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China’s President Xi to visit PH on Nov. 20-21

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Monday, November 19th, 2018

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the first meeting of the French-Chinese business council in Beijing, China, January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin/Pool

MANILA, Philippines –China’s President Xi Jinping is set to arrive on Tuesday (November 20) to Wednesday (November 21) for a two-day state visit through a personal invitation from President Rodrigo Duterte.

This is the first time that a Chinese President will step foot on Philippine soil after 13 years since the state visit of former Chinese President Hu Jintao during the time of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2005.

The two countries’ diplomatic ties went through rough sails when tensions over territorial claims escalated.

Xi and Duterte’s meetings are expected to rekindle ties and bolster cooperation between the two countries.

“These face-to-face meetings are so important because they promote understanding and goodwill between the leaders and also show a good example to their citizens that you know Philippines and China should cooperate more closely and again, cooperation comes from understanding each other’s position very well,” said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier announced that the highlight of Xi’s visit will be the Philippines signing in to China’s Belt and Road Initiative – a development strategy that involves massive infrastructure development as well as trade and investments in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the South Pacific.

Xi’s visit will also involve the signing of agreements on financial assistance from China to fund the Duterte administration’s infrastructure projects.

Though China’s offer will bring huge benefits to the Philippines, Secretary Dominguez clarified that the provisions of the Belt and Road Initiative and other deals will still be reviewed before final signing.

“We will certainly review it again, this belt and road agreement,” he assured.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with President Duterte in Davao City last month to facilitate the arrival of the Chinese President. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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Duterte seeks Philhealth reorganization

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Sunday, June 9th, 2019

President Rodrigo Duterte seeks the reorganization of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) due to alleged corruption issues in the agency.

In a television guesting on Saturday (January 8), President Duterte said the P154 billion-worth of funds allegedly lost to anomalous PhilHealth claims is unacceptable.

“When I go back [to Manila], I’m making the announcement that I am maybe reshuffling the PhilHealth. For the sheer amount that was lost, I have to reorganize your entity,” he said.

The president also believes that the agency should be managed by a member of the military or a businessman to curb irregularities in collecting PhilHealth claims.

President Duterte also reiterated he trusts the integrity of PhilHealth acting president, Roy Ferrer.

“I do not have the slightest doubt about the integrity and honesty of Roy Ferrer,” he said.

The issue stemmed from a report made by Edwin Roberto, a former employee of WellMed Dialysis and Laboratory Center, that WellMed continues to file PhilHealth claims even after their patients have died.

Based on the initial investigation, the Dialysis Center had done the same mode of operation 28 times while 12 cases are still being verified by authorities.

According to Ferrer, there is an alleged “mafia” inside the agency which serves as an accomplice of several hospitals, clinics, and doctors engaged in said anomalous transactions.

“Gusto nila sila nandoon for more than 20 years (They want to stay [in PhilHealth] for more than 20 years) and now we are getting more and more whistle blowers that are coming out to bring forth what they are doing in their respective regions. Marami po mga tiwaling ginagawa po at iniimbestigahan na po natin ito, (there is a lot of corruption and investigations are underway),” he said.

Aside from the reshuffling, President Duterte has also ordered authorities to file charges against the owner of WellMed Dialysis and Laboratory Center and other involved government officials.(with reports from Joan Nano)

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Duterte issues formal order for Imelda Marcos jewelry auction

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

Photo credit: Official Gazette / PCGG

President Rodrigo Duterte has formally ordered for the auction of the seized jewelry of former first lady Imelda Marcos which will benefit poor Filipinos.

Reports say, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea confirmed this on Tuesday (June 4).

“OP (Office of the President) has officially informed the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) that it interposes no objections to the proposed activities relative to the disposal of the Marcos jewelry collections, subject to compliance with existing laws, rules and regulations,” Medialdea said.

READ: Palace to block any move to prevent sale of Marcos’ jewelry

The P704.8-million jewelry collection, known as the Hawaii collection, of the former first lady were seized by the government when the Marcos family fled to Honolulu, Hawaii in February 1986 after a people power revolution toppled former president Ferdinand Marcos from power.

Imelda Marcos | Courtesy : PVI-Press by Rodel Acuvera Lumiares

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Duterte wants Smartmatic out of PH election

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Friday, May 31st, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte wants the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to find another service provider for the automated elections.

“I would like to advise Comelec now — hindi ko na lang hintayin — dispose of that Smartmatic and look for a new one that is free of fraud,” the President said during his meeting with the Filipino community in Japan on Thursday (May 30).

The poll body, for its part, welcomes the President’s preference for a different firm other than the controversy-stricken technology solutions firm Smartmatic.

“Malinaw naman siguro sa sinabi niya iyon pero malinaw din na hindi niya itinatakuwil ang ating automated system kundi lamang iyong supplier,” Comelec Spokesperon Director James Jimenez said.

(What he [Duterte] said was clear. He is not denouncing the automated system but only the supplier.)

However, the poll body maintained that they cannot just breach their contract and impose a ban on Smartmatic without any strong evidence.

“Kakailanganin natin ng legal basis to ban any supplier so iyon ang titignan natin,” Jimenez said emphasizing that it was Smartmatic that won the contract to handle the needs of the 2019 midterm polls.

(We will need a legal basis to ban any supplier and that is what we are contemplating.)

Aside from Smartmatic’s existing contract, additional funds will also be a concern but still, it is always possible to search for another service provider.

“Dumadaan tayo sa pubic bidding so there’s always a chance for that and the bidding schedules are designed to accommodate a new supplier,” he explained further.

Malacañang, meanwhile, was also quick to clarify the President’s statement saying he (Duterte) did not mean to give the impression that the recently concluded election was not honest nor credible.

“It is,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said referring to the credibility of the 2019 midterm polls.

Panelo explained that President Duterte was just responding to some concerns raised by both the opposition on certain technical glitches that raised questions on the technological competence of Smartmatic.

“The President wants that the future elections will not be subjected to the same aforementioned concerns,” Panelo said.

Panelo calls on Comelec to take President Duterte’s suggestion ‘seriously’ emphasizing that the poll body “should be the first one that should be fiercely protective of its image being the constitutional body mandated to safeguard the sanctity of the ballots.”

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