Duterte’s Japan trip not a ‘reward’ for Cabinet officials — Malacañang

Marje Pelayo   •   May 29, 2019   •   3056

President Rodrigo Duterte is welcomed by Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez upon his arrival at a hotel in Tokyo, Japan on May 28, 2019. (ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO)

TOKYO, Japan — Malacañang denied that President Rodrigo Duterte’s trip to Japan is a reward to his Cabinet members following the administration’s victory in the 2019 midterm elections.

“The Palace does not share the position or remarks of Philippine Ambassador to Japan Jose C. Laurel V concerning Cabinet members joining the President in this trip to Japan,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement on Tuesday (May 28).

“It is worth mentioning that Cabinet members were prohibited by the President to campaign for the administration candidates during the last elections. It is therefore sans logic that they can be rewarded when they were disallowed from contributing to the reason or cause for the grant of reward,” he added.

In a press briefing ahead of President Duterte’s arrival to Japan, Ambassador Laurel told reporters that the trip was a form of reward as eight of administration’s senatorial candidates won in the election.

“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.

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

In response, Panelo said that Ambassador Laurel “may have been either innocently speculating for lack of information or may have been misinformed of the nature of the trip” saying the presence of the Cabinet officials is necessary.

According to Panelo, some 25 business agreements will be signed during the working visit and the President’s delegation is expected to bring home about P300-B worth of investments from Japan.

He added that these investments will open at least 80,000 job opportunities for Filipinos.

Panelo noted that Japan is the Philippines’ second major trading partner and the fourth biggest source market for tourism.

He cited Japan’s contribution to the country’s infrastructure development and peace efforts in the Mindanao.

“The President therefore needs most of his team players, not only as a sign of respect or giving importance to our long-time ally, but we likewise see the need for a stronger cooperation between our governments,” Panelo said.

“This can be achieved by the constant dialogue by our Cabinet members with their counterparts in the Japanese government, who are, in various ways, involved in our country’s significant transactions with Japan,” he added.

President Duterte arrived in Japan on Wednesday evening to attend the 25th International Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo hosted by Japanese firm Nikkei.

He is set to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a bilateral meeting followed by greet and meet with the Filipino community in Japan.

The President is accompanied by a total of 16 Cabinet members and at least 200 other delegates.

Ambassador Laurel during the press interview clarified that the trip is not a junket though he did not clear if the organizer also shouldered the expenses of the Cabinet members and the local officials who joined the trip.  

Palace defends Duterte order to reduce number of holidays for 2021

Robie de Guzman   •   March 3, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang has defended President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to cancel some traditional holidays for this year in a bid to spur the economy battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under Proclamation No. 1107, Duterte moved to declare traditional holidays of Nov. 2, Dec. 24, and Dec. 31 as special working days “to encourage economic productivity by minimizing work disruption and commemorating some special holidays as special (working) days instead.”

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the order was based on the recommendation of the administration’s economic managers to support economic recovery.

“Napakatagal na po natin nakabakasyon. Halos isang taon na tayong nagbakasyon dahil sa COVID-19,” Roque said in a virtual briefing.

“Siguro naman po ngayong nandito na ang bakuna, hayaan naman nating maka-recover tayo for lost time,” he added.

The imposition of lengthy lockdowns to curb the spread of COVID-19 has led the Philippine economy to a slump. The pandemic has also affected millions of workers and businesses.

Opposition lawmakers, however, called on Malacañang to reconsider its decision, saying the reclassification of traditional holidays into special working days will affect workers’ pay as they will no longer get additional holiday pay equal to 30 percent of their basic daily wage.

In response to their calls, Roque said that “nothing is etched in stone” and that there is still a possibility that this will change with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in the country.

“Pero tingnan po natin kung anong mangyayari, nothing is etched in stone naman po. Tingnan natin baka naman dahil may bakuna na eh makabalik na tayo sa dati at baka hindi na natin kinakailangan maghabol pa ‘no,” he said.

The Philippines on Monday started its COVID-19 immunization program following receipt of 600,000 doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine, courtesy of the Chinese government. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Duterte to wait for FDA approval before using Sinopharm vax – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   March 2, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte will wait for China-state-owned Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine to secure an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before receiving a dose, his spokesperson said Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the announcement after the FDA confirmed that it has received Sinopharm’s application for an EUA that was filed on Monday afternoon.

“Mag-aantay po si president ng EUA dahil nabalita ko nga kahapon, mayroon na pong nag-apply ng EUA for the Sinopharm,” Roque said in a press briefing.

Securing an EUA from the FDA is part of the process for a vaccine to be legally used in the country.

The FDA earlier approved a compassionate use license for 10,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines for the members of the Presidential Security Group.

The agency, however, clarified that the issuance of such a permit is not tantamount to a stamp of approval.

Duterte earlier expressed a preference for Sinopharm developed COVID-19 vaccines. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Duterte plans to visit China to personally thank President Xi for COVID vaccine donations

Marje Pelayo   •   March 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is planning to visit China to personally thank President Xi Jinping for donating 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines.

“I’d like to just say that towards the — maybe at the end of the year, when everything has settled down — I intend to make a short visit to China to just shake hands with President Xi Jinping and to personally thank him for this donation,” he said.

President Duterte noted China’s gesture of delivering the vaccine through its government military aircraft unlike other countries who needed to pick up the supply from China.

“I would like to just add that China has donated several vaccines to several countries. But it is only the donation made to the Philippines that was carried by a Chinese government plane. Iyong iba kinukuha doon sa China. Dito, hinatid sa atin,” he said.

The Chief Executive said he may push a trip to China by the end of the year.

Before heading to Beijing, the President said he wanted to visit Xiamen to see the school building that was built in honor of his late mother, Soledad.

“Maybe I’ll go to Xiamen. There’s a school built to honor my mother. You know, my mother was one of the first educators of the Chinese school in Davao,” he said.

Duterte insisted during Sunday’s arrival of China’s Sinovac vaccine that China has not requested anything in return for the donated vaccine adding that the donation is a “gesture of friendship and solidarity” between the two countries. 

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