Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with National Security Adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon Jr.
Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building, Malacañang
04 May 2017



We are pleased to have today the National Security Adviser, Retired General Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr.

Prior to his appointment, he was the Chief of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) from 2009 to 2010. He was also the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process in 2008 and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines from 2006 to 2008.

He has received several awards and recognition locally and internationally. And some of these are the Order of Lakandula Grand Cross (Bayani) from the President of the Philippines in 2010.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, let us give a warm welcome to General Hermogenes “Jun” Esperon.

SEC. ESPERON: Thank you very much, Secretary Ernie. And ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, good noon.

At last, nakakuha rin ako ng time sa inyo. 

[laughs] Ang tagal-tagal ko ng inaasahan na makaharap din kayo.

Well, so. Shall we go to the questions and answers? Not yet?

Okay, let me just give some — a brief agency introduction to you of the National Security Council.

I work on the basis of the national security which we define as the state or the condition where the welfare, the well-being and the ways of life, as well as the government and its institutions, the territorial integrity, the sovereignty and core values are enhanced or protected.

In pursuing national security, we have recently come up — the President has approved the National Security Policy which I will be — I’m honored to be distributing for the first time to the Malacañang Press Corps. 

In the pursuit of national security, we of course take into consideration the internal as well as the external threats to national security.

In coming up with the National Security Policy handbook, as a matter of policy, the President has stated that he will — he will address and end all armed conflicts and lawlessness and pursue national security on the basis of three realities.

One reality is that economic prosperity is undeniably dependent on national security. Second is that, in the formulation of a single ASEAN Economic Community, there will be risks and opportunities. So that we must be prepared to equip our people to — with the necessary tools and skills to adopt to the challenges of regional integration. 

The third reality is that national security must be viewed within in the context of a global community. Thus, when we pursue national security we will be in a platform of an independent foreign policy. While it will be independent… And we will pursue that policy without sacrificing our unique culture and our values.

It is the President’s hope that with this policy on hand and with its implementing strategies and plans, we will be able to provide our people with a way of life that they are accustomed to. 

That is probably the most important. Having already our territory and our sovereignty, what we want to give our people is a way of life and their welfare and well-being protected.

So, where is… I would like to say that national security is a whole nation approach. We are employing the whole nation. 

And as the National Security Adviser, I am also the Director General of the National Security Council. 

I work within the Council and I can go direct to the President with my proposals and advises. So that the workings that we have manifested are in the — first, the convening of the National Security Council last July 26. The first after so many years. 

I would suppose that the national security grouping in the previous administration would have met as a smaller groups or as — with specific members. But this time, we came up with the National Security Council as a whole meeting together with the former presidents, from President Ramos, President Estrada, President Arroyo — Macapagal-Arroyo, and of course President Aquino. Kumpleto sila. 

That just tells you that the President give so much importance to the inputs of these elders, of the former presidents, if only to address national security on a better perspective and platforms. 

Aside from the National Security Council, we have been meeting as what we would call the Executive Committee of the NSC. 

If there are 56 members in the National Security Council, we are only 11 in the ExeCom. This means Defense, SoJ and the related core group. We call in Cabinet members or resource persons as the President would require.

We have met twice already, December and March, December 2016 and March 2017.

Aside from this, we have the monthly cluster of the security, justice, and peace meeting every month to discuss urgent matters for urgent proposals to the President as the need arises.

So that’s where I primarily work or go around with. But of course, I am the… I am the Chairman of the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea. And we meet every Tuesday at the other side of the river and discuss what are happening in this area, itong map na ‘to, every Tuesday.

Then I attend meetings of the Anti-Terrorism Council, which I, where I am the Vice-Chair. It is chaired by the Executive Secretary. We meet every month.

Every now and then, I attend the National Intelligence Committee which is headed by the NICA Director General. But at the department level, I meet the representatives from all departments for what we call — in what we call the National Intelligence Board. 

We just met the other day to discuss matters that affect their departments or things that they should be looking into insofar as national security is concerned.

I also work within several clusters in the Cabinet, make inputs so that you would probably wonder why I would… I was the one who presented the proposal for the free port zone in Tawi-Tawi. 

That’s one way of looking at security, putting in developments in an area so that development would come in and of course be the antidote to the kidnappings that we have there. But of course, that’s just part of the solution. 

My recent activities would be consultations with the academe. So we had Professor Jay Batongbacal, Professor Heydarian, Professor (Vadera?)  and others from the academe plus Department of Foreign Affairs and concerned agencies, Department of National Defense, Department of Trade in preparation for the ASEAN meeting and for the trips of the President to China and Moscow muna, Moscow muna, Russia, Moscow muna.

So that’s where we are. And from time to time I would… I’m actually the advocate for the use of more satellites in the Cabinet. Meaning if we have Globe and Smart into land-based — with their land-based backbone or Wi-Fi and Internet, I am advocating the use of satellites.

And we will soon be coming up with the one which will be an imagery satellite to look into such things as oceans and seas.

Our country is such a big — has such a big area with a large maritime area to the right and to the left and to the — to the south as well as to the north. So, we would wonder why we don’t have satellite, imagery satellites. 

But of course my main advocacy is the use of satellites for communications. The penetration of the two leading Telcos, is not — is so much on in the urban areas but what do we have in the rural areas?

So that’s where we are. In our job, we would constantly look at the threats of terrorism, illegal drugs, criminality, lawlessness, of course, anti-graft and corruption, including illegal gambling. If that is a lead, then it’s not a lead. 

With that, I’m ready to take on the questions. 20 questions only please.


Reymund Tinaza (Bombo Radyo): Sir, good noon. Sir, appetizer lang before ‘yung sa gambling. Sir, as we speak, what group or which terror group do we consider as the biggest threat on the national security internally and also externally?

SEC. ESPERON: I do not want to be saying this is number one, number two. If you look at the way of life of the Filipino, meaning democratic way of life, you wouldn’t want another way of life to be coming in in terms of your freedom of movement, freedom of speech and basic freedoms. 

I’m not saying that communism is bad. But it’s something that would not really be the way of life that is good — the way that the Filipinos would want.

So if the basis is way of life, then I would say the Communist Party, the NPA, and the NDF would be the number one threat. 

If you look at other dimensions like freedom of movement and fear, unwarranted fear, mass destruction, extremism, then we would be looking at terrorists.

And therefore, I would rank the terrorist as very high, especially so that there are now reports that ISIS members are here already and they have a ready force that would be willing to join them.

And we have seen that, they almost disrupted the ASEAN meetings in the Central Visayas.  Had it not been for good intelligence and immediate action by our security forces.

We would not want people to be believing that the Philippines is the center for kidnappings and beheadings. That’s bad for our image.

So based on that, I would rank terrorism as high among the threats. 

Of course, illegal drugs, if you want to protect your family — because the family is the basic society, unit of society, then you might want to consider drugs as the top and because the effects of illegal drugs is so penetrating into the fiber of the family.

And so it was taken as… Now we have the war on illegal drugs. And we have to sacrifice a lot of operational conveniences if only to push the issue that we cannot afford an approximate number of 4 million drug addicts in our midst. Four million. That’s almost four percent. So that if we are 100 now here, then there must be four among us. There would be hindi there must, ‘di ba? Would you like that situation? Of course not. 

Criminality and lawlessness, we know that was the promise — campaign promise of the President. So lahat ng criminal activities, we will go for — we will go against it because for one, illegal gambling is contributory also to illegal drugs. 

So would you be surprised if I would be an anti-illegal gambling man? As a member of Cabinet and National Security Adviser.

Then of course, anti-graft and corruption. Graft should be the vestiges of well, for one, oligarchs, non-payment of taxes, et cetera. 

You have seen a Cabinet member who was removed from Cabinet. That’s how we regard anti — the graft and corruption problem as being high in the threats. So those are only internal.

Now, if you go to external, then we have transnational crimes… The relations or the handling of the issues in the South China Sea as a… For some people, relations with China looks like it pushed — would start and end with the South China Sea. Of course not. So it’s management. It’s management.

We got nothing if for the last so many years for just concentrating on South China Sea. There are other ways of engaging the neighbors. 

Mr. Tinaza: Sir, so taking off from your statement on gambling. Sir, so so far ano po ‘yung reaction niyo sa paratang ninyo recently ni —

SEC. ESPERON: Napaka-aga namang ano…

Mr. Tinaza: Hindi, para maaga ring masimulan.


Mr. Tinaza:  Sir, ‘yung sinasabi niya kasi na ‘yung you and the other members of the PMA Class 1982 are the ones operating and want him out because of your alleged interest in the gambling operations in the region?

SEC. ESPERON: I have finally seen the video of the interview, original interview sa… I think it was somewhere in Newport. The allegation is that I am involved in plotting to kill him.

I was mentioned in several lines, even presuming that I am a member of Class ’82. Meaning, tinatandaan niya ko dahil Class ’74 ako eh ha.  The name of General Sid Lapeña, who is also from Pangasinan was also mentioned. Class ’73 ‘yun eh. 

So probably that allegation came from the — started from the fact that General Jorge Corpuz, the chairman of PCSO, is from Class ’82. Although General Balutan is ’83, pinagsama-sama niya na lahat ‘yan.

So accordingly, he was in a cockpit in Cagayan de Oro daw and some people were about to hit him from Class ’82 but another Class ’82 warned him. Wow. What a… Siguro mahirap mangyari ‘yun na ganon ang relations ng Class ’82. I have so many friends in Class ’82 and I think whatever friendship some of them would have with Atong Ang would not be comparable to what the brotherhood between the classmates of ’82 would be. I would imagine it’s like that.

So pinaparatangan akong kasama ako sa ano, sa slay plot. Eh sa loob-loob ko lang eh ba’t naman ako sasali diyan? Ang dami nang naghahangad na mawala siya ‘di ba? Siguro ako, ang hahangarin ko na lang, mawala ‘yung kanyang illegal activities. ‘Di ba? Illegal gambling.

So in pursuit of the — of my active participation in removing criminality and illegal gambling, I would be proud kung totoo ‘yung sinasabi niyang pumunta ako sa Pangasinan para pigilan ‘yung mga local officials na huwag magbigay ng permit sa kanyang negosyo, ‘yung Meridien Vista Gaming Corporation. 

This is what I have now on Meridien. Sometime 2009, Meridien was able to get a permit to conduct — to put up gaming facilities within Sta. Ana, that’s the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority. 

But his permit contained one phrase that he took advantage of. That he may establish offsite or outside of Cagayan Economic Zone betting off-fronton ba ang tawag natin doon? Off-fronton or betting booths that would — that can collect bets outside of CEZA as allowed by law, as allowed by law. 

Eh hindi na natin tiningnan kung as allowed by law. If I will look at it now, there’s a law 954 that prohibits establishment of off-fronton betting. Kaya nawala na ’yung off-fronton eh. 

Naabutan ko ‘yung jai alai. He established a jai alai gaming facility in Cagayan. Inisip niya ngayon, inimport niya as virtual gaming sa mga probinsya and from there, kumolekta na siya ng — nagpataya na siya.

And what is jai alai? What is jai alai? It’s 1 to 10. You select two numbers, the two players that you want. If you get the combination, you win. Iyon na ang naabutan ko. Naabutan ko ‘yan. Sino ang nakaabot ng jai alai? 

If you… Narinig niyo na lang? You cannot relate to it. But I’m telling it’s 1 to 10. You get two players, if you get the good pair, kung dehado o lamang, ganon ang payoffs, mas malaki, mas mababa. And there is 1, 2 — 1, 2 and 3.  (Llave?) naman yata ang tawag doon. 1, 2, tatlong players.

So they are only 10 players. In other words, the numbers should be only one to 10. Pero ano ngayon nung ni-raid siya sa Cagayan? Anong numbers niya? Anong number niya? Okay, assuming na legal ‘yung kanyang jai alai, ‘yung kanyang outside of Cagayan. Pero ano ‘yung ginagawa niya doon sa shop niya sa Pangasinan or Isabela or other provinces? Ano ‘yung nilalaro niya doon? One to 37 numbers. So what’s that? O di jueteng ‘yon. Tapos three times a day. O so kung legal man ‘yung kanyang Meridien, ‘yung kanyang ginagawa, illegal.

Okay. So now, the President, this presidency comes in. He decided to eliminate illegal gambling by way of bidding out STL franchises in every province whereby — wherein you commit, the franchisee will commit a monthly fixed guaranteed income and pay 25 percent of that as the franchise fee. Sinong nanalo? Halimbawa Pampanga, 90 million a month. Saan ka nakakita 90 million a month? Dati wala namang ibinabayad ‘yan.

Pangasinan, ang nag-bid 225 million a month. Therefore, ang franchise fee niya is 56 million. Before they could start therefore, 56 plus 225 —281 million ang ibibigay mo muna. Guaranteed income, 225. 

Compared to him, na nagpapalaro siya doon ng jai alai or “jai-teng” nga ang tawag niya sa kanya doon eh. Wala naman siyang ibinabayad na tax. So which one would you prefer?

And ito ngayon ang allegation niya, na ako ang may control ng STL sa Pangasinan. Pumupunta daw ako doon. Sabi ko natural, I was born in Asingan, Pangasinan. Eh maski na hindi ako gwapo masyado, marami naman akong kaibigan doon na napupuntahan almost every two months kamo na ‘di ba? And I engaged in coral farming in the Hundred Islands.

So I go there. I go there. In fact, I’ll be going there May 8 para makita ko kung ano na naka-plasta doon sa isang island.

So I’m known all over Pangasinan because I am from Pangasinan.

And it would be in my interest and of the country if through STL, we can collect revenues. Hindi ba? 

Tulad nung ano — tulad nung gambling sa Fontana, kay Jack Lam. Biro mo, one percent ang binabayaran, ‘yung iba 10 percent. So ‘yung mga ganon. Bakit ikaw one percent, ‘yung iba 10 percent? 

So there is revenue from gambling but it must be legalized. Para ‘yung revenue pumasok sa gobyerno, hindi ‘yung parang kay ano, kay Charlie ba siya? Pinalitan niya ng Charlie nung may balakubak ‘yung Charlie nung advertisement nung panahon namin eh.

Vic Somintac (DZEC): Yes, good afternoon, Secretary.


Mr. Somintac: Just a follow up doon sa question ni Reymund. Doon sa kampanya ni Presidente against illegal gambling, naglabas nga po siya ng Executive Order No. 13 to eliminate illegal gambling. Sir, bilang kabilang din po sa mandato niyo as National Security Adviser, hindi ninyo ba ire-rekomenda na napatunayan niyo na ‘yung operation ni Atong Ang na sampahan na siya ng kaso?

SEC. ESPERON: Oh well, we will leave that to Secretary Aguirre because he is the Secretary of Justice. And, in fact, he has issued an order to the NBI to investigate, if any, my participation in plotting the killing of Mr. Ang.

Kung mapatunayan na may kasalanan ako, then… Pero my God, matagal na akong hindi uma-ano, I mean [laughter]… 

I mean, as a lieutenant, napalaban ako sa MN, MI, NPA. Brigade commander ako sa Cotabato, brigade commander ako sa Basilan nung nakidnap ang Dos Palmas ‘di ba? So baka nakapatay ako doon. Pero in the name of the restoring order, hindi naman ‘yung ganito na… Naku eh kung alam niyo lang kung paano ako mag-behave sa bahay.

Mr. Somintac: Sir on another…

SEC. ESPERON: So bakit naman ako biglang mapupunta sa… My golly, Atong Ang? Ang dami nang may gustong lumapit sa kanya eh bakit pa ako ang ano — I mean lalapit?

Mr. Somintac: Sir, isa pa… 

SEC. ESPERON: So if Secretary Aguirre will study it and… Like kahapon, may nakita akong sabi hindi nagbabayad ng tax, so nagbayad sila ng tax.

Doon sa CEZA, kailangan bumalik siya doon, doon siya mag-operate. Executive Order 13 by the way now defines the responsibilities of the different regulating agencies insofar as gambling is concerned. 

PAGCOR, ‘yan ang may — sa nationwide na online gaming, casinos, et cetera. 

CEZA, it can only give licenses for casinos that can operate inside the CEZA. APECO, Aurora Province Economic committee…  But the proponents of that great project have vowed never to issue a license for gambling in Aurora. Freeport Authority of Bataan. Meron din diyan. So doon lang sila.

And whoever is present in that situs, in that area, can bet. Kung nagpa-jai alai si Atong Ang doon sa Cagayan, eh ‘di mag-bet sila doon, jai alai. 

And they can collect bettings not from any citizen of the Philippines located inside the Philippines but from residents outside the Philippines. Iyon ang allowed. 

Para mailagay natin sa lugar lahat. Hindi iyong nasa CEZA ka, bigla kang nag-operate sa mga hotels dito sa Manila and yet hindi na alam kung sinong — kanino ka magbabayad ng tax. Eh ano ang revenues natin?

Mr. Somintac: Sir, one last point on my part. Iyong Senado po, nag-i-initiate na sila to conduct investigation regarding Atong Ang issue. Anong take po ninyo dito?

SEC. ESPERON: Oh well, bahala ang Senado diyan if they think they should invest precious time on that, on such an allegation. 

But if they would want to conduct or look into how gambling operations are conducted, then I would be happy to contribute whatever I could to that hearing. 

But I don’t know. We have a lot of priorities. We could address Mr. Ang in his non-payment of taxes, et cetera. 

EO 13 places everybody in their proper place. And by the way, sinasabi niya na pending ‘yung ano ko eh, ‘yung aking Meridien kasi pumunta ako sa Regional Trial Court sa Tuguegarao, nanalo ako. Inilevate (elevate)…

Kasi ‘yung CEZA binabawi ‘yung ano — ‘yung license niya eh. So ‘yung CEZA inakyat sa Court of Appeals. Na-injunction na naman doon ang CEZA. Inakyat sa Supreme Court and the Supreme Court decided to remand it to the Court of Appeals. And the Supreme Court said, ‘I am setting aside the decisions at the RTC and the Court of Appeals.’ I am not a lawyer but by my — but from what I know, ibig sabihin no’n mali ‘yung akala ni Atong Ang na pwede siyang mangolekta, mag-establish doon sa mga probinsiya.

Ms. Ranada: Yes, sir. Sir, this is about China. Last Monday, the President declared openness to engage in joint military exercises with China, in Mindanao. So, sir, has there been any concrete directive from the President to the military on this openness?

SEC. ESPERON: Oh, there’s no conflict. Conflict?

Ms. Ranada: Yes, sir. Any directives to start the process?

SEC. ESPERON: Ah directives. Ah you know, when the President gives out a pronouncement, we take that as an order from him. ‘Di ba? Siya ang Chief Executive. So we look at that. 

How to implement it? And as we see it, as we see it, we now have to look at the requirements for us to be able to do that.

In joint exercises, you must have a joint — you must have a visiting forces agreement and probably, a treaty, a treaty if there need be and other requirements like delineation of exercise areas. 

Kasi kung sa Sulu, eh internal waters ‘yun eh. Sulu Sea is internal waters. So they cannot just come in. But we will, together with the Department of National Defense and other agencies in the security cluster, we will study that. Because if that is the desire of the President, then we will do it. Kasi meron din ibubunga ‘yan na maganda eh. Alam niyo kung bakit? Iyong area na sinasabi natin, diyan ang kidnappings eh. Diyan and kidnappings. Diyan ang daanan ng ISIS na pupunta rito.

Eh kung meron tayong military presence doon, eh ‘di mas maganda. Just like last Saturday. I think last Saturday, we were in Davao ano. We inaugurated the Bitung, that’s Manado and Gensan, north and south ‘yan. Iyong Ro-Ro natin.

Kung meron tayong mga enough patrols diyan, then you will be assured that that Ro-Ro trip will be secured and will bring prosperity to the area.

So sabi nga doon sa National Security Policy natin, we are conscious of the reality that we cannot develop with — our development will be dependent on National Security or law and order. Hindi ba?

Halimbawa, kasabay nung ano, kasabay nung Ro-Ro line ng Bitung-Gensan-Davao ay magkakaroon din tayo ng linya dito sa Tawi-Tawi, Sabah, Labuan na barter trade. 

So kung matahimik ‘yung area na ‘yun, you can just imagine the commerce and trade that will be generated in that area. 

Makikita natin na ‘yung Mindanao pala should not really be considered as a backdoor, as the backdoor of this country. It should be looked at as the gateway to ASEAN, to the BIMP, and to the Muslim world. Hindi ba?

Pagbukas mo doon, ka-Musliman na ‘yan eh. Ako, nagpapasyal na ako sa Kalimantan, I mean Borneo. And ano bang diperensya ‘nong makipag-interact ka sa ano, sa neighbors mo? Very friendly sila diyan and there’s a lot of commerce that can be generated, even beyond.

Anong tanong mo?

Ms. Ranada: Sir, just a follow-up on your response. Sir, so you mentioned VFA po and a treaty. So, sir, is this going to be a topic of your next NSC meeting and how soon can we expect an actual VFA draft or document between the two countries?

SEC. ESPERON: Alam mo kasi ‘pag sinabi ng Presidente, we find a way to — we examine it and then give recommendations at once.

We’ll be having a Cabinet meeting on May 8 so we will have many more clarifications on that. So if indeed there will be joint exercises, then what’s wrong with being in joint patrols with…?

But for now, we don’t have joint patrols with any nation. Wala tayo eh. Ang ginagawa natin ngayon na joint patrols na nakalatag ngayon na ginagawa natin is ‘yung trilateral agreement natin Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines to cover the Sulu Sea, primarily Tawi-Tawi kasi doon tayo nagkakaroon ng kidnappings.

Iyon ang ating joint na nangyayari ngayon. And, we are likely to allow crossing of borders, coordinated crossing of borders. Madali lang. Asyano tayo eh. They are affected with that problem, we are affected that problem. 

Pero on bigger things like joint patrols, eh siguro matagal pa nang kaunti ‘yan kasi ibabagay din natin ‘yung i-jo-joint patrol natin eh. 

Ms. Ranada: Sir, what are some of the clarifications you will seek from the President when you study the possibility of crafting a VFA with China? What are the possible clarificatory questions you want to pose to the President?

SEC. ESPERON: Oh, well. How… For example, the degree or the extent to which we will have a patrol sa… 

Kasi merong… Alam mo kasi, diyan sa mga lugar na ‘yan, when you go — ang talagang nakaka-ano diyan is kung territorial waters mo, talagang sa’yo ‘yon.

Pero kung beyond your baselines, ‘yung hindi internal waters, they can just go there and consider that as for freedom of navigation or high seas, pwede sila diyan, may freedom of navigation.

Pero ‘pag pumasok sa internal waters mo, halimbawa itong loob ng ano… Wala ‘yung mapa diyan ano?

Halimbawa, ‘yung dito sa likod ng Palawan, internal waters ‘yan eh, o kaya doon sa Sulu Sea. Tubbataha nandito. ‘Di ba? Iyong Tubbataha, internal waters ‘yon. Alangan naman pasok sila nang pasok diyan. Hindi pwede, without the corresponding agreements. 

Ms. Ranada: Sir, last question from me. Sir, the President also declared that the repairs on Pag-asa Island will push through despite po ‘yung declaration ng Chinese Embassy that the activities there are illegal. So, sir, so far, can you confirm that the directive to the military on improvements on Pag-asa Island have not changed?

SEC. ESPERON: It stays, as decided upon in the National Security Council and in the Cabinet. 

Tutal, we have the Kalayaan Island Group or the Kalayaan, Municipality of Kalayaan. Born 1978 ba ‘yun?

May municipality tayo diyan. So we are just… The center of that municipality is Pag-asa. [Meron ba? Hindi umiilaw ‘tong pen ko, pointer ko ah.]

Pag-asa. Ito ‘yung Pag-asa. We have an airstrip here 1.3 kilometers, 1.3 kilometers ‘yung airstrip natin dito sa Pag-asa. Ito. Na na-e-erode na ‘yung dulo. 

So ire-repair natin ‘yun para makalapag ‘yung C-130 natin. Fourteen nautical miles would be, would be Mabini. Ito. Fiery Cross, Fiery Cross ito, Fiery Cross ito, Fiery Cross. Fiery Cross, nandito ‘yung isang airstrip ng China. Three kilometers.

So malapit lang ‘yan ‘no. Pag-asa. Pag-asa, at saka ito ‘yung Fiery Cross. Fiery Cross, then we have here Mischief Reef, ito ‘yung isang airport, Mischief Reef. One, two, and Zamora, Subi, ito.

So napalibutan actually ‘yung ano natin, ‘yung Pag-asa natin ng airstrip ng China. But remember, that if we have nine islands or locations, detachments, China has seven, all reclaimed, artificial. And Vietnam has 27. 

Taiwan has the biggest island before ‘yung ito — Itu Aba, Ligao. Taiwan, nandito ‘yung pinaka-malaki. ‘Yan ang pinaka-malaki dati. It was something like 50.

Pero ‘yung Subi ngayon is 500, something like 539. Alam ba niyo kung gano kalaki ang Bonifacio Global? It’s about 530. Ganon ‘yun. 

And you still have Malaysia dito, one, two, three, four, five. O, so ito ‘yung kanilang Mischief. And it’s really a Mischief na ang lapit-lapit sa atin, sa Palawan, 104 nautical miles. There is Scarborough, of course.

So ‘yan ang… But huwag kayong masyadong titingin diyan kasi hindi lang diyan nagsisimula at nagtatapos ang relasyon natin sa China. ‘Di ba? 

Sinong sumama sa inyo sa Beijing? O ‘di ba, Pia? 24 billion lang naman eh, ‘di ba? 24… So are you… 

Sabi nila, hindi nag-heads ang Presidente, wala tayong nakuha sa ating panalo na tribunal. Anong walang nakuha? We gained the friendship, warming of relations, and some economic development. Biro mo ‘yon, magkaroon ka ng riles from Manila to Bicol. Gagawin. Magkaroon. 

Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Sir, good afternoon. China’s position is that our occupation of Pag-asa Island is illegal. Based on your assessment, since we’re going to continue with the development, do you… How do you see China responding? Do you see them trying to block Philippine ships and aircraft from going to the area? And how are we going to handle their — ?

SEC. ESPERON: They may. They may block us there but my own assessment is they might not. Hindi naman natin sila bina-blockan (block) sa Fiery Cross, sa Subi, Mischief Reef, 500 hectares bawat isa noon. 

Tapos sasabihin, ‘Hoy, ba’t ka nagre-reclaim diyan? Delikado ‘yan. Delikado ‘yan.?’ Samantalang nakalagay ka na doon sa kabila eh mahiya ka naman.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, but when Secretary Lorenzana flew to the island, they challenged his —

SEC. ESPERON: That’s normal when you approach an area. Because remember, I said, it’s only 14 nautical miles.

So pag-pattern mo, pag-pattern mo ng eroplano, icha-challenge ka talaga. ‘Mr. Airplane, you are encroaching on our territory. You should go away.’ Things like those. ‘Identify and go away.’ ‘This is Philippine Air Force plane. We will be inspecting our territory. We are inside our territory.’ Ganon lang.

Bawat challenge na hindi maganda, doon sa National Task Force on West Philippine Sea, we lodge, we cause the lodging of note verbale. May mga note verbale, doon nagsisimula.

Iyong mga pagputok sa fishermen, naka-record ‘yun, dalin sa DFA, so note verbale. Ganon. 

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, since na-mention niyo ‘yung fishermen. China denied that they harassed Filipino fishermen sa Union Bank.

SEC. ESPERON: Well, ‘di may report din sa amin. Nakuha namin ‘yung Coast Guard, ‘yung CO ng barko, nagpaputok daw eh. 

Ms. Salaverria: So, what are we going to do next?

SEC. ESPERON: Oh, we will… That is on record that we protested that. If it’s — their response is they did not then let that be on record.

But imagine Pag-asa Island ano. I mean our airstrip there. Pag-asa na ganyan. But you imagine a number eight figure. Dito sa… Shoal actually ‘yan malaki na nagkaroon ng isla, ‘yun ‘yung Pag-asa.

Dito sa kabila, traditional fishing ground ng China, Vietnam, at saka ano ‘yan Philippines. Diyan sa KIG na ‘yan, Kalayaan Island Group, halu-halo ang fishermen diyan.

Kaya they better be careful because those are traditional fishing grounds. And that is exactly our argument sa Scarborough. That is our traditional fishing ground.

So ngayon, nakaka-fishing tayo doon because it’s our traditional fishing ground and it is within our EEZ, 200 mile EEZ.

By the way ‘yung barkong nag-aground doon sa Bajo de Masinloc sa Panatag, tinanggal na ng China. 

Rocky Ignacio (PTV 4): Panatag Shoal, sir? 

SEC. ESPERON: Kanila ‘yun. Fishing boat. Tinanggal kasi sabi namin baka maglagay kayo diyan ng structure. 

Q: Kailan ‘yon? 

SEC. ESPERON: Over one weekend, the previous weekend. Tahimik na lang kami. Hindi na lang natin pinag-anuhan ‘yan, kasi sila naman ang nag-boluntaryong tatanggalin eh.  

Joseph Morong (GMA 7): Sir, regarding ‘yung sa incident sa Union Reef, Union Bank, as far as we know, that is true ‘no. So China is lying? 

SEC. ESPERON: Well, that’s our position now. Alam mo ang Union Bank, parang ano ‘yan, mga bato ba — ay bato bara — sand… Parang sand bar na bilog, ay hindi naman bi — oblong, oblong. Ganyan ano. Maraming island diyan. Itong gitnang iyon, ito ‘yun eh.  

[Meron ka bang litrato ng Union Bank? I think it’s in my handout eh.] Parang naka-ganon. Tapos ‘yung Pag-asa mo nan — ay ‘yung mga isla ng, ‘yung ino-ocuppy ng Vietnam at saka China nandoon. Meron din tayong Philippines. Correct, they have… They can say… Because one of their reclaimed islands is a high-tide elevation feature, therefore it acquired a 12 nautical mile entitlement. ‘Di ba? Ganon ang ruling ng ano eh territorial — ng Tribunal. 

Within the 12 mile limit ‘yung ano, ‘yung mga fishermen. But we claim that that is also our traditional fishing ground. Eh ‘yun ang gusto nating ilagay diyan na kung traditional fishing ground, huwag na natin pagbawalan kasi what is the South China Sea for? Dapat humankind… Mankind should benefit from that.

Kaya ‘yung mga away-away sa research, eh kung magre-research diyan at coordinated naman, bakit hindi natin payagan kasi tayo rin ang makikinabang diyan?

And in fact, we also have our research ships in the area right now. ‘Yan Gregorio Velasquez, nasa lugar ‘yan, nasa Pag-asa ‘yan, umiikot diyan sa Kalayaan Island Group. April 1 to 25, nandiyan sila, kasama ‘yung presbitero ng DENR. Umiikot sila diyan, meron silang research na ginagawa diyan — fisheries and other things.

So ang mankind makikinabang diyan. ‘Yung naalala ko tuloy ‘yung survey doon sa ano, sa Benham, eh if properly coordinated, makikinabang din tayo doon sa… That’s why they agreed, di ba?

But they have claimed that nasa labas pa lang sila ng Benham sa 200, so okay, let it be. But let it be on record also that all researches must have the imprimatur of the coastal state, meaning tayo sa Pilipinas. But dito ngayon sa Kalayaan Island Group eh may conflict nga diyan because of the nine-dash line. 

Sabi ng Tribunal, wala ‘yung nine-dash line mo. Sabi ng China, nandiyan. ‘Di niyo lang nakikita pero alam namin ‘yan. Parang ganon ba. 

Because the Tribunal ruling cannot be enforced with China because it did not want to be covered by the Tribunal by the PCA, the Permanent Court of Arbitration.  

Mr. Morong: Sir, four days after US President Donald Trump called the President, we had the Chinese President calling on the President.

SEC. ESPERON: Wonderful.

Mr. Morong: Anong basa niyo diyan, sir, in the context of the invitation to go to the White House?

SEC. ESPERON: There are bigger things than quarreling meaning the Philippines, the United States needs the friendship of the — of our strong President. China and Xi Jinping… President Duterte and Xi Jinping have their own interactions. Trade, commerce…

By the way, when we went to China last October, we established what we would call the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism on the South China Sea. So magmi-meet na naman kami nitong Mayo. Magmi-meet na kami nitong Mayo.

Ibig sabihin, that’s our way now into getting into talks with them. Hindi ‘yung pormahan tayo na akala mo magi-gyera tayo. Meron tayong mechanism na.

So aside from that, meron tayong Coast Guard to Coast Guard talks. Because if we engage the Coast Guards here, Coast Guard to Coast Guard, hindi na military to military. 

Iyong military, they can always sail doon sa high seas at saka may freedom of navigation naman diyan eh. So kung nandiyan lahat ‘yan eh ‘di ‘yung pinangangambahan natin na 5 trillion trade, ‘yung goods diyan, eh ‘di makakadaan. Mahirap pa nga parang napunta sa atin ‘yung responsibilidad na kailangan makadaan ‘yung 5 trillion. 

Alangan ang Pilipinas ang… Samantalang goods ‘yun ng ano Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, Middle East, New Zealand, Australia. So bakit sa atin mapupunta ‘yung responsibility to fight China here in the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea? Parang hindi yata ganon ah. There should be… There should be common grounds for establishing peace in the area, in the region. Na ganyan lang, okay, nandiyan ‘yung reclamations, but if we could push for better understanding and free flow of commerce, then okay tayo sa South China Sea and the whole region. 

Ang problema ngayon, nandoon sa malapit sa Pyongyang. O ‘di ba, nasa Pyongyang.  

Mr. Morong: Sir, isang tanong na lang. Only if you are — if you can ‘no. I think the next DENR Secretary may be very familiar to you?  

SEC. ESPERON: I’d like to pretend that I do not know anything. I mean, I mean, I mean wala namang… Let’s just wait. Mayroon ng decision sa ano na… 

Because the vetting of secretaries has to go through a process so mahirap. Kung mayroon kayong nabalitaan na pangalan, eh di keep it to yourself or thank you for asking. 

Hindi naman ako makasagot dahil — there are, of course, some worthy aspirants or worthy nominees so pabayaan na lang natin. In a matter of… Within June siguro mayroon na ‘yan. Ha? 

Q: Next week, sir…

SEC. ESPERON: Oh, okay. So pwede bang hintayin na lang? Limang tulog na lang ‘yan eh.  

Henry Uri (DZRH): Secretary, on another issues lang ho. As you are probably aware, may mga grupo sa social media from military, retired generals, may mga pulitiko rin na nagsusulong na ideklara ng Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte ang isang revolutionary government para mas mabilis na ma-implementa ‘yung mga kailangang pagbabagong gawin sa bansa. What is your take on that?

SEC. ESPERON: Oh well, ang revolutionary government can cut short some processes. But is it what we want? Meaning, dispensing with some democratic processes. Kung kaya pa naman natin na paganahin ang gobyerno na walang revolutionary government, then ba’t ka maghahanap ng iba pang setup? 

This is our way of life. This is our way of life. Democratic. So dito ako. 

Ako, hindi ko lang sinasabi sa inyo pero I was the counterintelligence chief ng Army nung bata-bata pa ako. I was going after coup plotters. Because I sincerely believe na ang military rule or emergency powers ay mukhang hindi tugma sa upbringing natin.  But certainly, the military can always come in with a lot of positive contributions.

So doon natin daanin. ‘Yung mga retired generals na nagmumungkahi ng revolutionary government, siguro may… Medyo naiinip sila sa bagal ng, halimbawa, gusto na nila mag-federal system pero nababagalan, but let it be. Mahihinog din iyan, huwag mong kalburuhin masyado. 

Mr. Uri: So there’s no need, there’s no necessity as —

SEC. ESPERON: As far as I’m concerned, we can do what we want in Mindanao. We are on top of the situation. 

Illegal gambling, we are on top of the situation; terrorism, we are very much, marami na silang, nabubukulan natin sila at nasasagasaan nang mabuti. 

The Armed Forces had been very successful in the operations and they are really rearing to finish this fight by June. So kailangan mo pa ba ang revolutionary government? 

Mr. Uri: So general…

SEC. ESPERON: What? Revolutionary government so that you could control traffic? Pagbibigyan naman siguro tayo ng emergency powers by Congress ‘di ba.

Mr. Uri: So general, everything is under control? 

SEC. ESPERON: As far as I’m concerned.  

Dexter Ganibe (DZMM): Sir, ito lang. Bagamat nagsalita na ang pulis and military na hindi ISIS ang may kagagawan nung blast sa Quiapo, any official statement from — ?

SEC. ESPERON: Well, that’s also the report that I got. Iyong… Long time go eh naging officer na ako dito sa Presidential Security — not as Presidential Security Group commander or deputy sa kay PSG, kay President Ramos noon. Tinyente pa lang ako, nag… Meron na akong, may stint na ako dito na one year noon eh, ‘77. 

Mayroon akong na-maintain na asset diyan eh. And from what I got, away lang talaga ng ano, ng grupo-grupo diyan.  

Mr. Ganibe: Sir, statement na lang doon sa pagkaka-aresto ng dalawang Abu Sayyaf sa Bohol kanina lang. 

SEC. ESPERON: Kanina lang?

Mr. Ganibe: Today po. Opo.

SEC. ESPERON: O di mabuti. Mabuting balita. 

Q: [off mic]

SEC. ESPERON: Teka muna, hindi ko pa, wala pa sa, hindi ko pa natingnan ‘yung aking Viber. 

Ay tapos na ba? Akala ko tatlong oras? 

Thank you so much. I have my officers to whom you could direct questions ‘pag hindi ako makasagot. Pero as much as possible, hindi naman ako tumatanggi, ‘di ba Ms. Nichols? AC. Oo. 

Q: [off mic]

SEC. ESPERON: Hindi. Siya lang ang nag-text sa akin about that eh ‘di sinagot ko. Eh pero after that Atong Ang, marami ng tanong eh… Ni-research ko nang mabuti. Talaga namang wala siya sa lugar. Wala siya sa lugar.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Thank you, Sec. Jun. Charming ‘no? 

Anyway, the Duterte effect continues to translate into infrastructure developments.

LRT 1 Cavite Extension Project starts today:

Build, Build, Build is the Duterte administration’s battle cry. The construction of LRT-1 Cavite Extension Project, which will connect the railways from Baclaran to Cavite, has begun today as Department of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade initiates its groundbreaking ceremony.

This extension project is expected to be completed in October 2021 which will accommodate an estimate of — estimated 410,000 passengers a day.

Also, the new Puerto Princesa International Airport terminal opens:

The DOTr on May 3, 2017, has officially opened the newly-constructed Puerto Princesa International Airport, which amounted to P4.5 billion.

It has about 1,500 seats, 200 parking slots and a 2,600-meter runway which can accommodate bigger aircrafts. It also has a state-of-the-art air navigation system, which is up to international standards, hence improving the airport’s safety operations.

Third also, we have the P157.4-billion infra projects to roll out in the poorest Philippine regions:

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) has announced that under the Three-year Rolling Infrastructure Plan (TRIP) 2018-2020, the five regions with the highest poverty rates which consist of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and regions Caraga, Eastern Visayas, Soccsksargen, and Northern Mindanao will have a total of 1,313 region-specific infrastructure projects amounting to P157.4 billion.

We are open to a few questions. 

Ms. Salaverria: Good afternoon, sir. Sir, I just like to follow up the phone call between President Duterte and President Xi Jinping. What exactly did the President say to the Chinese President about North Korea? Did he ask President Xi to rein in the North Korea? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The… We just… I have… I can read to you a summary of the statement.

It was a cordial telephone conversation. They exchanged views about regional development and they also — the President also shared the Philippine position on several issues, including the developments in the Korean Peninsula. And he referred also to China’s important role in promoting peace on the Peninsula itself.

So that, basically those in general terms addresses your question whether or not the President raised and what did he actually say. We cannot say exactly what he said but those are the general perimeters.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, you said the President mentioned the Philippine position. And the Philippine position is?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, basically I think he stated it already. He does not want… What we want is to engage — is to maintain the peace and stability in the area. 

So whatever he said was towards this encouraging a — approach him diplomatically that as much as possible if the — if China, PROC would actually broker peace in the region. 

Ms. Salaverria: Since the theme was peace and stability in the region, did the President also mention anything about militarization in the South China Sea by any chance?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The readouts did not mention that.

Ted Tuvera (Daily Tribune): Sir, follow up lang po sa North Korean question kasi may statement po ‘yung Bagong Alyansang Makabayan na after ‘yung phone call ni President Trump kay President Duterte wherein they talked about the North Korea. Ang statement ng Bayan ay parang the United States is dragging the Philippines into its issue with North Korea. What’s your reaction to this, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, I don’t know if the word drag should be used. But with response to… I mean, basing it on the President’s statement or description of his conversation with President Trump, apparently there is a whole diplomatic cooperation regarding the matter. 

I mean, it’s not just a single person acting in this particular case, but actually it was a cooperative effort in trying to maintain peace and order in the area.

Mr. Tuvera: Sir, will the Philippines remain neutral in this issue between North Korea and the United States?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The Philippines has declared an independent foreign policy and it will try as much as possible to navigate it in like manner.

Mr. Tuvera: Thank you, sir.

Mr. Morong: Sir, how are you seeing this call by the Chinese President four days after the US President has called on the President? So in terms of his role, what do you think of President Duterte’s maybe profile in the international stage?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Definitely he has shown… I mean, it indicates statesmanship, that he is actually a key player in maintaining peace in the region. 

As the President… As POTUS, President of the United States has said the Philippines is key right now in the region, specifically in his relationship. So definitely it just goes to show that the President is being recognized for his leadership in the area. And I think the locals should also show better appreciation of their own President.

Pia Gutierrez (ABS-CBN): Pero, sir, has China signified its intention, sir, in possibly brokering peace between US and North Korea, sir, during the phone call?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t know if it’s a question of US and North Korea but definitely that, you know, basically it is maintaining peace in the area, making sure that nothing untoward happens in the area.

Ms. Gutierrez: But has China signified — there is an intention to…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, the fact that the President talked with the President Xi Jinping, it seems to indicate along that line.

Maricel Halili (TV-5): Hi, sir, good morning. Sir, just a clarification, was it the initiative of Chinese President Xi Jinping to call President Duterte and what does he want to know? Why did he call the President?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I already stated, right, that well—

Ms. Halili: Was it his initiative?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, from the… Basing on the readouts it was the Presi… Come again?

Ms. Ignacio: Xi Jinping.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Was he the one who initiate it ‘no? China initiated it? Okay. China initiated it. 

But you know, again, again, this is all part of — within the context of the ASEAN thing also. It’s not just a direct response or a direct reaction to the call from another leader. 

But basically it was an assessment. I think it was a friendly call to have a friendly assessment regarding the happenings in the region especially immediately after the ASEAN meetings. 

Ms. Halili: And, sir, during the visit of the President to China I believe next week, will there be a bilateral meeting between the President and the leader of China?


Ms. Ranada: Sir, the Philippines sent a delegation to the UN Periodic Review for the Human Rights Council in Geneva and there were some Palace officials present in that delegation. May we just know what exactly we aim to get from the review? What are we reporting on with regards to the drug war? Because Senator Alan Peter Cayetano earlier mentioned that he would defend the administration against these accusations of EJKs being state-sponsored. So what do we hope to get from the meeting? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Actually the… It’s really a… The meeting is actually part of a cycle. It’s called the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review. 

It’s really a standard meeting. All right? Basically I can just read to you a short statement regarding that so that I don’t miss out on anything. 

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano is going to — together with Executive Secretary Guevarra and PHRC Undersecretary Catura — will lead the Philippine delegation to the third cycle of the Universal Period Review working group of United Nations Human Rights Council on May 8 in Geneva, Switzerland.

It will be a good opportunity to present the human rights situation in the country. It’s basically just a review. This actual review will take place on May 8 and will there be an interactive discussion between the Philippines and the review and other UN member states. 

This takes place during a meeting of the UPR working group. During this discussion, any UN member state can pose questions, comments, and or make recommendations to the Philippines. 

The duration of the review is three hours for each country during the first cycle and two hours and so forth. There will be an adoption of reports on the Philippines, Algeria and Poland.  

Basically these are reviews presented from the Philippines side. And if there is going to be any references to human rights, it will be basically — or undue killings, undue deaths — it will be an aside meeting.  

So basically it will be the Philippines making a presentation of what has happened since the last cycle.

Hannah Sancho (Sonshine Radio): Sir, may OIC na po tayo sa DENR? 


Ms. Halili: Sir, what will happen to… I’m just curious what will happen to the programs of Secretary Gina Lopez after the CA rejected her appointment, particularly doon sa suspension on some mining companies? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We’ll have to leave that to the next person who will lead the department. 

On the other hand, the general direction will still be — to make sure that the ecological system in the Philippines remains balanced and safe and protected.

Mr. Ganibe: Sir, follow-up lang doon sa kay Ms. Gina Lopez. Sinasabi niya na the best na nakikita niyang papalit is the President as DENR secretary and she’s willing to — if bibigyan siya ng post as undersecretary.


Mr. Ganibe: Kung bibigyan siya ng Usec post sa DENR at kapag si Pangulong Duterte ang…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That will really be a very interesting position. But be that as it may, let’s leave it to them, okay.

Mr. Ganibe: Sir, other issue. May statement ba ang Palace doon sa nangyari kay Secretary Taguiwalo bagamat nag-public apology na si Senador Sotto?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s leave it at that. You know, the good senator has made some sort of an apology and so let’s leave it at that.

Mr. Ganibe: Last point, sir. Just a statement doon sa 15.5 billion pesos na budget for ASEAN?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Come again? All right, so the ASEAN-NOC will make a statement regarding that. They will make their own report.

Elijah Rosales (Business Mirror): Sa doon po kay Gina Lopez, sir. Itatanong ko lang, sir, may mga statement mula sa ilang lawmakers na pinabayaan daw ni President Duterte si Gina Lopez sa kamay ng CA not even tried to save Lopez in spite of the statements from President na suportadong suportado niya si Madam Gina?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: What were they expecting the President to — ?

Mr. Rosales: Hindi raw, parang pinabayaan daw sa kamay ng mga allies ni President?  

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: You know, the President… The President is always — maintained the hands of policy regarding these matters so that it does not perceive as intervention. Thank you. 

Mr. Morong: Sir, is a former general going to head the DENR?


Mr. Morong: Is a former general going to head — replace Gina?


Mr. Morong: Okay, sir.