DND defends SAP Bong Go on the issue of Philippine Navy’s frigate acquisition project

UNTV News   •   January 19, 2018   •   5732

FILE PHOTO: DND Sec. Delfin Lorenzana (left) and SAP Bong Go (right) seen beside Pres. Duterte during the declaration of the liberation of Marawi City from terrorists (Presidential Photo)

Department of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has denied that Special Assistant to the President Bong Go intervened in the acquisition of frigates by the Philippine Navy.

The Defense Chief claims the DND did not receive any guidance or hint from Malacañang or from Secretary Go himself to manipulate the frigate acquisition.

Lorenzana noted the frigate acquisition project has a contract and that the Philippine Navy is strictly implementing the conditions under the said agreement.

“Nakalagay sa document (note on the document says) ‘Given to me by Bong Go’, I assumed galing ito sa kanya (I assumed it came from him). Hindi naman sa kanya galing (It did not come from him) personally but it came to me while I was in Malacañang,” Lorenzana said.

“According to some people in my office, kasama ito sa (it was included in a)brochure actually submitted to the Defense Acquisition Office. I don’t know how it happened, how it got itself dito sa (into) Malacañang. – UNTV News & Rescue

Senators hit Chinese envoy: Filipinos in China are not spies

Robie de Guzman   •   August 19, 2019

Senate Committee on Foreign Relations organizational meeting and briefing by the Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday, August 19, 2019.

MANILA, Philippines – Several senators on Monday slammed Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua over his remark that Filipino workers in China might be suspected of being spies.

At a Committee on Foreign Relations Organizational meeting, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel assured the Chinese envoy that Filipinos in China are not spies but are there to earn a living.

“Let me assure China, there are no Filipino spies in China. Kaya wag silang mag-alala. Ang mga Pilipino po na nasa China ay para po sa pagta-trabaho,” he said when asked for his comment on the issue.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier expressed concern over the location of the Philippine Online Gaming Operations (POGO) hubs near military camps, saying these Chinese-dominated casinos could be used for espionage purposes.

In response to Lorenzana’s remark, Zhao reportedly told Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo that they may also be inclined to look at Filipino workers in China as spies.

For Senator Risa Hontiveros, the Chinese Ambassador’s statement could be considered a threat.

“Ito ay maituturing na banta sa buhay at kabuhayan ng ating mga kababayang OFW sa Tsina. It is a veiled threat in response to our simple and reasonable desire to strictly regulate Chinese POGO operations in the country and ensure the country’s national security,” Hontiveros said.

“Our OFWs are not spies. They have no history of espionage. Filipinos abroad are valued both for their skill and unique blend of hard work and care. They pose no threat. In fact, in China, our workers are employed in areas that are nowhere near military and security facilities. To insinuate that they could be committing espionage is not only insulting but plainly false,” she added.

Senate Minority Franklin Drilon earlier called Zhao’s remark as “absurd and beyond the realm of possibility.”

He added that Lorenzana is a competent official and his job is to advise authorities on a matter of security.

“He has nothing but good intentions. We should defer to him,” he said.

Drilon further stated the possibility that POGO workers could be used for information gathering is not a remote possibility.

“It’s convenient when there is a need for it. Why should we leave that chance unchecked?” he said, adding that he supports Lorenzana’s proposal to move POGO hubs farther away from military camps.

Hontiveros also said the Lorenzana did not accuse Chinese workers employed in POGO hubs as spies, but merely pointed out the proximity of the firms to military camps which can be exploited by unscrupulous people to undermine the country’s security.

The senator also recalled Lorenzana’s point that Chinese firms are mandated by the Chinese government to assist in intelligence collection for their government.

“Foreign workers, including Chinese workers, who fully comply with our laws and respect the rights of Filipino workers are welcome in our country. We demand the same from our OFWs working in and hosted by foreign countries. However, our country also reserves the right to ensure the safety of its citizens and protection of its state secrets,” Hontiveros said.

To address this issue, Hontiveros said there should be a thorough review of all Chinese POGOs near military installations and camps, adding that the defense department “must make a comprehensive appraisal and provide necessary proposals.”

She also suggested for stricter regulation of the POGO industry to ensure that revenues are monitored, taxes are paid and domestic facilities are not used to commit crimes.

Hontiveros added that there should be pressure on the Chinese government to commit more to work closely with the Philippine authorities in regulating the entry of illegal and undocumented Chinese workers into the country.

Senators mourn the passing of ex-DENR Sec. Gina Lopez

Robie de Guzman   •   August 19, 2019

Gina Lopez

MANILA, Philippines – Senators on Monday mourned the passing of former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez.

In a statement, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said he is deeply saddened by the passing of Lopez, whom he called a “fearless advocate and a tireless philanthropist,” who dedicated “most her life for the betterment of her fellow Filipinos.”

Go added that Lopez’s “exceptional” dedication to protecting the environment has “no equal today.”

“I had the honor of working with her when she was the environment secretary of the Duterte Administration. As a former colleague in the government, I know how passionate, dedicated and humble she was as a public servant and as an Earth warrior,” he said in a statement.

“Ma’am Gina, taos-pusong pasasalamat po sa inyong hindi napapantayang serbisyo sa kapwa Pilipino. Isa kang katangi-tanging modelo ng tunay na pagmamalasakit sa kapwa tao. May your legacy continue for generations to come,” he added.

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel also expressed condolences and sympathies to the family and friends of the late DENR chief. He described Lopez as “a famous philanthropist and staunch children’s rights advocate.”

“I am saddened by the demise of such a great public servant and environmentalist as Gina Lopez. She will truly be remembered for her advocacies and contributions in the service of Filipinos,” Pimentel said.

“As the Filipinos mourn the untimely death of former Secretary Lopez, we also pray that her legacy lives on in every person and community her good heart has touched,” Pimentel added.

READ: Former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez dies at 65

Lopez passed away on Monday. She succumbed to multiple organ failure after battling brain cancer.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri recalled Lopez’s many efforts to preserve the environment and helping the aggrieved sectors of society especially poor children.

“Being the chief of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission is just one of the many tasks she carried out well as part of our government. She brought her environmental activism into every Filipino home in her travels around our beautiful archipelago,” he said in a statement.

Zubiri also expressed admiration for Lopez’s causes and for her grace and sublime courage with which she faced the pains of her sickness.

“She walked her talk, be it in defense of helpless children or displaced communities, or in nursing back to life polluted waters or ravaged forests,” he said.

“While in government, her habit of speaking the inconvenient truth to power was actually a strength, and not a character flaw in a bureaucracy straitjacketed by niceties. Though her stint was cut short, Gina was a great ‘secretary of defense of our natural resources’,” he added.

Senator Francis Pangilinan also said many will remember the late environmentalist as “a woman of courage” and a “firebrand,” who pushed for her environmental and child protection advocacies without fear and hesitation.

“She was all that. In or out of government, her life was about tireless creativity for all our collective future, through our children and our environment,” he added.

Senator Sonny Angara likewise paid tribute to Lopez, describing her as a “one-person green warrior” who took her “selfless” fight for environment protection to “where it matters.”

“She spent a lifetime pouring her considerable talents in bringing to the mainstream the powerless and the voiceless who exist forgotten in the margins of society. She fought for children who were incapable of seeking justice and care for themselves and eloquently spoke for the people in the communities whose voices have been crushed by exploitation,” Angara said.

“She was a one-person green warrior who took the fight to where it matters – in boardrooms, chatrooms, government offices, and in her favorite office – out in the open, under a forest canopy or underwater, where she was in her element with people she loved in a country she never gave up hope on,” he added.

Angara also stated that Lopez’s passing has “left us a bucket list to comply with and follow.”

Senator Grace Poe, meanwhile, thanked Lopez for her efforts to protect the environment.

“Sec. Gina Lopez came in our midst and taught us love for mankind and the environment, our common home. Thank you for touching our lives in your impassioned way,” Poe said in a statement.

Drilon backs Lorenzana’s bid to transfer POGOs away from military camps

Robie de Guzman   •   August 19, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Monday expressed support for the proposal of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to transfer the Philippine Online Gaming Operations (POGO) hubs away from military camps and other vital installations.

In a statement, Drilon said he shares the concerns raised by Lorenzana over the growing presence of Chinese-dominated online gaming hubs and the risks that its proximity to military camps pose.

“I support Sec. Lorenzana’s recommendation on POGO location. The security aspect is something that we cannot just brush aside. I cannot understand why we cannot have POGO locations farther away from military camps,” Drilon said in a TV interview on Monday.

Drilon also described the Chinese embassy’s statement that overseas Filipino workers in China may also be suspected of spying as “absurd and beyond the realm of possibility.”

“Sec. Lorenzana is a competent official and his job is to advise us on matter of security. He has nothing but good intentions. We should defer to him,” he added.

Drilon further stated the possibility that POGO workers could be used for information gathering is not a remote possibility.

“We don’t know. Maybe not right now, but it gives them the opportunity when there’s a need for it. It’s convenient when there is a need for it. Why should we leave that chance unchecked?” he said.

The lawmaker also said there is no way Filipino workers in China could be engaged in spying activities for the Philippines as they are there to earn a living.

Drilon also pointed out how Filipinos were deprived of opportunities to earn a living in the POGO industry, which employs thousands of Chinese workers.

When asked if he would support a total ban of POGO, Drilon replied with: “I would like to think there is certainly great merit into looking at the possibility of closing down POGOs. I am against gambling.”

READ: Malacañang: No risk in POGO hubs near military camps

Malacañang earlier said it sees nothing wrong with the location of POGO hubs near military installations and the creation of self-contained communities of foreign workers as long as it doesn’t violate the law.

However, the Palace said it would defer to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon to assess any security issue being posed by the foreign operated online gaming operations.

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