Press Briefing

Briefing for the Philippine Media of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque with Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Domiguez III and Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez

Event Press Briefing
Location Conference Room, Imperial Palace Boutique Hotel, Seoul, South Korea

SEC. ROQUE: Magandang umaga Pilipinas, at magandang umaga po sa mga miyembro ng Malacañang Press Corps. Narito po tayo ngayon sa ikalawang araw ng opisyal na visit ng ating Presidente sa South Korea ‘no.

Just a wrap up kung ano po ang nangyari kahapon – nagsimula po ang araw ng ating Presidente ng pag-aalay ng wreath doon po sa National Cemetery at matapos po ‘yan ay nagkaroon na po sila ng bilateral na pagpupulong; mayroon pong isang closed door at mayroon pong isang summit ‘no.

Ang mga napag-usapan po, unang-una, para po sa peace building – binigyan po ng suporta ng Pilipinas iyong usaping kapayapaan sa panig ng North at South Korea at na-reiterate po ng ating Presidente iyong ating pagtutol sa kahit anong nuclear weapons dito sa North Korea. Pero pinarating naman ng ating Presidente ang kaniyang tiwala na magiging matagumpay ang usapin sa panig ng North at South Korea. At sinabi rin ng Presidente na inaasahan niya na magtatagumpay din ang magiging summit sa panig po ni Presidente Trump at saka noong liderato ng North Korea.

Napag-usapan din po siyempre iyong kooperasyon pagdating sa ating defense at ating seguridad. Ang South Korea po ay siyang nagbenta sa atin ng dalawang frigate para po sa modernization ng ating Navy, at tinitingnan pa ho ng ating Presidente iyong pagbibili ng iba pang mga pang-militar na gamit galing po sa South Korea. Specifically sinabi po ng Presidente na interesado siya sa mga helicopters, dahil hindi po natuloy iyong pagbili natin ng helicopters galing po sa bansang Canada.

Pagdating naman po sa political, social and cultural cooperation – pinasalamatan po ng ating Pangulo ang donasyon kailan lang noong 133 vehicles para sa Philippine National Police. At ang mga Koreano naman po, South Koreans ay nagpakita ng kanilang pasasalamat dahil noong nakalipas pong digmaan noong dekada singkuwenta ay mayroon pong halos 8,000 na mga Pilipino na lumaban side-by-side at marami rin pong mga namatay para sa demokrasya dito po sa South Korea.

At nangako rin po ang South Korean President na magkakaroon po ng mga social security agreement, at titingnan din po nila iyong hinihingi natin na pagtaas po ng age limit para sa mga foreign workers from 18 to 45.

Nagpasalamat din po ang ating Pangulo doon sa prompt handling ng pagkakamatay ng ating kababayan na si Mr. Angelo Claveria.

Siyempre po, pagdating naman doon sa usaping economic cooperation, dinoble po ng South Korea ang kanilang Overseas Development Assistance para po sa mga imprastraktura, suporta po para sa ating Build, Build, Build. Noong mga nakalipas na taon po, mayroon po silang kalahating bilyong dolyar na ODA na binigay, at ngayon naman po dinoble, naging isang bilyon po ang pinangako ng South Korea para sa ating mga infrastructure projects.

Ang Presidente po ng South Korea ay humingi ng suporta para doon sa gaganapin sana na—o pinaplanong ASEAN Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit, at sinuportahan naman po ito ng ating Presidente at idedeklara nga po ni Presidente iyong 2019 bilang taon ng samahan ng South Korea at ng Pilipinas ‘no.

At nagkaroon din ng kasunduan na magkakaroon ng kooperasyon tayo para sa mga proyekto na mangangalaga sa ating kalikasan.

So kasama po natin ngayon ang dalawang kalihim natin – ang una po ay si Kalihim Sonny Domiguez na magbibigay po sa atin ng ulat tungkol doon sa mga economic agreements na pinasok natin at saka konting ulat po doon sa nabalitang inflation rates sa ating bayan. At pagkatapos po ay si Kalihim Lopez ng DTI para naman po doon sa mga panibagong mga mangangapital, iyong mga new investments na nakuha natin dito sa South Korea.

So without further ado, ladies ang gentlemen… Secretary Sonny Dominguez.

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Fellow workers in government, friends in media, good morning.

I’m pleased to report to you the extremely productive meeting I had with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Strategy and Finance Kim Dong-Yeon yesterday. I thanked Deputy Prime Minister Kim for the framework agreement between our two countries that was signed last month. This agreement results in the doubling of the Korean Official Development Assistance committed to the Philippines, from 500 million US Dollars from 2011 to 2013, to one billion US Dollars available from 2017 to 2022. We intend to maximize this amount committed to us.

The first loan carved out from the billion dollar framework agreement, amounts to 172.64 million US Dollars. It will be used to finance the new Cebu International Container Port project. I am pleased to announce that yesterday the loan agreement for this project was signed by myself and Export-Import Bank Korea Chairman and President Sung-Soo Eun.

The signing was witnessed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and President Moon Jae-In. the new container port will increase the operational capacity of the main cargo way in Cebu. It will help alleviate the road congestion in the Cebu-based port area and provide a more efficient and reliable transport infrastructure to enhance the flow of goods and services in the Visayas.

In our meeting yesterday, we also discussed three projects in the immediate pipeline under the arrangement. These include a 50-million US Dollar project preparation facility for the National Irrigation Administration; a 100-million US Dollar financing for the new Dumaguete Airport Development Project; and a 41-million US Dollar project for the implementation of electronic receipt, invoices and sales reporting system that will help us monitor all the taxes paid by the retailers in the Philippines.

This leaves us with the balance of 636 million US Dollars. I recommended to Deputy Prime Minister Kim the use of the unallocated amount to two or three of the flagship infrastructure projects identified in the Build, Build, Build program. We promised to forward to the Korean government as soon as possible a list of the flagship project for their consideration.

I assured Deputy Prime Minister Kim our strict monitoring of these projects to make sure that none of the Korean taxpayers’ money is wasted in corruption and that all the ODA-supported projects will bring lasting benefits to the Filipino people.

We also discussed ways and means to expedite the process of financing key development projects in the Philippines. Both sides agreed to form a small group and hold more frequent consultations to ensure that priorities remain aligned; as well as to allow us the opportunity to discuss, identify and address project preparation and implementation issues. We hope to get the projects running as soon as possible to support the rapid expansion of our economy.

In the course of our conversation, I had the opportunity to thank Korean government for the 6.6 million US Dollar grant for enhancing the capabilities of the Philippine National Police, which includes supply of vehicles and training of PNP personnel. I have also found the opportunity to bring up our standing request for assistance in the protection and preservation of the ecological systems in high density tourist areas like Siargao so that they do not develop into problems like Boracay. I assured my counterpart of the Duterte government’s strong commitment to ensure environmental sustainability in tourist destinations.

We also agreed to come up with the knowledge sharing and educational exchange program for Filipino and Korean students, as well as young government professionals. Deputy Prime Minister for his part expressed support for the e-governance project and our comprehensive tax reform program. He hopes to complete the tax reform programs successfully. He understands the importance of the tax reform program to the sustainability of our economic emergence.

I expressed the gratitude of the Filipino people for the strong support South Korea extends to our economic modernization. South Korea is firmly committed to the Philippines economic emergence. We are ready to take our place as one of Asia’s tiger economies, and we will forever be grateful for the generous partnership extended by the Korean people.

SEC. ROQUE: Thank you, Secretary Dominguez. Can we hang on to our questions until after the briefing made by Secretary Lopez. And thereafter, please direct all questions for the two secretaries, because they have a business briefing to attend at noon, and you can direct to me all other questions after questions addressed to them.

SEC. LOPEZ: Good morning everyone. So as we all know, the goal of the visit of the President is to strengthen the relationship between the two countries especially on the trade and investment… improving the trade and investment ties. During the bilaterals at the Blue House, among the other topics as presented by the two secretaries, the one on trade is basically would refer to a re-strengthening, a revival of the joint commission on trade and economic cooperation and a possible development of a preferential trading agreement. This is with respect to improving the market access of our agriculture products to Korea.

Because as you know, right now we have an ASEAN-Korea Free Trade Agreement but there are still products that we wish to improve market access on, in particular we are referring to products like banana, pineapple, mangoes, coconut products that we intend to improve market access on.

We are the largest supplier of banana to South Korea. But our market share is also challenged right now, by other suppliers. Suppliers from other countries and this is because, we realized—we spotted that the tariff rates are still—still have some room for reduction. For example the tariff rates for agriculture products would still hover in the range of 25 to 30%. Our request for them is to bring it down in the vicinity of 5%, almost at the same rate that we are offering products from South Korea. In other words, tayo po nagbaba na ng taripa. So we are basically asking for reciprocity as to the products that would enter South Korea.

There are five G-to-G agreements that were signed. I don’t know if Secretary… Spox Harry has mentioned this. These would be the MOU for cooperation on the expansion of renewable energy development; memorandum of understanding on scientific and technological cooperation; the loan agreement mentioned by Secretary Sonny on the new Cebu International Container Port; the establishment of the joint Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation; the MOU between the Department of Transportation and the Ministry of Land Infrastructure and Transport concerning cooperation in the field of transport.

On the business side, we shall be having business forum this afternoon. There’s a good turn out about 400 delegates; we are expecting only about 200. But 400 delegates will be joining, both from the Philippines and Korean side. There will be a signing of business agreements, this would be the B-to-B, 23 business agreements with an estimated total value of 4.8 billion dollars generating new jobs of 50,000. And this would be on top of the 5 G-to-G, government-to-government agreements mentioned earlier.

The coverage of these business agreements basically reflects the interest from Korea, especially including SME assistance. We have big companies involved for the signing. But we also cater to the SMEs. For example there’s an LOI on Chungcheong (?) Kimchi which plans to expand its kimchi production, business operations in the Philippines. It has an inclusive business component as they are planning to engage local farmers from Benguet in its business operation.

Early today and early yesterday also, we have been talking to specific Korean companies just now. I’m a bit late, because I just finished the meeting with POSCO, it’s one of the largest conglomerate in Korea. They are involved in amenities on infrastructure steel. They are looking into possible iron steel operation, engaging also… increasing their engineering and constructions operation in the Philippines to support the build, build, build program of our President. They intend to expand operation amounting to 200 million dollars, which is expected to generate more or less 2,000 jobs.

POSCO-ENC, engineering construction is to construct new power plant with the contract value of around 900 million dollars, with a total capacity of 600 megawatts at Masinloc, Zambales. We have also spoken to SK-ENC, that’s engineering construction, that’s yesterday. As they intend to expand the development of power generation project in Quezon. They are planning also to do an LNG and power infrastructure development and operation, LNG trading and city gas distribution intending to expand its business activity in the Philippines.

For Hyundai, as you know Hyundai is present in the Philippines but heavily on the distribution side – dealership. But they are now considering seriously doing a production facility specifically both on passenger vehicles as well as commercial vehicles. On passenger vehicles, the midterm and long term investment plan is to construct a plant for the purpose of assembling vehicles in the Philippines.

On the commercial vehicles, they intend to provide local manufacturing solution to the current PUV modernization program – so our public utility vehicle program.

So, I can explain the various MOUs or LOIs that will be signed later if there will be some query on this. But nevertheless, we shall be, distributing the list of agreements to be signed this afternoon. Thank you.

SEC. ROQUE: Before I open the floor for your questions. Sec. Martin Andanar asked me to announce that there is also a draft MOU between the PCOO and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the government of the Republic of Korea. This agency is an agency regulating KTV, the local news TV and Arirang TV its international affiliate. South Korea agreed to have mutual visits, trainings and exchange.

Your questions please directed to both Secretaries of Finance and Trade and Industry please.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Good morning gentlemen. Bago ko makalimutan. Kay Secretary Mon Lopez. You have mentioned iyong agreement on some kind of agricultural cooperation.

Sir, I understand, meron kasing ngayon as we speak, may feedback iyong mga some farmers from Benguet. Because I understand, we have that South Korea and Benguet have this same interest on highland cultivation of crops like the carrots, potatoes and so on. Sir, can you elaborate, if there is any sharing of technology because South Korea is noted for their rich production of highland crops and that could be shared to our Filipino farmers especially in Benguet and Mountain Province?

SEC. LOPEZ: Yeah, the operation that I explained earlier definitely will include the sharing of technology. Because—of course they are strong on the RND and the technical/technology aspect in agri and it’s a modernized agriculture operation. For them to achieve the level of productivity that they would need, they will have to share this technology both on the processes as well as equipment.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Thank you, sir. Kay Secretary Sonny Dominguez. Sir, good morning. Sir, you have mentioned it’s a loan agreement iyong or loan or arrangement iyong now it’s one billion dollars. Siyempre ang unang papasok sa isip ng ating mga kababayan, it’s utang na naman.

So, sir can you explain on what could be our advantage over this loan agreement—aside from the money itself of course but on the mode of payment, terms of reference, the interest when we will be paying this one billion dollars?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: The interest rate on this 172 million US dollars is .15% and it is payable over 40 years, ten years grace period. So it is very, very generous of the Korean government. And certainly we can afford this kasi, you know, when they put the port we will be charging port charges and goods will flow more quickly, traffic will be lessened in Cebu. So, it’s really beneficial for us. And the loan is very, very, very cheap.

MAE ANNE LOS BAÑOS/TV5: Sir, good morning. Maeanne from TV 5. For Secretary Dominguez. Sir, did we also seek some help for the Marawi rehabilitation and did the Korean government promised anything to, parang amount to give us for the Marawi rehab?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: The Korean government said that they are committed to assist us in the Marawi Rehabilitation Program, but they are just waiting for the final plans so that they can tell us the—so we can ask them exactly what we need from them. They didn’t mention any amount but definitely I think it’s going to be very substantial. The Korean government is very supportive of the actions of the Duterte administration.

MAE ANNE LOS BAÑOS/TV5: Sir, how is the chopper deal shaping up, because we heard parang—tama ho ba the President preferred iyong Surion which is—it’s a utility helicopter being used by the Korean army, tama ho ba?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: I’m sorry I don’t know the details but that’s really up to the DND and the President. I think they will visit them this afternoon yet, to—and I’m not sure, you know, if they favor one type of helicopter or another. But definitely we are—I’m sure they are considering supply from Korea.

MAE ANNE LOS BAÑOS/TV5: Sir, one last. So sir, helicopters but arms or mga baril ho, mayroon ho bang ganoong deal?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: I understand that there will be talks regarding joint venture possibility of manufacturing small arms in the Philippines.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Secretary Dominguez, you mentioned proposing to the Korean government to allocate the ODA sa mga flagship programs under the Duterte administrations ‘build, build, build.’ Can you elaborate ano po iyong mga programs na iyon—flagship programs na iyon, sir?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: We have 75 projects in the program, 35 of them have already been approved but we are still finalizing the feasibility studies and basically we will submit them, the potential projects to the Korean government before the end of this month. In the meantime, we know that they—we have asked them to finance the Dumaguete Airport and then we also asked them to consider financing the e-governance program whereby the retail stores will already issue e-receipts and this will be connected to the BIR. So—it will be real time, so we know every day how much VAT we’ll collecting and how much sales are going on in the retail companies.

Korea is number in the world for e-governance and we know that their cyber security is also very good that’s why we are looking at them. Sorry we have 35 already approved projects by the NEDA for the ‘build, build, build’ program.

PIA/ABS-CBN: Sir, what further considerations by the South Korean government in doubling the ODA amount?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: I think they are very encouraged—well, first of all the President of Korea announced in Manila last year his new South—South policy and I think they—he really wants to support the Philippines as well as the rest of ASEAN. In fact as Secretary Roque mentioned, he asked the support of President Duterte for his initiative in the ASEAN.

GENALYN KABILING/MANILA BULLETIN: Secretary Lopez, may we know the sentiment of the Korean businessmen and in deciding to invest more in the Philippines?

SEC. LOPEZ: You know just like other investors, the sentiment—actually it’s a positive sentiment. There is much bullishness. They all recognize the fast growth rate we’re having. They are hitting somewhere two to three percent; we are hitting 6.8 percent. They realize also that much of the growth it’s backed up by a solid growth from the manufacturing sector. They all know that with an enlarging population and a growing middle class there’s a lot of opportunity from construction, infrastructure, consumer goods, retailing. In particular power definitely to fund all this infrastructure and manufacturing build up, you need power. So there’s a lot of interest there. There’s bullishness, iyon lang ang masasabi natin na—that’s why the interest even on the attendance this afternoon is really very good, the strong high interest.

Q: [off mic.]

SEC. LOPEZ: Very positive ‘no. Kasi even in the meet ups yesterday, the bilaterals with the base leaders, they have—they have really strengthened their ties, the ties that of course started, they first met in November last year. They—everybody recognizes the strong political will, the change that the President is bringing. All this reforms that we have been talking about, they all realized that administration is really determined to make changes, changes for the better. And it is being reflected now in the statistics that we see – the economic fundamentals. So very positive ang outlook nila.

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: May I add to that. You have to look at the demographics Korea and the Philippines. Their average age in Korea is 41 years old; the average age in the Philippines is 23. So they look at the Philippines as an economy that is growing fast that is going to demand more Korean products, that they can source Philippine labor to supply the Korean market as well as their other markets around the world. So it is very natural partnership between the two countries.

I think they really appreciate the growth that we have been having. Which brings me now to my next topic ‘no. And you know the economic team of the Duterte administration would like to assure, you as well as the Filipino people that the Duterte administration remains committed to reforming our socio-economic structure towards a more inclusive society. So that we can provide markets, we can provide the manpower to service manufacturing industries here in Korea. We shall continue to prioritize investments that will improve health and education of our people, enhance security and public order and build a world class infrastructure.

We realized that this is not an easy task. We have to face the short term challenges of the fast growing economy and we must tackle these problems in order to succeed in the long run. The 4.6 percent inflation rate in May of 2018 cannot hinder us from our objective. The year to date inflation reached 4.1 percent or just slightly higher than the 2 to 4 percent inflation target set by the BSP. I assure you that we are not casting these figures aside. We are doing are best to assist our countrymen in their time of need through a long menu of social mitigation measures. We already know that the main contributors for inflation are higher tobacco products, the cost of… the imported cost of fuel and the higher prices of rice, corn and fish. And we are already taking steps to stay ahead of the situation.

I would like to emphasize that TRAIN is not the sole reason for the increase in inflation; the effect of high global oil prices driven by unfavorable geopolitical events, along with the import quotas on rice have affected prices on a much larger scale.

We in the economic team are of one mind that the best way to address inflation is to pass the Rice Tariffication Act. The estimates are it will bring down rice prices by around 7 pesos per kilo for the Filipino families and reduce inflation to below 4 percent by the second half of the year. We will continue our efforts for our people and for the future generations.

By the way I am happy to note that as of April this year, the unemployment rate dropped to 5.5 percent down by .02 percentage points from 5.7 percent rate from the same period of last year. 625 new jobs were created.

SEC. LOPEZ: And it came from 6.6 percent pa before—

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Yes.

ROSE NOVENARIO: Hi good morning, sir. Secretary Dominguez. Sir, sinabi ninyo po kanina na may assurance kayo sa Korean government na walang—ni singko sa kanilang pera ay mapupunta sa korapsiyon. Ano po iyong mga hakbang na gagawin ng pamahalaang Duterte para po matiyak na Korean man po o Philippine money po eh hindi mapupunta sa korapsyon?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: First of all ma’am, it’s not the Korean government’s money – it is the Korean people’s money that the government is allocating to us. So it’s our duty to make sure that those funds are totally corruption-free when they are used. And what we are doing is, we are monitoring this project very carefully, we are getting COA involved in the audit of these projects. And of course, the President has really taken it upon himself to fire people who are just suspected of corruption. So in this way, we feel that the government employees as well as the private sector will be very careful in the use of government funds and funds from the taxpayers of other countries.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir since you’re talking about inflation, May inflation came in at 4.6%; this is lower than the BSP forecast, lower than the estimates of the economists, and even slower than your own forecasts. So, how did this come to be sir when the oil prices were also very high right now? So, May inflation runs slower; still above the target and faster than April. Sir, can you explain?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Well I guess… I guess for our projections were wrong ‘no. We always try to project on the conservative side, but I guess our estimates on the effects of these price increases were too much ‘no. But it seems to me that the inflation rate is sort—I hope it’s leveling off; I think this is a sign of leveling off and probably a dropping. As you know, we watched very carefully the prices of fuel, and they have been on the downtrend. In fact, the futures market of the fuel is—the technical term is in backwardation, the price of future deliveries of fuel are actually lower than the current prices. So we are seeing that trend going down.

You know these moves of North Korea and the US are going to calm the markets quite a bit, and we hope that the Middle East also will be calmer than what it has been in the past few weeks, so that fuel prices will not be too volatile.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir in the next few months, what’s our outlook? So, you’re expecting the prices to calm down a bit?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Yeah. The projections of all the government economists has been that in the second half of the year the inflation should be on the downtrend; in fact the estimate for the inflation for next year are below 4%.

SEC. LOPEZ: If I may add, even on the prices we expect for example, rice also to temper down in terms of pricing because we expect the importation to come in already by this first part of June. In that way, there would be NFA rice that will be sold again at the 27 and 32 pesos, to provide that accessibility to low-priced rice. This will of course drive down even prices of commercial rice; which as you know despite the lack of supply, we were able to still hold on it at the level of 39 to 40 pesos for the regular and well-milled rice. So that’s our way to basically control and prevent the runaway of price of rice.

And also, we’ve just discussed with the Department of Agriculture to consider the imposition of SRP on major agriculture products as a way to also have a handle—a firmer grip on the prices of agriculture products na nasa palengke, kasi iyon po ang walang SRP. But I can assure you, the basic necessity or prime commodities; again, I can’t confirm that is 100% compliance. We have 400 stores being monitored every week, hindi gumagalaw the basic necessities and prime commodities’ SRPs.

Iyong na-observe na price increase as reported in the inflation, are coming from the non-essentials which as reported, iyon ‘yung precisely may excise tax – the soft drinks, the cigarettes and even on the restaurants, transport because of the fuel. But we hope to see this continuation of reduction in fuel, kaya nasa 4.6 pa rin ‘yan in a way because the prices have just—of world market prices of oil have just started to go down. In other words iyong dating… as know it came from 44 dollars per barrel, went up to 71/72 dollars; now it’s easing up to about 67 dollars. So—but we’re just seeing it going down. So hopefully that will continue, so that it will really lessen the tension on price.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: So we don’t expect inflation rates to peak? Opo, so it’s going down na or if so, at what rate?

SEC. LOPEZ: Yeah. Walang—mahirap mag-crystal ball talaga. But—we’ll we‘re doing all our best. For example on the basic commodities, hopefully ‘pag na-control natin ‘yan at hopefully nag-peak na itong mga—in the tobacco it was reported, ngayon nare-reflect iyong tamang price ‘di ba? Kaya nga maganda ang tax revenue ng Finance and BIR, it’s because of these things that are reflecting a higher price on the tobacco where it should be ‘no in the first place.

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: First of all, let me just say that the DTI has been doing a great job in monitoring prices. And I think when the retailers see that the DTI is constantly monitoring, they will be very careful about profiteering.

But also to the point of Secretary Lopez, the highest increase in price has been in tobacco. Tobacco inflation rate is 28.3%, and that is driving the rest of inflation. And why are tobacco prices high?; because the tobacco companies now are paying the correct tax. Since we drove out the tax evaders – Mighty Cigarettes, remember we collected 30 billion pesos from them last year, and every month we are collecting 2.5 billion pesos more because they are paying the correct tax.

So—but we want the price of tobacco to go up, because it’s bad for your health. We also want the price of sugary drinks to go up, because it’s also not so good for your health. So those two prices have really driven the inflation rate, but it’s something we planned for – it’s not an accident. The thing that we did not planned for, was the increase in the price of fuel. Unfortunately, we could not foresee na there was going to be a gulo sa Middle East, and that drove the price of fuel up.

So you know, part is caused by—part of the inflation is caused by TRAIN, but it is caused because we wanted price of tobacco and sugary drinks to go up. It’s something that we planned and the legislature agreed to it – so that is the cause.

But however, we also experienced an unexpected increase in price of fuel. Well, that seems to be going down now because Russia and Saudi Arabia are pumping more gas, more fuel. There’s also another reason that prices are going up, and that is because on the average, the Filipino people have around 35 billion pesos a month more. Number one ha, number one… those who are receiving more than twenty thousand pesos a month, they received a reduction in withholding tax, hindi ba? That amount is twelve billion pesos a month that we are not collecting, okay.

We have also increased our spending rate, okay, from last year to this year by 266 billion pesos, okay? That is over 5 months. So that is… how much is that, about over 5 months, about 50 billion pesos a month di ba. Yeah, it’s about 50 billion pesos a month.

If you think—that is for infrastructure, for health care. Now, if you think that about 30% of that is for salaries, that is another 15 billion pesos a month in people’s pockets. So 12 plus 15 is 27. And then, we are also giving unconditional cash transfer of about 2 and a half billion pesos a month. So that is going to be another… how much? 29.5. Okay.

And then starting June, the state colleges and universities will no longer charge tuition fee, that is 3 billion a month savings. So people have more money. So that’s about 32 billion, right? Okay, so this 32 billion, unfortunately, I want to ask you. How much of you have saved your reduction in tax? How many have put it in the bank and both insurance, how many? Ginastos lahat n’yo. Now, when you spend it, prices are going to go up.

I will give you an example, I just look at the first quarter reports of Jollibee and McDonalds. Their sales are up and their profits are up at least 25%. So, you know this is driving the economy—I am hoping that people will save more money and invest it in treasury bonds. Pero ginagastos ninyo, you are buying new shoes, you know you are buying new cellphones, di ba?

How many have bought new cellphones? Treasury bonds, okay. So, please save your money, so that the prices are not going to go up so much.

SEC. LOPEZ: On the prices lang tama iyong sinabi ni Sec. Sonny and in fact, na-reflect iyon sa… iyong isa sa mga tumaas din sa inflation. Di ba iyong mga restaurants, eating out, recreation and in fact, iyong doon sa sinasabi rin siguro ng karamihan na, ‘oh nagtaas ang presyo sa grocery,’ they might be referring again to the non-basic necessity. Example, may reflected na mga tumaas, like condiments, seasoning, sinigang mix. Alam mo iyong cream, milk na—hindi itong milk, cream na ito iyong mga non-basic necessity. So may mga tumaas din. Tama sila na sinasabi but these are not the basic necessity na importante sa pang-araw-araw lalo na ng ordinaryong mamamayan na kino-control po natin ang… basically may control sa presyo through the SRP.

TINA MENDEZ/PHIL. STAR: Sir, sa forecast ninyong bababa na iyong presyo ng fuel. Anong impact sa regular na mamamayan? Kailan mararamdaman, within few weeks ba o few months po iniintay pa?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: No, in fact they are already going to bring it down di ba. They announced already, may bumaba na.

SEC. LOPEZ: According to the DOE – noong huli kaming nag-meeting ng price coordinating council last week – usually may mga 15 day lap time because they keep their inventory. So ibig sabihin, puwedeng meron pa tayo noong mahal na krudo for the next 15 days and then we can see it going down henceforth. So hopefully iyong reduction that they did, matuluy-tuloy kasi nasundan ng mas murang crude oil.

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: But remember ha, again. One of the real drivers is that people have more money. You know, I tell you when the government spent 266 billion more this year than last year, in five months, that is a record. And the—people are telling me nga, the sugar farmers in Ormoc and Bacolod that they are having a hard time getting harvesters for cane, because people are working in the infrastructure projects. So, I think more people had jobs, it’s as shown that our jobless rate has gone down. We have created 625,000 more jobs. And I think they are good jobs and people are spending money.

The other thing you should note also ha, is that there was a survey done I think by SWS which showed that the self-rated poverty and the hunger went down even though inflation went up. So people must be less hungry, according to SWS, not government ha and they must have more money, okay.

CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQUIRER: Sir, just to clarify. So what is the immediate mitigating measure that we can give, kasi iyong rice tariffication it will take time, even iyong plans to import iyong cheaper—

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: The rice tariffication is almost finished in the House. So, it should be done in maybe three or four weeks ‘no when they return.

The other mitigating act is that we are fast tracking the release of the unconditional cash transfers. We have already released a big portion of it and then by… I think before the end of June, we will be increasing that even more to about a total of about 8.8 million families. Our target is 10 million.

But we are getting there. By the end of the third quarter, we should have released all for the 10 million families.

SEC. LOPEZ: We will have more available iyong cheaper rice that will temper iyong price ano natin sa rice ‘no.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sec. Lopez, sir good morning po. Sir, balikan ko lang, SRP on agricultural products price, including rice, sir?

SEC. LOPEZ: Yes, including rice, chicken, pork and so what Secretary Piñol did with the DTI last week, basically nag-consultation na with the stake holders. And the focus will be Metro Manila, because it will—we basically set of homogenous public markets eh. Ibig sabihin, mas may pare-parehong situation versus let’s say public markets in different parts of the country na pag malapit ka sa dagat mura ang isda or malapit ka sa manukan, mas mura ang chicken. So [it’s] difficult to set an SRP for agriculture products.

But we will start in Metro Manila, since majority noong tinatamaan din nandiyan sa Metro Manila. So there will me that move on SRP as guide but in effect it will serve as a ceiling. Ang purpose nito, you will now have basis for profiteering, if it’s like 10% higher, then one can really question, bakit napakasobrang taas nung presyo na ‘yun sa palengke.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, ito iyong mga manok?

SEC. LOPEZ: Iyong mga basic na manok, baboy, karne/beef and then isda. Sa isda they will focus on three, iyong galunggong, bangus and tilapia. And then onions, garlic will be included and then rice.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Kailan ito i-implement?

SEC. LOPEZ: We will wait for D.A. After their consultation, may give them one or two weeks para magkaroon ng basehan sa SRP sa agri.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Okay, anybody you gentleman can answer. But yesterday si President Moon said he wants to see more Filipinos visit Korea. So are we looking at maybe talks of regarding relaxing visa requirements in the future?

Sir, kahapon si President Moon said he wants to see more Filipino’s go to Korea, that’s the policy statement. But are we looking at maybe meetings with our cabinet secretaries?

SEC. LOPEZ: Kagabi nag-usap kami nila Secretary Sonny with the President and sinasabi nga namin iyong many Filipinos gustong gusto sa Korea, the culture K-pop and all. In fact iyong daughter ko papunta ngayon dito without my consent so—tomorrow yata darating. So may mga ganoon talaga, they really like to travel here, iyong culture, there’s affinity to it, at—So I guess iyong tourism both ways ‘no. Korean is our biggest tourist, 1.6 million and iyong mga Filipino gustong gusto pumunta dito. I think hindi naman ganoon kahirap kumuha ng Korean visa—

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: No I think in Jeju no visa—

SEC. LOPEZ: Jeju no visa but for the—

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Jeju island no visa.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Pero sir, puwede bang mangyari na in the future ‘no may—may mga ibang countries kasi wala tayong visa ‘no na kailangan. In the future we can look at maybe visa free entry to Korea… Seoul?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: I don’t know, you have to ask… You have to ask Alan Cayetano.

ROCKY IGNACIO/PTV4: Okay thank you, Joseph. Sorry sa MPC because our guest, kailangan nilang humabol sa business forum, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

SEC. ROQUE: Do you have other questions on other matters? So you do, o sige. Thank you, Sec. Dominguez and Sec. Lopez. So here comes the hard questions na. Go ahead shoot.

Q: Sir, unahin na namin. Sir, of course you know iyong doon sa isyu noong kiss ni Pangulong Duterte with a Filipina, may mga negative comment sa Pilipinas, may mga opisyal po ng gobyerno na nagsalita or mga Congressmen, Senators nagsalita against it sir?

SEC. ROQUE: You know, the kiss really was an act that was intended really to please the Filipino crowd gathered at the moment. And if there’s anyone who should complain, it should only be the woman who was kissed and she’s not complaining. She has said for the record that she was proud of the fact that she was able to come that close to the President. And she’s not complaining, I don’t think anyone else should. The President of course has had the policy of doing what he does, because he does things the way he does things. If some people are offended so be it. But in this instance we have to highlight that the woman had nothing to say but positive things about the experience. Let’s leave it at that.

Well it is not an acceptable norm but what I’m saying is the only person who should complain is the woman and she’s not complaining, the lady and she’s not complaining so let’s leave it at that.

ROSE NOVENARIO/HATAW: Hi sir. Kahapon may preliminary investigation sir sa Dengvaxia case against the former President at sabi niya parang inaasahan niya or nangangamba siya na matulad siya kay dating Secretary Leila De lima. Ano po iyong reaksiyon dito ng Palasyo?

SEC. ROQUE: Well I think the President has been very laid back on the issue of Dengvaxia. He has made it clear that he is awaiting the findings of a group of foreign experts. He is not swayed either way by anyone’s opinion because so far all the experts’ opinions contradict each other. So I think the President—the former President should give credit to President Duterte because he could have made this into a political witch-hunt and he did not.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, I understand when the President flew into South Korea he took the commercial flight? Will this be the trend now of the foreign trips of the President to take the—and what could be the reason behind choosing commercial flights than—or rather than a chartered one?

SEC. ROQUE: I think this would be the new norm now for Presidential travels. It is intended to save taxpayers money.

Q: Sir, iyong kay Dela Cerna, was she fired? Was she asked to resign?

SEC. ROQUE: Dela Cerna was definitely fired.

Q: What’s the reason sir iyong—

SEC. ROQUE: Well, I think in our past briefing I did say that the Office of the President has investigated the many complaints against Dela Cerna. I can confirm that a senior Palace official did the investigation and I could confirm that a recommendation was made to fire her.

Q: Related over the—

SEC. ROQUE: Well she was fired, number one, because as you know the President would want to implement universal healthcare – libreng pagamot, libreng gamot sa lahat. May personal interest po ako dito – disclosure – I was the author of the House Bill in this regard which was approved by the House. We need a completely honest PhilHealth if we’re going to have a successful universal health care.

So iyong mga reklamo sa kaniya – excess travel, iyong kaniyang mga magarbong pamumuhay, iyong kaniyang hotel stays ng taon na pinabayaran sa taong bayan. At saka iyong lugi po ng PhilHealth under her watch 8 billion ‘no, eh iyan po ay hindi katanggap-tanggap dahil nga po importante na pangalagaan ang economic viability ng PhilHealth, kung hindi po iyan economically viable, hindi po magkakaroon ng katuparan iyong libreng pagamot at libreng gamot na ninanais ni Presidente Duterte.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, related to the firing of officials. Just to get your reaction. Si CJ—si former CJ Sereno, I did an interview with one of our programs. And she said, iyong firing of officials medyo gimik lang siya. And if I may quote ‘no, iyong sa—nagpa-fire tapos po iyon lang po aalis lang. Unang una kong—anyway, ang sinasabi niya is for show and tama ba iyong perception na hindi pina-file-an ng mga cases right after they have been fired?

SEC. ROQUE: Alam mo tingin ko kinakailangan na ng psychosocial assistance nitong Chief Justice na ito. Paano naman magiging for show iyon na nawawalan ng trabaho ang mga tao? Ngayon iyong hindi pagsasampa ng kaso eh kasi hindi naman katungkulan ng Presidente iyon ‘no, nasa Ombudsman man iyan at mahaba iyong proseso bago maisampa ang kaso. Isa-isa namang nasasampahan din ng kaso iyan. So bakit niya sasabihing hindi nasasampahan ng kaso.

I understand the amount of pressure that she is subjected to. Take it easy, Ma’am. Mahaba pa po itong laban na ito. But meanwhile let’s be more circumspect. Wala pong gimik dito dahil ang mga nasisitante eh iyong pinakamalalapit kay Presidente lalong lalo noong panahon ng kampanya. At wala pong makakapag-deny niyan.

JOSEPH/GMA7: Sir, thank you.

GENALYN KABILING/MANILA BULLETIN: Sir, ano po ang utos ni Presidente sa bagong PhilHealth Chief na ayusin ba iyong—

SEC. ROQUE: He is still an OIC President ‘no. So I think that means—it’s not a permanent appointment. He is from Davao, yes. But I think the President has not closed his option on who eventually the PhilHealth President will be because otherwise the appointment would have been made permanent.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, balik po doon sa kissing incident. The Palace has always stressed that President Duterte is an advocate for women’s right. Pero ang pino-point out po ng mga critics niya is that his actions reflect otherwise?

SEC. ROQUE: Pia, critics are critics. Sabihin mo nga sa akin kung may mabuting sinabi iyang mga critics kay Presidente Duterte. Sige nga. Who can point to me iyong mga critics niya ngayon kung may mabuting sinabi kay Presidente Duterte. Sa kanila, their life is just to criticize the President.

Pero kung—nandoon naman tayo lahat doon sa Fil Community meeting. Tingin ko all of you will agree, wala namang malisya. Some may feel na hindi na dapat umabot doon, puwede na sigurong beso lang. Pero so be it ‘no. Pero para sabihin na mas malalim pa iyong mismong—mayroon pang mas malalim behind the kissing, I think it’s a necessary. It was made as a light moment in a meeting that the President had with his kababayan.

PIA/ABS-CBN: Nothing immoral sir?

SEC. ROQUE: I don’t think there’s anything immoral. After all the President has reiterated he is single.

Q: [off mic.]

SEC. ROQUE: Yes. But the women volunteered and the woman said she was very proud of that experience.

CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Sir, did the President say anything about that incident?

SEC. ROQUE: No, because he thought it was so minor an incident. I don’t think it’s something that he would talk about. It’s certain quarters that made—that blew it out to proportion because that’s their role in life.

CHRISTINE/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: So he never made any comments to the Cabinet?

SEC. ROQUE: No, none at all. None that I heard.

PENG ALIÑO/RADYO PILIPINAS: Sir, may meet and greet daw iyong Presidente kahapon? Ano po iyon? With the business—

SEC. ROQUE: Hindi po natuloy. So balita lang po iyon but hindi po natuloy iyon. He decided to rest.

ROCKY IGNACIO/PTV4: Okay, thank you, Presidential Spokesperson Roque.

SEC. ROQUE: Thank you very much. See you in Manila.

ROCKY/PTV4: Okay back to our main studio sa Radyo Pilipinas and People’s Television Network.

SEC. ROQUE: Thursday na tayo ‘no? Ayaw ninyo ng mag-press briefing bukas dahil lahat tayo pagod eh.

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Source: PCOO-NIB (News and Information Bureau-Data Processing Center)

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