Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Abella with Executive Director Zaldy Patron of the Department of Foreign Affairs (Association of Southeast Asian Nations Affairs)
Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building, Malacañang
02 May 2017


We are  pleased to have today the Executive Director of the Department of Foreign Affairs for ASEAN Affairs, Mr. Zaldy Patron.

As Executive Director, he is assisting the DFA Assistant Secretary in promoting and managing the Philippines’ interests and advocacies for ASEAN Affairs.

He is also coordinating with the ASEAN-National Organizing Council on the substantive agenda and other activities related to the Philippines’ Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2017.

He joined the DFA in 1996 as a career diplomat and currently holds the rank of Career Minister. From November 2014 to June 2015, he was Senior Special Assistant to the Office of the Director-General for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) National Organizing Council under the Office of the President.

Mr. Patron was a member of various Philippine delegations to the ASEAN Summits, ASEAN Ministerial Meetings and ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meetings between 2006 and 2008.

He graduated from the UP in Los Baños and also with a degree of Masters in Business Administration from Ateneo.

We’d like to welcome Mr. Zaldy Patron.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PATRON: Thank you, Mr. Abella. Good morning friends and colleagues from the press.

I am pleased to share with you the major outcomes of the 30th ASEAN Summit held in Manila on April 29.

Let me begin by saying that the Philippines successfully hosted the 30th ASEAN Summit with the Leaders having fruitful discussions on important issues in ASEAN.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte articulated the Philippines’ theme – “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World” – this year as ASEAN Chair.

The ASEAN Leaders gave their full support for the country’s six thematic priorities, namely (1) A people-oriented and people-centered ASEAN; (2) Peace and stability in the region; (3) Maritime security and cooperation; (4) Inclusive, innovation-led growth; (5) ASEAN’s resiliency; and (6) ASEAN: a model of regionalism, a global player.

President Duterte chaired four Leaders’ Meetings; these are: 30th ASEAN Summit, both the Plenary and Retreat; the ASEAN Leaders’ Interface with ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly or AIPA; the ASEAN Leaders’ Interface with ASEAN Youth Leaders; the 12th BIMP-EAGA Summit.

The Leaders discussed the progress in ASEAN Community building and the realization of the ASEAN Vision 2025.

In his report to the Leaders, the ASEAN Secretary General pointed out that 218 or 75 percent of the 290 action lines under the APSC Blueprint are currently being addressed.

A robust monitoring mechanism has been put in place to ensure full and effective implementation of the Blueprint.

Preparation for the first biennial review and evaluation of the APSC Blueprint 2025 will commence later this year involving all sectoral bodies and organs as well as the National Secretariats of each Member State.

He reported that the recent accessions by Chile, Egypt and Morocco to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia or the TAC has brought the number of non-ASEAN contracting parties to the TAC to 25. Iran will formally accede to the Treaty upon completion of its internal procedures.

The second year of the ASEAN Economic Community or AEC focuses on the outstanding works, such as (1) the adoption of the remaining AEC sectoral work plans; (2) the endorsement and online publication of the AEC 2025 Consolidated Strategic Action Plan (CSAP); (3) the implementation of the rolling list of AEC annual priorities; and (4) the setting up of mechanisms and tools for operationalizing the AEC 2025 Monitoring & Evaluation Framework.

In the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community or ASCC Blueprint, 11 out of 26 action plans under the Initiative for ASEAN Integration or IAI Work Plan III are being addressed.

The Leaders noted that this year is a milestone year for ASEAN as it celebrates its 50thyear. They encouraged the celebration of various activities to commemorate this landmark occasion, including the grand celebration of ASEAN’s Golden Anniversary on 8 August 2017.

The Leaders highlighted the need to deepen ASEAN’s engagement with its Dialogue Partners, noting that this year marks the 40th year of ASEAN’s formal partnership with Canada, European Union and the United States of America, while it is the 25th year of

relations with India and 20th year of the ASEAN Plus Three cooperation.

They welcomed the announcement that US President Donald Trump will attend the 31stASEAN Summit and Related Summits in November in Manila.

The Leaders discussed pressing regional and global concerns. Please allow me to highlight a few of them.

For the APSC Community, they discussed issues such as terrorism, violent extremism, piracy, human trafficking, and the drug menace.

They called for the implementation of the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children or ACTIP and its accompanying Plan of Action, as well as the ASEAN Work Plan on Securing Communities Against Illicit Drugs.

They noted the offer of the Philippines to host this year the Second Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Rise of Radicalization and Violent Extremism and the Working Group meeting of the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone Treaty Executive Committee.

During the Interface with AIPA, AIPA expressed its firm support and commitment to the realization of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025. AIPA is committed to fully harmonize Member States’ legal framework and build common standards of conduct consistent with ASEAN agreements and commitments.

AIPA further commits to make its institution an effective vehicle to promote and maintain peace and stability in the region.  ASEAN Leaders, on the other hand, recognized AIPA’s important role in ASEAN’s community-building.

The Leaders welcomed AEC’s thrust to pursue three strategic measures, namely: increasing trade and investment; integrating micro, small and medium enterprises in the digital economy; and developing an innovation-driven economy. AEC plans to reduce trade transaction costs by 10 percent by year 2020.

They noted the progress in ASEAN Roll-on Roll-off shipping network, particularly the maiden voyage of the Sea Linkage Route between Davao–General Santos of the Philippines and Bitung of Indonesia which was launched on 30 April in Davao City. 

The Leaders welcomed the initiative on the establishment of the ASEAN STI. That means Science, Technology and Innovation Partnership Contributions.  The Philippines and Thailand individually pledged to contribute USD 1 million towards this new project.

They looked forward to the target conclusion of the ASEAN-Hong Kong, China Free Trade Area within the year and welcomed the launch of formal region-to-region talks on a framework setting out the parameters of a future FTA between ASEAN and the European Union.

The Leaders noted the need to achieve a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP agreement amidst the sluggish economic environment and trends toward protectionism.

In their dialogue with the Youth Representatives, the Leaders gave their support for the five priority areas of the ASEAN Work Plan on Youth 2016 to 2020. These are: youth entrepreneurship, youth employment, youth awareness, youth volunteerism, and youth resilience.

The Leaders also noted the conduct of the ASEAN Multi-Sectoral Collaborative Workshop on Nutrition Security held in March 2017 in Manila, which starts high level advocacies on ending all forms of malnutrition and the development of an ASEAN Nutrition Surveillance System.

They welcomed the initiative of the ASCC Council to promote a “Culture of Prevention Agenda” in preventing violent extremism and other forms of violence at their root causes.

They tasked the ASEAN Labour Ministers to finalize the instrument on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers in time for its signing at the 31st ASEAN Summit in November 2017.

They noted the ASEAN High-Level Conference on Social Protection to be held in August in the Philippines and encouraged the development of a social protection monitoring framework in ASEAN.

They called for the completion of the Progress Report on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in ASEAN, the Baseline Study on Child Protection Systems in ASEAN Member States, and the Baseline Study on the Status of Child Participation in ASEAN and ASEAN Member States.

The Leaders welcomed the operationalization of the Guidelines for Hotline Communications among Senior Officials of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of ASEAN Member States and China in Response to Maritime Emergencies in the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. They also looked forward to the early operationalization of the Joint Statement on the Application of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea in the South China Sea.

They took note of the improving cooperation between ASEAN and China. They looked forward to the completion of a framework of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea by middle of this year, in order to facilitate the early conclusion of an effective COC.

The Leaders expressed grave concern over recent developments in the Korean Peninsula, including two nuclear tests in 2016 and subsequent ballistic missile launches conducted by the DPRK. They urged the DPRK to immediately comply fully with its obligations arising from all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.

A day before the Summit, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers also issued a standalone statement about this concern with DPRK.

In terms of outcome documents, the Summit saw the signing by the Leaders of the ASEAN Declaration on the Role of the Civil Service as a Catalyst for Achieving the ASEAN Community Vision 2025. 

The declaration recognizes the significance of the civil service as the backbone of good governance and a catalyst in building the ASEAN Community.

The Leaders also noted the following reports: Report of the Secretary-General of ASEAN on the Work of ASEAN; Report of the APSC Council to the 30th ASEAN Summit; Report of the AEC Council to the 30th ASEAN Summit; Report of the ASCC Council to the 30th ASEAN Summit; Report of the Executive Director of the ASEAN Foundation; and Streamlining Meetings: Proposed New Format for ASEAN+1 Summits and Post Ministerial Conferences and Assessment of the Back-to-Back 28th and 29th ASEAN Summits.

The BIMP-EAGA Leaders, on the other hand, adopted the BIMP-EAGA Vision 2025.

That ends my statement. Thank you very much.


Joseph Morong (GMA-7): Good morning, sir. Sir, why were the arbitral ruling and China’s militarization left out in the Chairman’s statement?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PATRON: Land reclamation and well militarization also… We want to reflect as much as possible the discussion as accurately as possible of the leaders and there was no one who has strongly pushed or mentioned anything about land reclamation and militarization.

On the other hand, the leaders highlighted the improving relations between ASEAN Member States or ASEAN and China and the need to conclude the framework for the Code of Conduct. So that was the emphasis given.

There is no mention of arbitration because last year, even last year in Vientiane, there was no consensus to have it reflected in any of the ASEAN statements.

Mr. Morong: Sir, not even from Vietnam or Thailand? No comment from—Malaysia on militarization?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PATRON: Yeah, based on the actual discussion during the Summit and the Plenary.

Mr. Morong: Just one last question. How much of a factor was China in the deliberations of the leaders in coming up with probably statement on the recent developments in the South China Sea?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PATRON: Well, as far as we know it was the leaders, ASEAN, exercised their independence. They should be free from any interference from any countries.

So we take it to mean that they made their decisions independently. So we don’t see any factor coming from any Dialogue Partner.

Mr. Morong: So you can say directly that China did not exert its influence as far the outcome was concerned?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PATRON: Yeah. None that we know of, you know.

Mr. Morong: Okay, thank you.


Ace Romero (Philippine Star): Okay, can we get an update with regard to the framework on the Code of Conduct? Because Foreign Affairs officials previously mentioned that they want to achieve significant progress with regard to the framework during the hosting of the Philippines. So what was achieved on the framework?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PATRON: Yeah. There were two technical working group meetings that were held already. The framework is really to agree on the elements of the Code of Conduct and once you have identified these elements, then you can negotiate in details the contents of these elements.

There will be another meeting this month and everyone is optimistic that we are going to have this framework by middle of this year. So there is good progress. We are hoping that by August this year, we can have some positive developments that we can announce publicly.

Mr. Romero: When we say “good progress,” what aspects were already completed?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PATRON: Well, at least there were agreements on the items or the elements that will be included in that framework, okay. And this is very different.

Whereas before, China and ASEAN Member States do not even want to start discussion on the framework of Code of Conduct. But under the Philippine chairmanship, we have seen a lot of movements in the discussion and China has already made an announcement that it’s also supportive of having a framework of the COC. So that is something that we would like to take advantage of. It’s a step forward to having a full and effective COC.

Mr. Romero: In general, what were included? What were agreed upon? Without going to specifics because it might preempt the discussions but what can you tell us in general, what were achieved? What were agreed upon?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PATRON: Well, they’re still negotiating. There are certain elements, there are proposals from ASEAN Member States and there are proposals on China on how to make this framework really substantive.

They are talking about certain guidelines for example, to avoid tensions within the area, within the region. We cannot disclose yet the final — these elements because they are still going to be negotiated this month.

Mr. Romero: Last question sa akin lang po. Just would like to clarify. The President mentioned during the press conference that ASEAN wants to enact a Code of Conduct by yearend. Was he referring to the actual Code of Conduct or he was just referring to the framework?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PATRON: It’s just the framework.

Mr. Romero: It’s just the framework. Thank you.

Reymund Tinaza (Bombo Radyo): Sir, you mentioned that no ASEAN leader strongly pushed for the discussion or inclusion of the arbitral ruling. But at least… So meaning, no one is strongly so at least some or any leader even shyly mentioned o raised the arbitral ruling?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PATRON: No, not really, yeah. Because we are working also on the — what we have already agreed upon in Vientiane the last time around. So the consensus was to reflect those agreements also.

Mr. Tinaza: Sir, just your reaction to the comments made by some maritime experts and analysts and even Congressman Alejano, Senator Trillanes, they are saying that the ASEAN hosting of the Philippines is a lost opportunity to push for our claims, interests because of the failure to discuss or mention the — specifically arbitral ruling?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PATRON: Okay. We don’t think so. Arbitral award is there. It’s part of international jurisprudence. It’s part of international law.

We can invoke it anytime we want and that’s what the President has said that in the right time, he will make references to it.

But right now, the focus really is to concluding the negotiations on the framework for the Code of Conduct and it is to everyone’s interest that we all have an effective Code of Conduct.

So if you have the arbitration on the other hand and you have the COC on the other hand also, then you have two legal instruments that you can refer to in the future if we want to.

Mr. Tinaza: Sir, last point. The decision of the President himself not to raise the issue or the arbitral ruling has nothing to do with his upcoming visit to China?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PATRON: We don’t think so because he has made consistent statement on that issue even long before he was invited to go to this OBOR Summit in China.

Ted Tuvera (The Daily Tribune): Good morning, sir.


Mr. Tuvera: Sir, the President yesterday mentioned in a press conference in Davao City — in an ambush interview in Davao City that he said that the best thing to — the best option to appease the US and North Korea is by making China intercede for both of them. Is this also the position shared by ASEAN, sir?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PATRON: Yes, I think there was an agreement that China has to exert more effort in exercising its influence over DPRK.

We know very well that it has good relations than most countries with the DPRK. And you know, if China can try to defuse the tension in DPR — in the Korean Peninsula by talking to the leader of DPRK that will be good for the region.

Mr. Tuvera: In that regard, sir, will ASEAN also ask the US to prevent — to avoid being, you know, aggressive towards North Korea?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PATRON: That’s what the President has said. He is calling in his press conference that he is calling for the US to exercise prudence and restraint, not to add fuel to the tension or to the fire, you know.

So I hope with ASEAN making that call or suggestion to both the US and China, that gives these two countries more encouragement to act, you know, so that everyone will be able to maintain peace and stability in this region.

Mr. Tuvera: Thank you, sir.

Dexter Ganibe (DZMM): Hi, sir, good morning. Two issues lang, sir. Follow up ko lang doon sa binanggit niyo na ‘yung technical working group doon sa pagbubuo ng framework have already agreed on items to be included in the framework and you mentioned one on the substantive issue like the creation of guidelines to avoid the tension. Do you have other items…

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PATRON: I’m not in the liberty right now to really give more details about those — what they are discussing.

Some might still change, you know. Some might be added. So I think it’s good to know at this point that both sides are talking and there is an agreement to move forward and have this framework concluded within this year.

And, hopefully, after this year then we can begin more detailed negotiations on each of the element.

Mr. Ganibe: Sir, ito ba ang dahilan kaya medyo adamant ang Government of the Philippines na i-akyat sa abritration ulit itong mga nangyayari sa Spratlys, ‘yung mga, ‘yung tension between the Chinese authorities and the fishermen?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PATRON: Well, the President at the beginning has already said that he will neither flaunt nor taunt China on the outcome of the arbitral award.

That was last year, long before we saw movements — positive movements on the negotiation for the framework for the COC.

So it’s… That’s not the sole basis. But that is a welcome development that I think we should take advantage of. Everyone will benefit from having a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

Mr. Ganibe: Thank you, sir.

Mr. Morong: Sir, I’m not sure. You said that there was no consensus to mention the arbitral ruling or the militarization in China? So but were there at least one or two countries who wanted the arbitration ruling mentioned?

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PATRON: During the Plenary and Summit, there was no leader that mentioned inclusion or made reference to land reclamation, militarization and arbitration.

So that was what we are trying to reflect in the Chairman’s statement. Thank you.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. There’s a few updates.

On February tourist arrivals hit a four-year high:

Foreign tourists chose to ignore the political noise and believe that it’s really more fun in the Philippines.

A total 579,178 visitors were recorded in February, an increase of 27.81 percent over the last — over the past four years and 5.36 percent higher than the same period last year, figures from the Department of Tourism show.

Tourism remains a major engine of growth of our economy and some of the Duterte administration’s Build-Build-Build infrastructure projects are devoted to tourism infrastructure, such as airports, railways, and road networks.

Millions of jobs will be generated in the transport and tourism sectors as we usher in the Golden Age of Infrastructure within the next five years. We therefore hope to make the tourism sector not only sustainable and competitive but also socially responsible to bring comfortable lives to all Filipinos.

Another note. Department of Education re-opens the Senior High School Voucher Program application:


Private school Grade 10 completers who are not Educational Service Contracting (ESC) grantees can now apply for the Senior High School (SHS) Voucher Program for this coming school year 2017-2018, as the Department of Education opens again its doors for qualified beneficiaries until May 15.

Only online applications will be accepted hence, interested applicants will have to access PEAC’s Online Voucher Application Portal at

Successful applicants will be announced on May 30.

Lastly, Standard & Poor’s keeps Philippine credit ratings:

The country seems to have indeed sustained its economic momentum.

The New York-based global debt watcher, S&P Global Ratings, has maintained the Philippines’ stable outlook, which resonates the satisfactory effects of the country’s policy in fiscal and debt metrics.

In addition, S&P has also upheld the Philippines’ “BBB” long-term credit rating, reflecting the country’s strong external position and adequate capacity to meet financial commitments.

The stable outlook on the Philippine economy also shows that policies continue to provide a favorable environment for sustained growth.

S&P expects the country’s Gross Domestic Product to grow annually by 4.9 percent or around $2,950 GDP per capita within the next four years.

We are open to a few questions.

Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Hi, good afternoon, sir. I understand the President had bilateral meetings with Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia on the sidelines of the ASEAN. May we know what were discussed, especially with Vietnam since it has — in the past it had been more vocal in opposing China’s activities in the South China Sea. So was this discussed between the President and Vietnam?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: There was no in-depth discussion. There were pleasantries, exchange, basically. Just pleasantries.

Ms. Salaverria: Between the President and the three leaders?


Ms. Salaverria: Iyon lang? No, nothing? No topic of substance were tackled, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Basically, these were courtesy calls, okay.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, on another topic, have you checked if the case of Mary Jane Veloso was discussed in the restricted meeting of President Duterte and President Widodo?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: There was no mention about it.

Ms. Salaverria: Thank you.

AC Nichols (CNN Philippines): Sir, I just like to get the Palace’s reaction on apparently US President Trump is getting criticism over the fact that he invited President Duterte to the US. Critics are saying that he’s inviting a supposed murderer or an alleged murderer. Reaction, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Basically, the conversation the conversation was between PRRD and POTUS. So basically it’s confined between the two of them. There will always be critics. Thank you.

Ms. Nichols: So, sir, you’re just… The President is still considering going there? That’s not a big deal?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: By the way, there was an open initiation. There was no direct acceptance of the invitation. It was acknowledged but there was no direct response to go.

Ms. Nichols: Sir, the UN is also weighing in. Others saying that if ever there will be a meeting that President Trump should urge President Duterte to take seriously the deep concerns over alleged human rights violations here in the country?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, according to the conversation, the President of the United States has already acknowledged the fact that the President is doing a great job considering the weight and the enormity of the conditions in the Philippines.

So I’m sure he’s aware of all these considerations. However, from his point of view, it seems like the President of the Philippines is doing a sensible job.

Mr. Ganibe:  Sir, you said there is an open invitation and there is no direct response. What does it mean no direct response?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: He didn’t say yes, he didn’t say no. He just… You know, it was a part of the conversation but there was no commitment, there was no promise to go at a specific date.

Mr. Ganibe: Does that mean the President is not interested to visit US?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That means that he did not respond.

Maricel Halili (TV 5): But at least, sir, do you consider it as an honor that President Trump invited President Duterte?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think it’s a sign of openness and understating between the two leaders definitely. Except that, you know, he just did not say he would go.

Mr. Morong: Sir, what do you think are first the advantages of the President going to the US?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: He’s not going. I mean, I didn’t say he was going. And there was no commitment to go. But regarding advantages, let’s leave it to — for whatever reason if and when he does.

Mr. Morong: Okay. If he does…


Mr. Morong: Okay. If he does, what are the disadvantages?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t have any opinions on the matter right now. Thank you.

Elijah Rosales (Business Mirror): Good afternoon, spokesman. Can you confirm this: Inatasan daw po ng Pangulo ang mga labor group na isulat ang draft ng executive order outlawing contractualization as a mode of employment? This was according to Alex Tanjusay of the TUCP.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Can you say that again that he, inatasan niya ang alin?

Mr. Rosales: Ang mga labor group na isulat ang draft ng executive — na magsulat ng draft ng executive order?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We will have to check that particular statement. Okay? It was… It came to the TUCP Mendoza?

Mr. Rosales: Yes, Alex Tanjusay. In a radio interview with DZMM.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We’ll have to check the actual interchange — exchange between the President and…

Mr. Rosales: Okay, sir. Thank you.

Ms. Halili: Sir, just a clarification. Doon sa statement kasi ni President yesterday saying na encouraging ‘yung mga mahihirap to occupy ‘yung mga properties allegedly of the oligarchs na hindi nagbabayad ng buwis. Was he serious about it? What does he mean by that?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It was a conditional statement. Okay? I will read from the vernacular: “Og dili ninyo iuli ang yuta sa gobyerno, then I will ask the Filipino people to occupy the lands.” He says if you do not return. You know.

So in other words, what he’s basically stressing is the seriousness of the matter that the property, government property needs to be returned.

Ms. Halili: But did he coordinate to other concerned governments agencies about it like the BIR? Paano po ba ‘yung protocol or the SOP kapag ka hindi nagbabayad ng tamang buwis ‘yung mga property owners?


Ms. Halili: What’s the protocol, sir? What’s the SOP every — the process kapag ka hindi nakakabayad?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Already… Well, it’s… That’s within the purview of the BIR. But basically there are really unpaid taxes and unpaid leases apparently regarding certain properties.

Ms. Halili: But, sir, don’t you find it somehow dangerous considering na, well, ibinigay na ni President sa mga Kadamay ‘yung properties sa Pandi, Bulacan and there are some critics talking about it dahil parang it’s as good as parang ibinigay sa someone who stole a property?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Which one? The Kadamay or this — ?

Ms. Halili: Do you find this in a way dangerous? Dahil baka nga maging precedent ‘yung Kadamay and then—

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: At the present, no. The situation is not a precedent. The situation is actually under control and the President is aware of the situation and it will… He will still adhere to certain processes.

Mr. Morong: Sir, rephrasing the question. Is that policy?


Mr. Morong: The statement of the President that if you do no return and they do not return it, you can occupy the lands?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It was a directive. It was a statement of… It was a statement to the, what do you call it, to those who are concerned.

Mr. Morong: Taxpayers.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. And the fact remains is that he will take certain steps. He will take certain steps. I don’t mean this is the exact step. But he will take certain steps to make sure that the erring parties will respond properly.

Mr. Morong: Meaning a warning?


Mr. Tinaza: Sir, doon sa… May inilabas kasi na mga alegasyon, paratang din nina Secretary Hermogenes Esperon at Justice Secretary Aguirre kaugnay sa pagkakasangkot or illegal gambling operations ni Charlie Atong Ang. Sir, will the government tolerate or allow Mr. Ang to continue his illegal gambling operations even that the existence of the newly-signed executive order by the President to intensify against illegal gambling operations? I understand there is, as alleged, by the two secretaries, there are outside CEZA gambling operations of Mr. Atong Ang?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Then it will be under the proper authorities to make sure that Mr. Ang will comply.

Mr. Tinaza: And he will not be a sacred cow or a big fish that he will be allowed or tolerated to continue with his illegal gambling operations under this Duterte administration?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Under the Duterte administration, there are no sacred cows.

Mr. Tinaza: Thank you, sir.

Mr. Ganibe: Sir, follow up lang doon sa ida-draft na executive order. Sir, ang Duterte administration ba open doon sa mga suggestion ng mga non-government offices sa pagda-draft ng executive order?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Like I said before and this has been typical of the President, he has his ear to the ground and he will listen. And he will consider that which is appropriate and viable.

In another words, he’s open, he’s listening. Okay. So that’s what your question was, right? Okay.

Mr. Ganibe: Kasi binabanggit nga ni Mr. Alan Tanjusay na the President is asking them to make a draft and submit it to him and the President will sign the draft.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, I don’t know if it’s automatic process, but the fact is, the point of that statement is that he’s saying he’s listening to them. He is a listening a President.

And again and again, he’s — as a President, he has said, first and foremost — first and last, my priorities are the nation’s interests.

So the reason why he’s listening to this is so that he’s listening to the broad spectrum of the social demographic.

Mr. Ganibe: Thank you, sir.

Ms. Salaverria: Hi, sir. Good afternoon. Sir, on the side of the Palace, I just want to know how it is taking the statement of analysts that the omission of–


Ms. Salaverria: Omission of militarization in the ASEAN statement was a victory for China? Sir, on the side of Malacañang?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: On the side of Malacañang. No. Basically, again and again, the President has said that matters like these are you know, he’s… First, you need to — we need to appreciate the tack of the President, the way he approaches matters.

And at this stage, he finds the more reasonable tack is to approach it diplomatically and that of — without losing, without losing any of our entitlements, without losing any of our rights and without losing any of our authority over certain properties that we consider ours.

Mr. Morong: Sir, but wouldn’t it be too late for the Philippines to once the President decides to raise the arbitral ruling at a later date, at a later year, wouldn’t be too late for us? Meaning, China has set up its infrastructure, it’s — whatever it wants to do in the South China Sea and then there’s—

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We are in constant dialogue with the other party.

Mr. Morong: Meaning?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Meaning to say we are constantly talking about these things. We are talking about these matters.

And the President has said, the moment that they begin to — appropriate for themselves, their resources regarding — then we will raise it up.

Mr. Morong: And the build up of facilities there, we don’t mind?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It’s not a question of we don’t mind but at this stage it’s something that we’re… At this stage, having a modus vivendi. We’re living with that.

Mr. Morong: Sir, sa DENR. Maco-confirm ba si Sec. Gina?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The process is going on right now.

Mr. Morong: Why would the President’s party, PDP-Laban, have a backup Secretary just in case? It’s a Mark Tolentino, I think.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t think that’s official. But I think it was just floated.

Mr. Morong: Okay.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA:  Okay. I mean that’s just my opinion.

Mr. Morong: Hindi naman ‘to, sir, coordinated with the President just in case Gina does not hurdle the CA we have a backup person?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, I don’t think the President does… He doesn’t play games like that.

Mr. Morong: Okay. Sir, assuming the… Sec. Gina does not hurdle the CA, what does it say about crusading Cabinet secretaries? You have at least four in the Cabinet vis-à-vis the political realities, meaning can they exist, crusading Cabinets, can they exist?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Each one is a particular and unique situation and each one is dealt with specifically and uniquely. Yes they exist.

Mr. Morong: They can exist?


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