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Duterte signs P3.7-T national budget for 2019

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, April 15th, 2019

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (Courtesy: Presidential Photo)

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has signed the
P3.757 trillion national budget for 2019, Malacañang said on Monday.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea confirmed this in a text message sent to reporters.

Medialdea said Duterte signed the budget on April 15 but vetoed parts of the bill.

“The President, among others, vetoed P95.3 billion items of appropriations in the details of DPWH programs/projects, which are not within the programmed priorities,” Medialdea said.

Duterte signed the long-delayed budget without holding a ceremonial signing. Malacañang earlier said the scheduled signing of the 2019 spending program may be pushed back until after the Lenten season, pending the President’s review.

READ: Palace: Duterte may sign 2019 budget after Lenten break

Duterte earlier threatened to veto the entire budget if it is found problematic.

READ: Duterte threatens to veto 2019  national budget if found problematic

The government has been running on a reenacted budget since January after the Congress failed to pass the proposed 2019 spending program on time.

The 2019 General Appropriations Act was transmitted to the Office of the President after it was ratified by the House of Representatives and Senate in February.

However, its enactment was delayed due to alleged “unconstitutional” realignments that prompted Senate President Vicente Sotto III to sign the budget with “strong reservations” in late March.

Sotto and other senators had previously questioned the P75-billion worth of projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) that were allegedly inserted by the lower house after the bill was ratified.

READ: Andaya hits Sotto’s “strong reservations” in signing 2019 budget bill 

But House members have maintained that the realignments were not illegal and, in turn, accused the Senate of snipping the budget for infrastructure projects.– Robie de Guzman (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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Senators point out ‘sovereignty issue’ in PH-China joint probe on Recto Bank incident

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, June 24th, 2019

(L-R) Crewmen of the sunken fishing vessel, F/B GEN-VER 1 reunited with their families; wreckage of F/B GEN-VER 1 after getting hit by a Chinese vessel at Recto Bank on June 9, 2019.

MANILA, Philippines – Several Senators have questioned the planned joint investigation of the Philippines and China into the boat-ramming incident near Recto Bank (also called Reed Bank).

In separate statements, Senators Franklin Drilon and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan both opposed the move, saying this is a clear violation of international treaties and will prejudice the country’s territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Drilon said the Philippines should not allow a joint probe with China because the law is on Manila’s side. He added that a joint investigation will only serve Beijing’s interests.

“Not only the credibility issue, you have a lot of legal complications and sovereignty issues,” he stressed.

Drilon also pointed out that the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 ruled that China cannot claim Recto Bank as this is part of the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Pangilinan echoed Drilon’s sentiments, emphasizing that the joint probe is against the country’s fisheries code, which mandates the government to ensure the safety of our fishery and aquatic resources and prosecute local and foreign violators.

“A joint investigation is against our fisheries code. Our fisheries code mandates the government to safeguard the safety of our fishery and aquatic resources and to prosecute local and foreign violators. Part also of the government’s mandate is to address foreign illegal entrants in our waters,” he said in a statement released on Sunday (June 23).

Senator Panfilo Lacson also believes that conducting a joint probe with China into the allision incident in Recto Bank may be seen as a waiver of the Philippines’ ownership rights over the area.

READ: Lacson says PH-China joint probe may be seen as waiver of Recto Bank ownership

“The 2016 Hague ruling expressly states that Recto Bank is part of the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and therefore cannot be claimed by China. Having said that, allowing a joint investigation with China and a third party may be interpreted as a waiver of our right of ownership of Recto Bank,” Lacson said in a statement issued on Sunday.

Senator Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, thinks there is no need for a joint probe since Manila has already filed a diplomatic protest against China over the issue.

“I still don’t think there’s a need for a joint probe. We already filed a protest before the UN IMO and other international forum. There are two cases here,” he said.

“The enforcement of the Philippine-China arbitration award should have been an immediate priority of the National Security Council especially after the incident,” he added.

In the end, Drilon suggested for President Duterte to form an independent body to look into the incident like the Melo and Feliciano commissions created by past administrations.

Drilon said the investigating body should be given authority to make recommendations, inquire into the Recto Bank incident and submit a report the President and Congress.

“This body, I would propose, should be composed of men of independence, integrity, a retired supreme court justice is preferable by having this we are able to resolve this issue with credibility,” he said.

The lawmakers’ statements come after the chief executive welcomed the Chinese government’s offer for a joint probe into the ramming of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel in the West Philippine Sea, adding that it should be done with a third neutral party. (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

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Duterte ‘disappointed’ over delay in crafting of COC – Palace

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Monday, June 24th, 2019

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte joins other leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states during the 34th ASEAN Summit plenary session at The Athenee Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand on June 22, 2019. Courtesy : PCOO

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Sunday (June 23) expressed President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘concern and disappointment’ over delays in the crafting of the much-awaited Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.

“The Chief Executive explained that the longer the delay for an early conclusion of the COC, the higher the probability of maritime incidents happening and the greater the chance for miscalculations that may spiral out of control,” he said in a statement while emphasizing that the President is “not beholden to or afraid of any foreign country”.

President Duterte raised the issue during the leaders’ meeting at the 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit held in Bangkok, Thailand.

The establishment of a COC is seen to tone down and prevent the tensions in the disputed areas in the South China Sea.

The Philippines currently serves as country coordinator of the ASEAN-China dialogue partnership which started from 2018 to 2021.

The partnership includes negotiations for the COC over the disputed territories.

“As country coordinator for ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations, together with fellow ASEAN member-states, the Philippines will continue to push for the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” Panelo said.

The Palace official said the Chief Executive urged the regional bloc “to remain united and steadfast in protecting time-honored principles of international law.”

“Today’s gathering has established the guiding philosophy of the President: Respect for the rule of law, and recognition of the sovereign equality of all nations as well,” Panelo noted.

The Presidential Spokesperson stressed that President Duterte is “confident in articulating in clear and unequivocal terms the position of the Philippines as regards its interests before the global stage.” – with details from Rosalie Coz

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Duterte insists ‘major contributors’ to climate change be held accountable

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Monday, June 24th, 2019

Cities and Pollution contribute to climate change. According to UN Habitat, cities consume 78 per cent of the world’s energy and produce more than 60 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. | Courtesy: Pexels

BANGKOK, Thailand – President Rodrigo Duterte has called on members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to hold accountable countries that greatly contribute to climate change.

Duterte raised the matter during the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand on Sunday (June 23).

“The cost is horrendous, especially for us in Southeast Asia: Displacement, destruction and death. Real lives hang in the balance,” he said.

“We must hold countries most responsible for climate change to account, to answer,” he added.

Duterte emphasized that countries should come up with measures to alleviate the impact of natural disasters which, in time, have become more frequent and more intense.

He suggested building disaster-resilient infrastructures, innovative systems and sustainable cities.

“We must adapt and build our resilience by advancing initiatives that care for the people and the environment,” he noted.

In the World Risk Index Report 2018, the Philippines (index value of 25.14) ranked third among 172 countries with the highest disaster risk covered by the report, following Vanuatu (50.28) and Tonga (29.42).

These countries’ exposure to extreme natural events such as cyclones or earthquakes is very high and according to the report, they show very high level of societal vulnerability.

Other ASEAN countries included in the top 15 high-risk list were Brunei (18.82) at 8th spot and Cambodia at 12th place (16.07).

Meanwhile, the seven other ASEAN member nations were among the countries experience minimal risk in natural disasters with Vietnam at 25th spot (11.35); Indonesia at 36th (10.36); Myanmar at 64th place (7.49);

Malaysia at the 82nd spot (6.44); Thailand at 88th place (6.12); Laos at 106th spot (5.3); and Singapore at 158th pace (2.31) among countries in the World Risk Index 2018.

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