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Duterte, Xi agree to resolve sea dispute through bilateral talks

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, April 26th, 2019

(L-R) President Rodrigo Duterte, Pag-asa Island and Chinese President Xi Jinping

President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed that the dispute over the resource-rich West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) could be managed through bilateral consultations, Malacañang said on Thursday (April 25).

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte raised the issue on the maritime dispute during his bilateral talks with Xi in Beijing.

“In the course of the bilateral meeting, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte raised the issue of the West Philippine Sea, particularly the situation in Pag-Asa Island,” Panelo said in a statement issued on Thursday night.

“Both agree that the situation can be managed by the mechanism of bilateral negotiations but it should not affect the cooperation being undertaken by both the Philippines and China and they look forward to a productive discussion on matters of mutual concern and interests,” he added.

Panelo, who joined Duterte in China for the second Belt and Road Forum, also said that Xi stressed the importance of “good neighborliness and proper handling of differences between the countries.”

“While the Chinese leader acknowledged the inevitable of having challenges to the bilateral relations, he placed importance on the mutual trust that exists between the two nations in order to resolve the same,” he added.

The Palace official added that Xi even cited the memorandum of understanding on oil and gas signed by the Philippines and China, which “suspended their differences for a joint exploration that would mutually benefit both countries and their peoples.”

Duterte, for his part, assured Beijing that Manila will remain its ally in Southeast Asia.

“The Chief Executive culminated the talk with the Chinese President articulating his position that the Philippines remains China’s ally in Southeast Asia. The former emphasized that both countries are allies, and allies strengthen—and do not destroy – each other,” Panelo said.

The meeting between Duterte and Xi comes on the heels of the reported harvesting of giant clams in Panatag shoal and the presence of hundreds of Chinese vessels near the Pag-asa (Thitu) Island, long-held by the Philippines.

READ: Duterte tells China: Back off from Pag-asa island

China has continued to assert its expansive claims over the contested territories even after the Philippines lodged and won its case at the Hague-based arbitral tribunal in 2016. – Robie de Guzman

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Esperon: PH to add five lighthouses and aerial vehicles in West Philippine Sea this year

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon has reiterated their plan to construct five lighthouses and add aerial vehicles in West Philippine Sea this year.

“Our fisheries boats, coast guard ships and of course the navy and air force have strengthened [and] improved their capability to have more control over our domain which is the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

He also said that resolving the issue on the West Philippine Sea dispute through a diplomatic way is their priority.

“We have not abandoned any island, no island was taken from us since 2016, and we are strengthening our positions and possessions.”

Esperon also clarified the president’s statement when he said China is ‘in possession’ of some areas in the West Philippines.

“I think the President said—did not say that they are in possession, but they are in position,” he said. “So they have the positional advantage right now. And they have the equipment to enforce their position.”

However he agrees that China has strengthened their position in several disputed territories.—AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

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PNP support Duterte’s push for death penalty, mandatory ROTC

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Tuesday said it would fully support the reimposition of death penalty as pushed by President Rodrigo Duterte in his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA).

PNP chief Police General Oscar Albayalde said imposing capital punishment for drug-related heinous crime and plunder will add more power to the government’s campaign against war, drugs and corruption.

In response to the SONA of President Duterte, the PNP fully supports the legislative agenda of the national government for effective legislation that will add more teeth to the crusade against crime, drugs and corruption, particularly by imposing capital punishment for drug-related heinous crime and plunder, among others,” he told reporters in a press briefing in Camp Crame on Tuesday.

“I firmly believe that the deterrent effect of the certainty of punishment will be a game changer in our continuing campaign against illegal drugs, heinous crime and corruption, particularly against drug traffickers, smugglers and peddlers of illegal drugs,” he added.

However, the PNP chief maintained his position that the country’s justice system should be fixed first.

“Ang importante dito ay we convict those people na talagang we know that they are guilty. ‘Yan ‘yung stand natin,” he stressed.

(What’s important here is we convict those people who are really guilty. That is the PNP’s stand.)

When it comes to the proposed mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program in Grades 11 and 12, Albayalde believes this will embed “very important” values on the Filipino youth.

Albayalde added that the president might be pushing for the mandatory program in Senior High School as he believes Filipinos are now lacking in love of country.

Aside from instilling values, the PNP chief said the mandatory ROTC will also help in the country’s defense in case of war.

“The very important value there is the sense of nationalism, love of country at patriotism sa Pilipino lalo na sa mga kabataan… of course, napakaliit nating bansa, we have to defend our country in case of war,” he said.

(The very important value there is the sense of nationalism, love of country at patriotism in Filipinos, especially in the youth… our country is small, we have to defend our country in case of war.)

Duterte presented the same argument in his SONA on Monday when he asked Congress to pass measures that will improve the country’s defense system.

Albayalde added that having training in terms of defense will be good for everybody. (with details from Lea Ylagan)

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At least 16 measures pushed by Duterte could pass Senate – Sotto

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – At least 16 measures pushed by President Rodrigo Duterte in his fourth State of the Nation Address (Monday)could be passed in the upper chamber of Congress, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Tuesday.

Sotto said that majority of the proposals that Duterte mentioned in his speech could easily hurdle the Senate. These include the implementation of Magna Carta for Barangays, the National Academy for Sports for High School, the establishment of Department of Disaster Resilience, Department of Overseas Filipino Workers and Water Resources, Salary Standardization Law for Teachers and other government personnel, the Coco Levy Bill, the National Land Use Act, Mandatory ROTC Bill for Grades 11 & 12, the postponement of Sangguniang Kabataan and Barangay Elections, the Expansion of Malasakit Center, Fire Protection Modernization Bill and Death Penalty for Drug Traffickers & Plunder.

“Marami doon sa mga binanggit niya kakayanin talaga namin. As a matter of fact, nakikita ko, at least 16 sa mga sinabi niya malaki ang pag-asang mapasa lahat,” Sotto said in a radio interview.

The Senate President further said that although he supports Duterte’s call for the creation of new departments, he said it would be better to pass a law right-sizing the government to streamline government systems and services.

“Ayusin muna natin yung right-sizing. Kasi kung hindi tayo magra-right-sizing, blinow-up lang natin yung bureaucracy lalo. So, kung magra-right-sizing tayo, mababawasan yung mga departamento, na mga iba-t-ibang napakaraming departamento ng gobyerno ng maraming empleyado,” Sotto said.

(Let’s first work on rightsizing the government. Because if we don’t rightsize first, we will just blow up bureaucracy more. If we right-size, we would reduce the number of redundant departments, various agencies with too many employees.)

Among the measures mentioned in Duterte’s SONA, Sotto said the reimposition of death penalty for drug traffickers and plunder would face the strong opposition and lengthy debates.

“Tinitingnan ko yung listahan, pinakikinggan ko kahapon, puro talagang kayang-kaya at talagang dapat. Kailangang-kailangan. Yung lang reimposition ng death penalty siguro ang mahaba ang debate,” he said.

(I will look into the list. When I was listening to the speech yesterday, the bills he mentioned could easily pass in the Senate. The reimposition of death penalty may go through lengthy discussions.)

“If its confined to high level (drug) trafficking it stands a good chance to be as quicker or it can be passed in the Senate ngayon because of the mention of plunder, hindi maganda sa amin sa mga senador at sa mga congressman na hindi pumayag na hindi isama, kailangang isama, otherwise takot kami sa plunder,” he added.

(Senators and congressmen won’t look good if we exclude plunder. We need to include it, otherwise it would seem we are afraid of plunder.)

Former special assistant to the president and now Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, for his part, believes that passing heavier penalty for plunder would deter government officials from engaging in corrupt practices.  

“Kung pumasa ito, maaaring ikatakot ng mga magnanakaw sa gobyerno,” Go said.

(If this gets approved, it may deter corrupt government officials from committing plunder.)

For Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, the hardest among the challenges laid out by Duterte in his SONA is the liberation of six million Filipinos from poverty.

“This is the Six Million Challenge that confronts us all. It is the overarching Priority No. 1. It is the most demanding because it means 2 million of our countrymen must graduate from dehumanizing existence every year, if the objective is to uplift them within the next three years,” he said in a statement.

Recto added that even if the government would succeed in the Six-Million Challenge, there will still be about 15 million poor waiting to be liberated at the end of 2022.

“If there is one goal that should energize us, and consume our every waking hour, this is the one. This is a tall order that calls for a combination of solutions and the cooperation of all,” he said.

Senator Joel Villanueva, on the other hand, said he is inclined to look into Duterte’s proposal to include teachers in the next salary standardization law.

“Teachers play a critical role in shaping the hearts and minds of our youth. We need to make their efforts more rewarding so that they are kept motivated to fulfill their duties,” he said in a statement.

Villanueva also vowed to work with the President in his goal to provide comfortable lives for Filipinos at the end of his term.

Senator Sonny Angara, meanwhile, lauded Duterte for his speech that focused on matters of progress, peace and prosperity.

Angara added that he will not belabor the president for omitting other issues as it is impossible to cram all of the country’s problems in one speech.

“Hindi naman isang linggong pabasa ang SONA. What is important is that he talked about the things many of our people want to hear from him. It is a well-curated address,” he said in a statement.

He also said that after Duterte’s annual report to the nation, lawmakers and concerned agencies should “react with deeds.”

“It should be back to work for all of us,” he said.

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