Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Secretary Ramon Lopez Department of Trade and Industry
Kalayaan Hall, Malacañan Palace
27 June 2017


PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Today, we begin a series of pre-SONA briefings and we’ll be featuring members of the Cabinet that will be giving us snapshots, not necessarily the whole report — snapshots of — to be able to give us a complete picture of what has happened in President Duterte’s first year.

Our resource person for today is DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez, and he will share with us snapshots, portions of the Duterte administration’s first-year accomplishments in the fields of trade, business, finance, and investments, which helped micro, small, and medium enterprises, all in the goal of bringing a comfortable life for all Filipinos.

Prior to his appointment to President Duterte’s Cabinet, Secretary Lopez had been the Go Negosyo’s executive director for the past 11 years, where he led entrepreneurship advocacy promoting the enterprising culture among Filipinos.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, let us welcome DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez.

SEC. LOPEZ: Thank you, Secretary Abella, Rocky. And good morning, everyone.

As mentioned, I’m here just to give you a snapshot of some milestones, accomplishments from the Department of Trade and Industry.

I guess, functionalities, what I am going to do is to just cite you some developments, updates and some numbers ‘no.

When it comes to… You know, the Department of Trade and Industry, the main mandate as given also by the President is to focus on those who have less in life. Those… And in the realm of entrepreneurship, those are the micro and small entrepreneurship. So, our task really is to create trabaho at negosyo ‘no — employment and entrepreneurship.

Trabaho, we promote industries, increase manufacturing services companies, so that they will be able to employ more, provide decent jobs.

And I guess a quick number there is so far, we are experiencing some improvements in the employment numbers. I don’t know if you have reported before that unemployment has gone down to 5.7 percent coming from, I think 6.6 percent in previous periods.

Aside from that, we promote entrepreneurship and we are doing a lot of programs, given the emphasis that we have to really help our microentrepreneurs to become value creator, to become smarter, we wanna build smarter entrepreneurs, develop them so that they will have more value added.

Value added is equated with income, you know. You can be an entrepreneur but you might be earning less because you have less value creation.

So example po niyan, let me just tell you a quick story or description that producing or selling a plain T-shirt with little value added because you are simply trading, you’re buying and you sell, would give — would yield minimal income.

But if you try to put more innovation, design, put more embroidery, add more Yakan or T’nalak accents in your shirt, you’ll be able to sell it at a higher price, maybe at P400 or even higher. And that will yield better income for our microentrepreneurs.

So that’s the main thrust of the Duterte administration, it’s how can we elevate the life of many of those at the bottom of the pyramid and how can we really make prosperity and give prosperity for all.

So, that’s the reason why in many of the activities, we’ve been promoting investments as well.

First on the creating — on job creation. Promoting investments that will create jobs. And we are pleased to note that for this period, from July to December alone, there is a five percent increase in business delegation or the number of companies and organizations coming over.

The number of companies… And the total number of companies and organization would be about 376… Oh, I’m sorry, 273 coming from 261.

Notable delegations came from Canada, China, Japan, and even Russia. They are in the areas of ship building, food processing, banking, manufacturing. For Japanese delegation, it’s usually also in the infrastructure, food processing, and manufacturing.

The latest number from the board of investments, as we are — we continue to promote investments, there’s a 25-percent jump from January to May of 2017 versus same period last year.

In terms of FDI, if I remember the numbers right, there is a 17-percent jump, or 11-percent jump to P1 billion in the first two months of 2017 in terms of Foreign Direct Investments.

So the foreign di… The BOI registered investments are the commitments and those that are about to put in their investments. The FDI are — would be the actual investments being remitted to the country. Okay.

Let me connect that with the recent numbers we’ve gotten based on research — we’ve gotten the number that business confidence continues to remain very high. We are hitting the number of 43 percent coming from what used to be 34 to 39 percent in previous period.

And if you talk of previous years, I understand it’s… They are at about at the teens or single digit levels. So, we’re still hitting very good business confidence index.  

Added to that would be consumer confidence index. At a very high of 9.7 percent, a little close to 10 percent already. And consumer confidence index is a net number. So it used to be a negative number even some years back. So because of… It’s a positive minus negative number. It used to be a net negative. Now, it’s a net positive nine.

So very good indication. Investments up, exports even up. We are hitting 25 — or 18 percent in the first four months.

For one month alone, I think in March, we hit 25 percent. For January to March, I think it’s 18 percent positive exports. Again, that used to be minus, a negative five — negative three to five percent last year.

I have here some accomplishments as well when it comes to the Presidential visit. That’s an often-asked questions — question nowadays. And what we can just say is that, you know, the Presidential visit is a really very — very productive visits.

You see, there are actually… Even beyond the numbers, let me begin with the tremendous goodwill being established by our President with the different leaders, starting off with our ASEAN neighbors.

Being the ASEAN chairman, President Duterte considers himself obliged to really visit each of the ASEAN leaders. And I must tell you, did we see the dynamics between the leaders? When the two leaders — President Duterte meeting with the other leader of each of the ASEAN countries? As we always hear, and that’s very true. They’re more than friends. They became more than like brothers.

And it’s very important to have that kind of strong relationship at the top, because everything else will follow. All the agencies under the respective bureaucracies would be working very well, very smoothly.

We’ve seen that very much true, when it comes to our visit with China, with Russia, and even the meetups that follow. For example, after the Presidential visit, the President would… And the Cabinet would be meeting our counterparts in bilateral meetings whenever we do APEC outside or even ASEAN meetings outside, and a succeeding Presidential visit.

The relationship has really improved and more, not only commitments, but actual signing of purchase orders take place.

A particular example, you’ve heard of so many commitments by our friends from China, led by President Xi Jinping. 

Immediately at that first meeting, you remember that they lifted the suspension of about 23 exporters of mango and bananas. And right after that, the purchase orders were issued.

First, 100-million dollar purchase order last year. And about February this year, it was followed by a 1.7-billion dollar purchase order. So these are not just commitment but actual POs.

And succeeding meetings continue to discuss the execution, the implementation. And this involves several companies that will be implementing this. Private sector will be implementing this. In terms of private sector from their side companies importing from our exporters.

In terms of… For example, I just remember also Japan, a lot of investment, business-to-business deals and these investments have been — are being implemented right now.

They are… We are getting to realize these investment commitments. For example, the — remember the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy, CARS program. It was signed in Japan during the visit of our President. And immediately the assembly and the manufacturing of cars have started especially for the Mitsubishi Mirage G4.

And a few months ago, it was launched here in Malacañang. The first car that rolled out. Toyota is also in — has its work ongoing when it comes to building its facility to produce the Toyota Vios locally.

And that program is definitely a positive factor in terms of creating employment locally and increasing the local content.

It has commitments of bringing up local content or sourcing from local suppliers that will benefit the micro, small, and medium entrepreneurs in the country as they supply — get to supply these companies, Toyota and Mitsubishi.

I need not go to each country but as you know that there are a lot of, I guess, agreements signed. For example, in Brunei the BIMP-EAGA.

By the way, in China and Japan, we’ve gotten after that visit and followed by series of bilateral meetings, we’ve gotten ODAs of 9 billion dollars from China and 9 billion dollars from Japan as well.

RoRo was launched in — with Indonesia — after the ASEAN Summit in April 29. And I think RoRo was April 30.

Food security agreements, trade and industry agreements, tourism, agriculture agreements. We’ve signed the Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement in Qatar.

And Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, we had some business-to-business agreements. Russia also, that meeting, that first meeting of bilaterals last November, even prior to our Russian visit few weeks ago.

President Putin immediately put an indication that they wish to buy more of Philippine products and the number is something like 2.5 billion dollars, indicative number of Philippines exports to Russia, mainly agriculture products.

On the other parts, let me go to… Well, related to investments still. The President has also recently signed the 2017 Investment Priorities Plan that will generate definitely more investments for the balance 2017.

You remember, I mentioned 25 percent growth to date and we except much more growth as some are also waiting for the 2017 IPP to come out.

You must have heard some news also that the 3rd slot in the CARS program may be reallocated to the public utility vehicle modernization program that was recently launched.

So that is in support of generating more modern, safer, more comfortable public utility vehicle — a modern public utility vehicle that will benefit many more Filipinos. 

On the SME development, so let me focus now on what we do for the micro and small. We have an ongoing program. The very aggressive program on training and development.

So we do seminars and we do actual mentoring. You know way back in Go Negosyo and now we’ve partnered even with Go Negosyo, PCCI, the private sector, the Association of Filipino Franchisers, Philippine Franchise Association, the Federation of Filipino Chinese, all this private sector DTI partnered with so that we can bring to as many Filipinos, the micro SMEs more seminars for free and mentoring for free.

So we have a target of about 90 Kapatid… We call it Kapatid Mentor ME. It’s like a big brother, small brother program where we train and mentor micro SMEs nationwide.

So far the 89 or 90, we are — we’ve visited already, we’ve conducted 64 ‘no. So as we speak, may mga ongoing Mentor ME programs.

So what happens is that per launch of that 64 Mentor ME programs, there will be a big launch about 400 to 600 participants. Then about 20 to 30 micro SMEs from that area, we’ll continue with the mentoring session for the next nine weeks.

So every Friday ‘yan. May mentoring ‘yan for the 20. Why 20? Those are the selected SMEs that really need the support and that support can really take them to the next level.

Not all those who attend might be that ready yet to get mentorship. They will still have to develop, let’s say their products, their businesses. So we are talking of actual support to those who are already in the micro and small enterprises. 

So to date, after the 64 Mentor ME rollouts participated by about 11,000 micro SMEs, about 1,570 mentees or those that are being mentored — are participants of the program — some have already graduated as we finished the nine-week mentoring programs.

And this is also true in each of the Negosyo Centers, we have already 512 Negosyo Centers.

And just to give you a rundown, during the President Duterte’s administration, 196 last July to December and 65 January to June, 271 Negosyo Centers established — new Negosyo Centers established.

And it was able… This is on the overall, during the July to June this year, we were able to assist 520,000, those walk-ins, those who attended the seminars in the Negosyo Centers. We are really elevating the quality of entrepreneurs we have here so that they become smarter and they earn more from their enterprises.

We continue to provide training as well in the DTI itself, the SME Roving Academy. Also in the Philippine Trade Training Centers, we continue to provide trainings there.

We’ve done a lot also when it comes to ease of doing business and that’s also another exciting area. Actually, I just came from a meeting that will really leapfrog the kind of this of ease of doing business we have here, especially when it comes to getting business permits and licenses. You know, the first step in starting a business.

Actually, from where we came from, just on the business permits alone, what used to take over 10 days, we’ve shortened it to two to three days already.

Simplification of form, reducing the number of signatories down to two. The form is I think two pages as well, very simplified.

So what we intend to do now, we are automating that and we wanna make it really less than one day approval system.

Now, but when we talk of like involving also other agencies, SEC, BIR, we want to cut short also that process and really try to achieve where New Zealand is. You know, the number one in ease of doing business ranking. Number one is New Zealand.

And we have a project ongoing with New Zealand. They’re helping us with the technical assistance that will help us really improve our rank in the ease of doing business. And more than the ranking, it’s really our service, to really improve that service and help all those wanting to get into business.

And there is… I’ll give you a preview. We intend to really put technology in it. There has to be some automation in the systems, streamlining of the process and automation, and putting it in the mobile.

Ayan, preview na ‘yun. So we wanna put it in the mobile, not just in the computers, but really accessible online, website-based type of business registration in the near future. We have to streamline first, eh, and then automate.

So, in the age of infrastructure — golden age of infrastructure. As we do the Build, Build, Build, we have the Construction Industry Authority of the Philippines that will — that’s in touch with all the contractors, making sure that we have the manpower — skilled manpower — that will support the Build, Build, Build program of government.

In terms of PCAB, Philippine Construction Accreditation Board, licensing has been shortened from 30 working days to 15 working days. There is also an e-filing system; contractors’ licensing and registration system is now online; and there are eight CIAP — Construction Industry Authority of the Philippines — windows scattered across the Philippines.

We have Davao, Cebu, La Union, Legazpi, Cagayan de Oro, Pampanga, Baguio, and another one in Region 8.

And, so maybe I’ll stop there. Okay so, and welcome…


Benjie Liwanag (DZBB): Good morning, sir.

SEC. LOPEZ: Good morning.

Mr. Liwanag: Sir, can you update us on the deal between the Philippines and Japan’s Farmind Corporation for P220-million deal? Nag-push through po ba ito? Kasi ‘yun, this was among the memorandum of agreement signed during Japan’s visit, where bananas from the Philippines will be brought to Japan by Farmind Corporation, a major fruit distributor in Japan.

SEC. LOPEZ: No I don’t… Frankly, I don’t have the actual status now. So that’s something I can get back to you.

What… What continued in the process, like there is this egg production joint venture that — that is being worked out right now in terms of location, finding the venue — the location for that; and the building of the plant for that.

On the one that you are mentioning, I will have to get an update on that.

The other one that pushed through is the… I think it’s a licensing and joint venture agreement with Japan again on the building of this wing van type of — the one that you put at the back of the truck. And wing opening of a cargo van for easier logistics and delivery.

That’s now being constructed or manufactured here. And I went even to the plant to see through that. So there are those that continued.

Mr. Liwanag: Sir, another thing. Kung ano ‘yung mga nangyayari ngayon doon sa Marawi, somehow affected ba tayo doon sa mga investments na pumapasok sa atin?

SEC. LOPEZ: ‘Yun nga po ang ano eh, nakakataka, but we’re pleasantly surprised that… On the business, hindi po tayo affected because ‘yung sa mga negosyante, they really look into the longer term potential of a country and the fundamentals.

As we say, we are on a breakout, investments up, exports up, consumer — the consumer basis getting bigger, we have a young consumer, and now getting more employed. So, it’s many more years of enlarging consumer base.

So very bullish ang mga investors locating here. Not to mention the market access if they locate here, the ASEAN, and even our GSP and GSP Plus in US and EU.

So, those are positive points that they look at whenever they consider the investments.

We’ve heard stories of course unfortunately, on the tourism, there will be some cancellation, I understand, from mga conventions for obvious reason. But when it comes to investments, I think ‘yung investors ay tuloy naman ang ano.

And so far, I think, even on the feedback on martial law — the feedback to us even… We went to Iligan, I went to Iligan and even Cagayan de Oro and the towns nearby, and talking to the, those with depots, distributors, they say they like martial law. Una, mas secure sila, they feel more secure and safer.

Of course, ‘yung checkpoint might require a little more time, but they can live with that, sabi nila. They’re supportive. And they said, it’s business as usual for areas outside the Marawi. It’s really in the Marawi lang sila concerned.

Mr. Liwanag: Sir, na-address na rin po ba natin ‘yung problem doon sa rice ng Iligan and Marawi, which is from 2,000, naging 5,000 to 6,000?

SEC. LOPEZ: ‘Yun nga po ano, eh. That’s why I went there to really check myself.

And that’s not true. I can tell you. I went to the palengke, lahat ng palengke doon, at bawat stall, hindi ko nakita ‘yung 5,000 equivalent na presyo ng bigas.

So, ang sabi sa amin, so, when I went around Iligan, the public markets there, wala talagang ganoong klase ng presyo. They’re all in behave numbers. Twenty-seven for NFA, 27 pesos per kilo, and a range of 35 o 39 pesos up to 50 pesos for the fancy rice, ‘yung premium rice.

And that’s normal, that’s even pre-martial law and the prices last year. So, ‘yun pa rin ang presyo around — even in the markets.

We went into the groceries, sa loob ng public market as you know wholesalers ‘yan, and they all sell within the SRP also. So, everybody’s following the suggested retail price and the price freeze that is ongoing right now in Mindanao.

So, ‘yun po. So, ngayon, back to the — to the story, that story emanated from some evacuees coming from Marawi. Unfortunately, we could not enter Marawi or some traders cannot really enter, so that’s possible.

So the… And there’s some nearby towns at the other side of the lake, ‘yung hindi talaga mapuntahan ng truck. I think it’s in Tamparan, if I am not mistaken. Tamparan, no? And that other side.

So, the other parts there, ang suggestion namin, NFA, and that— this is the commitment also of NFA when we met with them there— they’ll bring the rice themselves. So, at least there is an alternative 27-peso per kilo of rice available. Ang importante may rice.

Ngayon, ‘yung fancy rice, if we can invite the traders to join them, and the military, police providing safe passage, that’s important kasi, safety rin nung mga tao. And even the delivery trucks, and the pahinante and the driver, ‘yung safety rin nila.

Kaya may premium daw sa pag-deliver doon. So, dapat talaga samahan ng military ‘yun if you want to bring the rice to the other part of the [area?].

Dharel Placido (ABS-CBN Online): Good morning, sir. Sir, two issues lang po. Sir, ‘yung, can we get an update on the government’s fight against loan sharks? Kasi, sir, ‘di ba you launched ‘yung P1-billion loan assistance for small businessmen, entrepreneurs? So, any updates po sa rollout nito?

SEC. LOPEZ: Okay. So, ongoing po ‘yung rollout. We launched it last week, for all the other provinces. Because we started, as you know, with three pilot provinces. One in Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao — Sarangani, Tacloban, and Occidental Mindoro.

So, doon sa mga ‘yun, we’ve covered ah, let me see, ha? ‘Yung sa mga ‘yun, ang mga natulungan na, sa ngayon — ‘yung doon sa report — 180, doon sa pilot projects.

But after that pilot projects, we already rolled it out first to the 30 poorest provinces and immediate — two weeks after that, to all the other 65 provinces.

So, kulang pa rin kami ng — hindi pa namin sakop ang 81 provinces. So, nandoon pa lang kami sa 65. But, we continue to roll out to other areas to the extent that we are getting our partner microfinance institutions.

Because the way it goes is that… So that government will be assured that we will get the payments to that P1-billion fund, we have to partner with existing MFIs who have the network and infrastructure to bring and deliver the loans and get that collection on a systematic basis.

So, if you ask me, frankly, I’m also getting that number now as we speak. On all the other provinces since it was only launched a few days ago. So, but as soon as we have the numbers, we will give you.

But what I can also tell you is that, out of the P1.5 billion… So we’ve talk to two national MFIs — MFIs with nationwide coverage and about 113 local conduits. Ibig sabihin, in some provinces, may mga local cooperatives, market vendor associations. So those are part of the ‘yung partners, partner conduits, that will allow us, enable us to bring the Pondo Para sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso Loan ni Presidente Duterte.

So we’ll give you the number of microentrepreneur borrowers soon. But now that we’ve rolled it out, we’ve committed close to P1 billion in terms of funds, and we need to get more funds really to support this nationwide approach.

Kasi ang estimate namin dito, if we are to really counter the 5-6, the rough number given to us, since it’s an informal sector, and so informal din ‘yung source, nasa P30 billion daw ‘yung nakapalaot ng 5-6.

So if we are really to replace all the 5-6, ‘yan ang dapat pondo natin dito. So the P1 billion is fine sa umpisa. And then as we get through a good running system, if you remember, the President envisions na P1 billion per region. So we’re getting there.

What this is also entailing into, at least from what we heard in regions and provinces where we are distributing the loans, the interest cost of the 5-6 has gone down.

Sabi nila, nagfa-five percent per month na. Dati, 20 percent per month, kaya talaga usurious. Or minsan nga, 20 percent per day or per week, depende sa pangangailangan mo. So that has really — in some areas, it has also gone down.

So it’s doing a bit of benefit na rin to those provinces. Kahit hindi ka pa naabot mismo ng P3, because of competition, naging mas reasonable ‘yung rate. Mataas pa rin ‘yun. Our rate should be at the level of 2 percent, 2 to 2.5 percent, which is like a micro-finance institution, MFI loans. 

Bakit mataas pa rin relative to a bank loan of maybe 9 percent or 8 percent? Sapagkat we need the manpower to the overhead to operationalize the lending and the collection.

And also, there are risks involved, higher risks involved. Because again, this — walang collateral po ito. Walang collateral. Ang collateral lang ay ‘yung negosyo na makikita nung magpapahiram, nung ating P3 lender.

Mr. Placido: Sir, another topic. Sir, sa tax reform program, we are introducing higher excise taxes on cars. So how will this affect your efforts to revive car manufacturing, sir?

SEC. LOPEZ: The good thing there, we’re thankful that this program has considered, of course, the local production of ‘yung sa — under the cars program. Because in the cars program, we’re talking of the smaller cars. Iyong pang-masa lang na kotse.

So in this case, the increases in excise tax sa proposal has been very slow on the low-end cars, and higher as you go up, you know, as the price gets more expensive.

So the excise tax would be minimal at the — those below P600,000 and those below P1 million. ‘Yung mga bracket na ‘yun.

I think the net effect sa prices, if I’m not mistaken about 3 percent.

So hindi masyado ang impact. And of course, kabila ‘non is that the lowering of the income tax rate. Benefit din ‘yun sa tao. And they’ll have more money really to buy the car.

Mr. Placido: So this will not affect din, sir, ‘yung mga ride-sharing services like Uber kasi baka ma-discourage din sila to, you know, purchase more cars for the public?

SEC. LOPEZ: Sino, si Uber?

Mr. Placido: Uber, Grab, ganyan, sir?

SEC. LOPEZ: Anong question mo? Kung maapektuhan si Uber?

Mr. Placido: Yeah, sir, oo.

SEC. LOPEZ: No, Uber will be there as long as there’s a market, may demand. The people want better services. Sometimes, mahirap mag-park, you don’t bring your car. You don’t have to buy a car, you prepare an Uber service or a Grab service.

So may benefit pa din ‘yun. But more important thing, those who would like to buy —  ‘yung nag-a-aspire na makabili ng kotse kahit maliit na pang-umpisa na kotse, then hindi masyado silang maapektuhan.

Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning, sir.

SEC. LOPEZ: Good morning.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, in general, how do you see the political environment affecting the business environment? Because there’s a report that came out today that there was a 35 percent decline in BPO investments under the PEZA and this was supposedly attributed to political uncertainty. So do you see any odd politics?

SEC. LOPEZ: ‘Yung PEZA decline at… I remember the time when I first saw the number, there was a decline because bago rin nabuo ang PEZA Port, and the processing, it took some time. So may decline versus the previous period.

But if you really look at the total investment numbers – the BOI and also the FDI – it still shows positive eh.

And just looking at the business confidence number that I mentioned – 43 percent – I think the first quarter was something like 39 last year. Third quarter or fourth quarter about 34. So tumataas siya eh. We’re now 43 percent.

And consumer confidence index. Kaya ang mga consumer stocks matataas pa din because of relatively high consumer index of about 9-plus percent.

So ‘yung… Siyempre, everybody would like to have a, you know, a more stable political environment. Politically, minus the terroristic acts which is present everywhere anyway, kahit sa developed country, we’re a stable country and secured and it’s business as usual. Ease of doing business is being improved. Tuloy naman lahat eh. And ‘yun.

We’re also thinking of a new campaign to attract more investments. Pero we won’t get the expensive…

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, clarify ko lang, so you’re saying ‘yung BPO numbers, it’s just not reflective of the entire… 

SEC. LOPEZ:  No, I don’t think so. I don’t think so. Isa pa, the move, our move — the President’s move, basically, to be friends to all and enemy to no one. So it opened a lot of market talaga. China, Russia, investors, looking into the Philippines.

Right after that visit of the President, we’ve been receiving siguro five delegation per week mostly from China, ‘no, immediately after that.

So ganun kabilis ‘yung interes. When the goodwill established, talagang mas comfortable din ‘yung mga negosyante from both countries.

Pia Ranada (Rappler): Hi, sir. Sir, just a question on the tax reform package, can we expect more efforts from the President to himself champion the tax reform package, given the deadlock in Congress? Because even if he certified the bill as urgent, it’s still perceived to be a Cabinet initiative and not his initiative. Do we expect him, for example, to mention it in the SONA? A priority…

SEC. LOPEZ: Cabinet… Hindi, pinirmahan niya eh. So urgent — signed urgent eh. So it has the support of the President because he knows that this is the package that will also support the infrastructure program — the aggressive infrastructure program.

So it has the blessing and the support of the President.

Ms. Ranada: But aside from that, are there other efforts from the President to make it move forward given the deadlock? Is he planning to, for example, meet with lawmakers to convince…

SEC. LOPEZ: I’m not privy to that. We don’t know, we don’t know, sorry.

Ms. Ranada: Pero, sir, the economic managers siyempre are the ones behind this action.

SEC. LOPEZ: Of course.

Ms. Ranada:  So is there any move from your group to encourage him to have more actions to promote…

SEC. LOPEZ: Of course, of course, oo.

Ms. Ranada: What are these po?

SEC. LOPEZ: Well, of course, talking to the lawmakers. Maybe that would be the next best thing. Trying to address siguro concerns that they still have.

And I believe the President will also be giving the same kind of support just para — because he certified this as urgent. And very important in our program. Kailangan talaga mapasa na ‘to, because tumatakbo na ang 2017, and of course, we need to fund all these projects.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, just a question on foreign trips. In the Russian trip, is it right to say that businessmen who went paid for all of their own expenses?

SEC. LOPEZ: Oh yes, of course.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, how many would you say…?

SEC. LOPEZ: Businessmen and kung sinumang kasama nila. But it’s really all of them paying everything. Walang binabayaran ang government ever since.

Even in fact, for government, ‘yung sa amin lalo na ‘pag ‘yung sa ASEAN, and all these trips pagka hosted, sometimes, they even cover for some costs of the officials, in terms of hotel, the usual [what do you call that?] courtesy given.

Ms. Ranada: And, sir, they — to be able to attend these trips, they have to be accredited by the DTI. Is that correct?

SEC. LOPEZ: Accredited? Yes, oo, accredited by DTI.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, how about businessmen close to the President? Do they have to go through the same accreditation process?

SEC. LOPEZ: Yes, of course. Accreditation and they pay for everything. They pay for everything.

Ian Cigaral (BusinessWorld): Good morning po, sir. Sir, foreign direct investments dropped in the first three months from a year ago, marking their third straight quarter of contraction, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority. Sir, may I know lang po ‘yung forecast for the second quarter onward? Sa tingin niyo po tataas pa po ‘yung pledges?

SEC. LOPEZ: Foreign direct investments? Sandali, the number I read is positive eh. Anong number ‘yan? FDIs?

Mr. Cigaral: Yes po, according po sa preliminary data po ng Philippine Statistics Authority.

SEC. LOPEZ: Sige, mag-usap tayo mamaya kasi ang number ko positive eh. So I have to know my source and your source. 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’d like to begin with a Joint Task Force Marawi update.

On the rebellion in Marawi as of 7 p.m., 26 June 2017.

Civilians rescued by government troops – 1,081 from 1,702… 1,801 from 1,702 or an increase of 99.

And recovered firearms from terrorists now at 347.

Civilians killed by terrorists – 27

Terrorists killed – 290

Government casualties: killed-in-action – 70

At this stage, I’d like to bring up a note. In response to the nagging issue of whether Ispilon Hapilon (IH) is still in Marawi or not:

“Yesterday, there have been numerous information saying that IH has left Marawi and abandoned his group. For now, all of these remain raw information, requiring validation by the AFP and various security agencies of government.

Hence, we cannot issue any categorical statement on the matter until we get proof.

Granting that this is true, it would be a clear sign of his cowardice because he abandoned his companions and has run away from the battle.

It may also be indicative of the infighting that may now be going on within the group. It may be a matter of time before they disintegrate or self-destruct.”

Government’s policy not to negotiate with terrorists remains.

Hence, the local religious leader-led talks with the terrorists last Sunday is one of that was not sanctioned by government, the military and our political leaders. Any demands made inside, therefore, hold no basis.

Let us continue to remind the public that the gravity of theirs — of terrorists’ and their supporters’ offense is immense and they must all be held accountable for all their actions.

Focus of the military operations. The focus remains:

  1. Continues clearing of Marawi of remaining armed terrorist that continue to pose pockets of resistance to the advancing troops;
  1. Continue rescue of trapped residents to include those held hostages;
  1. Continue recovery of civilian casualties (cadavers) or victims;
  1. Assist the LGU, CSOs, NGOs on relief operations;
  1. Prepare to assist Government/LGUs for the rehabilitation, reconstruction, rebuilding phase as soon as the rebellion is quelled. JTG, Joint Task Group Ranao was formed to focus on this.

General Año, the Chief of Staff, reiterates that the AFP is prepared to embark on other key tasks such as rehab and reconstruction of Marawi and has ordered the identified engineering units to be ready for the next phase of helping build back Marawi.

As such, the AFP has prepared the Combat Engineering Brigades from the Army and the Navy for immediate deployment as soon as the clearing operations are completed.

Joint Task Group Ranao will lead efforts in this phase.

The AFP remains committed to the decisive resolution of this rebellion to ensure that the Maute-Daesh/ISIS terrorist rebels and their supporters will not be able to pose a threat in any part of the Philippines.

The support and active participation of LGUs and the citizens will play a key role in ensuring that terrorism shall not thrive in this part of Asia.

Regarding this part of Asia, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and Indonesia’s Financial Services Authority have signed a Letter of Intent back in June 4 that would allow qualified domestic banks in the Philippines to freely do business in Indonesia, and vice versa. 

Fitch Ratings said the Philippines stands to gain from the entry of foreign banks as it is likely to support investment, particularly the much-needed infrastructure investment and sustain our economic growth.

We are open to a few questions.

Maricel Halili (TV-5): Hi, sir, good morning. Sir, just a clarification, because you mentioned that the negotiation at the war zone area was not sanctioned by the government, but I understand that OPAPP Asec Hermoso knew about it and he even granted interviews yesterday. So how do we compromise it? Does the government knew about the emissaries who went inside the war zone?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As far as the report that’s given from the AFP, this is what they said. Thank you.

Ms. Halili: But, sir, sinabi rin po ‘nong ilang mga sources na ‘yun daw mga Maute group is willing to swap their hostage to Catholic priest kapalit nung Maute parents, so how do you respond to this, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Like I said, like I read, government’s policy is not to negotiate with terrorists, okay? So if there are any developments, let’s wait upon it.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, just a follow-up. There was also a suggestion for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to intervene that if they would intervene, the terrorists might consider leaving Marawi. Is this an idea that the government will consider?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: All possibilities are, of course, being considered. Thank you.

Ms. Salaverria: Ask the MILF—?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I said, all possibilities are being considered. Thank you.

Mr. Liwanag: Sir, good morning. Sir, tanong ko lang kasi may lumabas na report coming from, ‘yung sa mga kababaihan, Gabriela. They were telling na natatakot daw ‘yung ilan sa mga Maranao na babae dahil nagbabanta ng rape. Ano po ang masasabi ninyo?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I would just like to quote from the statements, parts of the statement made by SND:

“We find incredulous statements accusing our men in uniform of alleged rape threats on Marawi women.

Accusations of alleged threats purportedly encouraged by the President’s remarks are part of the propaganda used by the enemy to win sympathy among the people of Marawi and for the government to fail in its mission.”

It says: “Let us not be fooled by such dubious claims.” “Our troops…” And I think we should have this. “Our troops are risking their life and limb to rescue trapped civilians and liberate Marawi from the hands of [evil] forces”.

And I think it’s about time really that we should gain more confidence and pride in our government forces. Thank you.

Mr. Liwanag: Do you think also this will affect the operations of the AFP and the PNP?


Mr. Liwanag: The statement coming from Gabriela?


Mr. Liwanag: Will it affect the operations?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: They’re very straight… They were very focused on what they’re doing and they know they live by —- they live by laws-based and they live with their directives.

Mr. Liwanag: Thank you very much.

Pia Gutierrez (ABS-CBN): Sir, there’s a video making the rounds on social media apparently showing BIFF members burning a picture of President Duterte. Is the government considering this a legitimate threat, sir? And what does the government doing about it?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It’s not a threat. It’s just simply one of the things that they do. Thank you.

Philip Tubeza (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Hi, sir, good morning. We have a report of President Duterte appointing 59 former generals to his Cabinet or to the bureaucracy and it’s raising concerns about the creeping militarization of either the Cabinet or the bureaucracy. Can we have your thoughts, sir, about it?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: So what are our thoughts about it? About what?

Mr. Tubeza: On the… His appointment of 59 former generals to the bureaucracy and to the Cabinet?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well as… Like we said, you know, the President has never made secret any of his intentions which is a more disciplined, more disciplined — more disciplined, more focused, and less corrupt, you know, bureaucracy. 

And I would say that these are the people that he has vetted. In a sense, it’s not whether they’re military or not. It’s just that these are the people within his scope of attention that, you know, that fulfill, that tick all the boxes that what he wants.

These are the people who are efficient, people who are not corrupt, people who will do things according to what they have been commissioned to do.

Mr. Tubeza: So we will see more of these appointments, sir, coming?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We will see more of people who fall within the — who come within the President’s purview that people should not be corrupt, should be efficient, and people who do their jobs.

Mr. Tubeza:  Okay, thank you, sir.

Jam Sisante (GMA): Sir, the President was out of the public eye for nearly a week. May we know what he did during those six days and can we get an update on the state of his health?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: First and foremost, he is alive and well, he’s very well. He is just busy doing what he really needs to do.

The President, you know, as you’ve seen, he’s been very much in the public eye but that doesn’t — being out of the public eye that is when he is able to really do office work. He signs papers, he reads, he consults. He’s actually very busy.

But the thing that he is very important to note is that he’s on top of every situation. He is aware of what’s happening. He’s updated regularly. He’s updated regularly, he reads, he views… He listens to this and he is quite aware…

And again, you know, this is just his, like we said, working style and it was not meant to cast aspersions upon anybody. But this is the way he works.

Ms. Sisante: Sir, different topic. We’ve also discussed earlier the President’s first year anniversary in office. May we know how will the government assess the effectivity of your campaign against crime during your one year in office?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Like we promised, this is the beginning of a series of a rollout of assessments, of snapshots of basically fulfillment of the President’s promise.

Number one, to lay the foundations for a comfortable life for all, and it’s based on prosperity, law and order, and peace.

And everything that he has, you know, actually, there’s almost no need to go back and asses because it’s all out there. 

You know, he has done — as the good secretary has said right now, you know, there’s amazing consumer confidence in the Philippines. Consumer confidence, which indicates at the end of the day the citizens are the consumers and they show great confidence in the nation and in the President’s administration.

So I think we should… We can go by that.

Ms. Sisante: Sir, there was an increase in murder cases, can we consider the campaign against crime successful despite that?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It has made definite progress. You know, the President has — the President has made…

You know, this situation is actually long-standing. You know we need to understand that. It has been of long-standing. It’s not as if it started with the President.

It has been there, deeply, deeply rooted. But we have made definite progress. Crime rate is down and of course there’s explanation for those things. But at this stage, we need to understand that there is much progress that has been done during the President’s administration.

Ms. Halili: Sir, just a clarification. ‘Yung ibig po bang sabihin because Asec Hermoso confirmed that there were emissaries in the war zone. Does it mean that he’s acting on his own without the permission coming from the government?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: There maybe emissaries… This is not for me to answer. I need to confirm on that. Okay.

But definitely, what your question was whether there was going to be negotiation, whether it does… I cannot, and this is where I’m making — the AFP makes a stand, okay.

There may have been conversation but there have been — but definitely, the government policy stands by certain [parameters].

Ms. Halili: So that does it means na ‘yung emissaries po sa nasa loob ay walang bearing, whatever operations [inaudible]…?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m saying that—it may not—that there are certain parameters regarding the actual decisions that have to be made.