Malacañang assures transparency in PH infra deals with China

Robie de Guzman   •   March 19, 2019   •   1621

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and President Xi Jinping of People’s Republic of China pose for a photo prior to their expanded bilateral meeting at the Malacañan Palace on November 20, 2018. RICHARD MADELO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang has assured that it is ready to disclose the Philippines’ infrastructure agreements with Chinese firms to promote transparency in the bureaucracy.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the assurance on Monday (March 18) as the Duterte Economic Team heads to Beijing, China this week to tackle the Philippine government’s infrastructure projects.

“Well, that’s pursuant to transparency, yes. Why not?” Panelo said at a press briefing in Malacañang.

In a statement released on Monday (March 18), the Department of Finance announced the trip to Beijing to meet with Chinese Counterparts to discuss possible infrastructure cooperation with China for projects under the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea will lead the delegation.

The Philippine Officials are set to meet with top officials of China’s Ministry of Commerce and Vice President Wang Qishan on Tuesday (March 19) to firm up possible new cooperation deals.

“Other members of the Philippine delegation are scheduled to meet separately with officials of the Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank) and the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA), the office in charge of reviewing and implementing Beijing’s foreign aid projects,” the DOF added in a statement.

A Philippine Economic Briefing (PEB) will also be held in Beijing on
Wednesday (March 20) “to showcase to potential investors the vast opportunities available to them in the Philippines as it emerges as an economic powerhouse in the region.”

The Duterte government is reportedly planning to spend P8 trillion for its infrastructure projects. At least one-third of these proposed projects will be financed by China, including the Chico River Irrigation Project, which has been hit for its one-sided loan agreement in favor of China.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad has earlier cautioned the Philippines against borrowing huge sums of money from China.

“If you borrow huge sums from China and you cannot pay—you know when a person is a borrower, he is under the control of the lender,” Mahathir said.

United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo also warned other nations in 2018 about the potential dangers of accepting Chinese investments as Beijing expands its development projects to increasingly distant corners of the world.

“When China comes calling, it’s not always to the good of your citizens,” Pompeo said at a press briefing in Mexico City after a meeting with Panamian President Juan Carlos Varela in October 2018.

Pompeo’s remarks came as Washington’s own investment agency is actively competing with China to finance infrastructure projects, particularly in Panama.

Opposition Senator Leila de Lima also called on the Duterte administration to heed warnings from Malaysia and the United States against accepting loans from China.

“This is not the first time that top leaders or experts cautioned us about our dealings with China that could unfavorably affect our country’s future, both in the aspects of financial and territorial security. We need to learn from the unfortunate fate of others who borrowed before us,” de Lima said in a statement.

Despite criticisms and appeal against the move to take out foreign loan deals, Malacañang has repeatedly assured that the country will not fall into a debt trap with China. – Robie de Guzman (with details from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte to visit areas affected by ‘Auring’—Palace

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—President Rodrigo Duterte is set to visit areas affected by the onslaught of tropical depression Auring, Malacañang announced on Tuesday (February 23).

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles in an online briefing said the President wants to see firsthand the damage wrought by Auring and the situation of displaced residents. Duterte will visit the affected areas in the Caraga region accompanied by several members of the Cabinet.

Nograles reported that financial aid has already been given to the residents. He further assured that additional relief assistance will also be provided.

As of February 22, the number of families affected by Auring has reached 28,009. AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Gov’t details priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination program

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 5, 2021

MANILA, Philippines— Malacañang has released the government’s list of priority groups for its coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination program.

The Interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (iNITAG) adopted the priority population groups which include medical front liners on the top of the list, followed by senior citizens, and persons with comorbidities.

A1: Frontline workers in health facilities both national and local, private and public, health professionals and non-professionals like students, nursing aides, janitors, barangay health workers, etc.
A2: Senior citizens aged 60 years old and above
A3: Persons with comorbidities not otherwise included in the preceding categories
A4: Frontline personnel in essential sectors including uniformed personnel and those in working sectors identified by the IATF as essential during ECQ
A5: Indigent population not otherwise included in the preceding categories
B1: Teachers, Social Workers
B2: Other Government Workers
B3: Other essential workers
B4: Socio-demographic groups at significantly higher risk other than senior citizens and indigenous people
B5: Overseas Filipino Workers
B6: Other Remaining Workforce
C: Rest of the Filipino population not otherwise included in the above groups

For the first tranche of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for healthcare workers will also be distributed to a) COVID-19 dedicated hospitals, b) COVID-19 referral hospitals, c) Department of Health-owned hospitals, d) Local government unit hospitals, e) Hospitals for uniformed services/personnel, and f) Private hospitals. AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Palace reiterates country not lagging in vaccination program

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Monday (February 1) said the country is not lagging in the vaccination program for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said only a few individuals have been vaccinated in other Asian countries including Singapore, India, and Indonesia.

Hindi po tayo nangongolelat, kung magsisimula po tayong magbakuna ng Pebrero, halos kasabay po natin ang halos lahat ng karatig-bansa natin. Huwag po tayong magpapaloko sa mga kritikong iyan, wala matinong magawa (We are not lagging behind. If we are to begin vaccination in February, our schedule is almost aligned with our neighboring countries. Let us not be fooled by critics), he said.

Roque also responded to Vice President Leni Robredo’s call to stop the propaganda and focus on COVID-19 response and recovery.

Based on Australian Think Tank Lowly Institute, the country ranks 79th out of the 98 countries when it comes to COVID-19 response.

World Health Organization po ang nagsabi kung nasaan na tayo sa aitng COVID-19 response at ito po ang katotohanan. Bakit namin paniniwalaan ang ibang pag-aaral samantalang lahat tayo ay nagtitiwala sa World Health Organization (The World Health Organization reports where we are on the COVID-19 response and that is the truth. Why would we believe other studies when all of us trusts the World Health Organization), Roque said. AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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