Malacañang assures transparency in PH infra deals with China

Robie de Guzman   •   March 19, 2019   •   1530

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)

Palace unconvinced PH has higher COVID-19 cases than Indonesia

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 7, 2020

Malacañang is not convinced that the Philippines has surpassed Indonesia in the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

During a press briefing on Friday (August 7), Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippines is conducting more COVID-19 tests which resulted in more confirmed cases.

Ibig sabihin po dahil mas maigiting ang ating pagte-test hindi totoo na mas marami tayo kaso kaysa sa Indonesia. Hindi lamang nalalaman ng mga Indonesian kung sino-sino ang mga umiikot na mayroong sakit at least tayo alam kung sino po sila (It means we are conducting more tests. It is not true that we have more cases than Indonesia. The Indonesians don’t know who are sick at least, on our case, we know),” he said.

The Department of Health (DOH) has previously explained that the COVID-19 situation in the Philippines cannot be compared to other countries because of the population difference and health care system.

Meanwhile, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año said no country can say they have been successful in their fight against COVID-19.

“No country could ever say they are successful. Look at Japan, look at Italy, even Vietnam, and Singapore,” he said. “We focus on what we are doing is appropriate, proper, and practical rather than everyday compare yourself.” -AAC (with reports from Joan Nano)

‘No need to panic buy,’ Palace reminds public

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 3, 2020

Consumers in Metro Manila flocked to grocery stores after President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday night, approved the reversion of some areas to Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) in response to the medical frontliners’ plea for a two-week “timeout”.

This prompted Malacañang on Monday to remind the public not to panic buy amid the implementation of MECQ in the National Capital Region (NCR).

“Walang dahilan para mag-panic buying. Supplies are high, delivered in supermarkets in anticipation of bigger demand prior to MECQ,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

The Palace official reiterated that only essential establishments will remain open including supermarkets, banks, and hospitals. He also said that the “time out” will be used to strengthen the government’s testing, tracing, and treatment of COVID-19.

“This is primarily to accede to the demand of the frontliners for a break. A ‘time out,'” Roque said. AAC (with reports from Joan Nano)

Gov’t assigns anti-COVID-19 czars to boost fight against virus

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 14, 2020

The Duterte Administration assigned anti-COVID czars to intensify the country’s response against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The Malacañang admitted that the number of COVID-19 cases in the country continues to rise but it assured that the administration is still in control of the situation.

Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, Jr. introduced the four anti-COVID czars, namely, Secretary Vivencio Dizon as Chief Testing Czar, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong as Chief Tracing Czar, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar as Chief Isolation Czar, and Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega as Chief Treatment Czar.

Roque explained that all four anti-COVID czars will be directly under the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) led by Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.

Mas malawakang targeted testing, mas maraming isolation centers, mas matinding tracing, at mas matinding treatment para sa mga nagkakasakit. Lahat po yan sa ilalim ng NTF, sa ilalim ng ating Chief Implementer Secretary Galvez (More extensive targeted testing, additional isolation centers, improved contact tracing, and better quality of treatment for patients. All of these will be under the NTF, under Chief Implementer Secretary Galvez),” Roque said.

Chief Testing Czar Secretary Dizon reported there are now 85 COVID-19 laboratories nationwide, with nearly 1 million tests done as of July 11. Daily tests as of July 9 reached 25,000, nearing the 30,000 daily tests target by end of the month.

For tracing, Chief Tracing Czar Mayor Magalong said they are seeking to intensify skills training for contact tracers and use a contact tracing e-system composed of a COVID-19 data collection tool, a GIS (geographical information system) platform, and a Link Analysis Tool.

Chief Isolation Czar Secretary Villar said they plan to construct more quarantine facilities nationwide. Aside from the existing 129 regional evacuation centers, they are also building quarantine facilities in Region 7, Region 8, Region 10, and in Region 12.

Meanwhile, Chief Treatment Czar Dr. Vega said expanding hospital capacity will be one of his priorities. He also introduced One Hospital Command which will be in charge of both public and private hospitals and quarantine facilities in terms of planning healthcare capacity among others.

Galvez also said the NTF will also focus on the economy and social recovery of the country.

Nandito po tayo sa sitwasyon na dahan-dahan nating binubuksan ang ating ekonomiya. Bagaman nandito po ang threat ng virus, kailangan na nating i-recover ang ating mga ekonomiya para manumbalik po ang negosyo at trabaho ng ating mamamayan (We are in a situation where we are slowly opening our economy. Even though the threat of the virus is still there we still need our economy to recover so that businesses and jobs will reopen for our citizens), he said. –AAC

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