one?

MR. CONCEPCION: It’s an idea that has been floated. The reaction has not been there yet. PCCI also has adopted the same thinking ‘no.

So I think, over time I think this will have to be absorbed. I think every secretary understands that more funds have to be given to those who work hard.

And the basic logic is that one, it’s a dole out; it ends there, it’s not returned. The other one is we are giving it to an entrepreneur, a micro and a small who cannot get funding, or can I get the loan because he has no collateral, but he has the passion, the initiative.

So whatever capital or fund that you give him,  assuming the failure rate is even at the highest 50 percent because a chance of failure is always high. So assuming that is 50 percent, at least it has a 50 percent chance of recurring. It becomes a recurring thing and from that he can hire more people.

So yes the other one is a dole out, the person will survive, but it’s just — it’s just a lifeline, forever a lifeline. And that, to me, is not long term.

I don’t how many countries in ASEAN do that. But definitely what I see is that a lot of them support the micro and small entrepreneurs.

And, in fairness, I think, the Department of Agriculture, to me, has to get more funding. I think everybody has to realize that unless the Department of Agriculture increases that budget that’s directed towards to the farmers, and the fisherman and properly used, we are not gonna get anywhere, quite frankly.

I think…You can look around, 70 percent of our land is agri land.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, clarification lang ‘yung statement on contractualization. Are you saying it has to… The government has to go slow on implementing this because it might drive up labor cost?

MR. CONCEPCION:First of all, endo and contractualization is — there is a confusion here.

Endo is not contractualization. Endo is technically illegal, that’s you hire person for five months, you let him go, you hire him again. That is illegal.

What we talking about here is a new department order whereby we are close to an agreement already basically.

And I told the Secretary, in fact I texted him this morning,  that it is very hard for labor and management to come to an agreement. The Secretary of Labor will have to make the decision himself. And, to me, what is important is we have to keep in mind that job generation is the key point. We should drive basically the new department order.

Which means, we have proposed to him that all service providers today in that department order will have to hire the people as regular employees. Today, that does not exist except for security guards.

So every agency, contracting agency, will have to ensure that that employee is not a 555 especially in that—in their agency. They will be regular employees. They will be given the right government benefits, the benefits according to law, VL, SL, retirement pay, a severance pay.

So they will be hired, not maybe by the company, but by their outsource provider. That’s a big difference, that’s a big, big plus. That’s not done today. So to me, the workforce should be happy about that.

Right now, even government hires the biggest number of contractuals. Now, it’s fine if the government outsources it to the service providers but at least they will have job security when even if they are working for agencies.

There is nothing wrong. The entire world is moving to outsourcing. I mean, this is a fact. Everything is being outsourced.

In fact, America has outsourced their entire manufacturing to China and their entire BPO to us. So we are the beneficiaries. That’s making them competitive. That’s the way the work is.

Reymund Tinaza (Bombo Radyo): Sir, just to expand what you meant on how would you help the small farmers in the agri-business. So aside from buying their products and selling them to the big supermarkets. What else can we do or can you do to help them especially I understand I am from the province so I know how the small farmers would — having hard in having this fund or capital to finance their agricultural or the planting and even to harvesting?

MR. CONCEPCION:First of all, the intervention in terms of mentorship. Technical training programs that has to done.

Okay, once you the proper training programs and all of that, then there has to be a mechanism for them to be able to operate. They have to have the right equipment. They have to have loans to be able to fund their working capital.

Now, sometimes these are provided by traders. We all know that. And when they provide that, then they are—they have to sell the produce to the traders. And sometimes, we have the good traders and not so good traders to take advantage of the farmers ‘no.

So I think there is a balance.  We cannot also eradicate all the traders. But hopefully we can make the traders more socially minded that we — that they think of the farmers as real partners.

Corporate farming, let me give you an example of an individual this entrepreneur Yazaki Torres, Mr. Torres. What he has done was basically to use his rural bank. He aggregated some land, leased it and provided loans to his farmers to plant rice. So the rice that is produced, he now buys that back and uses it for all his employees in Yazaki Torres.

So that is a one model of an inclusive growth. Now, we… Secretary Manny asked me the other day, ‘Can we now encourage more rice farmers to plant hybrid rice?’ The strategy was to — for the private sector to buy hybrid rice. 

In other words, part of the pay of the employee will be given in rice. In concept, it is correct because he believes that hybrid rice is the right way to go.

I mean this has been professed by Henry Lim Bon Liong, one of the entrepreneurs, because you’ll have— you’ll increase the level of productivity and et cetera, et cetera ‘no.

So that is one action that we are looking right now. How to help Secretary Manny in getting private sector to experiment in buying a rice and giving it to our employees. But we will only buy — he wants us to only buy hybrid rice coming from the farmers. So he has to prepare that structure. 

But that is just an idea of trying to get private sector to be more inclusive. In other words, why not if there is a demand for hybrid rice? And what will happen? More farmers will plant hybrid rice and they will become more competitive.

Mr. Tinaza: Sir, it’s true what you mentioned that agriculture should be the prime mover of our economy now because we are technically, practically, we are farm land. But how can we—how should I say—how can we make it that work when some developers among your ranks are already buying agricultural lands to develop houses and any other developer to develop projects, housing projects in the agricultural — in the provinces?

MR. CONCEPCION:A lot of that happened.

Mr. Tinaza: Yeah.

MR. CONCEPCION:And that is a challenge. I mean, as we can see in Southern Luzon from Batangas onward that has moved into industrial state parks.

And there is nothing wrong with that. In the end of the day, if our farmers will not be competitive and they cannot compete, what will happen is what you see today.

So either they now join the workforce as employees of the different parks which is also not bad. But then again there has to be a balance ‘no. Not every area in this country can have an industrial park.

It just maybe fortunate that the southern area it’s very close to the ports that attract the confluence of all these industrial parks.

But that’s still very small compare to the—the total land area out there. And if you see the success of the different ASEAN countries, once upon a time we were sending out and I think ‘till today we are still sending out a lot of these students to come here to learn.   

But somehow, we can’t seem to get our act. I believe Secretary Manny Piñol has the heart ‘no, he has the vision and he has our support. I am not an agri guy. I’m a businessman. I look at it in terms of, okay, scale. If you don’t have scale, you can’t compete.

If you only running three hectares, five hectares, you cannot compete against the big boys in Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, no way.

So we have to look at encourage back corporate farming. There has to be a structure whereby idle lands can be aggregated and given to an entrepreneur to hire these people.

If they can’t… The farmers cannot be entrepreneurs at least they can work for the corporation that will — will at least lease or own the land and be able to focus their production whether it’s palm oil, corn, rice or whatever.

The others can go into small scale farming and the proponent here is basically this entrepreneur called Toto Barcelon who is focused on small cases and we have also asked William Dar to help us by the way.

Ace Romero (Philippine Star): Just one question. What do you think will happen if the government does not move away from the CCT? What will be the long-term effect?

MR. CONCEPCION:I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I mean they can still stay there. If the government has still money to keep that and still fund massively the initiatives on government interventions and helping micro and small, then fine.

But if I have this much resource and I have to make a choice, I would help those that are hanging on to life. I mean, in other words, really these people that live on a day-to-day basis.

But, gradually, you have to shift that slowly to something that becomes really recurring. It cannot be forever. That’s my point. It just cannot be forever.

Mr. Romero: But do you think the recipients will be forever in a poverty trap if we don’t move away from that program which is, you say, is just giving fish them instead of teaching them how to fish?

MR. CONCEPCION:Then this is where TESDA comes in. This is where the big kapatids like SM is going to embark a project.

Part of the Sulu project, SM and other big conglomerates are coming together and partnering with TESDA in skills training program and maybe, you know, in this area is there — where we can focus in TESDA especially in the areas with severe poverty.

And then as they are trained and deserving of the job then the private sector can hire them.

So, you know, I cannot see… For as long as you speak English you will find a job. You may enter a call center that’s the very minimum today.

There is definitely a shortage of skilled people. The problem is how do we make our non-skilled to be skilled? To me, it’s simple: if you have, you know English, speak English well, you can easily go to any BPO out there who’s offering incentives to people.

So again you have to do something about your life. I mean, being poor is a motivation. I’ve seen a lot of people in poverty who are extremely motivated to improve their life and you can see that. Our OFWs are highly motivated. Why? They could have stayed here, be satisfied maybe gotten the CCT but they moved out.

Why did they move out? Because they want to give their child a better future. They’re sacrificing their family time, the graduation and all of those activities that they could spend here for a long term benefit for their kids. So to me that is the difference.

So CCT is fine, you can keep it there but eventually that has to migrate towards more government interventions assuming our budget is limited.

But, of course, if we have a lot of money then you can keep the CCT, you can increase the government interventions that are directed towards helping micro and small and you have to increase the Department of Agriculture’s budget.

There is no way for us to become — reduce the level of poverty and become — and help everybody become prosperous if the DA budget will be that way.

Ted Tuvera (Daily Tribune): Sir, follow up lang po doon sa tanong ‘nung kanina regarding sa agriculture. Sir, kasi before, may suggestion si Secretary Mariano ng DAR ang sinasabi niya po na isa daw po sa mga problema sa agriculture productivity ‘yung pagco-convert nga daw ng mga land, agricultural lands into industrial zones et cetera. And then sinabi niya din dito sa briefing before na may pwedeng maglabas si Presidente ng executive order on Land Moratorium —- Land Conversion Moratorium. Sir, would you advise the President to have that executive order?

MR. CONCEPCION:No, I wouldn’t advise the President to have an executive order to stop land conversion into industrial estates especially that there are certain areas that they are better off to be — to move towards industrialization, bring in more factories et cetera.

So the government will have to define what areas in the country should be focused on agriculture and what areas should focus on the industry.

And, definitely, it has to be a balance, it has to be a balance. But we should not discourage if, you know, a lot of foreigners want to come here and invest in our country instead of factories. Why not?

So this has to continue. Land conversion has to continue. It would take time unless — unless we are also able to find a way on how to create agri lands into solid tracts of land that become a very viable corporate farm that would match against industrial parks.

In other words, you have maybe 1,000 hectares but you have here maybe 10 big entrepreneurs in agri doing this type of farming.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. I have some…I’d like to touch on two points and then you can go on to the Q&A.

Joint statement on the successful third round of formal talks between the GRP and the NDFP in Rome in Italy.

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines Reciprocal Working Committees on Social and Economic Reforms met on January 20-21 and 23 to 24 in 2017 together with their respective consultants and resource persons. RWCS and SER reaffirmed the April 2004 agreement on the preamble and the Declaration of Principles Part 1 as a framework of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms provided that the unresolved provisions including the new insertions of the NDFP will be elevated to the negotiating panel with their resolution.

Also, discussions on the basis, scope and applicability part 2 which substantially made and points of agreement were identified. The affirmation of part 3 entitled “Desired Outcomes”, which was approved during the second round of talks was made.

Also the RWCS, SER have also started discussions on agrarian reform and rural development. They reached a common understanding on the general features of the agrarian problems in the Philippines. They also agreed in principle to the free distribution of land reformers and farm workers as part of the governing framework of CASER.

In the next round of formal talks, they shall discuss the remaining items under the agrarian reform and rural development and so forth. In effect, the talks are moving forward and we are gaining actually ground and that the talks will not be hampered by any activities on the ground so to speak.

Also, the development on the Philippine GDP. Our GDP has posted a 6.6 growth in the fourth quarter of 2016 driving the economy to grow by 6.8 percent for the entire year. The last quarter of an election year is usually weak with the government transition. However, in our case, it has actually improved.

This is higher than the 6.3 growth recorded during the fourth quarter of 2015 and the 6.6 growth in fourth quarter is a testament that our economy remains robust and is growing at a healthy and steady rate.

Also, the Philippine economy is likely the third or fourth fastest growing economy in the fourth quarter of 2016 after China and Vietnam.

Overall, we believe that the target of 6.5, 7.5 for 2017 is highly likely and that our strong economic performance is likely to be sustainable in the long run.

We are open to questions.

Ted Tuvera (Daily Tribune): Sir, good afternoon po. Related po doon sa peace talks. Kasi, sir, while nag-uusap sila sa Rome, merong mga statements at saka mga galaw ‘yung CPP-NPA na parang hindi nila gustong ipagpatuloy ‘yung unilateral ceasefire. In fact, inamin po ni NDF — ng NDF sa isang statement na hin — na may outcry daw sa mga miyembro nila na huwag ng ituloy ‘yung unilateral ceasefire. Sir, is the Palace worried or threatened that such moves or statements made by communists might disrupt or hamper the peace talks?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The Palace understands that there is activity on the ground, that there is also noise on the ground. However, based on the negotiating panels and based on the actions and the agreements that have been formed, they continue — their talks continue forward.

So we are positive that things can be worked out.

Mr. Tuvera: Kasi, sir, for considerations din kasi na iba kasi ‘yung nasa ground, iba ‘yung nandito sa mga kanayunan kung saan nag-o-operate ‘yung mga NPA, iba rin ‘yung nasa negotiating table and I believe kahit ‘nung mga 90’s habang nagkakaroon ng mga peace talks ay tuluy-tuloy pa rin naman ‘yung operations ng NPA at that time. Iyon ‘yung…Mangyayari pa rin ‘yon sa kasalukuyang ano, sir…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Naintindihan natin ‘yung mga nangyayaring ganun. However, we understand also that the — their organization is also in conversation with their own people. So let us leave it to them to be able to settle matters among themselves.

Rose Novenario (Hataw): Good morning, sir. Ay good afternoon pala. Sir, ano po ‘yung reaksyon ng Palasyo doon sa pahayag kahapon ng OPAPP na irereko — nagkasundo ‘yung GRP at saka NDFP panel na irekomenda kay Pangulong Duterte na i-delist si CPP founding chairman Joma Sison sa terror list ng Amerika?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We have an opinion regarding that. The request for the delisting of Chairman Jose Maria Sison is aligned with the President’s wish to hold peace talks with the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines
The government maintains its position that there is no reason for the US to deny this request bearing in mind that Mr. Sison is part of the negotiating panel. As part of the Duterte administration agendas for peace, it will take all necessary steps to ensure that the agreements made will be inclusive, comprehensive and integrated with all stakeholders meaningfully involved in the process of negotiation and implementation. In other words, it seems to be aligned.

Ms. Novenario: So mage-expect po ba ‘yung makakaliwang grupo na ASAP po itong gagawin ng Palasyo or ni Presidente Duterte?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: May proseso po ‘yan. I don’t know if it’s going to be ASAP but it’s part of the process.

Rosalie Coz (UNTV): Kunin lang po namin ang opisyal na pahayag po ng Malakanyang regarding po sa naging pagtugon ni dating Pangulong Aquino doon po sa mga binitawang statement ng Pangulo regarding po sa Mamasapano.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s wait for the independent commission to be formed to look into the matter. That’s all. Thank you.

JP Bencito (Manila Standard): Hi, sir, good morning. Sir, in the three-page statement of former President Aquino it seems to be that the former PNP Director General was not mentioned. Sir, was there…Do you think, sir, this is part of a cover-up of the previous administration to look into the onerous acts of the PNP General, sir, into the Mamasapano incident?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We will not venture into giving any opinions. Let us wait for the independent commission to look into the matter.

Mr. Bencito: But, sir, the independent commission, sir, are we looking on the criminal responsibility for the former President for covering up on the possible acts mainly na nagawa doon sa initial investigation in the past?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It’s for the commission to make any comments regarding that.

Joseph Morong (GMA7): Yes, sir. Kailan po bubuuin ‘yung commission?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Wala pang timeline but it’s going — it’s already in the process.

Rocky Ignacio (PTV-4): Pero may phone-in question, sir. May shortlist na po daw ba ang independent commission?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As far as I know, it hasn’t reached my desk yet. Wala pa.

Reymund Tinaza (Bombo Radyo): Sir, ano na ang nangyari sa ano — ‘yung ipinag-utos noon ni Communications Secretary Martin Andanar na imbestigasyon sa overprinting ng tax stamps on the cigarette?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s refer the matter to Sec. Martin.

Mr. Tinaza: Kasi meron ding parallel investigation ngayon ‘yung BIR. I don’t know if it’s separate or relatedly — imbestigasyon ng BIR doon sa mga pekeng stamps ng — ‘yung isang kompanya ng sigarilyo ‘yung Mighty. So ano ‘yung — mag…Sir, sa tingin niyo ito ba ay related o kaya rest assured na kumbaga hindi gamitin na knowing Mighty gamitin ‘yung kanyang money, influence para makalusot doon sa possible na pananagutan from using the alleged fake tax stamps?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s refer the matter to the Press Secretary.

AC Nichols (CNN Philippines): Sir, there are calls to declare Monday a holiday because of the Miss Universe pageant. Is the Palace inclined to heed the calls?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t know about the inclination of the Palace. But there is no official word yet.

Ms. Nichols: Sir, follow up. Yeah, is the President attending the pageant?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think he wishes he could but I don’t know about his own schedules. Thank you

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, on another topic. Sir, what’s the purpose of the President’s tirades against the Catholic Church officials? Is he trying to tell them to stop commenting on his drug war because I think that was what triggered his statements? So what does he plan to accomplish by his statements?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: In a conversation I had with Mr. Failon, I pointed out the fact that it’s not so much a tirade against the Catholic Church per se but simply about — it’s simply one institution, government institution, regarding a religious institution and while the government is open to critical — to criticism, it is… I think it would appreciate if it were not adversarial coming from a moral high horse, you know.

I mean, after all, we are all referring to simply one country. We are all building up one nation.

And I think the President would appreciate it if people came not from a moral high horse but agreeing and like he says, he says basically what he is saying is, ‘Hey, we are all sinners here, right?’

And that we can all cooperate in the work but not from a place where somebody else is saying, ‘I’m better than you,’ ‘I am holier than you.’ That seems to be where he’s coming from. That he would like more collegiality, that he would appreciate more collegiality between institutions.

Ms. Salaverria: Given that… Iyong proposal for the President to hold a dialogue with the bishops, where —-

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It was not a proposal coming from the President. It was simply an opinion that I said —

Ms. Salaverria: Ah okay.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA:  — that why doesn’t one institution, if it feels that it has a moral responsibility, reach out to the government and create a bridge where they can actually talk?

I mean, after all, both have resources, both have apparently the same goals, which is nation-building.

Where we were…Where I was coming from when I said that was that it would certainly benefit the government and the nation if we were less adversarial. Critical, yes, but less adversarial and create an atmosphere of collegiality.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, have you floated the idea of a dialogue with — between the President and with the bishops?


Ms. Salaverria: Have you floated to the President the idea of having a dialogue with the bishops and was he receptive to it?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Not directly. I haven’t floated it directly. We haven’t… The idea has not been floated directly to him. Not from my end.

Dexter Ganibe (DZMM): Sec, good afternoon. Follow up lang din doon sa issue ng bishops —


Mr. Ganibe: Dahil nabanggit ninyo na pwede kayong maging bridge para doon sa dialogue.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: During the radio interview, I said that, yeah.

Mr. Ganibe: May ano na po ba, may… On the part ng Church, may nag-approach na po ba sa inyo na handa silang makipag-dayalogo?


Mr. Ganibe: So walang..?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Wala po silang ano but I did say that in the radio. But to me, none.

Mr. Ganibe: Pangalawang issue, sir. Madalas natin marinig si Pangulo ‘yung kanyang pagsusulong ng federalism.


Mr. Ganibe: And the House of Representatives, nag-aantay na po doon sa 25-man team na bubuoin, meron na tayong Executive Order. Meron na ba tayong listahan doon sa 25-man team na magrereview sa — ?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Iyon din ‘yung tinatanong mo kanina?

Ms. Ignacio: Yes, po.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No. As of now I am, wala pa po akong ano ‘non, wala akong…

Mr. Ganibe: So kailan po mabubuo ng Palasyo dahil ang binabanggit ng House ay naka-depende rin sila sa Palace eh ang Pangulo halos binabanggit niya palagi sa kanyang mga speech ’yung pagsusulong ng federalism?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA:  I’m sure the only thing that matters…The main consideration is people that he can trust. The people who are trustworthy. Not necessarily people who are just going to say ‘yes’ to him. He’s not looking for yes men. But he’s definitely looking for people who are worthy of trust.

Mr. Ganibe: So ngayon, sir, wala pa? Blangko pa ‘yung 25-man team? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Hindi ko po alam kung blangko na pero ang alam ko hindi pa natatapos.

Mr. Tuvera: Sir, follow up lang po doon sa issue ng mga bishops. Sir, kapag nag — kapag pinupuna po ni Presidente, sinasabi niya na ‘yung mga, ‘yung Simbahan, dumadaldal lang. Sir, at saka ano, is he trying to silence the Church? Is he trying to hamper their freedom of expression?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No. Like I said, he is open to criticism. Iyon lang na we do not approach the situation at hand from an adversarial.

Hindi tayo magkalaban. We can be critical of one another, hindi tayo magkalaban. Iisa ‘yung bayan. So we’re both interested in doing these things but we cannot do this from an adversarial position.

Mr. Tuvera: But is it necessary to say, sa kaso ni Bishop Bacani, sabihin niya na may dalawang asawa si Bishop Bacani? Is it necessary?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t know if you call it necessary but it certainly adds color to the conversation, right?

But I mean, no, I mean, he’s not trying to be colorful, that’s what I’m saying. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m simply saying that he’s bringing out certain aspects of the “dialogue” between the two of them that really, from the President’s point of view, don’t approach me from a moral high horse, moral high horse.

I mean, sinasabi mong we are the bringer of death and stuff like that when you yourself…That is the tenor of the conversation, really.

You know, really, it should be… What he’s basically saying is that we should approach it from a different situation.

He’s not trying to silence them. He’s just trying to say, as far as we can see, to have a more collegial. Mag-usap tayo parang pantay-pantay.

Mr. Morong: Sir, with regard to Bishop Bacani. I’m not sure if you were there at the SAF event but the President said and alleged that Bishop Bacani had two wives based on the book. But it seems, sir, that it’s not stated in the book that he has two wives. So was the President wrong or did he mix up certain information from the books?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, we are entering into territory which is really best kept to conversations not on air, you know.

Mr. Morong: Well, the President said it in his speech.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: All right then, well, technically, apparently the President — the man of the cloth is not married but apparently, apparently, what the President was referring to that he has fathered, he has fathered children but —

Mr. Morong: Bacani, sir? Or is it a different priest?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: You know, maybe it’s best left unsaid.

Mr. Morong: No, but the President mentioned it and it seems that if it is from the book, he might be not accurate.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. The point of accuracy, the man of the cloth is not married, right?

Mr. Morong: Correct.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: But he has fathered. Apparently, that is the implication.

Mr. Morong: You’re referring to Bishop Bacani, sir?


Mr. Morong: Okay. Sir, ang sabi ni Bishop Bacani, well, related topic. Magbibigay daw siya ng five million if the President can find a wife of his.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. Well, let’s leave the betting to them, okay. [laughter]

Mr. Morong: So okay lang, sir? Iko-call ninyo?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Na alin? Hindi ko kino-call. Sinabi ko nga hindi eh. Hayaan natin sila mag-usap.

It’s a point of technicality, it’s a point of technicality in their conversation. It’s not some… Really, we’re trivializing the whole matter, okay. Let’s elevate our conversation.

Mr. Morong: Sir, we didn’t start this, the President started this.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: You’re asking it, right? So I’m asking if we could just leave it alone for a while.

Mr. Morong: So you…Sir, so ayaw ninyo nang patulan ‘yung flinoat ni Presidente?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ayaw ko pong patulan ‘yung ganung pag-uusap.

Mr. Morong: Sir, appointments question lang. Sa BTC, sir, ‘yung MILF mukhang impatient na sa — ‘coz ‘yung crafting the law is tedious and you know what happened to the detail.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We will look into the matter. We’ll ask messaging to get us the final answer for that.

Mr. Morong: BTC, sir. Thank you, sir.

Ms. Nichols: Sir, just a follow up on the bishops. You were saying earlier —-

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: [laughs] We can’t leave it alone, can we?

Ms. Nichols: Sorry. Sir, just about what you said on — ‘yung the President’s trying to say na hindi tayo magkakalaban —


Ms. Nichols: — and we cannot do this in an adversarial position —


Ms. Nichols: But, sir, ‘yung mga statements po ni Pangulo sa mga speech niya criticizing the bishops, priests in general, ‘di ba hostile din talaga, sir, kasi ‘yung position niya, the way he speaks? So hindi ba contradicting ‘yun na he wants na magtulungan tayo and yet he’s saying those things in public? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Right. In a sense, those are reaction… You can say that these are reactions ‘no.

But these are also responses. If you actually look at the tenor of what he’s saying…If you look at the tenor of what he’s saying, he is basically saying don’t… I mean… It’s a pot calling the kettle black, you know. So —

Ms. Nichols: So, sir, who’s gonna make the first move na parang, let’s just work together, let’s not do this, let’s not bash each other in public. Is the President — ?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Correct. I think you said it, you know. Not in public.

Send out feelers, let’s have conversation, you know. I mean they are a powerful institution that we listen to, right?

Ms. Nichols: Is the President willing to make the first move? Siya ang mag-send ng feelers?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Sinasabi ko po, ‘yung the one who seems to have moral ascendancy, who says it more, should be the one to reach out, you know.

Sabi ko nga, wala namang matigas na tinapay sa mainit na kape hindi ba. So mag-usap tayo.

Mr. Bencito: Sir, hindi na ‘to bishops.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Hindi na ba? Salamat naman, JP. [laughs]

Mr. Bencito: Sir, can we get Palace comment on 6.6 percent GDP growth fourth quarter 2016?


Mr. Bencito: Ay meron na pala. Sorry.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: JP, the next time you come [laughs].

Mr. Bencito: Sorry na, sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. Thank you very much. Good morning.