Press Briefing of PCO Secretary Martin Andanar, DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez, Philippine Ambassador J. Eduardo Malaya, and Mindanao Development Authority Chairman Datu Abul Khayr Alonto
Grand Hyatt Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
10 November  2016
SEC. ANADANAR: Magandang umaga po, good morning. Welcome to the beautiful city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and this will be the first day of the President’s bilateral meeting with the Government of Malaysia, of course, together with the delegation of the President.

[skipped the introductions] 

AMB. MALAYA: Thank you very much, Secretary Andanar. We here at the Philippine Embassy and the Filipino community are truly excited to have the President visit Malaysia. We know that he could have visited another place so we fell special that he is coming over here. To us this is not just an opportunity to discuss political collaboration, address transnational crimes issues but also to further enhance our economic engagement with Malaysia.

As we have mentioned earlier to the Malaysian companies, they seem to be missing out the Philippines and the fact of the matter is our country is growing at a faster clip [unclear], our economy we have consumer market a  hundred million compared to their only 30 million so we told them, they should just be looking next door to the Philippines as their next preferred investment and trade destination and we look also at this visit of the President as an excellent opportunity to raise our partnership with Malaysia  to the next level. I think we are just doing it at the right time. Thank you, Secretary. 

SEC. ANDANAR: Thank you, Ambassador. I’ll give the floor now to Sec. Mon Lopez, he will give a briefer also for us, the Philippine media and those who are watching Facebook Live, and our government TV, PTV 4 and the other private network and si Sec. Alonto and then we’ll open the floor for questions. Sec. Mon? 

SEC. LOPEZ: Thanks Sec. Martin. Magandang araw po sa ating mga kababayan. We are pleased to report that this visit of President Duterte in Malaysia is a manifestation that he really looks forward to strengthening ties this part of the world. You know, ASEAN countries like Malaysia, he considers as real, I mean, closer than brothers as he always tells us. And it’s because really of, siguro same historical roots, race, values, respect for others, those kinds of character that we have as ASEAN and aside from the proximity and therefore, strengthening further the relationship we have,on top of what we have in ASEAN. As you know, we are all part of the ASEAN and we have the ASEAN Economic Community already but  despite that bilateral cooperation, there are still a lot of room, there’s a room for improvement further.

And we’re talking really, basically of ties in the areas of building further yung Hahal industry and strengthening yung BIMP, similar to the ones we were doing with Brunei in our last visit in that country as well as agri-business joint undertakings, particularly in the areas of palm oil, natural rubber, there are initial discussions I had with Minister of Trade of Malaysia earlier prior to moving to the meeting, which was our meeting with the Malaysia – Philippines Business Council headed by their President Dr. Azmil– Tan Sri Azmil Khalid and as you know, he’s the President and CEO of one of the largest infrastructure company doing—and they have existing projects already in our country.

We were joined by other members of the MPBC as well as other Malaysian companies, business leaders and we had a round table discussion.

Ang maganda dito, mga nkababayn, nandun yung, nakita natin yung, the support, the commitment that they have in doing more business in the Philippines,

We cited a number, earlier, on the current investment like ypou know, IPA or Investment Promotion Agency-approved investment nasa 63 million dollars and as you know, Malaysia has billions of investments outside to the world so we are only getting a few of that and with this strengthening of ties, we expect more investments, more joint venture, undertakings to take place with our Malaysian partners. 

We mentioned earlier that there were actually indications from the private sector that they are also entering into some MOUs. This is basically a private to private enterprise agreement and they’re talking of an infrastructure project.

Unfortunately, I am not at liberty yet to give the details but I think you have your sources also. 

So we let them give you the details but nevertheless, it shows that these companies are willing to put a stake in the current administration in terms of supporting yung development goals in infrastructure, agri business— In agri business, there’s a potential palm oil project wherein the harvest and the output will go back to Malaysia as exports and for further processing into palm oil areas in Mindanao and Palawan.

Initially they are looking at 80,000 but—80,000 hectares but they are looking at 200-300 hectares down the road. FYI, we have identified close to 1 million hectares as a possible plantation project for palm oil, natural rubber in Mindanao and Palawan.

So, but, the President has also mentioned that we will definitely be promoting this agri business projects. We will just have to prioritize siguro areas wherein we expect better harvest and of course, more secure areas in this part of our country.

So investment potentials are there—agri business, I mentioned infrastructure,  and then, there is energy, there’s technology as well, card system, mga ganung potential projects.

But this visit is really more government to government discussions and of course, trade and economic cooperation will be part ofthat. And therefore, for now, we are not really witnessing mga MOU signing, the project we mentioned are more of private to private enterprise that they are signing on their own, na-timing lang that we are here.

But as I am here now, I am not witnessing the signing they’rev having. And I understand also that those are I think, proposals, unsolicited proposals for now and will be subjected to the usual processes in our infrastructure project, the development process.

So beyond that, there will be talks later on. We expect talks on economic cooperation, trade cooperation, HRD development, we’ll talk of Halal, BIMP.

Halal, just like in Brunei, as mentioned, strong ang Malaysia and so best practices, also to maximize the halal industry which is 2 trillion dollars in the world.

And yung BIMP as mentioned yung proximity  so these are areas for now that we are looking at and there are economic discussions as well. Siguro I’ll end there.

Sec. Alonto: Well, itong ginagawa natin ngayon, ambisyon na ito eh, [unclear] it was laid down before us in terms of improvement programs [inaudible, voice too low].

We are working on the high speed railways system for Mindanao. And we are also coming up what we can have, the power sector could have additional 2,000 megawatt, a mix of coal, powered by gas and diesel and expanding the economic zones, which we turn now as agro-industrial economic zones that we have presented to the President and identifying the people that are involved with the fisheries.

What we are thinking here is to have small farmers being organized into a cooperative and managing that farm as efficient like [inaudible] farms, these are the things we are goin to do. Also in support of the rice program to fund our agriculture.. our rice production and all of these  re geared towards improving the lives, the quality of lives of our people because for the first time, it may be so naïve for us  but I think it’s high time now, as you have felt the enthusiasm of the people of Mindanao and the people of BIMP EAGA areas that we now have a [unclear] in the next six years.

[unclear] to grab this opportunity, I don’t think that we can have it. This is to imply, with our support, first by shifting to a federal system of government, which we believe[unclear] final closure to the Mindanao [unclear] and our search for freedom and justice, that it can be done.

These are the things that we are doing now under this administration and the BIMP-EAGA is  in the forefront of this in support of the Department of Trade and the other Departments that we have, like what  you have seen now the support of Ambassador Malaya. Ito namang sinasabi ni kuwan kailangan i-extend pa ito kung pwede but since.. nakita  po natin kagabi, the enthusiasm of our people and our fellow countrymen who are here.

These are the things that we from the people of Mindanao are so proud of, that we thank the rest of the country

Ito po ang ginagawa ng BIMP EAGA to have by November, this month, the leadership of the BIMP EAGA will be turned over to the Philippines, the chairmanship of the  BIMP EAGA and this is a divine intervention because  next year, early next year, the presidency of the ASEAN will be turned over to the Philippines and it will be chaired by our good President.

It will be a good support in strengthening relationship of the ASEAN and moving forward, it will indicate ASEAN not only as a dream but as a reality, an economic community.

So ito po ang aming ginagawa. Maraming salamat po..

DTI SEC. LOPEZ: So idagdag ko lang din as we met the business sector kanina. The good thing that they heard is we relayed the assurance of our President gto all investors especially those, yung current pati yung mga incoming investments, the kind of assurance that the President is giving the in terms of protection, making sure that they encounter a very good, conducive and business friendly environment, assuring businessmen and investors that there will be no corruption; giving them the assurance na no corruption, no extortion and for the businessmen and investors to let him know if they are encountering difficulties, that kind of guarantee ang binibigay ni President and I relayed it to the business sector, they felt so assured and more bullish.

Sabi nga nila, yung iba kasi existing investors na but hearing those commitment and further assurance coming from the President, that increased their confidence really enhancing their presence, making more expansion in the Philippines, they also realized that as they are growing in Malaysia, they want more growth, the Philippines is the next door neighbor wherein they can realize more growth to capitalize on a very large consumer market and ito, may business friendly assurance pa in terms of environment ang ating Pangulo na siyang nag aassure na ang investments nila are protected, their contracts are honored, we have stable macro economic policy and in fact, strengthening them, further streamlining government procedures. We’ve heard very good testimonials from some investors earlier on how they like doing business in the Philippines, especially now yung commitment pa ng, to further improve on the kind of environment that we have. So yun lang ang feedback for now. 

AMB. MALAYA: If I may, I just would like to stress that the Philippines is very important to Malaysia now on the economic sphere.

It may come as a surprise to our countrymen that the Philippines has invested more in Malaysia than the other way around. Sec. Mon has mentioned the figure of Malaysian investments to the Philippines.

Let me mention that in just one transaction alone, when Petron Corp. bought into the Malaysian oil industry, they invested 610 million US dollars, that’s why they now have over 600 gasoline stations here and operate one oil refinery so in short, we are a bigger investor now in Malaysia than they in the Philippines.

As Philippine Ambassador, l am so proud of that. It used to be the case that investment flow was one way, Malaysian companies investing in the Philippines. That’s why in the 1980s, you had companies like Maybank, Shangri-la, Vijaya going in. But now, Philippine companies are now going to Malaysia so we are now seeing two-way flow of trade from what it was once a one way flow.

Secondly, the Philippine tourism market has become very very important to Malaysia.

The figures for last year of Filipinos coming to Malaysia was 550,000, okay. And that has made the Philippines the 7thmajor source of tourists to Malaysia.

More and more of our countrymen are now discovering Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu. Previously, they were just going to Hong Kong and Bangkok so the Malaysian Tourism Department has invested so much in promoting Malaysian destinations in the Philippines, at the same time, I am also very happy to note that more and more Malaysians are discovering the Philippines.

The figure last year was something like 150,000 Malaysians visiting the Philippines and this is due to the fact that there is now increased air connectivity between our two countries.

There’s Cebu Pacific, of course, plying from Manila to Kuala Lumpur, Air Asia as well but in addition, Air Asia flies not only to Boracay and that route has become so popular for the young kids here, as well as from KL to Cebu and it has become very very attractive, and also there’s now flights operated by Cebu Pacific and Air Asia, Manila-Kota Kinabalu.

So in both fields, investments and tourism, the Philippines figures so well and so high for Malaysia and I think that is something that is we as a country and people should be proud of. Thank you.


Q: Mr. Ambassador, you were talking earlier about increasing investments with Malaysia. So the question is, you have your year-round consular service to Sabah? We know very well the cases of Filipino being thrown into the sea there in Kinabalu because we do not have a consular service there, I think it is also a very important aspect in our relations because whether you like it or not, kawawa rin yung mga countrymen natin na nandun sa Sabah. So how do you deal with this and how are they now? There are how many [unclear] between Malaysia and Sabah and Tawi-Tawi and those things, these are also economic activity, because these people, they do not earn that much. That’s why they venture into Sabah and like that. So how are they now? What’s the update? How many Filipinos do we have in that area? 

AMB. MALAYA: We have approximately half a million Filipinos.

Q: Those are illegal? Undocumented or what? 

AMB. MALAYA: Documented. Because a lot of them have already become, you know, long time residents and citizens in fact, of Malaysia and a priority of the Embassy of course is taking care of them and looking after their consular and humanitarian requirements. That is why every month we deploy a consular mission composed of 7 people staying there 2 weeks at a time and going around Sabah and we do jail visitations, we issue passports, we attend to those who are sick, those who are facing charges so this is a very very high priority for the Philippine Embassy and we often would bring back, send people just to you know, one or two, just to take care of certain individuals.

In addition to that, in recent years we have implemented an alternative learning program for our Filipino children. Okay. And from very significant numbers, we now have six alternative learning centers catering to about 2,500 children, okay. And we started this when I got here about 4 years ago, and we challenged our community members maybe you should not be looking for others for solutions because the children are in the new communities. Do something among yourselves and perhaps we can come in. Outside people, including me, can come in and provide you guidance and support and I’m very happy that through our own initiative in raising funds for this alternative learnoing centers, e hear the community, particularly the Embassy, has raised 

3.6 million pesos.

This is not much but at least it has been able to allow them to operate and next week, Tuesday, I’ll be doing something which would be making me so happy in my entire five years here.

I will be attending first ever graduation of children having finished 4 years of alternative educative at the Stairways to Hope Learning Center, which started only four years ago. So that is something, a poignant moment for me, and I’m making sure I’ll be there for the children.

Q: Where is that?  

AMB. MALAYA: In Kota Kinabalu.

Q: The other question is, when you said 7-man team, do they stay there or you just send them every two weeks? 

AMB. MALAYA: They are a roving team

Q: So it’s a roving 7-man team that takes care of the consular needs— 

AMB. MALAYA: Yes, staying there two weeks at a time every month. It’s a big challenge but it’s a job that needs to be done. 

Q: Why are you so proud na magandang indication na yung mga Filipino businessmen are investing in Malaysia considering na hindi naman mapupunta sa Philippine government yung tax tapos yung job creation, hindi naman yun ang makikinabang?

AMB. MALAYA: I’m saying this in my capacity as ambassador, okay? Because when you are posted abroad, okay, you’d like to see balanced figures, okay, and as a Philippine Ambassador, it is also this matter of pride, national pride. 

You try to see a situation wherein your country is not just a recipient of investments. You’d also like to see a situation wherein your businessmen are also investing in your host country. And I think it is about time in as much as the Philippine economy is growing and our business community is now more robust, okay, and that they should go regional. 

Because there are a lot of opportunities around the region. And I think some of them have gone global as well. That’s why there are now Philippine companies acquiring assets in Spain, and in UK, in Australia and I think that’s good because, you know trade, investments is a win-win proposition. This is a globalized world. I hope I’ve answered you question. 

SEC. ANDANAR: Can I add to that? It is part and parcel of the ASEAN integration. The ASEAN entirety, in the ASEAN. When a businessman expands his business to the local market, obviously in the Philippines, then you are just limited to your Philippine market. When your own Filipino businessman goes out of the Philippines, expands his market in Malaysia or Indonesia, it means he is expanding his market and therefore, he is expanding his business and at the end of the day, the revenues of that company goes back to the Philippines and gives him more revenues to expand further may be in Russia or in America. And that is the essence of having a very vibrant business environment in the ASEAN. And also encouraging our businessmen. Sir Mon? 

SEC. LOPEZ: Actually parang ano na eh…it’s a good indication that our companies are also globalizing. It’s an indication na…tama si Ambassador at saka si Sec na yung mga companies din natin ay global standards. Global level. Nagle-level up and they can also invest outside and thereby their companies as well. 

And at the end of the day their operations there would add to the revenues and income here in the headquarters so my ano din yan that will spell and leading to more investments even here in the Philippines, I mean in the headquarters. So beneficial pa rin yan and its a good indication na globalizing yung mga kompanya natin. 

But you’re right in saying na siyempre to the extent possible we can build the investments required in the Philippines yun ang primary objective natin. Increase our exports, investments into the Philippines but reality yun eh that there are also investments that we have to go out for further expansion and also I guess exportation as well as importation in part of growing the trade. These are what we call complementation. There are things that you’re better off producing so we export and things better off buying because they are better in terms of producing those products.

Q: Sir. Just a point of clarification, sir. There is a Malaysian company that would invest $1 billion in light rail transit that would run from Diliman in Quezon City to Quiapo in Manila.  

SEC. LOPEZ: Yes, that’s what we left alone. Alone yan. That’s the private to private agreement or MOU that’s going to be signed of, that must have been signed in another place right now. That’s the disclosure of those companies also, not from us but obviously that comes into fruition then we would welcome that. From the way we understand it is an unsolicited proposal although it’s aligned with the projects that the DOTr would like to have, the Department of Transport, would like to have. So it will have to go through the process pa. 

Q: What is the Philippine counterpart sir? 

SEC. LOPEZ: No, you get the disclosure from that company. I’m sorry we’re not authorized to give the disclosure. I think you have it there na kasi kung nakuha nyo na yung company dito dapat nakuha nyo na yung company sa Pilipinas.

Q: Malaysian company but not the Philippine company… 

SEC. LOPEZ: It’s just there you can have it later.  

Q: Kailan sila magsisimula o napirmahan na? 

SEC. LOPEZ: Hindi MOU pa lang yun ibig sabihin mag… apparently may study na daw and then so yun proseso nasa Department of Transportation ang magsisimula nun ang Swiss challenge, yung procedure na yun baka may iba pang may interesado sa project na yun, yun sa particular line na yun na sinabi mo. 

Q: Sir, how long have we been trading partners with Malaysia? 

SEC. LOPEZ: Matagal na, historically kasi nga barter…pre-colonial, yeah…BIMP, kaya nga may BIMP, di ba? Kasi wala pang mga nasyon nun…

Q: Bakit ho ngayon lang nagsasabi na its about time, na i-improve, all through these years lugi tayo? 

SEC. LOPEZ: Hindi naman, parang siguro may consciousness to revive the BIMP. Actually this BIMP strategy, yun nga is an effort lang to revive what has been there all along but we are now parang adding more support to it, encouraging more flights, more sea trade, sea transport, movement of people dun sa mga ports na mga magkakalapit sa Mindanao, Brunei, Indonesia at Malaysia. Nandun na yun noon pero parang binibigyan lang ng focus in terms of… o sige let’s improve the ports in theis part of the country. Kasi di ba na kwento natin last time na yun mga areas na magkakalapit are areas outside of the capital or far from the capital, oo, oo so parang back roads, or back sea ports, sea lanes. So kailangan lang ng extra support lang pag ganun. And by proximity, napapalapit pa yung bawat isa at ma-encourage mo yun flow of goods and the people, tourists.

Q: Lugi nga…

Sec Lopez: Di naman natin sinasabing lugi parang ano… siguro missed opportunities basically. Hindi naman lugi. Pag lugi negative. Missed opportunity is zero instead of 100 or 1,000.

Sec Andanar: Doris, it coincides with the peace negotiations with the MILF, MNLF and the government. We know for a fact that the reason why Malaysia, Thailand and the neighboring… the bordering countries are so successful in terms of economy is because they can move goods from one place to the other just using trains and… or by land and in that area BIMP, and the sea lanes there is a… so much opportunity for economic growth. Because for example, Malaysia, Kota Kinabalu just a stone throw away from the Philippines and imagine you have a very peaceful seas lane in that area and you have a very robust roll-on, roll off sea trading and even air and tourist between Malaysia and the Philippines. Imagine the tourists are coming in from Thailand, they cross the border, they cross Malaysia and then from Malaysia for one reason or the other why can’t I go to the Philippines?

And it could only happen if its a peaceful area. There’s no piracy, no kidnappings, etc. And the fact the our president is from Mindanao, he truly appreciates the possibility and the opportunities of the BIMP-EAGA. 

Question: Following up on the transport system for Mindanao. A lot of people are hoping that it would really come true but a lot of people are also pessimistic that it might not happen in this administration. In so far as the Mindanao Development Council or the Mindanao Development Authority is concerned. Do you have a time table sir on the putting up of this railway system?

Sec. Alonto: The commitment of the President is there and we have been the permission to do it. We dont have to wait for the next administration. We will start by this administration….

These people in doubt as to we have it or not because its too expensive. You cannot quantify a project where the beneficiary is the entire country. 

.. we’re just like Denmark, an Arab will never question that halal food that’s coming from Denmark because Denmark have [unclear], I mean they are doing their job as far as halal is concerned. And maybe that can be done and this railway system, we can do it with the President’s policy.

Q: Sir, isang issue na lang yung dun sa Quiapo and the train. Sir paano ba ang proseso doon? Hindi ba siya PPP? Karamihan kasi MRT &, karamihan sa kanila, Build-Operate-Transfer diba? Itong project nila, paano yung sistema? Private lang po ba yung direction?  

Sec. Lopez: Alam ko doon PPP rin eh kaya nga sabi ko nga sayo kaya ko hindi pinepresent yun ngayon dahil we have to review what is being proposed st table today. Kung ano mang format  noon. From what we were told earlier, there are at least two companies looking into building that project, they are starting off with a study and then a proposal that they will give to government. 

Q: So no immediate–? 

Sec. Lopez: Oo, even the timetable nga, sabi ko sayo hindi ko pa nakita kaya hindi ko pa siya pinepresent sa ngayon.

Q: Kailangan ba dumaan sa proseso? 

Sec. Lopez: Oh yes. Syempre. Kasi pag mga unsolicited diba—oo, walang gastos ang gobyerno. Kasi nga sila ang magpopropose and if ever, sila upfront ang magiinest din niyan. But before they do that, syempre yung government would have to look at alternative offers bago nila sabihin na kayo ang gumawa ng project nay an.

Q: So itong pinirmahan today, parang offer lang yan sa – 

Sec. Lopez: Meron silang pinipirmahan. Ang problema lang, sabi ko sayo I haven’t seen that MOU. Better ask that company siguro. Kaya nga I’m not owning that signing but from nameet namin yung two companies earlier. Legitimate companies ito ha. It’s not that I’m ano, I’m doubting the credibility. These are big companies actually in Malaysia and Philippines. It’s just that hindi kami na involve sa  proseso so hindi namin na-vet, hindi namin alam ito—maganda tanungin sila for disclosure purposes.

We are not, we don’t have the authority to give the information but these are reputable companies. In fact, they are doing, those are the companies that have done SLEX efficiently and competitively.

They’ve done major projects already in the past so ano to, ok na mga companies, it’s just that the project itself hindi pa natin nakita. Ako personally, that’s why  I don’t want to  talk about it and I’m not authorized to talk about it.

So better to ask those parties who are signing, who have signed probably by now. So tanungin niyo sila ng diretso.