|Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Secretary Regina Paz Lopez Department of Environment and Natural Resources|
|Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building, Malacañang|
|09 February 2017|
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. This morning we are pleased to have the Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources, Ms. Regina Paz Lopez.
Before her appointment as DENR chief, Sec. Gina was known for her advocacies on environmental issues. She led the reforestation of La Mesa Watershed and La Mesa Eco Park.
In 2011, as managing director of the ABS-CBN Foundation and working with partner organizations, she also launched the Save Palawan Movement.
In 2010, she was named chairperson for the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission.
For her work with Bantay Kalikasan, she received the 1997 International Public Relations Award for Excellence for the Environment and the 2009 Outstanding Manilan Award for the Environment.
So ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corp, let us give a warm welcome to DENR Secretary, Ms. Gina Lopez.
SEC. LOPEZ: All right. Well, I want to thank you Ernie for inviting me over and I want to greet all of you a very warm and pleasant good morning.
So let me just go really, really quickly since I have 15 minutes and maybe Selena you can show me the time so I don’t over talk. Yeah.
All right. I just want to quickly show you the perspective in which DENR is operating.
Number one, I feel that economic growth is not genuine if it doesn’t bring on social justice, which means to say as vibrant stock market or great GDP, but all our people, a lot of our people are suffering, is not for me genuine.
I feel that genuine economic growth comes with area development. Area development is when you take a particular area and you see the potential of the area and you nurture and develop that potential for the people of that area.
Then we can eradicate poverty in our country. And in area development, just very briefly, two components: One is people and one is the environment.
And what DENR wants to do and we’ve changed that now, it’s not E2 zone anymore, we’re going to call it E3 zone. It’s ecological, it’s economic, and it’s educational.
And what we want to do is give people access to the environment and, in that way, bring economic growth. This is our performance indicators: health, happiness, peace and order, so on and so forth.
Okay, I just want to briefly show you like speedily show you, things I’ve done before I was in DENR and which is the reason why I’m so passionate that if you save the environment, it’s the way to go.
Like here, we put in 3.9 — this is money from the Typhoon Yolanda. We put in 3.9, in less than a year, they hit 4 and their salaries are 758. Here, there’s a skimboarding, we put in 1.7, in less than a year, they hit 2.7 and their salaries are 1.5.
Here it’s 4.2, this is in Sohoton, this is really, really, really, really, beautiful, in Samar; and then they hit 2.9. The salaries are 1.5.
I mean they’re out of poverty in less than a year. Here in Sorsogon, we put in 291,000 they hit 1.8, their out-of-school youth. Guess what? They’re back in school, their salaries are 514,000 and that’s in 10 months.
Here we put in, Sorsogon, 770, they hit 970, the salaries are 642 in a very short span of time.
This is my favorite one. You know it’s a community that was really poor, but they were living beside this spectacular 18-million-year rock formation. Ninety-eight percent were women, only two graduated from college, 60 percent goes to salaries, 40 percent is for savings. They put all of that with their money.
And so what happened from 30 families, they are now almost 300. So it’s an ecological, economic, education zone. The barangay captain there said that every person here has a job because of Ugong Rock.
That’s what I want to do in Dinagat and Surigao because it’s so, so, so, so beautiful. All right. They went into chicken and ducks and agriculture. And you know, a 100 regular members get more than 10,000. At the end of the year, they get dividends.
All members get benefits. Okay, on the first year 7,000. Next year, 133. Next year, 611. Next year, 7 million. Next year, 12. Next year, 22. Oh my God, next year 29. My God, right?
And every…There’s zero poverty there now. Why can’t we do it like this? The country is so beautiful.
Okay, look at this, I put in 250,000, just very little money. This is how I want to use the SDMP funds of the mining companies that have survived.
And they’ve — 2010 they win gold. The boat men there earned 10,000 pesos a week, a week. And they only work three hours at night, they have a million pesos in the bank.
So now I want to show you… Let’s show them the slide of… I want to show a video of what I… I was in the chopper when the videos were taken. This is of Dinagat and Surigao.
Do you have a wireless mic so I can…Is there anybody? No wireless mic, okay. It’s easier for me like this.
Okay, this is Dinagat. We took the shots ourselves. It was declared a mineral reservation. Look how beautiful. My God, right? Wow! Oh my God! Why are there poor? You know, they’ve been mining the…Look at that. That’s Dinagat. My God! Wow! ‘Di ba?
Okay, is that nice or is that nice? No, ma’am, it’s not nice, it’s gorgeously beautiful. That’s a bonsai forest. The largest bonsai forest in the country. Look at that.
That’s a blue lagoon. Oh my God, right? Wow! Look at Surigao. Surigao, it’s the Sohoton Cave, the biodiversity here is awesome. I love you all talaga. Hay nako, Ernie, you tell me to come here all the time.
This is an enchanted river. There’s fish that come here, blue fish, every 12 hours. Look at that. Oh my God! Look what happened in Surigao! My goodness gracious!
And I took the — we took the shots ourselves. This is a disappearing island. What are you doing? Look at that. I think that’s Pichay’s ‘no?
Look at that, that’s Surigao. Look at that. That was taken myself ‘no. Oh this is Dinagat, look at that. I mean how can that be fair? They just totally killed the mountain and that wasn’t raining.
Erns, I love your Press Corps na. [laughter] I’ll bring them around. Do you want to go there? We should bring them there ‘no. Do you want to see the place? [Press Corps: Yes.] I have a military chopper. Yeah, we could bring them there so they see for themselves ‘no. [Press Corps: Yes.] You talk to the people yourself. I think they are suffering ‘no, okay.
Do I still have time to talk? Okay just last. Let me just show you. Iwahig. Okay look at this, this is… This is… I put in 1.5 million pesos. Snorkeling, dolphin watching in Puerto Princesa: 1,286 visitors went all the way up to 155; 142,000 went all the way up to 40 million.
Why can’t we do this in Surigao and Dinagat? I mean it’s even more beautiful than these. Why can we do it? You know, Filipinos —Philippines for Filipinos. You know not for… Yeah. Anyway. Because let me show you the…
Okay, this is I think was on watersheds. I don’t want any mining in watershed. This is an area where there are rivers and streams. Okay, like this is a watershed. And I have made a policy in DENR that there should be no extractive industries in watersheds because it will kill the community life of the people around and it has.
Okay, so finally let me end with this: This is the… We are the fifth most mineralized country in the planet; we are the top nickel producer; fifth biggest nickel reserves; fourth biggest copper, like that. What has it given us?
This is in 2013: .7 percent GDP, 6 percent total exports, .6 percent total employment, .004 percent total government revenues. So how are we benefiting?
This is the revenue from mining: 74 billion. This is from the Philippine impact… EITI. Okay. That’s the expense, that’s the net income. 82 percent of the net income goes to the mining industry and only 18 percent goes to the country and out of this 82 percent, 95 percent goes out of the local economy.
So how will Dinagat or Surigao ever come up if they are raped and abused and then 95 percent of whatever income is there goes out of the place? It’s a very unfair situation.
Okay, I just want to show this to you because 100 percent of the environmental damage, health, social opportunity loss are all shouldered by the local economy. But look where the money goes: In Bicol, 76 percent goes to national; 93 percent in Palawan; 82 percent in Mindoro.
Okay, lastly, [I think this is… ah here] the mining industry has given 82.4 billion pesos as of 2014 and 235,000 jobs. The entire mining industry, including quarrying.
So I honestly don’t know where they’re getting this number of 1.2? This is… My last number is in 2016, third quarter, it’s 219,000; and that’s everything, including quarrying.
Okay, here the… As… In contrast, the tourism industry has given 982 billion in the same period and 4.7 million jobs. I think that’s… I basically covered it, yeah.
So where I feel we should go in terms of area development is we have to look at the specialness of each and every part of the Philippines and develop that area for the people of that area.
You know, when I went to Dinagat, I mean the complaints were, “Ma’am, 20 percent lang ng mga trabahador diyan taga-Dinagat eh ‘no.”
You know, so it’s not… They do all the suffering and it’s because it’s so beautiful. They’ve been mining there for 77 years.
Okay, was there anything else that I have to show you? I think that’s basically it. Ah here: Because this is what the mining industry has been talking about all the time: in 2014, 250,000; 15, 236,000, third quarter, 219.
Okay, and then the final mine rehab is, and this is the thing about the law ‘no. From the latest numbers…
You know when the companies mine, they are supposed to put in money for rehabilitation when they go away and once the final rehab plan is approved, then in 7 days, they should put the money there.
So actually, the fact that the commitment is 3.55 billion — [Is this the latest?] And they only put in 470 million, in the mining law, it says that’s reason for closure because that means you’re raping the country and you’re not putting the money there, which is necessary to fix it up.
I was in Pangasinan the other day and there was a copper mine that had closed. It was a legacy mine because the price of copper went down and so they went up and left. And I asked the community na, “Okay ba kayo?” “Ma’am. Okayl ang but tuwing umuulan, nagdudusa kami because it overspills eh.”
I’ll give you another example: In Puerto Princesa, there was the Quicksilver — Palawan Quicksilver. They were mining mercury and since the price of mercury went down, then they went up and left the place.
Okay, the allowable mercury in the human body is .002, .002. You know what the mercury level is there? 12. It’s crazy. What are they doing? So it’s like a hazard zone now and then across the street are hot springs.
So they come here, they mine, they go away, and then they leave us like this and who will take care? Is a financial liability to government?
Like for example, Samar, the Bagacay Mines. The government had no choice but to put in 300 million pesos and they had to take care of it every year otherwise the community will suffer. It’s just irresponsible mining and I fault the government. You know, not being more strict with rules and regulations because everything I’m doing… I didn’t invent the rules. I mean, the rules are there, it just has to be followed.
And the mining law says you should not disadvantage the present and future generations. When you kill the river and the streams and you put mining in watersheds, and what are you doing? I’m just following the law. And, in fact, social justice is in the heart and soul of the Philippine Constitution. It’s there.
I talked to Chris Monsod and others and they were involved in the writing of the Philippine Constitution, the heart and the soul of the Philippine Constitution is social justice.
And when our resources are raped and taken advantage of and goes out of the country and goes to a few who are already very rich anyway, then isn’t that social injustice? So that’s what we’re all about.
So maybe in closing, I’ll just play “Heal the Hurt”, and then we’ll open.
This was done by the director of Oprah, he was — went around with me. I’ll just show you and then I’ll let you know later what we want to do.
[Close the lights a little. Just turn off the lights.] Yeah, this was recent…
It’s Palawan. Look at that ‘no. Those were killed by anti-large scale mining, in broad daylight they were killed. And that’s owned by Pichay.
It’s open pit mining. That’s what they’re doing. Ninety-five percent of the mining in this country is open pit. I could use presidential language but I might get into trouble.
And it wasn’t even raining ha when I took this, hindi umuulan.
This is in Agusan. It’s open pit mining. That’s Dinagat.
How about them? Wala din ba silang karapatan mabuhay? And that’s in Homonhon. She was there for four days. How about them? Wala ba silang karapatan na mabuhay?
This is Fr. Joel Tabora, he’s the president of Ateneo de Davao.
Okay, yes. I am ready for questions. Is that…Okay. Shoot. Go ahead, no problem.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
Hannah Sancho (Sonshine Radio): Hi ma’am. While pini-play po ‘yung video kanina…
SEC. LOPEZ: Excuse me.
Ms. Sancho: While pini-play ‘yung video kanina, na-mention ninyo ‘yung mga pinatay na mga Lumads at may-ari si Congressman Pichay.
SEC. LOPEZ: Oh, no, no, no. He was not the one that killed that Lumads ha. I’m saying…
Ms. Sancho: No, I mean, pag-aari niya ‘yung mining company?
SEC. LOPEZ: He has interest in Claveria, I know that. I mean that…I mean the governor…I mean that’s how it is eh, the governor, the mayor, the — all over the country ‘no. Politicians have mining links. That’s why the mining has been allowed to flourish.
Ms. Sancho: Bilang DENR Secretary, is it a burden sa inyo? Handa ba kayong banggain ‘yung mga government officials na may stake doon sa mga mining companies or pag-aari nila or stockholder ba sila?
SEC. LOPEZ: My stand in life is truth, service and the common good. Before I took on the job, you know, I have a meditation teacher. And he was telling me, “Regina…” He calls me Regina. “You know, politics is really messy.” And that was main considerating factor. Will I survive here? You know my spiritualties, the reason why I live. And I didn’t want to get into a job where that would be sacrificed.
The reason why I agreed is because in one meditation, I saw that — like I felt like the heart of the country; and then I felt that as long as I stay true, I would be able to make a difference. And it might even be good for me spiritually. But I have to stay true.
So it’s like this, you have a job and we did the mining audit… Being true means telling the truth ‘no. If I think, ‘Oh, baka like this, like this.’ Then truth needs courage.
If I don’t act the truth and if I don’t act courageously, a part of me will die inside and it’s not worth it. You know, I have to be true to myself because I have to survive as a person. And if I keep true to myself, I think it is in that truth that I can lend the greatest service to the country. If I survive, you know, politics is magulo ‘di ba?
Ms. Sancho: May lumapit na po sa inyo sa kanila, ma’am?
SEC. LOPEZ: Excuse me?
Ms. Sancho: May lumapit na po sa kanila sa inyo, mga government officials?
SEC. LOPEZ: Ah, I like the miners. I mean, I have no…I mean…
Ms. Sancho: No, government officials po na into mining po, lumapit sa inyo about their business? Humingi ba ng compromise or are they willing to comply?
SEC. LOPEZ: You mean the mayors like that? The politicians who are involved?
Ms. Sancho: Iyong mga politicians talaga na may — ‘yung mga mining companies po — or stakeholders ba sila?
SEC. LOPEZ: I don’t know of any…Yeah. They haven’t really come to me. I’ll just tell the truth. I just know ‘no that they are…
I mean you know also ‘di ba? They’re…You know because even if you don’t have business interest, I mean, the fact is, mining money funds political campaigns. You know that.
So what happens politicians — and I am not saying any names here ha. Okay? Don’t give me trouble. I am not saying any names ‘no. But I know that when you are funded by whoever, then you are indebted to that person.
And so what happens is the decisions those people make are, by and large, always in favor of the people who funded their campaign, that’s what happens.
And I want to…I also want to say, in connection with this, that, you know, if you look at… If you look at society, society big business interests and they are —they are poor people, and you have the whole gamut of whatever is there.
The role of government is to play the middle path, you know. If you co-opt your role to the side of big business, who is going to protect the poor? How will the poor ever stand against big political, big business interests? The only institution, the only entity that can stand against political and business interest is the government. And if we co-opt our role to the side of big business, what’s going to happen to these guys? The farmers and fishermen who have been suffering for decades.
Why don’t we help them? That’s our role. And actually, my stand is that if we help them, we will have a good stock market still, we will have a good economy but it’s based on principles of decency and righteousness. That’s the kind of economy we should have and that’s the kind of economy we can have under the Duterte administration because he’s really — doesn’t like corruption at all.
In fact, when I had the…Before my presentation in the Cabinet, I was with Jun Evasco and DOLE, the DOLE Secretary and then Judy, the Secretary of DSWD. And Secretary Evasco said, “Sige, let’s do a convergence in Dinagat and in Surigao.” Like get all the government agencies and let’s get this island out of poverty. There’s been mining in Dinagat for 77 years. Why don’t we show? You know.
And I told them, “Give me a year.” Because the things I did there was like one year, two years, I didn’t even have government money. Government has so much money. Like my budget is like 8 billion for the NGP. We’ve spent 30 billion already in the past years and I go around and I said, “Saan pumunta ‘yung pera? Hindi ko maintindihan.” “Where is the money going?”
So if we use the government money well and with the power that government has, and we converge like if DOST, DTI, DSWD, we all converge there… Give me a year. There is no way we can’t make a difference. Because I have experienced doing it before and if we go there and converge and really help them like maybe they need a mini airstrip there in Dinagat ‘no. I don’t know. Let’s see what they have.
But I have government mo…I have 8 billion in my NGP. I have so much money ‘no. In ABS-CBN, I was always looking for money. And then when I came to DENR, I said, “Ha? Ang daming pera dito ‘no.” So the key here is the people, you know.
If my people have topak, eh ‘di walang mangyayari sa buhay ‘no. So I’m asking all of you, if you know any DENR people that have topak, and you have evidence. Ay dedma. Yeah, I have zero tolerance for corruption. And this the President and I fully resonate.
So you just let know ‘no. One, inefficiency, two corruption. Ay they are really…Patay ‘no.
Dexter Ganibe (DZMM): Hi, ma’am. Good noon.
SEC. LOPEZ: Hello!
Mr. Ganibe: Si Finance Secretary Dominguez na ko-quote sa balita ngayong umaga lang na sinasabi niya na na-desisyunan ‘nung — nitong Cabinet meeting noong Tuesday na put on hold muna ‘yung desisyon ninyo na ipasara ‘yung 20 plus minings?
SEC. LOPEZ: Ah that’s what he said. What happened there was they want to make sure that I followed rule of law and I did, you know.
I mean, if you take the processes one by one because they were scared that…I mean who in the… I mean what I did was really something ‘di ba? 23 mines, oh my God ‘no!
But I was thinking, you know, because I don’t know how long I’m going to last here. You know, my Commission on Appointment is coming. If I’m in ABS, I’m just a tree hugger ‘di ba? But now, I’m DENR Secretary ‘no. [laughs]
So let me use my position now because if I…I don’t trust politics. Like remember the first time my name wasn’t giving in, nagulat ako ha. I was doing really well. I rated the top in Pulse Asia and then my name — giving in and I said, parang and then I saw that politics is totally malabo. So I said, now that I am still here, DENR Secretary, so let me close the mines, so at least I can show the public what it is. What’s…
Mr. Ganibe: So ano po ang mangyayari doon ma’am sa put on hold muna? Makakapag-operate ba sila or…
SEC. LOPEZ: Well, this is what the President said in the…This is my experience of the President, you know, and that’s why I really like him.
He is not plastic at all. He is really, really genuine. You know even the drug thing, actually the reason why he does his drug thing because of love ‘no.
He really loves people and he doesn’t like it when there are bullies that abuse and there are people who are getting rich and people suffer. Like that we are very similar.
So what he…And I…As long as the issue of social justice is there and I follow the rule of law. He just wants to make sure that, you know, because he doesn’t get into trouble. Yeah, rule of law, I agree.
And so what I am going to show and I can show it to you now is that I have followed the rule of law at every single, single, single, single, single step of the way. Go to the Philippine Constitution, it says social justice ‘no.
Mr. Ganibe: So on hold po muna, tama po ano ‘yung — ?
SEC. LOPEZ: No, it’s not like that. What it is is that… Okay, I’ll tell you the system ‘no. You do closure, I’m totally in my rights to close down the mines.
Now, if they don’t agree and I think they don’t agree, is that they will appeal. So when they appeal to the President, the mine still continues operation while it’s on appeal.
Then when the President studies the situation and sees, “Yeah, you know, why should we just allow these mines to go on? He decides, “Yeah, for social justice, we’ll do this.” Then, it’s final. Then they can go to court. Okay.
But when they go to court, they have to stop the mine na. I can use the rehab funds that’s what I want to do. There’s so much money there. I want to use their money.
Okay. So when a… When the… That’s what happens. So that’s the process, okay.
I also want to say that the people — the laborers that mine, they don’t have jobs every single day of the year. You don’t mine eh. Like from now, there’s no mining now in Surigao, and no mining in Dinagat, nothing.
So that means the people are not earning because…And they are going to start mining again on March or April when the rain stops.
If we have a green economy, they have money every single day, every month, you don’t stop at all. Look at my communities that are earning 30 million? And that’s the kind of economy I want to have. Can I show you my — the mangrove? Is that okay? I’ll show you my plan. Okay you can ask questions.
By the way, I want to let you know that the President of GMA went to my office Jimenez, yeah. [laughter] And then I told him, “Sir, why does ABS and GMA work together for the poor ‘no? For eco tourism?” “I agree ‘no.” “Ah that’s good ha.”
Joseph Morong (GMA-7): I don’t have any questions anymore. [laughter]
SEC. LOPEZ: I love him. He’s really good. And, in fact, the son-in-law of — what’s his name Duavit? Is it ano? [someone answers: “Lito.”] “Lito…” “Come, this is Sylvia Ordoñez, she’s the president of Natural Resources Development Corporation.” Yes, true, and its under DENR — through her we will do business ‘no. So through her, we’re doing mangrove and we’re doing bamboo.
So what’s his name again? Lito. Yeah, his wife is the daughter of Duavit.
Mr. Morong: Very good work, by the way, ma’am. [laughter]
SEC. LOPEZ: And in ABS has a… ABS has a Bantay Kalikasan, the ABS CBN Foundation has a small VCO plant there which was funded by Pacquiao. And they are putting up the son of…The son-in-law of Duavit, he’s putting up a one billion peso in the same place. In fact, he texted me the other day and he said, “Gina don’t worry, you know, I’ve hired 400 of those mine workers, no problem at all.”
So can you imagine if GMA and ABS work together for Dinagat and Surigao? My God! Right? If I can generate 30 million every year, just ABS alone, eh what if we are together pa? So I really see here…Anyway, I want to show this to you. Look at this ‘no. [laughter]
Look at this…This is… DENR has eight billion pesos for the NGP program, okay. The bulk of this is with mangoves and, in fact, in a weeks time, we have the president of the Green Climate Fund coming here and we are looking at a 100 million dollars every year.
Yes, the word is million; yes, the word is dollars; and, yes, the word is every year; and, yes, their coming here in the Philippines. So this is where we want to put the money in mangroves, okay.
I just want to give you an idea how we can kick ass the economy. Look at this, these are the mangroves. Kick ass, okay naman ‘yon ‘di ba? Hindi personal. [laughter] Presidential ba ‘yan? O ano naman ‘yan.
Okay there is a… There is a…These are rectangular whatever for seed beds, okay, for mangroves seedlings. You can put 200 mangroves seedlings there, okay. Each seedling is 10 pesos. I have they money okay. So I can… So for this, we’ll generate 20,000.
There are 20 in this area you can have 30 or 40 but in this area, in Samar, there are 20. So that whole area generates 400,000 okay.
So that shows you how corrupt DENR was before because before I don’t know where the money went ‘no. [laughter] So, but now what we do, we’re going to give it to the community, you know.
We are going to… Like I will get all the seedlings from them. If they plant mangrove seedlings there, I will buy it from them. And the cost of taking care of that is like what? 50,000, a 100,000, which means they will have 300,000 net and that’s their money. It’s not COAble ‘no.
So which means I can work with them to invest that money into social enterprises and with Sylvia, I am guaranteeing to buy everything.
Like this…Like, for example, because the problem of the poor is they don’t know how to do value add and the other problem of the poor is they don’t have access to marketing. But if we buy everything, we’ll get them out of poverty.
So my contract here depends on conditions. Number one, the money is for the child and the family. Because we see that ‘no, we help people ang nangyari lang doon, walang pakinabang diyan, ‘yung nangyari lang doon, tumaas ‘yung Ginebra sales ‘no. [laughs] Kasi maglalasing lang kayo at mag-ninigarilyo lang kayo eh ‘di huwag na lang, sayang ‘yung pera.
Number two, they have to commit to pay it forward. Hindi lang dapat isipin sarili ninyo. Because you will get 300,000 here every four — every three months, every three months and I have the money. I can give a million every three months.
And then you roll it, just like what I did in Ugong Rock. You roll it, you roll it, after 30 families, 300 na sila, lahat ng tao may trabaho. I can do that with the money of DENR. You roll it, you roll it. And then I’ll help them with marketing. Okay.
Three, they have to be really, really honest. They cannot spend all the money. They have to put it in the bank and then we will consult together and to see how we can help them really make money.
So what will happen? The use of the money of DENR will create what we call E3 Zones that’s from Ed: ecological, economic, educational. We’ll eradicate poverty in this country in record time.
And what was the other one? What were the other things Selena that, yeah? Ah four, they have to follow solid waste management program. Well, I don’t like basura there ‘no.
And five, they have to make the place really pretty. So we will have ecological, economic, educational zones all over the country with the money that DENR has. I’ll do that in Dinagat and Surigao.
Mr. Morong: Hi, ma’am, good morning. Ma’am ‘yun pong mga closure order na-serve na ba ‘yun sa mga mining companies?
SEC. LOPEZ: Yes, okay, this is the thing ‘no… What happens is when you — when you …. This is the process ha… We did mine audit and after the mine audit, we saw that they were violations, so we did show cause.
And I have a copy… I mean, you are very welcome to come to my office to see the copies. I have boiled peanuts. [laughter]
And if you behave, I have ice cream of coconut milk without white sugar. If you behave ‘no, o ‘di ba? Really, really tasty. Okay so then…
You’re very welcome to come to the office. Just make sure I’m there. Okay, so then we… So we make an appointment. You can come there and then you can have full access to all the files, see whatever you want. Okay, then we…They we gave the show cause to all, okay. And we have the documents that they received the mining audit reports. So I don’t know what they’re saying. You know, they received it. You saw they signed, they received it, okay. And then after that they explain, they give their explanation. You cannot just close down the mine ‘no if you don’t like it. Like, if I saw all that, that I saw in Surigao, I can’t just close it just by seeing it on the chopper.
That is a combination of a process that started six months ago, all right. So then when we…Then when you give the show cause, then they reply, then we evaluate. And that whole evaluation took two months — two to three months. And for me, it was too long. So what we did is we formed committees, you know, in DENR. Our MGB, EMB, DENR and so on and so forth to look to evaluate the answers that they made.
But they were going so slow. After one month, they only did 17 and then every week there’s someone from the press calling me out. I said, “We have to finish it and Duterte doesn’t like things to take time.” Okay.
So what I did is that I just went on it myself. Now, this is the thing what happened. In the last press con, when the press wanted to have access to that, I said, “You don’t have to have access to that because I already made the decision.” But actually what it is is that, that — those committees that I formed are not mandated by the government. I just wanted to do it so that they won’t — it was taking too long.
And in the committee reports and you have full access to that including boiled peanuts that have been soaked overnight that has garlic and Himalayan salt. That you can — garlic is kasi ano eh, it’s aphrodisiac and antibiotic ‘no.
Okay, so when you…When we agreed on the violations where we disagreed was the penalty.
Mr. Morong: Ma’am, na-serve na, hindi pa?
SEC. LOPEZ: No, no…
Mr. Morong: Iyong closure?
SEC. LOPEZ: I’ll explain. So the committees recommended fines. Fines. And I said, “What fines?” These people are suffering and the fines and the fines even goes to national government. It doesn’t even go to the poor that have suffered. I said, “No, closure.” You know, if it’s in watersheds.
So what happen is when we decided on closure…I’m just really open. You know with me, what you see is what you get. Okay, so when we decided on closure, we made an omnibus closure to all the mines.
And then my legal team looked at it and they decided, “No, ma’am, I think, you should do it individual. Not the same for each and every.”
And so that’s what we’re doing now. You know we are doing individual, which means — individual means taking the details of each site and then saying why…
You know because before we just said, “You’re in a watershed, you’re silting and like that.” So it’s an individual data of each site.
We’ve already decided it will be closed but it’s making sure that the data is correct. So that will be, as of this morning, how many did I sign sweetheart? Okay as of this morning, I signed 12. And then during the…And it’s out by this morning; and during the — by the time of the MIC — the determination is to sign all. I don’t know if they can do it.
But it’s not against the law, I mean I didn’t do anything wrong there. But it would have been ideal if we had done it before. And actually to tell you the truth, I only found out after the press con that they hadn’t done it yet ‘no, but you know…
Mr. Morong: Ma’am, last two questions on my part. Number one, ma’am ‘yung mga mining companies nagrereklamo yata na sila hindi pa nila nakikita ‘yung mining audit and, in fact, they had to file…
SEC. LOPEZ: But they receive…How did they reply to the show cause if they didn’t receive it? Each and every one of them replied to the show cause.
And then we went and evaluate. I have all the replies in my office. How did they reply if they didn’t get the audit?
Mr. Morong: Ma’am can we have a copy of the audit?
SEC. LOPEZ: Yes. You come. You know like one mining company. Do you have the audit? Okay, this is our lawyer here. Do you have…?
Mr. Morong: Okay, ma’am last one na lang, you said kanina that…
SEC. LOPEZ: Okay this is an example. This is what ano…This is one reply. [Staff: “This is one audit reply.”]
This is mere mineral. Did we close this? It’s in a watershed ‘di ba? That’s Zambales. So that you can see this.
So each mining company was given one. I cannot naman bring all ‘no. Each mining company was given one of these. And they signed that they received. And then they replied. And then we checked. And then when I saw the footages. I said, “Hay, nako!.” It’s just so bad.
Mr. Morong: Ma’am just one last. Ma’am kanina sabi ninyo you don’t know how you are going to last in the DENR. Why did you say that? Do you feel any pressure inside the Cabinet?
SEC. LOPEZ: No, I’m just saying that, you know, politics is a dimension of money and power. And it’s just magulo ‘no ‘di ba? Let’s see.
I mean…I know, I like the job. I like the fact of saying,
“you can’t do this, you do that.” You now. And I have so much money.
Oh I like the money. Oh my God. I really like the money. I love having the money to be able to make a difference.
But you know the political scenario is unpredictable. You never know what will happen or whatever.
Mr. Morong: May pressure ka ba ma’am?
SEC. LOPEZ: Me? Do I have pressure?
Mr. Morong: May pressure to quit?
SEC. LOPEZ: Nobody told me to quit pa.
Andreo Calonzo (Bloomberg): Hi, ma’am, again.
SEC. LOPEZ: Who’s Henry?
Mr. Calonzo: Hi, Andreo po.
SEC. LOPEZ: From where?
Mr. Calonzo: Bloomberg, ma’am. Ma’am, I understand you are going to meet the mining council later. So how far are you willing to compromise regarding these closures po?
SEC. LOPEZ: You know, the mining council is recommendatory. And I…You know…I mean, it will take a miracle to be able to convince me to allow mining in watersheds.
Because as far as I know, it’s against the law, you know. It’s against social justice, it’s against the Constitution to allow any kind of extractive industry inside a watershed.
Do you have the Constitution? Do you have it? You don’t have the law? I mean the reasons why you can’t have mining in a watershed. I mean there are legal things eh. I am backed up by…You have to ask…Do you have it?
No, there are about three or four legal things, executive orders, or whatever that watershed should really be off limits.
Mr. Calonzo: Okay, ma’am, so ‘yung 15 of these 23 po that you are going to shut are near watershed, so these are non-negotiable?
SEC. LOPEZ: Not near, inside.
Mr. Calonzo: Inside watersheds…
SEC. LOPEZ: Can you show the Zambales, sweetheart?
Mr. Calonzo: So these are non-negotiable, they are going to close down?
SEC. LOPEZ: For me ‘no, I mean, that’s how I feel. You know, the President is still the President ‘no.
I mean, he can over turn… At the end of the day, he makes the decision and in the Cabinet meeting, his last closing remark in front of everyone, he say, “I agree ‘no that there shouldn’t be any mining industry in watersheds.”
Let see ‘no. Politics is so unpredictable ‘di ba? But I’ll show you the Zambales. Can we show it?
Okay, yes, any question?
Mr. Calonzo:: How about the eight others ma’am? The 15…
SEC. LOPEZ: The eight others is because—When I… You know they’ve—that situation has not existed just then.
It’s been like that for so long, you know. And then it wasn’t even raining and the sea was so red eh.
[Do you have the one? Then show it quickly. This is not the… The mining of the Zambales, yeah, when you show the…]
Mr. Calonzo: So ma’am doon sa eight others, are you open to maybe suspension or fines na lang?
SEC. LOPEZ: This is the only reason why I want to close it down, because if you suspend it that means they can start again.
And I feel Surigao has earned the right to breathe and to try something else. 26 of the mining companies are in Caraga. You know, nine in Dinagat, I don’t know eight or nine in Surigao. And Caraga is poorest region in the country.
So if mining is so good, how come where all the mining is, that’s the poorest region in the country? Don’t they deserve a right live naman?
And as long as you have extractive industries there, they’ll never be able to breathe a new alternative, it can be eh.
Okay, so here, this not Caraga—just to give you an idea. This is Zambales, and these are four mining companies beside each other in a watershed. Whatever you do that’s a river.
And that’s why in the flooding in Sta. Cruz, there have been seven deaths. You know, when I declared the suspension of the mine—the cathedral was packed with people, packed with people.
Common good. You know and they are other politicians that are still in favor and even people, because they don’t know what will happen if there’s no mining there eh.
So that’s why on the 15th, 16th, I’m having a planning in Surigao; and 17, 18 in Dinagat with the displaced mining workers with the LGU. And Secretary Evasco has asked all the representatives of DOLE, DSWD, DTI, DOST to work with them and see what can we do for the people there.
Anyway, there’s no… They are not earning now anyway ‘no. There’s no mining there until March or April. So why don’t we do something? And just in case the President agrees ‘no and then we will already have done the economy to be able to absorb everyone there.
Mr. Calonzo: Ma’am last for me na lang po.
SEC. LOPEZ: Yes.
Mr. Calonzo: Ma’am, this mining audit has been the centerpiece of your last months as the Environment Secretary. Will it prompt you to quit if one way or another these closures will be over turned by the judiciary or the executive po?
SEC. LOPEZ: I’m here because one I like the President. You know I… You know, he’s really, really genuine. He’s so humble…I mean he’s really real.
And he has a stand on social justice, and as long I can, I feel like I can continue to serve the country, I will ‘no.
I wont cap out ‘no. I’ll stay as long as I feel I can make a difference.
If he decides no, I will be quite sad but… Let’s see, let’s call — because it’s premature to say anything.
Mr. Calonzo: Thank you very much, ma’am.
SEC. LOPEZ: Hello.
Henry Uri (DZRH): Hi, ma’am good afternoon. I just want to say thank you for having a Secretary a woman with balls.
SEC. LOPEZ: That good ha, woman with balls. [laughs]
Mr. Uri: The nation is so lucky to have you.
SEC. LOPEZ: Write that down Selena ‘no. Woman with balls ha, write that down. [laughs]
Mr. Uri: But ma’am, did you receive any death threat?
SEC. LOPEZ: No. I have seven security. But they go rotation because more than three is ano—private army ‘no [laughter]. That’s what the President said ‘no. That’s one. Where’s Russel? Sa police ‘no.
Mr. Uri: Pero ‘yung mga tao ho ninyo sa probinsiya sa inyong mga provincial and district offices, hindi ba sila hina-harass out of this campaign?
SEC. LOPEZ: Some of them ay corrupt eh ‘no, I mean unfortunately, yeah.
I’m cleaning up the workforce. I mean, the reason why all this has happened is because they have been compliant with the rate. If MGB and my DENR people were really honest and didn’t…This wouldn’t have happened.
Mr. Uri: How corrupt are them?
SEC. LOPEZ: Because why did it happen? Okay I’ll tell you a story but I won’t say the name ‘no, okay.
Like, for example, I asked one of my staff to go there and please check up on this mine, because I want to make sure that the—that the mine is working well ‘no because we weren’t able to see it in the flyover.
And then the miner came back to me the next day, and then, he said, he was asked for a bribe of 30 million.
I said, “Shhh…Who is that guy?” And that that’s ano…And I have DENR officials that have titled land to themselves ‘no, it’s disgusting ‘no.
And then I…My… A friend went to me and then she said: “Gina, if you sign this paper, the person owning the mine…” He didn’t even tell me… “Will give me six million a month.” Six million a month, wow! That’s…And then, yeah…
Mr. Uri: So, ma’am, ‘yung mga tao ho ninyo sa probinsiya na nanalasa nang maigi ‘yung illegal miners, mayayaman na ‘yung mga tao ninyo sa probinsiya because are they — they are corrupt?
SEC. LOPEZ: I have… I mean, I have a hotline. Okay, when I came on board, may hotline ako. Ang dami, dami, daming complaints. And—yeah, I know that –yeah.
Because you know it’s regulation eh. It’s like BIR, Customs. If it’s regulatory, you’re really—it’s a room for corruption for regulatory.
Mr. Uri: So may mga pag-balasa kayong gagawin sa inyong mga tanggapan?
SEC. LOPEZ: I’m going to clean up. I already… My RDs are already good, you know. They are good performer.
Mr. Uri: May mga tinanggal na ho kayo, may mga sinuspinde kayo?
SEC. LOPEZ: Yeah, but I want to…Kasi they float eh. Me, I don’t want to float ‘no. I want to… Like if I can get the evidence… Like it’s what Duterte said, one, out!
So we’re working together with the forces. I want to clean up the organization. I’m determined and it’s easy because if there are complaints, we just find out if there’s evidence pa — ba-bye!
Mr. Uri: So hindi kayo natatakot, ma’am, doon sa mga binabangga ninyo?
SEC. LOPEZ: I’m…By…The truth service and the common good. Actually my problem is anger, but fear, a jealousy like that—that’s not in my vocabulary ‘no.
No, I’m not ano eh. I have no fear eh. I am not afraid to leave the world ‘no. It’s nicer there ‘no.
Mr. Uri: Thank you ma’am, thank you.
JP Bencito (Manila Standard): Hi, ma’am, good afternoon po.
SEC. LOPEZ: Yes, you from where?
Mr. Bencito: JP Bencito, Manila Standard po. Ma’am may FOI request po ‘yung mga mining companies?
SEC. LOPEZ: They can see everything. They can come to my office. I will also give them boiled peanuts. And if they behave, I might give them some ice cream. They can come.
Mr. Bencito: Pero ma’am, opo…Ma’am, I’ll just quote si Representative Pichay. He says na ‘yung audit report daw is allegedly led by Usec Jasareno?
SEC. LOPEZ: The audit report? The audit report is…Okay, so Leo Jasareno was in MGB for 38 years, okay. And then six of those years in the very end, he was the director, okay.
In…Because, you know, I was in ABS-CBN Foundation and I had Bantay Kalikasan there. And in my experience of dealing with him, when I was in ABS-CBN, total malinis, like really, really malinis, okay.
And then when I came to DENR, I needed somebody I could trust, you know, who could feel for the common good and most principled. So I dealt with him, so I asked him to head the mine audit.
And then at the end of the mine audit, you know he put his life and his family and everything in danger. In fact, he wanted to resign. I said, “No, you cannot resign.” I had lunch with his wife, his daughter. “Please I need your father to help me.”
And so at end of the mining audit, he… You know he was…The President assigned somebody else, he lost his job ‘no.
So now what I do is I have him as a consultant. I need somebody I can trust ‘no. I mean, I’m not a miner ‘no. I’m literature and psychology ‘no.
And so I…So with his guidance and I understand it. I still make all the decisions. You know, he just gives me the technical feedback on what is. And that every step of the way, he has been breathtakingly honest.
You know, now he doesn’t have a car; he has an old car from his son which he drives all the way back and forth to Cavite. The house he bought for himself in Cavite 38 years ago is the same house he uses now.
He has never even bought himself anything. He is always wearing the same white barong na it’s too short ‘di ba. [laughs] And then, he’s like really, really honest, you know. I mean he’s really, really honest.
I’ve had many complaints about him and I said, “Okay, give me evidence.” And every single person that has complained about him has not been able to give one shred of evidence so go figure, you know.
I mean why will ano anyone… And I deal with my own experience. If you do a lifestyle check, there’s nothing to show, you know. He’s honest. And so, of course, I get heed advice because I need somebody who knows about mines that can tell, you know, this is not good, this is not good or whatever.
So that’s why I am leading the audit, but I— you need staff ‘no, technical staff, okay.
Mr. Bencito: Ma’am, last na lang po. Quoting Representative Barbers, Jasareno allegedly granted special favors, how true is that, ma’am?
SEC. LOPEZ: It’s not true at all, not even a little. Show some evidence. Zero. I mean, he’s been very fair.
I mean, when I ask him a question he tells me the right thing. I actually asked him that… I don’t even know who owns the mine. When we make decisions, I mean, it’s all allegations without a shred of evidence.
So I’m not going to make decisions especially if my experience has been profoundly of sincere and non-negotiable honesty.
Mr. Bencito: Thank you, ma’am,
SEC. LOPEZ: Yes, Inquirer!
Marlon Ramos (The Philippine Daily Inquirer): Favorite ninyo, ma’am?
SEC. LOPEZ: Truth, service and the common good. Inquirer, yes. [laughter]
Mr. Ramos: Sana walang ibang meaning ‘yon.
SEC. LOPEZ: Wala, wala, wala. Truth, service and the common good. Yes, sir.
Mr. Ramos: Secretary, as we speak po, are there ongoing mining operations in those 23 mining companies?
SEC. LOPEZ: Yeah because…Well, none. Because you don’t mine… I think, when I went there, the mining operation was stalled because you don’t mine some months of the year ‘no. So there’s nobody who has lost their job because they don’t have a job.
Mr. Ramos: So it’s not because of the closure order or anything?
SEC. LOPEZ: No, because it only takes effect when it’s rendered final by the President. You know, like, for example, they can appeal and then when the President says, “No, you really should do.” Then it’s final. Well, it’s not final, they can go to court ‘no.
Mr. Ramos: Okay.
SEC. LOPEZ: So there’s no work there going on. If I go there now, they’ll be happy because I’ll give them a job ‘no.
Mr. Ramos: Ma’am, just briefly lang po. How do you do the mining audit? While you’re doing the audit—
SEC. LOPEZ: We formed committees and then they went around. These are committees that… First, we chose the groups and then the rules and regulations were strict.
You look into these, these, these, these, these. And then I went beyond technicalities because they can follow all the technical rules but that’s not what’s important to me.
What’s important to me is the social and economic impact. If the people there are suffering that doesn’t sit well with me at all and it’s against the mining law.
So it goes beyond…That’s why there are many mining companies that have won awards but they failed the audit because…Like for example, Oceanagold, that’s in Nueva Vizcaya. The farmers, I mean, they’ve won awards technically but the farmers there, their harvest has gone down by two-thirds eh. And there’s a big group of people there that are complaining. And the governor really doesn’t like the mining there.
Mr. Ramos: While you are doing the audit, do you invite representatives from the mining firms or you do it alone during the audit?
SEC. LOPEZ: You go there and you talk to the miners ‘di ba? You’re there. I have visited mine sites myself in Tuba. I’ve been around but you go inside the mine and you talk to the miners and then you go around and talk to the community. It has to be fair. You don’t just talk to the community. You go there, talk to the people working in the mine, they’ll show you everything and then you listen to the community and then you look around ‘no. It wasn’t one-sided. It was very fair.
Mr. Ramos: Because…
SEC. LOPEZ: It’s not valid. The audit is not valid if you don’t talk to the mining companies.
Mr. Ramos: I asked it because these mining firms talked as if they are clueless or they were parang —
SEC. LOPEZ: But they received this… Where is the thing? Can you show that? You put it up. Each mining company got that. How can they be clueless? Each mining company got that. How did they answer to us if they were not asked. I mean the very fact that they got that and they answered to us, means that we told them what was wrong in the mine. And then they answered. So what is that? That’s already giving them a chance to fix it, ‘no.
Mr. Ramos: Ma’am how is your relationship with Secretary Sonny Dominguez because we understand his family has also interest in mining eh?
SEC. LOPEZ: I think it was Tampakan ‘no. That’s the largest mini…Okay, listen to this, I talked to…Do you know Tampakan? Do you all know Tampakan? Can you show Tampakan?
Should it operate? That’s the largest mine in the country. Okay, you know how…Did you see the open pit ‘di ba in the slides? Okay. Do you know how big a football field is? Yeah. Okay, look at this 700 — 700 football fields, open pit. That’s what it was going to be. Affecting four provinces: Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, South Cotabato and Davao Del Sur. Six rivers, four provinces in the food basket of Mindanao, they were going to do an open pit mine of 700 football fields. My God!
And even that, you know, I talked to Chris Monsod, he said, “Gina, even that, when you look at the…” When you look at the confirmed labor that would have worked in this big mine, it was 2,000 — 2,000 people who would be working there everyday, confirmed.
You know what that means? In the numbers that they have, it means 125 million pesos per job, per job to give each person in the mine that kind of job. It’s an investment of 125 million pesos per person. What Ernie Pernia wants to do is an investment of 200,000 pesos per person. That’s a huge investment.
Okay, look at this. This is 700 football fields. That’s on top…I was on Pacquiao’s chopper ‘no. This is before I was in ano — before in DENR. I really Pacquiao, you know, okay. Yeah, I really like him. He gave me money eh. [laughter] So I tell him make sure he wins all his fights ha. Yeah, prior. He gave me 10 million pesos. Five million, I put it in the VCO plant; another five million pesos I put it in Sarangani and eco tourism sites and they are all making money already. I really like him, okay, so. [laughter] I hope you voted for him ‘no. And then ano…
So this is…With his chopper I saw that this area where they want to put 700 football fields is on top of agricultural area. Hello!
And that…They did…We had a group from England who did a study that has — fault lines, the red ones. And you know what the black ones are? Where they going to put explosives, explosives, you know. The English guys said, “You know, if you put explosives near fault line, booom like that the one that you saw. You will stimulate geodesic activity.” How can you do this in the country, right?
And guess what? They got the ECC. Yeah, they got the ECC. And then I asked the EMB guy, “Why did you do that?” And he said, “Because there was an order from the Office of the President.” That’s what happens.
Okay, so look at this. This is the…This is small-scale mining. This is up there in the same area. Okay, what they do is because they don’t have money, they use hoses because you want to get the minerals under, so they use booom, hoses, pack getting out all the top soil and you get — so can get the minerals under. So what happens, it’s done at night because it’s illegal but what happens all the water goes down and then look where the water goes down. It becomes like semento. This is even small-scale mining. You have 700 football fields. My God! Right?
Okay, so I just want to…The reason why am showing this to you also…
Mr. Ramos: Ma’am, hindi ba siya ipinasara ‘yung Tampakan? Walang closure order?
SEC. LOPEZ: We haven’t cancelled? Have we cancelled the ECC in the area? I think not yet.
Mr. Ramos: Secretary, how about…
SEC. LOPEZ: What first, I’ll tell you something, I’ll tell you a story…
Mr. Ramos: Okay.
SEC. LOPEZ: You see I forgot the story. [laughter]
Mr. Ramos: Ma’am, bakit wala po siyang closure order? Hindi siya kasama sa mining audit itong Tampakan? Hindi po siya naisama?
SEC. LOPEZ: Did we…? Ah we haven’t, we haven’t.
Mr. Ramos: Why?
SEC. LOPEZ: Why? It should, right? We want to make sure that we…You know, we are stepping on very big business interest, ‘no.
Mr. Ramos: Ma’am, how about Adnama Mining?
SEC. LOPEZ: Which was that? Adnama Mining?
Mr. Ramos: Adnama.
SEC. LOPEZ: Ah that’s for closure. That’s where? That’s in Surigao, yeah. I’m trying to remember my story. I forgot.
Mr. Ramos: So wala pong kumausap sa inyo regarding din the case of Adnama whose President is a close friend of the President?
SEC. LOPEZ: Who? No—
Mr. Ramos: Fernando Borja, the biggest supporter in Cebu.
SEC. LOPEZ: Yeah. I don’t look at ano eh… I don’t look at who owns the mine eh. Not that it’s fair…. Then I found out, you know, SRMI is owned by LP. And then when I passed through it, I saw there was no siltage. But then the Mayor’s daughter has come back to me again and said all these violations, so we’re looking at it.
Yeah, I’m trying to remember what my story was. It was nice. I’m 63 na eh. Okay, I want to say something. I can… I’ve…
I think I enjoyed this press con more than the one in DENR ‘no. [laughter] Parang they’re nicer.
Ernie, I’m going to have all my press cons here. They’re much nicer than the ones that come in DENR. They’re so mabait. Red rice… No, you just come na lang, I’ll change…Can you take all their names? [laughter]
No, in closing, I want to say I really enjoyed talking to you, that’s why I talk so much ‘no. Yeah but I, I just, I really feel that we have an amazingly, gorgeous, beautiful country. And if we can just utilize and protect and nurture our resources so the people of the Philippines will benefit.
You know, I have no doubt in mind, we can get our country out of poverty. Especially if GMA and ABS work together. [laughs] I’m just joking. And the Inquirer. Let’s see ‘no. [laughter]
Oh, I love you okay. No, I love you all. You are one who makes me happy. I love you all. Thank you very, very much.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: You know, I just want to let you know Gina, this is the first time that anybody ended with an applause. You know. [laughs]
All right. You’re so nice daw.
Question of perspectives. All right. Anyway, we don’t really have too much time but I just wanted to say, I’ll just go through two points and then we’ll be open for questions, okay.
So, good news, a bit of good news. Laguna Lake Highway Phase to open today. Good news to commuters. The first phase of Laguna Lake Highway is now complete. The two additional lanes are from Napindan to M.L. Quezon section in Taguig which is part of the Laguna Lake Highway Project which is now open to the public.
A 10.7-kilometer road network is expected to cut the travel time from Taytay to Bicutan by 50 percent. Meaning about an hour’s travel time from Taytay to Bicutan will be further reduced to 30 minutes when the whole project is completed.
Also, 3.95 billion worth of Senior High School vouchers are granted by the Department of Education.
So Senior High School students’ vouchers are now available to 600,702 — 607,208 program beneficiaries. Still billing statements are continuously being accepted by the Department of Education.
Leila Salaverria (The Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning, sir. Ay, good afternoon. On another topic, sir, there’s a report that there’s a document showing that Justice Secretary Aguirre allowed high-profile inmates to get certain privileges in exchange for their testimony in the Congressional hearings on the drug trade. Some of these inmates had implicated Senator De Lima. Does the Palace favor this kind of quid pro quo?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Does the Palace favor?
Ms. Salaverria: Does the Palace favor this kind of agreement, this kind of quid pro quo?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Obviously we don’t but…
Ms. Salaverria: So what are you going to do about the report?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We’ll just… We’ll verify that thing. We haven’t checked it yet. We’ll verify that accusation.
Ms. Salaverria: Will the Palace order the — an investigation?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Is the what?
Ms. Salaverria: Will the Palace order an investigation of this?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: A simple verification will suffice at this stage. Thank you.
Mr. Ganibe: Sec, good afternoon.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good afternoon.
Mr. Ganibe: Sir, pwedeng padagdag ‘nong impormasyon doon sa 3.95 million pesos na voucher for Senior High School?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Iyon lang ang meron. But I think the Department of Education has a longer press release. Please refer to their page.
Mr. Morong: It’s ‘B’ right? Billion?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Billion, 3.95 billion, yeah.
Mr. Ganibe: Ito po ay para sa school year, upcoming school year?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m not sure but it says that there are about at least 607,208 beneficiaries, more than half a million beneficiaries. Okay.
Last two questions.
Reymund Tinaza (Bombo Radyo): Hi, sir. Good noon. Sir, the President yesterday admitted that on the five statements, two joke lang or kalokohan lang or two the truth, and three, kalokohan lang, joke lang. Sir, can you give us — can you walk us through how could we determine which is the true, the truth, and three, the joke one?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Listen to the press conferences. All right.
Mr. Tinaza: Sir, also, sir, I’ve heard what Ma’am Gina Lopez reported about the 700 football fields equivalent of open mining pit in Tampakan, Cotabato, which is owned by Secretary… The Dominguez family. Sir–
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The question is?
Mr. Tinaza: So if possible can I ask Ma’am Gina, are you…Right now, will you allow this to operate?
SEC. LOPEZ: It’s not operating. It was just given an ECC.
Mr. Tinaza: Yeah, but categorically, from your end, are you amenable, will you allow this—?
SEC. LOPEZ: I am not in favor of it at all. It’s not even going to be an economic problem. I think it’s going to be a peace problem.
I know already the story that I wanted to tell you. Okay, can I tell the story? It’s like this ‘no. If I remembered. Sorry, Erns ha.
Sorry, I just remembered. It’s because you know how the Tampakan thing earns is that, of course, there’s no human engineering in the history of the planet that’s ever withstood the test of time. None.
All mines at one point in time take a crack. I mean, even Philex which was the poster boy of mining had a crack a few years back.
All human engineering because it’s human. Okay. So what the, what the… So which means that the mine there puts the people’s lives at risk.
And the way the ECC was written was that we, the Philippines can’t even get anything from the profits there unless they have a windfall profit. Windfall profit. Then we get like 25 percent.
And then Justice Carpio looked at the history of 10 mines, large-scale mines of this nature all over the world, and there’s never, ever, ever been windfall profit for the longest time.
So we are sacrificing the food basket of Mindanao for nothing. We might not even get any money there because we can’t get anything unless there’s a windfall profit. That’s why… That’s how the agreement was designed. It’s so unfair. That was my story.
Mr. Tinaza: I asked that question, Secretary, because ma’am, ay sir, to Usec. Abella for the President’s position. So considering Ma’am Gina is not actually, well, not an insider of the inner circle, inner sanctum of the President, considering how closer he is with Secretary Dominguez. Won’t her position won’t cost her her job?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think that’s mere speculation. The President is a very objective person. Thanks. Next question?
Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines): This is, sir, a follow up to Reymund’s question. What do you mean listen to the press conferences? I mean, we do listen —
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes, ma’am.
Ms. Andolong: — the question is how do you decipher which ones are jokes or not serious and which ones are serious?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, technically, what we do emphasize in the press conferences are vetted and properly vetted… I’m not saying it’s not properly vetted, I’m saying, simply saying that at this stage when we say it, it simply means to say we have gone through the process of discerning whether it was a joke or not.
Ms. Andolong: You mean, sir, your press conferences and not report immediately about —-
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, no, no, no…
Ms. Andolong: — what the President says in his own interviews?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Basically, he does say… Well, in this case, simply because the President has a… The President is very serious and if you want — if you really want to know, he is very consistent in his statements. He’s very consistent in his statements.
However, there are, you know for example, during the times when he is… You’ve heard him speak, he can be quite humorous.
But when there’s a particular statement that needs to be, for example, if it tends to be policy, it would be underlined here. It would be underlined during the press conferences.
I’m saying, listen to him, let’s go beyond what he says. He says he’s not sick. He’s not sick, that sort of thing.
Ms. Andolong: Okay. Sir, yesterday he took a swipe at how media covers and he says, parang tuloy pa rin daw po ‘yung pag-iiba ‘nung mga… I assume he’s talking about slanting. I see you’re referring to specific reports, I mean are there news reports that specifically he feels were not reported properly?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m not familiar with the context of that statement. Let me verify.
Alexis Romero (Philippine Star): Regarding ‘yung sinabi niyong press conferences. You said ‘yung meaning ‘nung President, ‘yun ‘yung ifo-forward niyo sa press conferences, ‘yung tunay niyang meaning, parang you’re saying ‘yung —
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Only if it needs clarification. Only if something needs to be clarified.
Mr. Romero: Okay. But how can, with due respect, how can we rely on the press conferences when sometimes, ‘yung mga sinasabi ng spokespersons niya mukhang naiiba minsan doon sa actual niyang sasabihin kasi babawiin din niya. For example, ‘yung sa Obama, you said he’s sick. And then suddenly he would reveal that —
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: During the Obama he said he’s sick?
Mr. Romero: Or some meet — there was a time na nagkaiba ng state — maraming beses nagkakaiba ‘yung statements ‘nung spokespersons sa President. So how can we rely on —-
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Which spokesperson are you talking about?
Mr. Romero: Ah. I won’t name names but the PCO —
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. Let’s not play each other off, okay, let’s not play each other off. Let’s be fair, let’s be objective. We will try as much as possible to be able to give you that which is objectively verified. Thank you.
Mr. Morong: Just as a follow up. Yesterday, almost at the same time, you sent out a statement, very calm, very diplomatic regarding the ex — former Colombian President’s critic of the drug war. You said you respect ‘no, the Palace at least respects the opinion. And then here comes the President, calling him names. I want to understand what went behind that. Was the President fully apprised of the kind of criticism or advice that the Colombian President wrote in the op-ed?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. There’s —
Mr. Morong: Did he really mean the, you know, the comment?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Come again?
Mr. Morong: Did he really mean the comment? Has he read the op-ed before he said, you know, he was saying something?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. When he said that he has… When he said… Okay let me just go back, okay. “Idiot,” something like that, will be part of his [how do you put it?]
Q: [his vocabulary]
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: All right. But he also says, but in effect he was also saying that there was a difference between the Colombian situation and the Philippine situation.
And, for example, the Colombian situation, as far as he was concerned, as far as he understood it, engaged… The Colombian drug situation is engaged mainly in heroine and cocaine and something.
However, as he says, that the Philippine drug problem involves drugs that are chemically-laced with battery water.
So there’s a world of difference between the two as far as he is concerned. And so I suppose that is why he said that it’s… The Colombian President’s comment was — regarding the Philippine situation, is not accurate.
Mr. Ramos: Sir, when the President yesterday said that three out of five times, he is just joking —
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay
Mr. Ramos: Is he joking?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: He is being colorful. Thank you very much.
From Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella On Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phelim Kine’s remarks that PRRD has “finally acknowledged” that the war on drugs is “a war on the poor” and exposes the chief executive’s “contempt for lives”March 27, 2017
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