Palace on Cha cha talks: Duterte focused on COVID-19 response, vaccine rollout

Robie de Guzman   •   January 7, 2021   •   160

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Thursday reiterated that President Rodrigo Duterte is not interested in extending his term beyond June 2022 amid a renewed push for charter change in Congress.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the president has previously made it clear that he has no intention of clinging to power in response to rumors that the charter change move was to keep Duterte in office beyond his six-year term.

Roque said Duterte is focused on the government’s response against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the roll out of the vaccine.

“Wala pong ibang top priority ang pangulo kundi matapos po itong pandemyang ito sa pamamagitan ng pagbibigay ng bakuna sa ating mga kababayan,” he said.

Two administration allies – Senators Ronald dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino – in December filed a resolution asking both chambers of Congress to convene as a Constituent Assembly to discuss proposals to amend some provisions of the constitution.

The House of Representatives has scheduled a hearing on January 13 to tackle the proposed charter change while the Senate is planning to hold a caucus to discuss the issue.

Roque said discussions on whether to amend the Constitution is the legislators’ sole and exclusive prerogative. — RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

No ‘Sara for President’ in 2022, no term extension —Pres. Duterte

Marje Pelayo   •   January 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte said there are groups urging his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, to run for president in 2022 but the Chief Executive expressed his opposition to the idea.

He stressed that the presidential seat is not for a woman to fill.

“My daughter inuudyok naman nila, sabi ko, ‘My daughter is not running,’” he said during the launch of the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 project in Quezon City on Thursday (January 14).

“I have told Inday not to run kasi naaawa ako sa dadaanan niya na dinaanan ko . Hindi ito pambabae. Alam mo, the emotional setup of a woman and a man is totally different. That is the sad story,” he said.

Rumors about the younger Duterte’s possible 2022 bid surfaced after a Pulse Asia survey conducted from November 23 to December 2, 2020 revealed that one in every four Filipinos expressed support for the presidential daughter’s bid for the presidency in the next election.

As for him, the Chief Executive said he will not accept any offer of term extension even if Congress moves to amend the Constitution for that matter.

On Wednesday (January 13) the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments began discussing the proposed change in the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

Critics of the Duterte administration slammed such a move, claiming it is a front of Duterte allies to push for term extension and scrapping of term limits among politicians.

“Kaya nga hinihingi ko ang Congress, akala nila term extension ,” Duterte said.

“Maski ibigay mo sa akin on a silver platter, maski ibigay mo sa akin libre another 10 years, sabihin ko sa iyo, p***** i** mo, iyo na lang iyan. Tapos na ako,” the President said. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte vouches for China’s Sinovac, says LGUs may choose any vaccine brand

Marje Pelayo   •   January 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday (January 13) vouched for the efficacy of Sinovac, the COVID-19 vaccine developed in China.

He said the Chinese-made vaccine is “as good as any other” vaccines developed in the United States and Europe.

“Hindi nagkulang ang Chinese sa utak (The Chinese is not lacking in knowledge). They would not venture kung hindi sapat (if it’s not) safe, sure, and secure. Iyang tatlo. It must be safe, sure and secure. That is the guarantee,” the President said.

His remark comes after several local government units (LGUs) opted to choose and procure the brand of their choice other than the ones preferred by the national government. 

“We are not forcing anybody to join the cause of the national government,” Duterte said.

“I am addressing this to the mayors. You can choose any vaccine you like to buy. Wala kaming pakialam kung ano ang pipiliin niyo (We don’t care which one you choose). Hindi kami makialam sa lahat ng bagay in the purchase (We won’t meddle in anything that has to do with the [vaccine] purchase),” he stressed.

But he reminded the local chief executives that it is still the national government that approves whatever medicine or drugs should be made available for public consumption.

The President maintained that he prefers whatever vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez will procure, for after all, he is his representative and that his decision will be the President’s responsibility.

“Ang responsibility niya ay responsibility ko rin. Kung may bulilyaso at the end of the day, akin talaga yang responsibility (His responsibility is my responsibility. If there are problems along the way, at the end of the day, it is my responsibility),” the President stressed.

During the meeting, Galvez confirmed that the national government is set to grant the Chinese drugmaker Sinovac its emergency use authorization (EUA) for its vaccine before February 20.

The official added that initial delivery will be 50,000 doses, followed by 950,000 doses in March then to one to three million in increasing volumes in the succeeding months. 

Former NEDA chief says ‘yes’ to change in Constitution’s economic provisions

Marje Pelayo   •   January 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Among those who expressed agreement in changing the economic provisions of the Constitution is former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief Ernesto Pernia.

He believes that, at this stage, the country’s economy is slowly recovering from months of the crisis caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Pernia said amending the Constitution will facilitate further and faster economic growth. 

He noted that one way to ensure economic progress is to welcome foreign investments into the Philippines similar to what Vietnam did where their economy progressed despite the pandemic in 2020.

The former economic head said the Philippines has the strictest measures among countries in the world in terms of allowing foreign investments.

“In fact, there are already green shoots of signs that the economy is in the early stages of recovery. But we really need to push that with policies including allowing direct foreign direct investments into the country so that this recovery will accelerate,” Pernia said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker Wes Gatchalian believes that this is the right time to reopen the economy considering the number of Filipinos who lost their jobs including overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and companies that terminated their businesses. 

According to Albay Representative Joey Salceda, the country’s economy will gain an additional US$5-B to US$7-B or about P240-B to P336-B every year once it opens its doors to foreign investments.

Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, during the hearing in Congress, endorsed the more than half a million signatures they collated from 72 provinces across the country supporting the amendment in the economic provisions of the Constitution.

Malaya believes the number will reach millions if not of the pandemic.

For his part, Professor emeritus at the University of the Philippines School of Economics Dr. Raul Fabella said among the challenges facing foreign investors in establishing their businesses here include high cost of electricity, the quality of judicial system and the peace and order.

He cited, as an example, the construction of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 which amounts to US370-M dollars and has an impending case over ownership that reached the Supreme Court.

“In 2013 the court of appeals awarded Piatco 371 million dollars as just compensation. The Philippine Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ decision in 2015, by that time the debt has ballooned to 24 billion pesos,” Fabella noted.

Research group Ibon Foundation, meanwhile, said there is no reason to change the Constitution if the issue is only about economic recovery because the government may simply provide financial assistance such as stimulus package.

“The economy’s development lies in using the protections in the Constitution to gain from foreign investment, not in taking away the protections and giving self-interested foreign investment free rein over the domestic economy,” explained Rosario Guzman, Ibon’s Executive Director and Head of Research Division.

The resolution filed by House Speaker Allan Velasco proposes the insertion of the phrase ‘unless otherwise provided by law’ in the concerned provisions that limit the entry and participation of foreign investors in the country’s economy. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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