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

Marje Pelayo   •   May 28, 2019   •   3112

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte bids farewell to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea before boarding a plane bound for Japan at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on May 28, 2019. The President is set to participate in the 25th Nikkei Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo. (ACE MORANDANTE/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO)

TOKYO, Japan — Philippine Ambassador to Japan Jose Laurel V said President Rodrigo Duterte’s trip to the country may be a “reward” to Cabinet officials for the result of the 2019 midterm polls.

“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. 

Eight of the 12 administration candidates for the senatorial race won in the elections on May 13 which, according to Laurel, was an ‘affirmation’ of the administration’s actions.

Laurel, however, clarified that the trip was not a junket.

“It’s not a junket,” the Ambassador straightforwardly said.

“I can imagine that fellow (Duterte) who’s six months younger than me, I think is also getting tired with the kind of lifestyle and schedule that he has. My impression is it’s important that the Cabinet is here for reasons that they may ask the Japanese,” he added.

Ambassador Laurel explained that it was Nikkei, the host of the Future of Asia conference, that invited and paid for the President’s trip.

The Ambassador did not clear, however, if the organizer also shouldered the expenses of the Cabinet members and the local officials who joined the trip.

“Ito ay imbitasyon ng Nikkei. Sila ang sasagot ng gastos. Pagka-libre, sabihin sa kapitbahay. Mayroong gastos iyong mga alipores,” Laurel said

(This is by invitation from Nikkei. They will shoulder the expenses. If it’s free, tell the neighbors to join. The companions also incurred expenses.)

“Wala akong nalalaman na mayor o governor na darating na gastos ng gobyerno,” he added.

(I do not know of mayors or governors who are coming at the expense of the government.)

Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, on the other hand, was quick to refute the statement of Ambassador Laurel, pointing out that his joining the President in Japan is a working trip and not a reward.

“I am part of the delegation because there will be issues related to agriculture which PRRD would bring up during the visit, especially tariff on bananas,” Piñol said.

“All that I know is this is a working trip and not a pabuya [reward] as the good Ambassador of the Philippines to Japan Jose Laurel V was quoted by the media,” he added.

Other Cabinet members who joined the President in the trip are Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr.; Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III; Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez; Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat; Public Works Secretary Mark Villar; Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade; Secretary to the Cabinet Karlo Nograles; Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia; Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar; National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr.; and Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo.

President Duterte is scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and attend an economic forum during his four-day visit in the island country. — MP

Duterte OKs grant of one-time P20K aid to employees’ compensation pensioners

Robie de Guzman   •   April 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the grant of one-time financial aid of P20,000 to qualified pensioners under the employees’ compensation (EC) program.

Under Administrative Order (AO) No. 39, which was signed on Monday, Duterte authorized the Employees Compensation Commission (ECC) to grant the cash aid to EC pensioners for permanent partial disability, permanent total disability and survivorship, in the public and public sectors, “subject to the availability of funds and pertinent laws, rules and regulations.”

Duterte directed the ECC, Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to set aside and release appropriate funding to cover the financial assistance from the Social Insurance Fund under the EC Program.

The ECC, in coordination with the SSS and GSIS, will issue the implementing rules and regulations necessary for the effective implementation of the order.

In signing the AO, Duterte recognized that the “adverse effects of the pandemic on the economy, supplementary health necessities for the battle against the virus, and restrictions imposed on our mobility and social interaction, have increased the financial and health burdens experienced by the EC pensioners.

The one-time cash aid will be granted to around 31,000 pensioners of the SSS and GSIS.

Duterte said AO 39 will take effect following its publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation.

Statements of ‘alter-egos’ also reflect Duterte’s stand on West PH Sea issue — Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   April 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Monday said there is no need for President Rodrigo Duterte to speak on China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea, saying the strong statements of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of National Defense (DND) also reflects the president’s stance on the issue.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement to dispel notions that Duterte has been silent on the reported number of Chinese vessels still lingering in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“Doctrine of qualified political doctrine, kapag po hindi dini-dis-own ng president ang mga sinasabi ng kaniyang mga alter-egos, parang siya na po ang nagsasalita, hindi na kailangang siya ang magsalita,” Roque said in an online briefing.

The Palace official was referring to a Constitutional Doctrine which states that “utterances of alter egos are utterances of the President unless the president renounces them.”

Roque also reiterated that Duterte already stressed the importance of the 2016 Hague Ruling on the West Philippine Sea and that the Philippines will not set aside the landmark decision.

The National Task Force-West Philippine Sea earlier reported that at least 240 Chinese vessels were found lingering in various parts of the West Philippine Sea during its latest sovereignty patrols in the area.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier demanded the immediate withdrawal of the remaining Chinese vessels in the Julian Felipe Reef, telling the ships to sail away and for the Chinese to “leave our sovereign territories and abide by the international law.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. also repeatedly fired off diplomatic protests and called for the immediate withdrawal of Chinese vessels in the disputed waters.

Duterte to hold public address Thursday night – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   April 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte will deliver another public address Thursday evening (April 15), Malacañang said.

In a press briefing Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte will share details about his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his “Talk to the People” later.

“Mamaya po magkakaroon ng ‘Talk to the People’ ang Pangulo. Siya na po ang magkukuwento kung ano ang nangyari sa kanilang usapan ni President Putin,” he said.

Duterte and Putin held a 30-minute telesummit on Tuesday.

Malacañang earlier said that the two leaders talked about ways to combat coronavirus pandemic and reaffirmed their shared commitment to further enhance cooperation between the Philippines and Russia.

Duterte also thanked Putin for Russia’s commitment to bolster cooperation in various areas, including fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two chief executives also stressed the importance of ramping up global production and supplies of COVID-19 vaccines.

Aside from the COVID-19 response, Duterte and Putin also discussed the “steady progress” in defense and security cooperation between the two countries, fostered by regular exchanges between defense, intelligence, and military agencies.

The Palace also said that Putin highlighted the positive trajectory of Philippine-Russia relations and emphasized the many opportunities for greater cooperation in the fields of trade and investments, agriculture, and energy development even as both countries work on further enhancing political-security cooperation.

During the telesummit, Duterte also reiterated his invitation for Putin to visit the Philippines as soon as circumstances allow, which the Russian president welcomed.

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