03 November 2016

President Duterte sends home 17 Vietnamese fishermen
President Rodrigo Duterte led the ceremonial send-off of some 17 Vietnamese fishermen in Sual, Pangasinan on Wednesday, November 2.

“I am very happy that I’m here to send off my fellow human being,” Duterte said during the send-off ceremony, as he added that one thing common among Southeast Asian nations is the importance of dignity and self-respect.

The Vietnamese fishermen entered Philippine waters during the height of typhoon “Ferdie” in September.

The President said it was the Vietnamese government who have asked for the release of the Vietnamese fishermen during his visit to Vietnam in September.

He said the Vietnamese fishermen were released after their papers were processed.

“Kaya ako dito nung nalaman ko sila, sabi ko, no problem Mr. President, I’ll do my best to expedite. But you know, there are some procedures,” Duterte said.

The President underscored that the Philippines places importance to its relationship with its Southeast Asian neighbors. Both the Philippines and Vietnam are members of the 10-member bloc ASEAN.

“The Orientals have this respect for another fellow human being kaya tayo ganun,” he added.

“Ang pagtingin kasi natin, malalim ang tama natin sa relihiyon, sa respeto, our fellow human being. ‘Yun talaga ang ano sa atin. Maski na anong nationality, whether they be Chinese, Vietnamese or Americans, we do it with almost utmost respect even if he’s really a prisoner or whatnot,” Duterte said.

The President meanwhile said it is the country’s neighbors who give a helping hand in times of need, particularly in his administration’s fight against drugs.

“Alam mo, nandito na tayo sa narco-politics. That is why we have to ask help from everybody, including our neighbors,” Duterte said.

“We have to be nice and diplomatic. For one, we are a Christian country. And second is that talagang we help each other,” he added.

It was President Duterte who personally signaled for the fishermen to board their ships and also handed their travel documents which formally released them from the custody of the Philippine government.                  

For his part, Vietnamese Ambassador to the Philippines Truong Trieu Duong expressed gratitude to President Duterte.

“We, the Vietnamese people, especially the fishermen… will forever be in debt for the goodwill, the kind and humanitarian gesture, by you, Mr. President, and the Filipino people,” the Vietnamese envoy said.    

Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy Taguiwalo meanwhile said President Duterte has ordered that the fishermen be provided with their basic necessities for humanitarian assistance. PND

Duterte administration to speed up infra projects
The Duterte administration plans to start implementing major infrastructure projects before the end of the year to address the country’s infrastructure deficit and to prop up the economy.

In a press briefing in Malacañan on Thursday, November 3, NEDA Secretary General Ernesto Pernia said that the NEDA Board, chaired by the President, approved last September nine infrastructure projects which are being carried out by different implementing agencies.

Pernia said these nine projects have already gone through the “eye of a needle”, describing the approvals as a major accomplishment of the Duterte administration.

All of the infrastructure projects will require ramping up government spending on infrastructure from two to three percent last year to 5.4 percent, Pernia said.

“Moving forward, we’ll keep it at least at 5 percent of GDP and it will likely go up higher to 7 percent till the end of the Duterte administration,” Pernia said.

The NEDA chief also expressed optimism that seven more projects will be approved by the NEDA Board, which include agriculture projects in Cordillera and in Mindanao.

Other projects include the P200-billion South Line Railway Project from Manila to Bicol, the road widening from Tutuban to Valenzuela, and the road improvement project that connects Valenzuela with Quezon City.

Pernia said these major infrastructure projects will be funded through various means, like official development assistance (ODA), public-private partnership (PPP) and the national budget.

But in order for the government to immediately implement these projects, the administration is asking Congress to grant President Duterte emergency powers, BCDA President and CEO Vivencio Dizon said during the same press briefing.

The government needs just a two-year use of emergency powers to address economic, traffic congestion and other problems, Dizon said.

In the same briefing, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar said President Duterte wants to have a “Golden Age of Infrastructure” during his administration.

Villar then rolled out several projects in their pipeline that will address traffic congestion in major areas in the country and at the same time, boost economic activity.

Villar said that 25 percent of the DPWH’s budget this year is allocated to a nationwide decongestion program.

“This is unprecedented in the history of our country and I think that we’ll be able to—in the next year we’ll be able to feel the effects of these infrastructure spending,” he said.

Villar said among these projects are the Santa Monica-Lawton-BGC Bridge project and the bridge project that starts from The Fort to Ortigas, which will reduce traffic congestion in EDSA and C5 by 35 percent.

Another project that will start next year is the UP-Miriam- Ateneo Viaduct, which is expected to reduce traffic congestion in the area by 80 percent, he said.

Villar also announced the implementation of the country’s most ambitious bridge program: the $1-billion bridge projects that will connect Iloilo, Negros, and Cebu.

The DPWH is already conducting pre-feasibility studies to build the bridges. The length of these bridges will approximately range from 2 to 10 kilometers and the DPWH is targeting to finish the project before the end of the Duterte administration, he explained.

Another project in the pipeline is the Davao City bypass project that will shorten travel time from Davao City, Digos, Davao del Sur to Davao del Norte, from a two hour ride to just 45 minutes, Villar said.

For Metro Manila, one of PPP projects that will commence as early as next year is the NLEX-SLEX Connector Road, which will shorten travel time from Alabang to Balintawak. The DPWH wants to complete the project by 2020.

Also during the same press briefing, Transportation and Communications Secretary Arthur Tugade said his department is closely coordinating with the DPWH to address transportation and infrastructure concerns.

He said one of the priorities is the Manila-Clark Railway which will cover approximately 85 kilometers is expected to decongest Metro Manila and shorten travel time from Manila to Clark.

The Clark International Airport will also be improved, particularly the airport’s terminal, airport operation, as well as structures and equipment, Tugade said.

A 60-kilometer railway connecting Clark and Subic will also be built to improve logistics, the transport chief said. PND

Duterte meets Misuari in Malacañan
President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, November 3, welcomed Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari in a historic meeting in Malacañan.

Duterte and Misuari held a closed-door meeting in the Palace. They later faced the media and announced that he has ordered the lifting of the pending warrant of arrest against Misuari, in line with his administration’s pursuit of lasting peace with Muslims in Mindanao.

In his message, Duterte thanked the MNLF leader’s acceptance for his invitation to talk peace.

Duterte said that Presidential Peace Adviser, Secretary Jesus Dureza, did the legwork for the MNLF chief to personally meet with him in the Palace.

“There is the pending warrant which is lifted now upon my orders so that we can talk and I would like to assure Nur, brother Nur, that there was never any intention to deprive you of your liberty,” Duterte said.

The President assured Misuari that he will try to come up with the modality that will place Moros in their proper homeland, in Mindanao, and that they will talk about the Bangsamoro Authority.

Duterte also reiterated that he wants Congress to craft a territorial structure for federal government.

“I assure you that upon its completion, if it could be done earlier, three, two years, you have my word, I will resign as President and pave a way for a territorial government which would provide a strong president but equally strong national parliamentary, subject to the rules of federalism which will give greater leeway, elbow room for governance for our people,” he said.

Duterte meanwhile called on the Moros in Mindanao to work together and to “create a country that is just and that is good and that would be for the next generations to come.”

As a sign of good will, the President asked Misuari to deliver his message by taking the podium that is exclusively used by the President of the Republic of the Philippines.

For his part, Misuari expressed gratitude to the President for giving him his freedom.

“Now, I am so happy to be free again, owing to the initiative of our President,” Misuari said, as he expressed his support to Duterte for his efforts to bring peace to Mindanao.

“Allow me to reiterate my sense of gratitude to the President and I promise that should he need our cooperation in his campaign for peace, you can count on us, Mr. President,” he said. PND