Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella
Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building, Malacañang
18 May 2017



I’d like to give you a few updates.

Personal Remittances increase by 11.8 percent in March of 2017:

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has reported a year-on- year growth of 11.8 percent on the personal remittances from Overseas Filipinos amounting to $2.9 billion in March of 2017.

This reflects the 8.1 percent increase on the total personal remittances for the first quarter of 2017 amounting to $7.7 billion.

Such increase underscores the strong demand for the skills and the competence of the great Filipino workers.

Also, agricultural production went up by 5.28 percent in the first quarter of 2017.

The Philippine agriculture performance increased by 5.28 percent recovering from a contraction in the fourth quarter of last year by -1.11 percent, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority report on the Performance of Philippine Agriculture from January to March of 2017.

Favorable weather conditions and proper application of fertilizer, availability of water in irrigated farms and adequate amount of rainfall provided for the increase in the total agricultural output — will continue to boost increase infrastructure spending to support the agricultural sector.

Regarding the floodings in Mindanao. On May 9, 2017, heavy rainfall started to occur in three municipalities in Maguindanao namely in Datu Salibo, Sultan Mastura, Shariff Saydona Mustapha.

And as of yesterday, the Department of Social Welfare and Development reported 4,027 families affected. The DSWD Regional Office has already prepositioned the goods and has standby funds intended for this purpose.

We are open to a few questions. 


Pia Ranada (Rappler): Sir, could we just hear more about the Philippine government’s new policy to refuse grants from the European Union? May we know where this policy came from and the details surrounding the policy? When was it issued by the President and since when has it been in effect?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: You want the whole hog.[laughs] Everything. I can give you a few things, all right. I can give you a few insights, all right.

The President has approved the recommendation of the Department of Finance not to accept grants and this is not necessarily humanitarian aid from the EU that may allow it to interfere with the internal policies of the Philippines.

These grants pertain to particular projects or programs that have the potential of affecting the autonomy of the country.

The Philippines reserves the right to accept loans and grants that help attain its objectives of promoting economic development inclusiveness and reducing poverty, attaining peace within its borders and with its neighbors, and fostering a law-abiding society.

It also reserves the right to respectfully decline offers that do not achieve these goals and offers that allow foreigners to interfere with the conduct of its internal affairs.

I hope that’s satisfactory.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, could we just get a clarification on the criteria because you’re saying now it’s not a blanket — a blanket policy — it won’t impact all grants but then you mentioned the condition of if not interfering—?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I said this particular grant has a — it seems to have an item that we find objectionable, all right. Well, find something that we do not totally agree with.

For example, if it allows — if the grant makes a provision for foreigners to interfere with our internal affairs then we — like we said, we serve the right to respectfully decline.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, doesn’t all grants have, you know, that possibility of — ?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: They have grants, they have conditions, but there are certain items, for example, that we find — that we cannot totally accept.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, can you give more concrete examples?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Basically that. If it allows the foreigners to interfere with our conduct, with our internal affairs. Maybe that’s all I can say at this stage.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, just a follow up. What is the government’s plan regarding communities, for example, that have depended on these grants for a long time and will now have to make do without these grants? Does the government have a plan to transition them or provide aid so that they can at least fend for themselves?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It’s something that will have to be addressed properly by the proper agencies.

Yes, it has… It has a… It has a response regarding this matter. 

Joseph Morong (GMA): Sir, the President naman has in the past, hindi naman niya tinatago na medyo… Kung sabi niya sa EU, if you’re prepared to withdraw your aid, we’re okay with it. But what triggered the Department of Finance to recommend to the President that we should refuse aid from the EU?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It’s I think… I believe it’s a particular — a particular grant supposed to be — that was supposed to… This far, I can say and not much more, that a particular grant arrived… I mean, was proposed that had a particular item that we found — that we find that we cannot agree with.

Mr. Morong: So this is a specific grant that we are objecting to — not grants in general?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, at this stage it just says that… It just says that there is the recommendation not to accept grants that may allow it to interfere with internal policies.

So I supposed what matters is that if a grant has this, this particular item, then it will be declined.

Mr. Morong: What is that item, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That which allows a foreign government to interfere with our internal policies.

Mr. Morong: Like human rights conditions?


Mr. Morong: Sir, okay. What… How much would you be able to quantify how much aid is affected by this policy?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That will be referred to — that can be properly referred to the DOF.

Mr. Morong. Okay, because in the website of the Commission, if I may cite some examples of aid that the EU has been giving the Philippines ‘no… Halimbawa, sir, ‘yung sa recovery and resilience in selected Yolanda-affected communities; PhilHealth sector reform contract; supporting and enabling sustainable peace in the Bangsamoro. Will these projects be affected, meaning these will be discontinued because of this policy?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I believe I made clear earlier that it does not… We do not have any comments regarding humanitarian aid.

Mr. Morong: So they will proceed?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I supposed so. I mean it all depends on you know…

But like I said the — this particular statement does not refer to… It only… It mainly focuses on grants that have certain items that will require — that will allow foreign entities to interfere.

Mr. Morong: So initially, sir, what appears to us is this is a blanket refusal which is not ‘no?

RESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, as I explained it to you. It is a specific. Okay.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, what about humanitarian aid that comes with a condition that you find objectionable?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: In which case, the same thing applies. Okay. In other words, you know, humanitarian aid is usually unconditional.

AC Nichols (CNN Philippines): Sir, just a follow up. Can you tell us what particular item that triggered DOF — ? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Like I said, I cannot, I will not… I’m not at liberty to say that. But I can just say in general that which we find objectionable is that which allows interference from a foreign entity.

Ms. Nichols: Sir, how are we going to compensate for the funds that we’re going to lose?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That depends on the DOF. But, you know, there are other sources of actual finance.

Ms. Nichols. So we can… We can still look for other sources, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As you can very well see from the past achievements of the President, he has brought in an enormous amount — huge slabs of bacon.

Ms. Nichols: Sir, how will this affect naman ‘yung diplomatic relations natin, sir, with EU?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, diplomacy being what it is, we carry on. It does not… Okay.

Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good afternoon, sir. Sir, can you just define for us what the Palace considers interference? Is commenting on issues of the day considered interference?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Interference, I cannot comment further except to say that it begins to interfere with our — comments do not necessarily interfere ‘no.

But when it begins to impose certain conditionalities that will interfere with the way we handle things, then we consider that objectionable. 

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, could you also clarify, ongoing — existing projects with the EU would not be affected by this policy? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I assume regularity if… I’m assuming that things being as they are, it will continue unless it’s specifically objected to.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, will this practice of rejecting aid that comes with conditionalities that interfere with our affairs going to be the practice of our other international aid-giving bodies like — ? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s put it this way, we are an independent foreign… We have an independent foreign policy and like the gentleman said, we can accept or respectfully decline that which we find objectionable. 

Ms. Salaverria: So, for instance, aid from UN, we will also be rejecting — ? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We’ll take it on a case to case basis.

Dexter Ganibe (DZMM): Sec, paglilinaw lang or categorical statement lang na… Kasi ‘di ba may mga nakalaan na hanggang 2020 na mga aid or grant ang EU. Ibig hong sabihin doon sa statement ninyo na ‘yung mga items lang na — may mga items na makaka-interfere ‘yung EU doon sa affairs ng Pilipinas ang maaapektuhan? So ibig sabihin ‘yung buong aid na inilaan nila hanggang 2020 ay hindi naman iyon ‘yung buo? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, if it was allowed and accepted and nothing was found to be objectionable, well, it will continue. That’s the assumption, okay.

Mr. Ganibe: Sir, could you cite specific example kung ano ‘yung isang — ? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Like I said, I cannot make any further comments on that except to say in generality that we will decline — we will respectfully decline from this henceforth ha, henceforth — not to accept kasi — if it’s existing, it’s there, right?

But not to accept grants that may allow it to interfere with our internal policies, okay.

Mr. Ganibe: So ‘yung existing na mga aid, ongoing na projects nila na merong — nakaka-interfere sa affairs natin, continue lang ‘yon?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The statement is we will not accept. In other words, if it’s already accepted, we will assume that — we will assume that that can continue unless further specified.

Mr. Ganibe: Kino-consider din po ba ng Pilipina[s] — ng administrasyon ‘yung kahalintulad na ginawa ng — natin sa EU para sa ibang mga bansa na, in a way, na nag-i-interfere sa affairs ng Pilipinas? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We will deal with each situation separately. 

Mr. Ganibe: Thank you. 

Henry Uri (DZRH): Secretary, a lot of questions and reactions are keep on coming in. Kaya na ba nating mabuhay nang wala ang EU? What assurance can you give to the public that we can stand without their support, without their donations, without those grants? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: You’ve seen the performance of the President with the past 10 months. You’ve seen the economic growth.

You know, unless you missed out on what I said earlier, the Philippines is growing by leaps and bounds.

In fact, right now, it’s the second I think… It’s the second fastest growing right now in Asia.

So I think we need to gain a certain — a certain confidence in ourselves you know. And that this is exactly the kind of mentality I think that the President wants the Filipinos to avoid: a mendicant attitude, you know.

We’re not disrespecting the aid that we’ve received but definitely we can… We have… Our track record shows that we’re doing — growing by leaps and bounds. So I suppose that answers your question.

I’m not just giving you a…We’re not giving you a spin. The economic results that was — that we are growing and, in fact, we are improving and we can manage.

Mr. Uri: We are confident?


Mr. Uri: But ‘yun hong appointment ni dating Senate President Edgardo J. Angara as Special Envoy for the EU, so ano ho ngayon ang magiging papel niya at hindi ba ho may conflict doon sa declaration ng Malacañang?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That’s just one item you know. We are dealing with an entire community. That’s just a single item. So he continues to be a special envoy.

Mr. Uri: Thank you, sir. 


Deo de Guzman (RMN): Sir, tanong ko lang. Meron na po ba kayong mga nakita na specific na mga grants ng EU sa Philippines na nag-i-interfere sa ating processes, sa ating government na naging basis nung decision na huwag tumanggap kapag nakakapag-interfere sa atin? 


Mr. De Guzman: Samples. Specific samples of interference ng EU sa government natin when it comes to grants? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think this is a relatively new development so I suppose… [overlapping voices] go by. 

Mr. De Guzman: So walang precedence na merong ganong — merong grant ng EU na pumasok sa atin na nag-interfere sa ating government? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t know about the past administrations and I cannot comment on that. But for that specific question, we’ll have to defer to the DOF, okay.

Argyll Geducos (Manila Bulletin): Sir, good morning po. Sir, reaction lang po tungkol po doon sa comment ni NEDA Director General Pernia na hindi daw po sila na-consult regarding the cancellation of aid from EU? 


Mr. Geducos: Reaction lang po tungkol po doon sa statement ni Director General Pernia? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As far as I know, that the recommendation came from the DOF. So it’s not entirely accurate that they were not consulted. DOF was… The recommendation came from DOF. 

Mr. De Guzman: May follow up lang ako, sir. Do you agree na maraming investors from EU dito sa Philippines? 


Mr. De Guzman: Yes, sir. 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Track record shows that there is. 

Mr. De Guzman: There is… There are. Paano po pag nag pullout sila? In the… Nakikita niyo po ba na may effect ito doon sa investors natin? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, we’ll have to take it step by step, okay? I… You know, these people are also business people. They know.

You know, you have to understand that the European community is different from the European Parliament and the business people really are part of the European community — the European Union.

And so, these are, mainly these people are [what do you call that?] business people. They understand the dynamics of politics and at the end of the day, they will go where they can grow and I believe that they understand that the Philippines right now is in a sweet spot of growth. 

Mr. De Guzman: Thank you, sir. 

Hannah Sancho (Sonshine Radio): Sir, are we ready for consequences dahil dito sa policy na ito? Like for example, sir, ‘yung possibility na i-revoke po ‘yung PH GSP status at ‘yung i-restrict po nila ‘yung mga OFWs coming from the Philippines po dahil sa move ng Duterte admin? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: These things will have to be taken step by step, okay? Thank you. 

Mr. Morong: Sorry, I have to be very specific. For example, the EU is involved in the third-party monitoring body ‘no sa Bangsamoro with the MI, will that be affected? 


Mr. Morong: The involvement of the EU in the third-party monitoring — ? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think this specific body it doesn’t have to do anything with grants, right?

Mr. Morong: It is, sir. Development grants siya, sir. I confirmed with OPAPP. 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay, if you confirm with… But the point is…

Mr. Morong: Will it be affected, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA:  If… Let’s just… Let’s leave it to the ano… Let’s leave it to OPAPP and to that specific agency to determine whether they should continue or not.

Mr. Morong: Well, it is an existing aid. 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It’s an existing aid. In which case, I’m assuming… I’m assuming that it will continue.

Mr. Morong: Okay. Sir, I understand there’s a circular that the Palace — ?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It’s not for public consumption.

Mr. Morong: Not? Why? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It’s a circular for the Palace. 

Mr. Morong: So wala pong… Nabigay na po ba ‘yun sa EU, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, it’s not even for me. It’s a circular, it’s not meant… There’s no statement out yet let’s say for EU. 

Mr. Morong: Because they are waiting, sir. 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Then we will respond in the right way, in the right time. 

Mr. Morong: How are you going to communicate this, sir? 


Mr. Morong: Okay. 

Mr. De Guzman: Sir, wala na bang bawian ‘to? 


Mr. De Guzman: Wala na bang bawian ‘yung hindi kayo tatanggap? O darating pa ‘yung time na posibleng mag-backtrack o posibleng bawiin? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s let it take its natural course, okay? There’s such a thing as diplomacy, you know, there’s such a thing as political relationships and… Although that is the… I mean it’s…

This particular action is dependent on a particular conditionality that had been set. If that’s negotiated perhaps but I do not make any opinion on that. 

Mr. De Guzman: So you’re saying na in the realm of possibilities, everything is possible?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: In the realm of the world, things do change and things can happen. Some things are also permanent.

Mr. De Guzman: Thank you, sir. 


Mr. Morong: Ganito na lang, sir. Apparently, these are not… This is not a blanket refusal. Meron lang ni-recommend ‘yung DOF na i-reject because there are conditions. Why can you not just say na aid? Save us trouble kasi ‘di ba… Hindi na tayo?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, no, no. I’m not trying to avoid any… I’m just simply saying that these are very delicate matters and I’m trying to give it to you as a…

Mr. Morong: Okay, so how many proposed pro — aid na lang, generic?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, no, those questions are too specific. This is simply…

This is a principle that is being laid, okay. Let me repeat, the President has approved the recommendation of the Department of Finance, not to accept grants, okay?

It doesn’t mean to say to reject that which is existing, okay? From the EU that may allow it to interfere with internal policies of the Philippines period, okay?

That as simple as I can get, brief and to the point.

Trisha Macas (GMA Online): Hi sir, good morning.


Ms. Macas: Sir, earlier you said the Philippines is growing by leaps and bounds, but earlier NEDA Sec. Gen. Pernia reported that the GDP of the Philippines, for the first quarter of 2017 grew slower than…


Ms. Macas: But, sir… Sir, we just want to get the Palace statement on this particular development?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: There are cycles of development… There are cycles of growth, right? But so far… Yeah.

We are very much on the right track towards growth. We are not… We are not not growing, we are growing, okay.

Ms. Macas: Sir, it said that it’s the slowest phase of growth for the GDP since it registered that 6.3% in the fourth quarter of 2015. So…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I suppose it all depends on the perspective regarding that. But right now, we are growing and right now we’re improving, and right now things are vastly being improved especially with the influx of investors coming from the region, coming from China, coming from Japan, coming from other areas.

JP Bencito (Manila Standard): Sir, follow up on that, where can we attribute this slow growth according to the NEDA, ‘yung 6.4%?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I would refer you to Sec. Pernia, okay? That is a specific economic question, okay. That’s not policy for me, okay.

Mr. Bencito: But, sir, what’s the take of the Palace on this? Where do you attribute this?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I can get back to you if you need that specific question, okay… If you need a specific answer.

Ms. Salaverria: Good afternoon. Sir, how is the Palace taking the China’s installation of rocket launchers at the Kagitingan Reef?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think that will be covered by the bilateral consultative mechanism.

Ms. Salaverria: We will be bringing this up?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m sure that will be opened up — that will be touched on.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, this China’s offer of millions — multimillion in aid to the Philippines affecting our moves in the South China Sea?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think those are two separate situations. The President had said in fact… I specifically heard the President saying that he will bring this up and these are items that will be touched on, especially code of conduct, especially these things.

But these are two separate things aside from the economic relationships that we have.

Ms. Salaverria: You don’t see one affecting the other, for instance, if we become more aggressive in pressing our maritime claims, you don’t see China holding back from assistance to the country?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t… I doubt that they will simply just hold back. But it’s an economic relationship, okay. Thank you.

Mr. Morong: Sa NFA council, sir?


Mr. Morong: May info po tayo sa NFA council kung may ano?


Mr. Morong: Mamaya pang hapon ba ‘yun, sir? Thank you.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. Good morning. Thank you very much.