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Duterte’s Japan trip not a ‘reward’ for Cabinet officials — Malacañang

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

President Rodrigo Duterte is welcomed by Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez upon his arrival at a hotel in Tokyo, Japan on May 28, 2019. (ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO)

TOKYO, Japan — Malacañang denied that President Rodrigo Duterte’s trip to Japan is a reward to his Cabinet members following the administration’s victory in the 2019 midterm elections.

“The Palace does not share the position or remarks of Philippine Ambassador to Japan Jose C. Laurel V concerning Cabinet members joining the President in this trip to Japan,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement on Tuesday (May 28).

“It is worth mentioning that Cabinet members were prohibited by the President to campaign for the administration candidates during the last elections. It is therefore sans logic that they can be rewarded when they were disallowed from contributing to the reason or cause for the grant of reward,” he added.

In a press briefing ahead of President Duterte’s arrival to Japan, Ambassador Laurel told reporters that the trip was a form of reward as eight of administration’s senatorial candidates won in the election.

“Ito’y pabuya sa nakaraang eleksyon (It’s a reward for the elections),” Ambassador Laurel said in a press conference on Tuesday (May 28).

“But I think the President is so elated with the results of the midterm elections, that this is an affirmation of what his administration does in the last three years. It’s like a reward,” he added.

READ: Japan trip could be ‘reward’, not a ‘junket’ – PH envoy

In response, Panelo said that Ambassador Laurel “may have been either innocently speculating for lack of information or may have been misinformed of the nature of the trip” saying the presence of the Cabinet officials is necessary.

According to Panelo, some 25 business agreements will be signed during the working visit and the President’s delegation is expected to bring home about P300-B worth of investments from Japan.

He added that these investments will open at least 80,000 job opportunities for Filipinos.

Panelo noted that Japan is the Philippines’ second major trading partner and the fourth biggest source market for tourism.

He cited Japan’s contribution to the country’s infrastructure development and peace efforts in the Mindanao.

“The President therefore needs most of his team players, not only as a sign of respect or giving importance to our long-time ally, but we likewise see the need for a stronger cooperation between our governments,” Panelo said.

“This can be achieved by the constant dialogue by our Cabinet members with their counterparts in the Japanese government, who are, in various ways, involved in our country’s significant transactions with Japan,” he added.

President Duterte arrived in Japan on Wednesday evening to attend the 25th International Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo hosted by Japanese firm Nikkei.

He is set to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a bilateral meeting followed by greet and meet with the Filipino community in Japan.

The President is accompanied by a total of 16 Cabinet members and at least 200 other delegates.

Ambassador Laurel during the press interview clarified that the trip is not a junket though he did not clear if the organizer also shouldered the expenses of the Cabinet members and the local officials who joined the trip.  

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PH to deploy social welfare attachés for OFWs under new law

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

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law establishing the Office for Social Welfare Attaché to assist overseas Filipino workers (OFW), especially those who have fallen prey to illegal recruiters.

Duterte signed the Republic Act 11299 on April 17, a copy of which was made public on Monday (July 15).

The newly-signed law amended the Republic Act 8402 or the Migrant Workers Overseas Filipino Act of 1995 to include the said office.

It mandates the Office for Social Welfare Attaché (SWA) to deploy personnel to countries with large concentration of Filipino workers, as determined in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Under the measure, a social welfare attaché’s duty includes management of cases of Filipino workers in distress, such as victims of trafficking or illegal recruitment, rape or sexual abuse, maltreatment and other forms of physical or mental abuse, and case of abandoned or neglected children;

SWAs are also mandated to undertake survey and prepare social welfare situationer on the OFWs in their areas of assignment; establish a network with overseas-based social welfare agencies or individuals which may be mobilized to assist in the provision of appropriate services.

They should also respond to and monitor the resolution of problems and complaints or queries of Filipino workers and their families; establish and maintain a data bank and documentation of OFWs and their families to provide effective social welfare services; submit regular reports on plans and activities undertaken, recommendations and updates on the situation of OFWs.

The law states that the budget for the Department of Social Welfare and Development while the DFA, DOLE, the Department of Health and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration are tasked to craft the measure’s implementing rules and regulations within 60 days after the effectivity of this act.

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Duterte signs law on student fare discount on all modes of transportation

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

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law the bill imposing a 20 percent fare discount for students on all modes of public transportation.

Duterte signed Republic Act 11314 or the Student Fare Discount Act on April 17 but was only made public on Monday (July 15).

Under the law, a 20 percent discount for domestic regular fares of all kinds of public transportation shall be provided to students during the entire time they are enrolled in elementary, secondary, technical-vocational or higher education institution.

The law covers public utility buses, jeepneys, taxis and similar vehicles-for-hire, tricycles, passenger trains, aircrafts and marine vessels.

Student fare discount was only previously available for land transportation.

To avail the discount, the student should present his duly-issued school identification card or current validated enrollment form supported by the prescribed government-issued identification document.

The measure, however, does not apply to school service, shuttle service, tourist and any similar service covered by contract agreement and with valid franchise or permit from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

The law also does not cover individuals enrolled in dancing, swimming or driving schools and other informal short courses of seminar type and post-graduate studies.

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PH mulls severing ties with Iceland, 17 other nations – Malacañang

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

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is mulling over the possibility of cutting ties with Iceland and 17 other nations that voted in favor of a resolution calling on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to conduct a comprehensive review on the human rights situation in the Philippines amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs, Malacañang said Monday (July 15).

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said they will take a serious look into the country’s diplomatic relationship with other nations, adding that Iceland and other nations’ move can be considered as interference in the Philippines’ domestic affairs.

On July 11 (Thursday), 18 of the 47-member of the UNHRC voted to adopt the resolution filed by Iceland, tasking the UN Human Rights Office to prepare a comprehensive report on the Philippines’ human rights situation amid its ongoing anti-drug campaign.

Among the countries that voted in favor of the resolution are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Italy, Iceland, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Uruguay.

“’Pag ang isang bansa ay nagpapahayag ng mga posisyon na makakasira sa ating kasarinlan o sovereignty ay kailangang talagang putulin natin ang relasyon natin sa kanila kung wala silang gagawin kundi siraan tayo ng siraan sa mga kalakaran na di naman batay sa tunay na pangyayari dito sa ating bayan,” Panelo told reporters in a press briefing.

(If a country is making declarations that are affront to our independence or sovereignty, if they continue to do or say negative things that are not based on facts or occurrences in our country, then we need to sever our ties with them.)

However, Panelo said that Duterte will have the final say on the matter, as well as on calls for the Philippines to withdraw its membership from the UNHRC.

READ: Philippines eyes withdrawal from UN Human Rights Council

“In the ultimate analysis, he is the chief architect of foreign policy. Then, it’s the call of the President,” he said.

The palace official assured that they will also factor in every aspect, including the welfare of Filipinos living and working in the mentioned 18 countries, and circumstances that could lead to the cutting of ties.

The UN resolution asked the Philippine government to cooperate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human rights, including preventing and refraining from all acts of intimidation of retaliations on human rights defenders.

The resolution also urged the Philippine government to take up measures against extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, conduct impartial investigations of human rights violations and hold those involved accountable.

With the adoption of the Iceland-led resolution, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet was tasked to prepare a report on the Philippines human rights situation by June 2020.

Although the Duterte administration does not consider the resolution a legally-binding document, Panelo said the government is willing to respond to the UN council’s formal questions or communication about Duterte’s war against illegal drugs.

“They have to believe what this government tells them, because this government does not lie,” Panelo said.

However, he stressed that the government will not oblige if the questions are designed to “embarrass” the Duterte administration. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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