Lacson advises DND, UP to set boundaries after pact abrogation

Robie de Guzman   •   January 19, 2021   •   430

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday advised the Department of National Defense (DND) and University of the Philippines (UP) administration to come up with an agreement on boundaries to be observed following the termination of the 1989 deal banning the entry of state troops without prior coordination.

In a statement, Lacson said this is to “prevent the move from negatively affecting the culture of academic freedom in the state university.”

“Once the pact is terminated, what will the security sector do? We don’t know that yet. Probably they could come to an agreement that there are boundaries to be observed,” Lacson said.

He also warned the security sector that it might be “overstepping its bounds if the move is designed to muzzle the academic and other freedoms enjoyed by the UP community.”

“If it is designed to muzzle the academic and other freedoms being enjoyed by UP in general, you can describe it as that — overstepping,” he said.

The Department of National Defense unilaterally ended the 31-year-old agreement with UP, citing information that the New People’s Army is recruiting students inside UP campuses.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana explained that the deal is ‘obsolete’ and that UP has become “a breeding ground” and “a safe haven for enemies of the state.”

Lacson noted that during the Senate hearings on red-tagging, it was established that students are being recruited to the NPA not only inside UP but in other universities, to the point they are being killed in encounters.

For Lacson, a former police chief and current chair of the Senate committee on national defense, the DND’s move made sense as universities such as UP and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines have become a “hotbed of recruitment.”

“To join the militant organizations, that’s fine. You can protest all you want. But when you bear arms against government and you are very young, you are vulnerable, you are easily radicalized, and the hotbed of recruitment would be UP, PUP and other universities, then I think the security sector has studied all the factors involved before they acted on the matter,” he said.

But he added the termination of the pact will affect the culture of academic freedom in UP, whose community is known to be independent and involved in political issues.

“UP is known to be independent and they are involved in so many political issues. They enjoy so much freedom. And then all of a sudden you take it away from them, that really hurts,” he said.

“Definitely there will be outcry, protests and disagreements. Let’s see how it shapes up in the future,” he added.

Lorenzana earlier called on the UP community to “work together to protect our students from extremism and destructive armed struggle.”

Lacson seeks review of PH-China ties amid West Philippine Sea issue

Robie de Guzman   •   May 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson is pushing for a review of the diplomatic ties between the Philippines and China in the wake of China’s recent incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

In a statement, Lacson stressed that a review of the diplomatic relations between the two countries is “timely and called for” following reports on China’s continued activities in the Philippine territorial waters despite the diplomatic protests filed by the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

“What kind of friend – or benefactor – would take what is ours, bully us, and ignore our protests?” said Lacson, who chairs the Senate committee on national defense.

“Maybe a review of the country’s diplomatic relations is timely and called for. All the diplomatic protests that the Secretary of Foreign Affairs filed have been ignored as if nothing was filed at all. The continued incursions and bullying finally got his goat. The Senate must support him in this regard,” he added.

In pushing for a review of Philippine-China diplomatic ties, Lacson pointed out the Philippines must become “innovative and creative” in approaching the issue as diplomatic protests no longer seem effective.

“There are so many possibilities to explore,” he said.

On the other hand, Lacson said the review should go hand in hand with seeking stronger alliances with the more militarily powerful countries like the United States, Australia, even Japan and some European Union countries to maintain the balance of power in the region as he pointed out China has already made at least three incursions into Philippines EEZ – Scarborough Shoal, Panatag Shoal, and now Julian Felipe Reef.

Lacson said Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon, the principal author and sponsor of a recently filed Senate resolution on the WPS issue, has accepted his proposed amendments.

His first proposed amendment to the resolution is changing the word “condemning” to “strongly objecting.”

“To condemn means some sort of eternal divine punishment. Hence, no matter how unlikely, in case China eases up on its aggressive stance, our condemnation cannot be taken back,” he said.

His second proposed amendment was to “urge the Department of Foreign Affairs to consider a review of the long existing diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China in order to send a clear message that the incursions into our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in utter disregard of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the rule of law is totally unacceptable.”

The senator also reiterated that the issue on the West Philippine Sea should not be connected with other issues, including vaccine donations.

“We should have a united stand on the West Philippine Sea, and this should not be connected to any other issue except sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.

 

Defense chief Lorenzana says his stance on West Philippine Sea issue aligns with Duterte’s

Robie de Guzman   •   May 3, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea will continue despite China’s call for the Philippines to stop conducting maritime exercises and other activities that would “complicate” the situation in the region.

In a statement on Sunday, Lorenzana vowed that the position of the Philippine government on the matter will not waver.

“While we acknowledge that China’s military capability is more advanced than ours, this does not deter us from defending our national interest, and our dignity as a people, with all that we have,” Lorenzana said.

“Thus, the conduct of maritime patrol in the WPS and Kalayaan Island Group by the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will continue. The government will not waver in its position. Walang alisan,” he added.

He also emphasized that his stance on the West Philippine Sea issue is the same with President Rodrigo Duterte’s contrary to the claims of some quarters.

“President Duterte’s orders to us have been very firm and straightforward: defend what is rightfully ours without going to war and maintain the peace in the seas,” he said.

“Yung nagsasabi na hindi kami align ng Presidente, let me clarify that my pronouncements echo the stand of our President and Commander in Chief,” he added.

As for the Philippines’ “long-standing and multi-faceted” relationship with China, Lorenzana said that the country will maintain cooperation in various areas that are “mutually beneficial to our peoples.”

“We can be cordial and cooperative with other nations but not at the expense of our sovereignty and sovereign rights,” he stressed.

He further said that the latest developments in contested waters make it clear that there is a need for all stakeholders to cooperate.

“They can now take this as an opportunity to advance the values and principles we collectively affirm and profess to respect – including the peaceful settlement of disputes – as partners and as signatories to UNCLOS and all relevant international instruments,” he said.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin last week urged the Philippines to “respect” their supposed sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea and to stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes.

Lacson: Senate has no choice but to give order on pork import tariffs a chance

Robie de Guzman   •   April 21, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday said that the Senate has no choice but to give a chance to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 128, which mandates the temporary increase of pork importations at lower tariff rates.

“First, the Senate has no choice since the reduced tariff rates and the increased in-quota MAV [minimum access volume] have already taken effect,” Lacson said in a statement.

Lacson issued the statement after Duterte asked senators to consider his order’s intended effects, which include addressing the shortage in swine meat, stabilizing the price of pork meat, and minimizing the inflation rate, as mentioned by the Department of Agriculture and the President’s Economic Team.

The senator also lamented the lack of inter-departmental consultation regarding the move to reduce tariff rates on pork importation.

“Kung meron lang sanang nangyaring inter-departmental courtesy consultation, since EO 128 is a consequence of a delegated authority granted by Congress to the President anyway, we could have given our input based on our own consultations and research,” he said.

Lacson reiterated that the National Economic Development Authority’s (NEDA) conclusion that demand for pork has not changed in spite of the pandemic is “flawed.”

“I had pointed out during the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing, the 50% contraction registered by the hotel and restaurant operations should easily affect demand since the pre-pandemic 8.2 million foreign tourists are now eating pork somewhere else outside the country,” he said.

“Thus, at 15 kilograms of pork consumption per capita as estimated would mean 120 million kilograms less pork. That should be substantial enough to consider when they came up with the 350,000,000 kilograms in additional in-quota MAV allocation,” he added.

Lacson said Duterte’s appeal “might as well be directed” toward the 80,000 backyard hog raisers, their families, farmhands, and all others now being affected by the EO, both directly and indirectly.

Duterte made the appeal after the Senate Committee of the Whole adopted a resolution calling for the withdrawal of Executive Order 128, which mandates that the tariff rate for imported pork meat within quota or minimum access volume (MAV) be reduced to 5 percent during the first three months upon the order’s effectivity, and to 10 percent in during the months four to 12.

For pork imports outside the quota, the order cuts the tariff to 15 percent during the first three months upon its effectivity, and 20 percent for the months four to 12.

The order also increases to 350,000 metric tons from 54,000 metric tons of the total volume of pork that may be imported to the Philippines.

Malacañang earlier urged senators to “revisit the EO in two months to assess whether the aforesaid intended effects have been realized/met.”

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