Press Briefing

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Rose Beatrix “Trixie” Cruz-Angeles with Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno

Event Press Briefing
Location Press Briefing Room, Malacañan Palace in Manila

PRESS SECRETARY ROSE BEATRIX “TRIXIE” CRUZ-ANGELES: Magandang hapon. Ia-announce lang po natin Proclamation No. 2 declaring Saturday, the 9th of July, a regular holiday throughout the country in observance of Eid’l Adha or the Feast of Sacrifice.

Okay, this is issued for the President by the Executive Secretary.

To reiterate, another batch of newly-appointed officials had taken their oath before the President yesterday. To reiterate: Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, Secretary of Budget and Management; President and General Manager of GSIS, Jose Arnulfo Veloso; Chairperson and Chief Executive of the Film Development Council, Tirso Cruz III; Chairperson of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Junie Cua; Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations Antonio Manuel Lagdameo; COO, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority Mark Lapid; Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Bureau of Internal Revenue Romeo Lumagui Jr.; Board Member, Movie and Television Review and Classification Board Juan Revilla; Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez; Administrator of the Southern Philippines Development Authority Abdulghani Salapuddin; and Presidential Security Group Commander and Senior Military Assistant Ramon Zagala.

Some of you had inquired about the topics that were discussed at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting. The DOF discussed the medium-term fiscal framework. Some details of which the Secretary can clarify for you today.

Under the Department of Agriculture, the President discussed ensuring the country’s food security and reconstructing the value chain starting with research and development to provide farmers with the latest technology.

The DOTr discussed providing support to the transportation sector and ensuring sustainability through the Libreng Sakay Program. They discussed Fuel Subsidy Program and the Service Contracting Program.

The DepEd discussed measures to ensure the safe re-opening of face-to-face classes. And the DICT discussed the Philippine digitalization situation and they addressed digital inequalities and low digital competencies.

So the details of which should be discussed by the Cabinet members themselves. They will hold their own — they will make their own releases or will address you directly at a later date.

So we just discussed with you the topics so you are aware of what happened at the Cabinet meeting yesterday.

Now in relation to the President’s remarks and his manifestations before the media right after the Cabinet meeting, we have Secretary Ben Diokno of the Department of Finance to expound and to clarify some matters that the President had discussed yesterday.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary of Finance.

DOF SECRETARY BENJAMIN DIOKNO: Good afternoon.

So let me begin by saying that the President’s disbelief at the 6.1 percent June 2022 inflation rate figure was misunderstood. Okay.

He was referring to it as a full-year figure when in fact the year to date, meaning, January to June average inflation rate is actually 4.4 percent. Okay. So that’s what he has in mind, 4.4 percent.

In practice, the BSP projects the monthly inflation rate a few days before the official announcement. The inflation rate of 6.1 percent for June 2022 is within the BSP’s forecast range of 5.7 to 6.5 percent for the month. And from January to June 2022, as I earlier mentioned, the average inflation rate of 4.4 percent is still within the Development Budget Coordination Committee’s target of 3.7 to 4.7 percent for the year as of May 24th, 2022.

The uptick in the June 2022 inflation rate was contributed by the following: operation of personal transport equipment, meaning, the use of cars, et cetera; electricity, gas and other fuels; and meat and other parts of slaughtered land animals.

Now the distribution of the first tranche of fuel subsidies worth P6,500 for public utility vehicle operators and drivers is expected to be completed in the first week of July. This is the Duterte subsidy scheme, the 6,500.

Now considering that all prices are expected to remain elevated in the near term, the government will expedite the release of the second tranche of subsidies for the transport sector.

In other words, President Marcos will continue the fuel subsidy that was put in place by the former President Duterte. This will be funded from the windfall tax from fuel oil.

The President was correct in saying that the current high inflation experience is global. Among our peers, Indonesia’s overall inflation climbed to 4.4 percent in June from 3.6 percent in May.
Meanwhile, Thailand’s inflation rate increased to 7.7 percent in June from 7.1 percent in May.

Inflation in the eurozone, which includes Germany, Italy, Spain, et cetera, stood at 8.6 percent in June. The highest in 11 years. And meanwhile, in the US, inflation rate reached a 40-year high of 8.6 percent.

Rest assured, the recent acceleration of inflation will be arrested by the government through addressing constraints in the food, energy, and transportation and logistics sectors.

Thank you. I am now ready to answer your questions.

KARMELA LESMORAS (MODERATOR): Thank you, Secretary Diokno. Ang una pong magtatanong ay si Sam Medenilla ng Business Mirror. Ang tanong po niya: “What measures will the government be implementing to curb inflation which has already hit 6.1 percent in June? What kind of relief will the government provide to cushion the impact of rising consumer prices?”

SEC. DIOKNO: So as I said, inflation is driven mainly by the elevated world price of oil. It affected the whole world, okay.

Now, the measure that we will do is we will continue the grant of the fuel subsidy to the affected parties, right. Like the drivers, the farmers, and the fisherfolks, okay.

The other measure is that we will continue the importation of products which are in short supply, okay, as has been done before. And of course, we will try to improve the transportation and logistics sectors.

MS. LESMORAS: Another question, sir, from Sam Medenilla: “Given the latest inflation data, what are the new inflation and GDP growth rate projections of the government for this year?”

SEC. DIOKNO: To be accurate, the inflation targets or forecasts are done by the BSP not by national government. And we estimate that inflation will remain elevated for the next few months so that the annual average inflation for this year will be in the neighborhood of 5 percent. It will be down to 4.2 percent next year — that’s the average inflation — and it will be back to the range, our target range of 2 to 4 percent. It will be back to 3.3 percent by 2024, okay.

This is a problem faced by many countries. You cannot cut inflation overnight. It has to be gradual. And so that’s the forecast of the BSP. Okay. So it’s a 5, 4.2, and 3.3. Okay.

MS. LESMORAS: Thank you, Secretary. Next, from Neil Mercado of Inquirer.net. His question po ay: “How much of a concern is limited fiscal space”?

SEC. DIOKNO: When you talk of fiscal space, you talk of the size of the deficit, okay? Size of the deficit. I think we still have a lot of fiscal space because we are confident that our revenues will pick up.

In fact, yesterday we submitted what is called the Medium-Term Fiscal Consolidation Framework, okay — Fiscal — Medium-Term Fiscal Framework. That is from 2023 to 2028. That’s the six-year term of the President. This is presented for the first time, okay. So we want to show the world that we are conscious of having a sound fiscal management.

So among the targets in that framework are the following: we expect the economy to grow by 6.5 to 7.5 this year. In fact, this is going to be the highest — the consensus is this will be the highest growth rate among all ASEAN Plus Three countries, this year and next year, okay. That’s the consensus.

When I say ASEAN Plus Three, that Plus Three means Japan, South Korea, and China, okay. So we are — the Philippines is expected to have the highest growth rate for the next two years, okay. And then, it will be followed by a growth rate of 6.5 to 8 percent from year 2023 to year 2028.

Now, our — we’re not only concerned with growth per se, we’re also concerned with reducing poverty, okay. So our target is that by the end of President Marcos’s term, poverty incidence will be down to single digit, 9 percent, okay.

If I remember right, it started at around 25 percent during the Duterte’s first year in office. But it was — we were almost down to around 18, 17 percent then the pandemic hit us, okay.

So there’s a slight backsliding. But our target under this framework is that poverty rate will be down to 9 percent by 2028. Our target on the national government deficit to GDP ratio will be 3 percent starting 2026, ‘27, ‘28, okay.

Now on the debt, national debt and you keep harping on this 60 percent, that’s the target. It will be down to 60 percent by 2025, okay. Right now, it’s around 63 percent. So it will be slowly tapering off to 60 percent by 2025.

And that on the Build, Build, Build Program, we are committed to spend some five to six percent of GDP for infrastructure annually, between 2023 to 2028, okay. As you know, during the last 50 years before Duterte, the spending on infrastructure was only less than two percent, okay.

And finally, we want to achieve what is called an upper middle-income status so that means that we are shooting for a 4,046 dollar per capita income for Philippines, by the end of the President’s term.

So those are the main targets of this medium-term fiscal framework. I cannot talk in more details because this is supposed to be the President’s — he will present this during his SONA and he will spell out the specifics on this, okay.

MS. LESMORAS: Secretary, maybe it’s the same pero another question from Neil Mercado. When do you plan to release your fiscal consolidation plan?

SEC. DIOKNO: Well, we have discussed it yesterday in the Cabinet and it was approved. This framework, as I said, will set the tone or will be our game plan for the next six years. And I said, this is the first time that this government or any government of the Philippines has presented such a game plan, okay.

So we’re not only thinking of a one-year plan, that is a six-year plan on the budget. And the desire is to reduce the deficit which ballooned during the pandemic to around nine percent — deficit to GDP ratio — to around three percent by 2025 or 2026.

MS. LESMORAS: Secretary, ang susunod pong magtatanong ay si Leth Narciso ng DZRH. Ang tanong po niya Secretary: “Sinabi ni PBBM na hahanapan ng pondo para maipagpatuloy ang subsidy sa transport sector, mayroon na po bang tinitingnan o pinag-aaralan ang gobyerno kung saan maaaring kumuha ng dagdag pondo para magamit dito?”

SEC. DIOKNO: Mayroon ng pagkukunan, ‘yung sinabi ko kanina ‘yung windfall tax. Kasi — because naka-set naman ‘yung specific tax on petroleum products. Since tumaas ‘yung presyo ng gasolina in the world market tapos nag-depreciate nang kaunti ‘yung peso, so the peso value of our imports has increased. So magkakaroon tayo ng additional revenue as a result of that ‘no.

Doon natin kukunin ‘yun. ‘Yung pagtaas ng presyo ng gasolina, ibabalik natin sa taong-bayan in the form of targeted subsidy. Hindi lahat makakakuha but ‘yung mga mas apektado, sila ang makakakuha nito.

MS. LESMORAS: Secretary, may tentative na raw po kaya kung magkano ito?

SEC. DIOKNO: Hindi, ipagpatuloy lang natin ‘yung 6,500 kasi mage-expire na ‘yun nitong June eh. So ‘yung sinabi nila this will be completed by the first week of July, ‘yun pa ‘yung kay President Duterte. So we will continue, okay.

MS. LESMORAS: Ang susunod pong magtatanong ay si Rex Remitio ng CNN Philippines.

REX REMITIO (CNN PHILIPPINES): Hi, Sec. Good afternoon.

SEC. DIOKNO: Good afternoon.

MR. REMITIO: Clarify ko lang ‘no, so ‘di ba tinigil ‘yung Libreng Sakay sa MRT. Was it too much ba for government coffers to subsidize MRT free rides?

SEC. DIOKNO: Hindi ko alam. Tinigil na ba ‘yun?

MR. REMITIO: Yes. According…

SEC. DIOKNO: Since when? Since when?

[MPC answers: “July 1.”]

SEC. DIOKNO: July 1, okay. Hindi ko alam kung magkanong nawala doon sa atin. But I know that we have rehabilitated MRT. As you know, on schedule na siya ngayon, ‘di ba, hindi nasisira, on schedule. Siguro dapat naman na magbayad na ‘yung taong-bayan doon.

But mayroon siyang pinaplano ngayon na if you are a student, ililibre niya yata ‘yun. Kaya lang LRT-2 ata ‘yun, ano. Maybe we might consider it also for all the mass transit systems. I don’t have the estimate right now. Pero malaking improvement na ‘yung MRT, I know. Nakikita ko talagang regular na ‘yung pagdating niya at saka mas madami na siyang karo ngayon ‘di ba. Hindi na siya nasisira, okay.

MS. LESMORAS: Okay. Salamat, Secretary Diokno. At ngayon naman po, mga katanungan para kay Secretary Angeles. Maricel Halili ng TV-5.

SEC. DIOKNO: Tapos na ako?

KYLE ATIENZA (BUSINESSWORLD): Hello, sir. Kyle Atienza of BusinessWorld here, sir. Sir, my question will be sir, will the DOF push for the completion of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program — it’s the taxation of profitable digital transactions outside the tax net among the priorities of the new admin? And what sectors will benefit the most from the new fiscal plan po, sir?

SEC. DIOKNO: Ah ‘yung ano ‘yung tax on digital services, I think it’s only fair na dapat ita-tax natin ‘yun, hindi ba? Kasi kung — if you are going to buy it from the regular stores nagta-tax ka, eh bakit naman pagka digital hindi ka magta-tax ‘no ‘di ba?

I think in the sense of fairness dapat pareho. Dapat magkaroon ng tax, especially medyo — if you really think about it ‘yung mga nakakaangat ang siyang nakakakuha ng mga ganyan, digital payment. So on the basis of fairness, I think they should be taxed ‘no.

Now, on the remaining parts of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program na pinush noong Duterte administration, there are two remaining packages. I think ang estimate noon is that it’s supposed to be revenue neutral ‘no. Walang additional revenues na makukuha doon.

But it will simplify a lot the tax system. So we will push for that. And then we expect that to be approved before the end of the year. And it will be implemented next year.

MR. ATIENZA: Sir, last question, sir. To cut government spending, is the DOF considering a shift to PPP, sir? Is it supporting a shift to PPP, sir — public-private partnership, sir? In terms of infra development, sir.

SEC. DIOKNO: Oo, we will push for PPP, okay. Kaya naman hindi siya na-push noong time ni Duterte is that when we came in — I’m talking of President Duterte — walang available na mga projects na ready for implementation. Now, we are able to develop some 88 or 89 major projects ready to go, shovel-ready na ‘yun.

So if there are some private sector interests, we will welcome that ‘no. And also because we recently approved ‘yung tinatawag na Public Services Act which means 100 percent control of foreigners of some industry like telco, tollways, shipping, et cetera. I think we encourage them to come in, okay, and maybe choose some of those projects or develop their own and we will welcome the PPP arrangement.

Not only at the national level but also at the local level. Kasi there are some local governments, some cities, who have the money to enter into this kind of arrangement. This will help us reduce the — rather enlarge ‘yung tinatawag na fiscal space.

So sa halip na 100 percent gagastos ang gobyerno, I think only a fraction thereof would be spent by the government for projects that will benefit the Filipino people, okay. Yes?

CATHERINE VALENTE (THE MANILA TIMES): Sir, on power hike lang po, mayroon pong Supreme Court ruling allowing Meralco to implement a staggered power rate hike. Napag-usapan po ba ito sa during Cabinet meeting or sa meeting ni PBBM with the economic team? Ano po ang kanyang naging directives? What are the measures to be implemented by the government para naman po maibsan ‘yung mga burden na hinaharap ngayon ng mga consumers?

SEC. DIOKNO: Okay. I’ll be frank with you. Wala ako sa Cabinet meeting kahapon, okay. Absent ako. So hindi ko alam kung — hindi pinag-usapan ‘yun ‘no? Hindi pinag-usapan ‘yun, oo.

MS. VALENTE: How about sir sa economic team, ano ‘yung magiging plan niyo?

SEC. DIOKNO: Hindi rin namin napag-usapan. But I think kailangan manggagaling ‘yan dapat siguro sa Department of Energy. Unfortunately, wala pa kaming Secretary for Energy, okay. So hindi napag-usapan ‘yan.

ALEXIS ROMERO (THE PHILIPPINE STAR): Clarification lang Secretary ‘no, ‘yung 6.5 to 7.5 growth, it’s also for 2023?

SEC. DIOKNO: For 2023, hindi mas mataas pa, 6.5 to 8 percent. Mas ambisyoso kami eh, kasi marami kaming — kasi maraming bagong reporma eh. I think we can.

MR. ROMERO: Mas may optimism?

SEC. DIOKNO: Oo. So ‘yung 6.5 to 7.5 this year, palagay ko medyo conservative pa nga ‘yun eh. Remember the first quarter is 13.2 ‘no. Second quarter, I would think, will be even higher than the 13.2.

Why? Because remember nagkaroon tayo ng surge noong January 2002 eh, ‘di ba? 2022 pala. Nagkaroon tayo ng surge sa COVID eh. So two months lang ‘yun ha ‘yung 13.2. So mas malakas pa ‘yung… I guess ‘no as a former governor of the Central Bank ang forecast ko mga around…

MR. ROMERO: Dahil nabanggit niyo na rin ‘yung surge ‘no, ‘yung economic team ba will they be adopting the same stance nung Duterte government na hindi na tayo magwa-wide-reaching lockdowns?

SEC. DIOKNO: I think no country now will — except maybe China — will go into general lockdowns ‘no. Talagang ano lang — focus, more focused. And I think we have now graduated from being pandemic to endemic. We have to live with the virus.

And kasi most of us are vaccinated anyway, right? Some are even — have boosters ‘no, third and fourth booster.

MR. ROMERO: So the economic team does not prefer ‘yung general — ?

SEC. DIOKNO: We don’t. In fact that is also key to the 100 percent opening of the — face-to-face opening of classes ‘no. The plan is it will start opening up by August and then 100 percent by November.

MR. ROMERO: Thank you, Sec.

MS. LESMORAS: Thank you so much, Secretary Diokno. Now, we go back to Maricel Halili for…

SEC. DIOKNO: Puwede na ako ha? Okay, thanks.

MARICEL HALILI (TV-5): Hi ma’am, magandang hapon po. Ma’am, first issue po ‘yung tungkol sa proposal. A congressman filed a bill before the Congress seeking to change the name of Ninoy Aquino International Airport to Ferdinand E Marcos International Airport. Ano po ang tingin ng Malakanyang dito, ma’am?

SEC. ANGELES: Malacañang has no comment yet on this one. It’s just been filed. After all, wala pang first reading. So any reaction would be premature, if any is even warranted at this time.

MS. HALILI: But ma’am do you think this is a timely topic to discuss considering that — well there’s a lot of challenges that the administration is facing right now. Number one is the increase on prices of commodities. So is this a timely issue to be raised?

SEC. ANGELES: Well, this is not a bill filed by Malacañang. So it’s not our place to indicate whether it is timely or not. It was the congressman who filed it. So no comment for right now. Particularly, you know, it’s very early stages, really. It’s just been filed.

MS. HALILI: Ma’am, sorry, other issue lang po. Baka po may detalye na tayo doon sa meeting ni President Bongbong Marcos with DOH and PhilHealth officials this morning?

SEC. ANGELES: Wala pa po. Wala pa. We will probably be calling for a briefer as soon as we get that. So get ready probably tomorrow, not sure, or we will be issuing a release for it.

MS. HALILI: Thank you, ma’am.

SEC. ANGELES: You’re welcome. Okay, one more.

MS. LESMORAS: Ang susunod naman pong magtatanong ay si Pia Gutierrez ng ABS-CBN.

SEC. ANGELES: Where’s Ms. Pia?

PIA GUTIERREZ (ABS-CBN): Hi, ma’am. Actually natanong na ‘yung mga questions ko. But could you please clarify po the appointment of Tirso Cruz III as FDCP chair considering na mayroon pong previous release before that the appointment of Usec. Diño has been extended until 2025?

SEC. ANGELES: I think she would fall under MC 1, so Memorandum Circular No. 1. And therefore, the appointment is correct.

MS. GUTIERREZ: Thank you, ma’am.

SEC. ANGELES: You’re welcome. Okay. No more questions? Thank you. Okay fine. One pahabol.

SEC. ANGELES: Si ma’am…

MS. LESMORAS: Ivan Mayrina.

IVAN MAYRINA (GMA-7): After the lady.

SEC. ANGELES: So dalawa ‘yung pahabol natin.

MS. LESMORAS: Vanz Fernandez.

SEC. ANGELES: Alright. Yes, ma’am?

EVANGELINE FERNANDEZ (POLICE FILES TONITE/DZRJ): Yes, ma’am. Good afternoon. As the President has announced the free rides for students in the LRT will continue forward, has there any been details announced on where the appropriate budget for sustaining the free ride operation for students will be drawn from? And how long will the free rides be maintained by the government for?

SEC. ANGELES: Well, this is a question for the DOTr. Let’s allow them to make the announcement themselves. This was a proposal that was made during the Cabinet meeting. The President seems to — as he has announced — support it. So let’s wait for the DOTr, right? They’ll make the — they’ll make their presentation.

MS. FERNANDEZ: Thank you.

MR. MAYRINA: Mabilis lang na tanong lang po. Ano po ang tugon ng Pangulo sa imbitasyon ng European Union for the President to visit Brussels? Has it been formally acknowledged?

SEC. ANGELES: Not yet. It was not in fact discussed during the Cabinet meeting. So we’ll wait for that one. He did acknowledge the other invitations. If you will recall, he — we just haven’t calendared the invitation of China. So we’ll wait for that one. Wala pa talagang acknowledgment. It wasn’t even discussed. We’ll announce it as soon as it’s formal. All right?

Thank you very much.

MS. LESMORAS: Last follow-up question. Nestor Corrales of Inquirer.

SEC. ANGELES: Tatlo na ‘yan.

NESTOR CORRALES: (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER): Good afternoon, ma’am. Ma’am, there are over a dozen bills pending before the Office of the President for the President’s signing particularly the vape bill. What’s the plan of the President —

SEC. ANGELES: The — ?

MR. CORRALES: Vape bill.

SEC. ANGELES: Vape, ah, all right.

MR. CORRALES: What’s the plan of the President on these bills? Will he sign it or will he let it lapse into law?

SEC. ANGELES: The President has not indicated either way. So when you say that there are bills pending before the President, as you know, if no action is made then it lapses into law. So there has been no indication. The President has not commented on these bills right now.

ROSE NOVENARIO (HATAW): Magkakaroon po ng National Vaccination Day for schoolchildren considering na may plano tayong mag-face-to-face classes 100 percent sa November, mayroon po bang planong ganoon?

SEC. ANGELES: The issue of vaccination actually has been addressed during the Cabinet meeting. It will be discussed formally later on. In fact, we have a release for tomorrow on that one. And you’re right, it is an essential part of returning to face-to-face classes.

So we’ll discuss this further when — we’re expecting the Department of Education to issue their department order pursuant to face-to-face classes and an additional announcement also from the DOH on the vaccination program.

MS. NOVENARIO: Thank you.

MR. REMITIO: Ma’am, pahabol lang.

SEC. ANGELES: All right, totoong-totoo na. Wow, really? Really? Really? Okay ganito, just as a matter of discipline, let’s just take two more questions. Alright? Madam…

MS. LESMORAS: Okay. Last two questions from Rex Remitio and Pia Gutierrez.

MR. REMITIO: Okay. Sec, this is related to Defense ‘no. So ‘yung Republic Act 11709 sets fixed terms for top AFP positions for three to four years. Kasi dati ‘di ba ‘pag na-appoint hanggang sa retirement. Pero this time fixed term three years na. So si President Marcos ba will he continue to keep current AFP Chief General Andres Centino until he retires in February 2023?

SEC. ANGELES: This is a law, right? And it’s been passed. So the President adheres to the law. So…

MR. REMITIO: So siya pa rin ba until February 2023?

SEC. ANGELES: Whatever is stated in the law. If his term has been during the time of the effectivity of the law, then the President will abide by that.

MR. REMITIO: And last na, ‘yung papalit sa kanya by February 2023 which will take the three-year term, mayroon na bang list si President Marcos?

SEC. ANGELES: It’s way too far right now. So really speculative at the moment.

Yes, ma’am?

MS. GUTIERREZ: Ma’am, I would just like to get your comment po doon sa naging tweet ni Senator Francis Escudero, Chiz Escudero, regarding the President’s veto of House Bill 7575. He questioned — he said that he is uncertain if the President can veto a bill passed by the previous Congress. Can Malacañang comment on this po?

SEC. ANGELES: The Constitution is very clear that they have no indication as to whether it’s the sitting President or the former President who can sign a bill into law.

Since there is no distinction made in the Constitution, neither do we make such a distinction. So the President can veto. That is the stand.

Thank you very much.

MS. LESMORAS: Maraming salamat, Malacañang Press Corps. Maraming salamat po, Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles.

SEC. ANGELES: Thank you. Have a good day, guys.

— END —

 

SOURCE: PCOO-PND (Presidential News Desk)