Press Conference by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, Philippine Ambassador to the Bahrain Alfonso Ver and ACTS OFW Partylist Representative Aniceto “John” Bertiz III in Bahrain
|Press Conference by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, Philippine Ambassador to the Bahrain Alfonso Ver and ACTS OFW Partylist Representative Aniceto “John” Bertiz III|
|Four Seasons Hotel in Manama, Bahrain|
|14 April 2017|
|PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. Greetings from the Kingdom of Bahrain.
This morning we have with us a number of guests. We have the Acting Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo; the Ambassador to Bahrain Alfonso Ver; Secretary Bello of DOLE; Secretary Mon Lopez of Trade, he will be following in a few minutes; and Congressman John Bertiz of ACTS OFW Party List.Before we refer you to them to answer a few questions coming from you, we’d like to just give a short statement on the President’s trip to the Gulf Cooperation Council States (GCCS).The President is on his second leg of State Visits to GCC countries. The reception has been extraordinarily warm, built upon the decades long presence of Filipino overseas workers, many of whom were nannies of a large number of the current leaders of these countries. These present leaders speak lovingly and admiringly of Filipinos as a whole and some actually know Filipino words, and a number actually can converse in the dialect.
They have also expressed deep admiration for President Duterte and his leadership — his campaign to restore trust in the government. Through his campaign against illegal drug traffickers and violators; providing market and employment opportunities so that all, especially the poor, can achieve their dreams for a better life; also for engaging rebel groups, to agree on common values and structures for a nation whose first and foremost priorities are the common good and national interest.
Key agreements were also signed yesterday, including: setting up a joint commission on bilateral trade; two, avoidance of double taxation; three, strengthening of aviation links; four, new investments.
So far, in relation to Filipinos abroad, the meetings have been marked by appreciation from expat Filipinos who now feel that they have a government and a President who not only knows how they feel, but actually prioritizes their needs and makes sure they are recognized and included in the national life and conversation.
These have been very moving days, and the closest one can describe is, a father meeting with his children and extended family. At times stern, tough talking and severe about those who threaten the next generation, he has also exhibited tenderness, warmth and care.
In all, one discerns that he is bringing the Filipino to a place of self-worth, self-rule and self-support, all played before a watching world. There are those who minimize these by focusing on the negative stories; but in an imperfect world, there are many who have been touched by the caring heart of the Filipino, and the courage of an obscure leader to bring his people through their wilderness and into their promise land.
End of statement. We are open to a few questions.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
Roy Mabasa (Manila Bulletin): Good morning. Secretary Abella, I would like to know some details on — because there were several meetings held since the President arrived and some of them were considered private. Can you give us a little details of those discussions even on a general scale, I mean?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We refer you to Sec. Manalo.
Mr. Mabasa: Please, thank you.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Will you please ID yourself?
Mr. Mabasa: I’m Roy Mabasa from the Bulletin, sir.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: All right.
SEC. MANALO: Thank you very much for the question. Yes, there were a number of meetings — a couple of meetings held. Of course, there were private meetings but the general thrust of the discussion was on basically three broad topics. First on the issue of let’s say people, that is as mentioned by Secretary Abella the contribution made the Filipinos here in the Kingdom and the acknowledgement of the Kingdom of Bahrain of that contribution, and the fact that we have a very strong people-to-people connection.
The issue of greater cooperation, economic cooperation, for example, more trade and investment, and there were some agreements signed to these effect. And, of course, the need to enhance and strengthen the bond of partnership between not only the peoples — the Filipino people and the people of Bahrain but their country the Philippines and the Kingdom.
So I would say in general, the discussions then were along those lines. And some of the specifics came out in the agreements, which were signed later in the evening. Thank you.
Christine Avendaño (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Secretary Manalo, I just… Just details on the agreement that was signed between a company in Davao and… Because we are interested to find out ‘yung the number of jobs that would be generated by that agreement?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That can be properly answered by Secretary Lopez. He’ll be here in a few minutes. Okay thank you.
Cedric Castillo (GMA-7): Good morning, sirs. On a broader view po, kasi the President said during the campaign na ‘yung OFWs natin po ito ‘yung last na generation na raw according to if — ‘yon ‘yung aim ng President. A million OFWs, sir, sa region, do you see this, sir, diminishing significantly within the next six years within the administration, sir?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Congressman John Bertiz.
CONGRESSMAN BERTIZ: Thank you, Mr. Cedric. Being in the OFW sector and I myself an OFW, we have a — we have seen a very big significant and development achieving this goal basically because we are not focusing only on the deployment but concentrating on the reintegration programs of all OFW.
The reason why we are involving the different secretaries and agencies especially the DTI which is the Negosyo center under Secretary Lopez as well as the huge project that our government Duterte is signing so example of that is the railroads and superhighways that we are building. We can actually reintegrate all our engineers to our country so that they will be employed. No longer they will find job here in the Middle East but the reason of this trip and purpose is signing an agreement investment as well as in China and Japan so that we can create more job. And involving the local government units also to strengthen their livelihood programs. Ito po ‘yung pakikipagtulungan ng Office of the President, Department of Labor as well as po ang DTI po.
SEC. BELLO: Alam kong tatanungin mo ako kaya unahan na lang kita. Additionally, alam ninyo ‘yung tungkol sa welfare of our overseas Filipino workers, you must be aware that in the Department of Labor we have two offices that are mandated to take care of our OFWs. We are referring to the OWWA that is the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration and the POEA. These are the two agencies that are mandated to take care of the welfare especially the protection of our overseas workers while they are abroad.
And then on the issue of whether you should create a department, we have to consider that the final program of our government under President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is to repatriate our overseas Filipino workers.
The President is very conscious of the social implication of our countrywomen and countrymen going abroad to look for jobs. And so he would like to create more jobs in our country so that there will be a necessity for our countrymen to go abroad.
Now, if we put up a department for overseas workers, we might be institutionalizing maybe the work or the relevance of our overseas workers, which goes against the final aim of government to get them back where they — and, of course, to be able to do that, we have to provide job opportunities.
So, pinag-aaralan nang mabuti ‘yan and in fact the President keeps telling me to study it very carefully. Pero as far as taking care of our overseas workers nandiyan po ‘yung OWWA, nandiyan ang POEA at nandiyan din po ang Department of Labor.
Mr. Castillo: Sir, just a follow up, sir. Sir, malabo lang ‘yung pagkarinig ko, did you say, sir, it goes — it will go against the aim, the thrust of having them come home?
SEC. BELLO: In a manner of speaking, hindi consistent ‘yan eh. Kasi ang purpose natin, our final goal is to get them back to our country and we can do that only if we could provide decent jobs, with decent pay para hindi na kailangan pumunta doon.
Now, if you establish a department for that purpose then we are going against the final goal of our government.
Mr. Castillo: Sir, at the rate things are going, masasabi ba sir ngayon kung ilang years, decades from now na we see the Filipinos all of them, a significant number of them coming home already?
SEC. BELLO: Hopefully, because right now if you recall there is, there was an amnesty program declared by the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which will result in the repatriation of not less 8,000 to 9,000 overseas workers. In fact, we already have our OFWs going home and when the President goes home on Monday, he will be bringing with him not less than 400 overseas workers.
So unti-unti natin sila binabawi pero alam ninyo, ‘yung pagbawi natin sa kanila this involves about 9,000 overseas workers. The reason why nade-delay ‘yung pagbalik nila because merong — marami sa kanila ang may unpaid wages pay including ‘yung claim nila for end of services which in our legal term in the Philippines is separation pay. Eh alam mo iyan it involves millions.
So that when our OFWs succeed in getting their claims, many of our overseas workers will be returning to our country with millions so they can already invest these millions na they were able to accumulate during their five to 10 years of stay in the Middle East countries.
Kaya iyon ang ano hinihintay natin ang mga unpaid claims. In fact, I send in, after that amnesty program was declared by the Crown Prince of Saudi, I send an augmentation team to help our overseas workers follow up their claims. And if after investigation, analysis, our people can establish the validity and masisiguro natin na makolekta nila OWWA is prepared to advance the amount to our overseas contract workers para pwede na silang mag-negosyo. Thank you.
CONGRESSMAN BERTIZ: Sir, if you will remember that in June and August, we were able to repatriate around 3,000. And during the budget deliberations, we requested DPWH and other government agencies to absorb and give priorities to those engineers that lost their jobs. And we are very happy that DPWH and DOT are very — were very supportive of that.
In this case, ‘yung mga umuuwi natin nakakahanap na po sila ng trabaho sa ating bansa. So if we were going to continue cooperating with different departments in the Duterte projects or megastructures, we can able to get job for all these Filipino people. So it can be achieved within six years of the development in the Philippines po. Thank you, sir.
Aileen Taliping (DWIZ): Sir, Secretary Bello. Pwedeng paki-expound ‘yung sa 400 sa Riyadh lang ba ‘yon or dito sa tatlong leg ni Pangulong Duterte?
SEC. BELLO: Sa Riyadh lang ‘yan dahil ito ‘yung result nung amnesty program. I was referring to our OFWs in Riyadh who are the availees of the amnesty program, 250 are going there. And then may ipinakiusap kasi ako sa Minister of Labor ng Saudi na meron tayong mga runaways and they are now housed in a shelter called Bahay Kalinga for women and [inaudible] for men. There are about 160 of them and in our meeting with the Minister of Labor of Saudi, I requested him na kung maaari eh payagan na silang umuwi kasabay ng ating Presidente and his response was very positive and he confirmed in a subsequent meeting after that evening meeting with them. So iyon po ang ano — ang unang benepisyaryo ng amnesty program ng Saudi Arabia.
Ms. Taliping: Sir, ineexpect po by Monday kasama na po sila pauwi sa Pilipinas?
SEC. BELLO: Opo, kasama na po sila. By the way, ‘yung isang plane is at the expense of OWWA but there is ano — I got a letter from the Department of Foreign Affairs that the King of Saudi Arabia offered a plane, a Saudia plane, to carry about 200 of our overseas workers.
Tikoy Aguiluz (Daily Manila Shimbun): Tikoy Aguiluz, film director and I represent the Daily Manila Shimbun. I have a question for Secretary Abella, Secretary Manalo I just want to be enlightened on any kind of cultural agreements reached between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Philippine government or the King of Bahrain, GCC, any cultural agreement because it will lead me to another question which I have — which has been — which I’ve been wanting to ask if there would be any.
SEC. MANALO: Okay, I think on the cultural side, we are expecting to have an agreement with Qatar. But that would be tomorrow or Saturday.
As far as Saudi and the Kingdom of Bahrain, we are having discussions but there’s no agreement yet on the cultural side. But I think… I am not discounting that possibility especially, for example, in the case… If I could just expound a bit, we did sign a number of agreements yesterday with the Kingdom of Bahrain. This include the air services agreement, an MOU to establish a High Joint Commission and an MOU between the Foreign Service Institute of the Philippines and the Kingdom of Bahrain, and also a double taxation agreement.
Now the MOU on to establishment of a High Joint Commission, the mandate of that particular commission will be to consider cultural issues as well as political, economic and scientific. And so I am not discounting the possibility that perhaps in the near future we might be entering into discussions with the Kingdom of Bahrain on some kind of cultural arrangements using the forum of the High Joint Commission, which we established yesterday.
Mr. Aguiluz: In the absence of Department of Ministry of Culture, at the moment, the MOFA is the only agency allowed to have a cultural agreement between the Philippines, for example, we cultural agreements between Canada and the Philippines is under the Department of Foreign Affairs. I’m asking this question because I was able to film the Gawad Kalinga and the male — the center for the stranded, the male stranded OFWs in Riyadh and there were children ages from three to seven years old who were born there, who have grown up there and they have — they don’t have passports, they don’t have any nationalities. They are not Filipinos, they are not — they are Saudi nationals, they are Indians, but they are basically in limbo. So they know nothing about Philippine culture. There is no program to educate them. There is nothing available for them to learn anything about the Philippines. So my question is for example that a Philippine documentary team or Philippine company would like to make a movie about these people and there are many restrictions in the Kingdom, you cannot even shoot women walking without their permission. So in the absence of a cultural agreement this is like next to impossible to make a documentary about the real plight of the Filipino overseas workers in Saudi. So my question is how can we do this in the near future for example they will coming home, if I send a team back to Riyadh to document the leaving and going back home… By the way, 10 people left but 10 people also will came in. So every time you would send someone off, may kapalit po kaagad na same number. So the problem is I think doesn’t… They are all very happy. I interviewed them. They found a father who finally is able to take care of them. Ninety-nine percent of the everyone we interviewed have very high hopes and were willing to go home. But the children they are really in limbo, children in limbo. They don’t have passports, they don’t have nationalities, and they don’t have any culture which is why I’m asking this question. In the absence of Ministry of Culture, how do we deal with this situation? Thank you very much.
AMBASSADOR VER: I just like to reiterate the reply of Acting Secretary of Foreign Affairs. We take note of your very good suggestion and I think with the new forum or platform, we would be able to discuss the entire range of our relations with — in this case Bahrain and the Philippines and that would be a very important suggestion. We really take it up. Thank you very much.
SEC. MANALO: Maybe you can give us some points that we could raise with the Kingdom of Bahrain. For example, in fact, I did mention this but I did have a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Bahrain yesterday and we discussed the — among others the Joint Commission and, in fact, we have offered the Philippines to host the inaugural session of the Joint Commission this year and I’ll be..
Well, I have to thank you for giving this point and perhaps that is one issue that we will probably tackle and perhaps during our inaugural session in Manila, the possibility of having some kind of a cultural arrangement which will consider some of the points that you have raised this morning. Thank you.
CONGRESSMAN BERTIZ: I just would like to add that when we were in Saudi Arabia, Secretary Andanar had a meeting with the Ministry of Culture and Media and there’s a development talks in regards to Salaam Television that we can able to partner with them with their government channel in regards to cultural exchange. And also there’s a pen… There’s already approved bill by the committee that we are putting up a cultural development in the Philippines.
Maxxy Santiago (ABS-CBN Middle East Bureau): Maxxy Santiago from the ABS-CBN Middle East Bureau. I want to ask Secretary Bello more on the OFW protection, sir. Sir, during your visit here, were you able to talk with your counterpart regarding the protection of our OFWs here especially our household service workers? Second question, this pertains to Kuwait. We’ve met before during your visit to Kuwait a day after OFW Jakatia Pawa was hanged. So you checked on the status of the household service workers there amid the call for a moratorium but we all know in reality that for now, this is difficult to implement and, of course, with the Kuwaiti side doing all their best you know to talk with the Philippine government on how to protect our workers not only in Kuwait but also in some other parts of the region. Now, regarding the status of the MOU on the deployment and protection of household service workers in Kuwait, ano na po ‘yung status, sir, because according to Ambassador Villa, an MOU is pending on the Philippines side, ibinalik na daw po ng Kuwait side so hinahantay na lang daw po ng Kuwait ‘yung MOU galing po sa Pilipinas para mapagtibay po ‘yon to protect our workers there. Although the Kuwaiti government has been cooperative in repatriating workers everyday for every — just for you know stats, this is a conservative stat, for every one distressed OFW being repatriated seven run to the POLO-OWWA shelter everyday. So kahit tuluy-tuloy pa ang repatriation natin tapos tuluy-tuloy din po ang pagtakbo nung ating mga kasambahay doon, as of now, there are 250 household service workers distressed at the POLO shelter. And then there’s only one from the embassy who was doing the desk queue, Mr. Francis Baquiran, so kulang talaga ang manpower. So iyon lang po sir ‘yung protection lang po ng workers natin dahil sa kagustuhan man po nating pauwiin sila, hindi naman po agad-agad ‘yon mangyayari kasi iyon po ang reality although that’s the vision, that’s the ideal thing to do but for now we need really the protection especially of our household service workers in the Middle East. Iyong mga skilled po okay naman po sila konting-konti lang po ang problema, Sec. So iyon lang po, Sec. Thank you so much.
SEC. BELLO: Thank you, ma’am. Ano bang gustong mong i-address ko? Iyong tungkol sa Kuwait o ‘yung pinag-usapan namin kahapon? O Bahrain muna tama. Very good kasi positive ‘yung iku-kwento ko sa Bahrain because we had a very long meeting last night with the Assistant Secretary of Labor ng Bahrain. And he was telling us, practically telling us that he wants more migrant workers — Filipino migrant workers dito kaya lang nag-complain siya na ang sabi niya while we prefer Filipino migrant workers over the other nationalities like Indonesia, minention niya at saka India, ang kupad ng — ang kupad daw ng processing ng Philippine government.
He was telling me that the processing in the Philippine government of our migrant workers takes about six weeks and in the case of Indonesia and India, two weeks lang. So on that premise sinabi ko doon sa Assistant Secretary ng Labor, sinsabi ko, ‘let’s prepare an agreement and we will reduce the processing from six weeks to one week.’ O napalundag ‘yung Assistant Secretary and he promised to go to the Philippines on May 8 where they expect to sign a memorandum of agreement regarding the deployment of our overseas workers.
So maliwanag po na preferred tayo ang mga Filipino migrant workers. Not only in Bahrain but in the whole world I think. Sinasabi niya the competence, the patience, the trustworthiness of our overseas workers. So iyon ang positive development. They want to get more but we have now 60,000 ha in a population of 1.3, Secretary? 1.3 million, we have 16,000 Filipino migrant workers. So malaking ano… Very substantial ang ating role, ang presence ng ating OFWs.
Now tungkol po doon sa Kuwait, alam ninyo I was tempted to immediately after the killing of ‘yung si…
Ms. Santiago: There was another on who was…
SEC. BELLO: Anna? Si Amy?
Ms. Santiago: Si Amy Capulong she was beaten to death that was ano on the day at Jakatia Pawa was hanged.
SEC. BELLO: That’s right. I went to Kuwait.
Ms. Santiago: Yeah, you were there but it was only known a day you left. So hindi po nalaman so iyon nga the…
SEC. BELLO: Hindi ko na inabutan ‘yung libing kasi Muslim pala ‘yung si Amy…
Ms. Santiago: Hindi po Jakatia Pawa.
SEC. BELLO: Oo, si Pawa. So she had to be buried in 24 hours so hindi ko inabutan but I visited her grave, ‘yung grave niya.
Ms. Santiago: Opo.
SEC. BELLO: Anyway, as an aftermath of that, I talked to our senior officials in the department that we will consider seriously banning or maybe just to minimize deployment of overseas workers in Kuwait. It is basically our household service workers.
Pero napag-isipan naman namin na kapag ginawa namin agad iyon baka isipin ng Kuwaiti government na retaliatory move ito. So medyo pinapa-ano pa naming, pinatagal namin para sa ganun ay hindi ganun ang magiging impression nila.
It’s basically that about a month ago I visited Abu Dhabi because of another female OFW who was again sentenced to die, si Jennifer Dalquez. But fortunately, I think it came out in the papers pero ayaw ko na sigurong ulit-ulitin, merong magandang development doon. Parang may commitment sa atin na wala ng bibitayin doon sa Abu Dhabi na mga overseas workers especially so that going back to Kuwait, nakapag-ano ako, nakapag-negotiate ako doon kay Elpidio Lano, another in death row. Nakausap ko ‘yung widow ng napatay ni Arellano and pumayag na papatawarin niya ‘yung si Elpidio Lano, Ilokano ito eh. Iyong napatay niya ‘yung engineer from Cagayan de Oro and we have discussion with Mrs. Macaranas. So very positive ang development doon. We are just waiting for the Department of Foreign Affairs to give us the go-signal on the implementation of ‘yung napag-usapan namin. So maganda ang prospect doon.
But ‘yun nga sa Kuwai, alam ninyo ewan ko kung proper sabihin ko sa inyo talagang problematic ‘yung Kuwait eh. Ang daming complaints about how our HSW are maltreated. Hindi maganda ang pag-aalaga sa kanila so we are seriously considering kung hindi man naming i-reduce baka magkakaroon ng total ban. Pero it has to be well-timed para hindi naman nila sabihin na retaliatory act ito. Thank you.
Ms. Santiago: MOU?
SEC. BELLO: Ah ‘yung MOU ‘yon nga kaya nga hindi pa namin inaaksyunan iyon baka nakalagay doon ban na eh, ayon.
Ms. Santiago: Thank you po.
SEC. BELLO: Okay.
Ms. Avendaño: Kay Secretary Abella first. Sir, did the President raise anything with King Hamad last night when they met? Any special concern?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It was a closed door meeting. But would you like to say anything?
SEC. MANALO: It was a closed meeting but I think as I mentioned earlier they just discussed broad issues mga — issues on the economic and then the trade and OFW issues which has already been discussed here.
It was during the dinner they also had a good discussion. They discussed… Basically, the growing friendship between the Philippines and the Kingdom of Bahrain, I think they had a very warm discussion and I think the King expressed the appreciation of the Kingdom of Bahrain for the contribution of Filipinos here.
And we also said, the President, that he thinks that now we are embarking on a higher level of cooperation. So it was a very warm and friendly discussion especially during the dinner and then they exchanged views also on some regional and global issues, and also discussions on — I said on bilateral matters especially the friendship between the two countries.
I think this was a very successful visit in the sense that it has — based on their discussions, raised the level of our cooperation with each other.
And last night, as I said there were four, at least four agreements already signed. And I think we will build on those agreements as a way of enhancing our cooperation with the Kingdom.
Ms. Avendaño: Kay Secretary Lopez pala, I was asking kasi kanina the jobs to be generated by the five-year investment, ‘yung expansion of the…
SEC. LOPEZ: Iyong 250 million dollar investment signed last night between the AMA Group and the Nader and Ebrahim Sons will create at first 3,500 jobs. But once fully operational in three to five years, they are looking at 40,000 jobs.
Kasi 10 hectares eh so mas malaki ito kaysa doon sa existing na 500 hectares right now in the area of Sarangani and they are expanding to the areas also near Davao. So ‘yon ‘yung nakikita nila. And in terms of pagnagpo-produce na ito — they are again fully operational, they are looking at about 560 metric tons of various fruits mainly banana. But they are looking at pineapple as well and even ‘yung mga grains, peanuts, mongo, ‘yan lentils. And annual exports of about 280 million dollars annual. So ‘yun malaki ang ano… And then current, actually they are existing already ano from that 500 hectares they have about 2,000 employees. So that the 3,500 and leading into 40,000 will be additional.
Ms. Avendaño: [inaudible]
SEC. LOPEZ: We have farmers and farming kasi ito production talaga. And then siguro the packing, processing of it ‘no.
Mr. Castillo: Kay Sec Manalo, sir, may phone-in question from someone here in Bahrain. Kailan daw po ‘yung implementation nung passport renewal na ang validity ay 10 years?
SEC. MANALO: Pinag-usapan pa namin. Wala pang specific date but pinag-usapan namin sa DFA.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: May dagdag na sagot si Congressman.
CONGRESSMAN BERTIZ: For the passport validity, it’s already been passed in the Congress and yeah, it already passed the second reading so as soon as we resume we are expected to pass it in May. And then after that it will go to Senate and for the President’s signature. This is one of the priority bill by the way of both House and the Senate.
Mr. Mabasa: Passport last several weeks several newspaper reports questionable deal with DFA and APO. In the papers it said the Office of the President current status issue all about. Congressman mentioned that during last week seminar. Manila times you confirmed Malacañang.
SEC. ANDANAR: I’ll just make a follow-up question about… Because you mentioned passport and last several weeks, there were several newspaper reports about this questionable deal between DFA and APO, I think the company is APO, it’s another government agency. And in the papers, it said that the Office of the President came out with a legal opinion declaring that contract as invalid. So I would like to know what the current status of that issue is all about. And probably, Congressman, you mentioned that during the last week’s seminar and I saw that in the papers in Manila Times, that you confirmed there was a Malacañang legal opinion on it.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Would Secretary Andanar want to make a reference to that matter?
SEC. ANDANAR: Yeah, thanks Roy for the question. The issue has been on the table with the Executive Secretary and the Department of Foreign Affairs since last year. And understandably we have had a change in leadership at the Department of Foreign Affairs so that makes it a little bit — not difficult — but we would have to also give in to the wisdom of the new secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Be that as it may, we can assure everyone that the Palace, the Presidential Communications Operations Office, the Office of the Executive Secretary and the Office of the Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Manalo, we are discussing this and we should be able to thresh out some issues in the near future.
Mr. Mabasa: Last follow up after that question. Yes, sir, yes, sir, please. I just want to know if you recognize that the contract between the two entities is faulty?
SEC. ANDANAR: The contract was signed prior to the administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. I would respectfully yield to the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs because they were already there when the contract was signed. And when the President took his oath of office then some of the issues came up. Secretary?
CONGRESSMAN BERTIZ: Okay, in regard to that it was referred to our committee, in Foreign Affairs Committee in the Congress which is the… Actually the resolutions was about the delays and during the investigations, I mean the hearings, we came out with this information in regards to that contract. But the committee is not in the jurisdiction to investigate whether or not there is a legality or in a matter in that contract. So it will be referred to another committee not under the Foreign Affairs Committee. So when May comes, definitely it will be referred to under Good Governance Committee if there’s really an irregularity in the contract.
Ms. Avendaño: Sir, did the President give any instruction in Manila sa military on the way — on handling the operations against the Abu Sayyaf following the incident in Bohol. Since he’s away, sir, did he give any instructions, sir, to the AFP?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As to that actually… That can be better addressed to Sec. Lorenzana and to Sec. Esperon. But it can be verified.
SEC. LOPEZ: Pero ‘yung update sa — hinahabol na ‘yung ano.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Correct, but basically kung ano… There’s a word of reassurance that the military is on top of the matter and that there’s no cause for alarm. And that the areas have been properly secured. But really maybe at the heart of the matter is that the Armed Forces and the PNP do give their assurance that the matter is… There is no need for further alarm.
Regarding the cultural matter, referring to the PR released yesterday as Sec. Andanar. And let me just read it then. “We are rebuilding the Philippine News Agency and we will ensure that it goes hand-in- hand with the building of the Salaam Television Network in the Philippines. It is the first Islamic channel in the Philippines that the government is building. It’s going to be exciting and it’s one of the reasons that Sec. Andanar came to talk to the Ministry of Information and the Bahraini News Agency to somehow strike a cooperation from Bahraini News Agency and the Bahraini Broadcasting especially regarding broadcasting of Muslim based on Islamic culture.” So there is a… If you are asking about any moves on the ground, there are. Thank you.