President Aquino with the Japanese Media Agencies

Q: First of all, what do you feel for your past first trip to Japan as President? Please show us not only a big matter, totality.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: What do I expect for the trip? Well, I understand they’ve already set up appointments for three large corporations who are planning to invest in the Philippines.
I would have to clear it with my Trade and Industries Secretary if I can clear the names already. But as a normal practice, we normally state it after we finish the meetings. I understand there will be several billion dollars worth of investments— bigger than we were able to bring home from America as a result of this. This will be confirmation meetings of their intentions. So that is a significant event that I would wish to be completed successfully. I will also be having our family friend is the family of Governor Shintaro Ishihara of Tokyo, who has been trying to help us already. There are technologies that are…I understand they have a contest every year, the Tokyo government. And a lot of these technologies are not practical for an advanced country like Japan, but would have applications for developing countries like the Philippines. That would be part of our discussions with them. What of which technologies will be made available to the country has been potable water, amongst other things. That would be another item beyond the scope of the APEC activities.
Q: There is much expectation from your centrepiece program—the Public-Private Partnership, to be launched soon. What is this main project and how are they chosen? (inaudible) What is the total cost of the project?

PRESIDENT AQUINO: Mayroon ba tayong kopya? ‘Yung brochure ng PPP. I’m sorry, it’s easier to show it to you than talk all about it. But the bottom line is, we need a very significant investment in the infrastructure needs of the country. We are talking about roads, airports, seaports, energy projects. There will be, I think, a total of 10, if I am not mistaken, projects that will be highlighted during the launch of the PPP program. We’ll be also launching the so- called PPP Center that will facilitate these transactions. The idea being, these infrastructure needs are needed by the country but if they can be met by private investors, then the funds available to government can then be delegated to social concerns, for instance, the Conditional Cash Transfer Program. So, we will be able to meet all of the needs at the same time. Now, there is very significant interest and it’s almost a go already—the Light Trail Transit System. There is one. It’s called LRT South, which will go to Cavite. There is an LRT East that will wind up in Antipolo, and amongst others that I remember. Actually, there’s a brochure, it’s about half an inch thick, of projects. There is also the privatization of the, if I’m not mistaken, the name’s kind of long—Laguindingan Airport near Cagayan de Oro.
Can we just wait for the brochure so I don’t make a mistake as to all of these projects and all of the details.
So, this will be launched. We are here targeting a change in the way things are done in this country. For instance, one thing we want to avoid is, like what happened in Manila North Tollways Corporation Project. It took eight years of going through the bureaucratic red tape before they got approval. And two years before they were able to implement… So, ten years in time before that project, which would be almost two-thirds for the presidency. What we’re hoping to do is to accomplish all the requirements under the law, within six months. And then have the start of the project, once approved, after that particular six months. And fast track the needs that we have. We still have significant losses in the postharvest sector—the difficulty of transporting from point A to point B in the Philippines. For instance, something as simple as clams. You go to a Metro Manila restaurant. You have clams that have infant. Clams being served. You go to Mindanao, the whole shell is build with a clam that has reached maturity. So, both are within the Philippines, and somehow, from harvesting areas to consumption areas, there is a very huge problem of transporting the same. I think you would be interested to know—in Bolinao in Pangasinan, there are already called “Churing Uni”, and then you go to a restaurant it’s about 200 to 300 pesos per order. Then they sell a Tupperware about four inches long by about an inch or an inch and a half thick for the same amount—200 pesos. I don’t eat Uni, but looks the same to me. People who eat it say it’s the same. And this is part of what they’ve been able to culture. So, airports would be necessary if you intend to sell it as fresh. Perhaps, for other items you would want blast-freezing facilities. But at the end of the day, if the infrastructure support is not there—access to airports for instance, or access to railways, and so on and so forth, then all of the increased production will not add to increased incomes for our farmers.
Now, that is precisely what the PPP project is intending to do. Having all of these needs done almost simultaneously, fast track the whole process, and help all of these necessary components being in to existence so that the Filipino people can benefit as early as possible.
Q: My question is of the APEC meetings. What will you expect of the meeting…series of meetings, especially on the free trade? If you think of the PPP in the future, what is your position? What are you going to raise in the series of meetings in Yokohama?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Well, there are several speeches that we have. But one of the primary concerns is the volatility of the currency markets worldwide. Obviously, it floats from the fact that the American economy is not in a best state. And they have the biggest economy in the world. Therefore, if America sneezes the rest of the world catches a fever. Then of course the value of the Chinese currency, vis-a-vis its relationship to the rest of the world is also another concern. and we have a meeting with the IMF Deputy Managing Director yesterday. The concern has to be one: Lessen the volatility. Second, the response has to be in a framework of global interdependence and cooperation as opposed to protectionist policy that might be more tempting as the days go by. Through the series of retreats and manage speeches that we’ll be conducting there, we would like to pose this matter further long.
Q: What do you expect of Japan and affiliates (unclear)
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Well, hopefully, let me just look at my notes. I want to be sure its correct. I’m not sure how you pronounce this, but there’s supposed to be a bogor, B-O-G-O-R goals, ‘no? That as of Asia Pacific Region and you have free-trade… so, Japan again is one of the major economists of the world should take a lead in for the access to more free-trade as opposed again to what was done in the late 20′s and 30′s that led to the global depression while everybody started evaluating their currencies unilaterally, where confidence was lost universally.
So, to that end, the reason to know of about 21 billion pesos for the Japanese Government is for us to rehabilitate a lot of our roads…adds to keeping the market really that much more active…efficiencies are enhanced. That is the reversed of being protectionist and just looking to your local concerns. They asked them helping everybody to try and grow in their respective domestic market with an end view of fostering this increase trade, again globally.
Then of course, the other aspect there is we have a very minimal trade with Russia. So we’ll ask to have a bilateral trade with them. In fact for the entire ASEAN region, trade is not as significant as it is with other trading block. So we would want to somehow enhance that aspect. During the ASEAN trip, we did raise the concern about the financial regulations in lopsided (unclear) between the haves and the have-nots so we ask Russia to add each voice in terms of levelling the playing field for the developed as far and the developing countries. And they understand, they responded appropriately.
Q: Good afternoon po. My name is Yushengko Sakai. Related to your first visit in Japan, lolas—former comfort women, are now asking your help, seeking your help on their fight or struggle, fight means to ask the Japanese Government the official apology and official compensation. How would you act on this issue as the President of the Filipino people or mga lolas?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: As far as the compensation is concerned, I understand the reparations and part of the treaty is already…is supposed to have taking care of all reparations. So even if it is the Philippine Government that failed to take care of them adequately some time in the 50s, I think… So that would be something that we
should correct. We will look at all the available laws present but if what comes to mind is enforcing imprisonment, there is a board of compensation and a monetary award for people falsely detained is not really that substantial.
So, I would probably go to Congress and I will ask them for a pertinent law that will authorize expenditure to make up for what previous governments of this country have failed to do.
As far as asking for apologies, at this point in time, the diplomacy has a lot of leg work done with it and we are in the process of culminating a new Ambassador of Japan and that will be one of his tasking upon assumption of office subject to confirmation by the Commission of Appointments. So, if he has not yet taken office, but I will be tasking him to explore ways whereby we can come to a compromise or an agreement on how to have that very important for the well-being of the remaining lolas to be able to get a (inaudible) of our dignity back. But probably not on this trip.
Q: …This time you will not have a (inaudible) meeting with Prime Minister Kan?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Yes because I already have one with him during the ASEAN. And hosts will have a very difficult time during the entire APEC Summit and we would not want to be impeding too much on his time.
Can I just show you on the PPP? Dami-dami nating kopya, wala na? Anyway, the whole thing, all of the projects and the locations, in some cases, can I just show it to you?
I’m sorry we’re still finalizing the presentation.
Q: (inaudible)
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Yes, yes.
Q: Okay.
Q: Mr. President, Celerina Monde from the Daily Manila (inaudible) I just want to make a follow up regarding the comfort women. You have mentioned that you will ask Congress to come up with a law regarding them…compensating them, so would it be an urgent bill, or how soon could you have that?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: ‘Yung certified urgent bill, when you look at the constitution, it is only applicable to calamity or emergencies. And I think, it will be stretching the term too much to say that it is an emergency. But at the same time, previous administrations failed to handle this problem and all of the legal minds that I have consulted from the first time I ever heard of this issue, have stated that there is sound basis to say that the reparations given to us by Japan was supposed to be all encompassing to take care of all. So, it is not incumbent upon this government to ask Japan to do the same. But rather to correct what was overlook previously. So that’s why I have to go to the Congress for authorization to use the public funds to compensate the comfort women.
Q: Would that be included in the 2011 budget?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: No. 2011 budget has already been passed. And perhaps, we can ask for a supplemental aid that is, if that is allowable under the pertinent laws, maraming technicals aspects that I’ll have to check.
But again, thank you for reminding us. And now that we have some breathing room, we can handle that particular matter…
Q: It’s related to the World War II issue. Japanese Media reported about the allegation that remains of the Filipino might have been mixed with the bones and taken to Japan. Japanese project which collects skeleton of Japanese soldier who died in this country during the World War II—It’s a non-profit organization which collects bone told during the interview that they could not deny the possibility of “the mix” in their project. So how would you see this allegation? Actually, the Japanese Government revealed the idea that they sent a delegation to the Philippines for an investigation on this allegation. How would you respond to this allegation?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: We inquired the National Museum which in charge of protecting our cultural heritage and artifacts.
According to them, they sent their experts and anthropologist to accompany the mission to examine or validate all of the remains. When they were questioned, they denied permission for the inclusion of bones that were questioned in those to be repatriated to Japan. I, well having said that, I think it’s upon us to study how the National Museum’s procedures and how truthful they were. But in the present time, we have a principle in our system of loss in our government when there is presumption of regularity, understand as evidence, that would prove that there was irregular conduct. We cannot deny that a certain unscrupulous people with very little consciences and funds might see this as a purely economic endeavor. If there have been violations of pertinent laws, after reviewing the investigation, we will file appropriate charges but this is subject to confirmation of the allegation.
Q: What would you request to Japan regarding this?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Well, they are more advanced in the DNA testing procedures. Perhaps, they can guide our experts to become even more experts in seeing differences between the races. Perhaps, we can go to the relatives and get specimens for people that are presumed to be the descendants of those who died. All of these will be handled at appropriate levels.
Q: At this time you don’t see any need to stop bone collection for the moment amidst this allegation, sir?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Again the National Museum which is a body that was tasked previously to handle all these has stated that their procedure seems to be working. If there are questioned artifacts or bones that they are not allowed to be repatriated.
Now, it’s upon us that there is a question already as the procedure to examine whether
that procedure can be better refined. And I guess, from our perspective—these are bones parang Mangyan and Ibaloi brothers—we have to protect them also. And at the end of the day, there are tests that I think will prove conclusively one way or the other supported by evidence as to the truth or lack of truth for the allegation being responded.
We will be tasking an appropriate body to review the procedure to take place and if there are questions, we have to resolve with satisfactorily and thoroughly.
Q: According to the Japanese side, they already stopped the bone collection but from our side there is no declaration.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: My impression of this was that the whole project resulted from the missions that they were coming here and we have been assisting them, as opposed to we requested them to recover the deceased of their citizens.
Q: When you say we will be tasking an appropriate body to review, when are you going to pass what appropriate body?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: The first tasking that I did was to ask the agency in charge of the whole project, what have you been doing? What are your procedures and pace? How do you respond to this allegation? This is the reply they gave us.
We don’t ask the body under question to examine itself. So, ‘yung when…I
can follow up to the Executive Secretary to determine which of our agencies is capable to check on the procedures. It has so many concerns. With all due respect, the concerns of the living outweigh the concerns of the dead.
Seriously, look at our disaster contingence. We have been assisting communities brought about by the typhoon Juan. There just about to start the recovery process; we have the flooding din naman. At the same time the flooding is there, you have Mt. Bulusan in Sorsogon acting up. We have to enforce the four kilometer permanent exclusive zone and we have the usual people who refuse to leave. So, we have to send rescue people back and fort to convince them or force evacuations. And all the crime that is sensational they have been solving the white bomb blast. I have been on that case for the airport gang. When I task them also to drop that review this matter as first priority, I don’t think so. But again the responsible member of international community will attend to these responsibilities. We have to look to an appropriate agency that still has personnel who attend this matter.
Q: Just to clarify what you said about the Lolas; you said that we will tasking the next ambassador to Japan to explore ways to compromise. Hindi ko nakuha what kind of compromise he wants.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: The questioned have to deal with an apology. And Japan has had problem for apologizing for so many things. Now, we’ll make it a center point to our relations with them. Again we have very good relation with the Japanese people and their government. The way we treated each other, I think it is something that should be nurtured. For instance, a lot of the semi-conductor industries makes up the 62% of our export market has origins or even as clients, ‘no, Japanese firms—The employment that they generate. Then, I think, again, it is in our interest to preserve the very good relations.
Pero, at the same time, maraming legitimate concerns like these very senior citizens of ours. So, we do not profit anything by being very belligerent about this. So, the next ambassador will be tasked to find ways and means whereby we can achieve a compromise that is acceptable to all parties.
Q: You already mentioned earlier of that PPP you will be pushing in Japan. Can you tell us more of your agenda in APEC and maritime security has been a huge concern for everybody in the region. How will you push for that agenda when you go to Yokohama?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: ‘Yung, there are something like 345,000 Filipino seafarers. We have a sizeable percentage of all seafarers in the world. When you go through, what’s it called? The Horn of Africa, when you see how narrow that channel is, it is a major, very major problem. Having said that, normally if you are a sizeable state with a sizeable armed force, we would be deployed our own navy there. But as you know, we only have a hundred and thirty-two ships—most of them of World War II vintage, patrolling 36,000 square metres, hindi, 36,000 nautical miles, of coast line. Wala pa ‘yung times 12 for the exclusive economic zone.
Now, how do we push against the piracy? We were into the ASEAN. We are getting closer cooperation, for instance, with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. We will be establishing, para bang, exchange sessions with their military also. And Singapore is not a claimant to any portion of the South China Sea, also is very dependent on maritime traffic. So, when you go there, you (unclear) how do we ensure… how do we maximize our terms at combating piracy especially for the Philippines ha, which has a very…parang the world-freed sizeable number of the seafarers eventually which 45% Filipinos or even more. So, that will be something that we will push.
We are also pushing at the same time connectivity within ASEAN which translates into RORO. When you look at the map, parang we are really not part of the ASEAN. How do you put it? Continuous body. So, we really need…so, we’ll push again for it. Pero ngayon, the main focus for me this time is if we were to prioritize the problems, is really the volatility of the financial markets. And that would be the focus of our interventions there.
Q: On the South China Sea on the conflicting claims, would you raise this issue with anyone of the other claimants? In December, there is supposed to be a meeting that would finalize the guidelines for the implementation of the projects. What were the instructions that you gave to push for the Philippine agenda?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: The declaration of conduct happened in 2002. That is supposed to produce a Code of Conduct that will operationalize the declaration and up to now, it hasn’t happened.
I will be pushing for that Code of Conduct in support or for the rest of the declaration of conduct of parties in the zone. I’m still learning the diplomatic way and to them, we talked about four years, five years, ten years. It seems like it’s just a, parang one afternoon. So, I’m linking up with and trying to get the consensus with other claimers like Vietnam, like Brunei. Operationalization nga on the declaration by coming up with the code of Conduct.
Q: JPEPA is scheduled to be reviewed next year. What issues will the Philippines raise in review?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: We’ll raise the same during the bilateral during the ASEAN with Prime Minister Kan, amongst them. Perhaps a relaxation of the language requirements using internationally approved symbology, abbreviations. We’re looking into it, saying the Japanese language before deployment amongst other things.
There are, of course, a review by both parties, ‘no, of all of the members. Has it achieved what we both wanted to happen?
Q: Around 440 Filipino nurses and caregivers went to Japan on the first two years of JPEPA. Should there be any changes in the deployment? How do you see the presence came?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Japan has a medium population. They would be in need of all these health professionals. But at the same time, they did raise legitimate concerns. If you have a nurse or a caregiver who could not communicate with their respective patients then, how they can assist? So, we are trying to improve the process whereby, again, their needs and our needs meet at an intersection that renounceable the parties’ interests.
Q: What benefits have JPEPA brought to the Philippines and Japan?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Let me see if I read my notes. That will be in the province of NEDA, more than this office. He’ll give you all of the specifics.
‘Yung problema ‘yung oil spillers. Hindi ko makuha ‘yung… Nahanap ko na, if you don’t mind.
‘Yung benefits actually are being assessed midterm of the agreement. There’s an article specifically under thirteen that authorizes the review and assessments and developments. There’s a mandatory review under Article 161, that should be done in 2011. We’re still awaiting DTI, DFA’s inputs.
‘Yung technical aspect is there are positive developments as far as Japan-Philippines relation is concerned. There is still a study on how much of these can be attributed to JPEPA and what are the other factors. So, there is a process of determining directly what will be attributed to JPEPA and what is not directly attributable to JPEPA.
Q: (unclear) specific dates or deadlines when this study would be…
PRESIDENT AQUINO: There is a review by 2011. That’s next year. So, I would assume there’s a midterm review. I remember my studies correctly. So, that would have to be ready for the midterm review…
Q: (interrupted)
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Midterm review of the agreement, I may understand, of the phrase midterm—implementation of the agreement.
Q: Actual review will take place midterms 2011?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Amongst the articles in the Treaty is Article 161. 161 provides that there is a mandatory review on the agreement on 2011. And after that, five years thereafter, there is an ongoing review. (unclear)…if I’m not mistaken, after we get into that agreement.
Q: There’s no specific deadline the government has set when this review can be submitted and therefore, set half a time for joint review or joint talk?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: The deadline is 2011. We have to talk to the other party in the agreement which is Japan as to venue as to schedule.
Q: (inaudible)
PRESIDENT AQUINO: No. Not at this time. We may also have to consult with the various other stakeholders as to their own analysis on the benefits (unclear) on the implementations of JPEPA. So, there’s a macroeconomic perspective on what is attributable to or not to JPEPA.
Q: So, all of these are still being done at the moment?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: …unilateral just on our side, we’ll review all of the schedules but if it’s not bilateral, then we will also have to sit down with parties acquiescence to our proposals.
Q: So, just a follow-up on the first question regarding these Japanese companies that are investing. What kind of companies are these? Would this be expansions on new investments and in..
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Some of them are very, very new. There are companies that I didn’t think were in a particular industry. Some of them, one of the first three is still not ready to announce it. So there’s a replacement and as I said in the beginning, when I meet with them, so I’ll tell you something that is already a fact rather than something that is prospective.
Q: But can you give us what industries, what sectors these were…
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I would, you know, Japan has Zaibatsus e. Zaibatsus are concentrated in particular segments of the economy. So, if I tell you what sector, then I practically told you which company and I pre-emptied it, ‘di ba?
So can I just, what’s so wrong about waiting to hear it directly from them as to their plans and then I will report to you as a done fact  rather than something that is not still accomplished.
Q: The business portion of your stay will be to witness the signing of these investments; you will not be meeting with Japanese business groups for example.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I think there’s also a meeting with the, not just, there are companies. Then there are various other portions of the schedule. There is a Japanese (unclear) yata e. There is a scheduled meeting, if I remember my schedules correctly, with them.
There is also the, it’s called the ABAC (APEC Businesses Advisory Council), so we will be meeting with them also?
Q: Ahh, yes. For that private sector in Japan, it will be the (unclear).
PRESIDENT AQUINO: No, the degree of corporations, already have definite plans on what they want to do in the Philippines.
Q: You have a timeframe for this?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: You’re so fixated with times. But definitely, within my term, I think they will not be announcing these things to me. They will not ask for meetings if they have no concrete plans and I will report all these details to you as soon as I have finished my meetings with them.
At this point in time, they have told me anything. They have told my representatives, (inaudible) DTI amongst others of their plans. They will concretize the plans as a pledge on the promise to the Head of State of this country. So, let me finish that portion. And like in America there were certain sensibilities, jobs that will be lost there but will be brought back here. So, would we want to (inaudible) your story and do away with the jobs that are forthcoming here.
I don’t think we’d want that. So let me finish what I have to do first.
Q: I would like to go back to the PPA with Japan, especially on caregivers. Have you said that a meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister Kan provide some improvements in Japanese side including the providing more Japanese lessons to those candidates?  How would you evaluate those improvements to a program provided by Japan? And also, the first two years under this program, Japanese cites that it has the maximum number of 1000. How about the next three years? Have you heard about…
PRESIDENT AQUINO: There are discussions centered on the language issue and what I was impressed into it was their willingness to consider modifications on their language requirement which in their best spirit of cooperation and friendly relation with our country. So, I’m hopeful that if there are other issues that we’ll be bringing up, it will be treated with the same manner and with the same attitude, leading to a consensus with the meeting of the minds.
Q: When you ask the Japanese Government to expand the number of the Filipino nurses or the caregivers which has been hosted by the Japanese Government…
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I think that was a natural situation if they feel that our nurses are caregivers of fulfilling the need that was envisioned that they would feel, then that would be a necessary consequence. They will liberalize. They will open up further, because the needs were still there.
1000 will not make that much of a difference. Therefore, if we were proven capable, it is up to us to demonstrate that these persons are professional enough to meet the needs that they need. Then, this first test group will be the pioneers that will open up their entire market.
Q: One more question, I just want to ask about the bones… Once you confirm that Filipino ancestral bones have been stolen by Japanese NGO or Japanese people through the investigation of this certain investigative body, will you ask the Japanese government to stop the operation?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I think if that is the situation wherein the bones that belong to our citizens were removed from the country, the relatives here would want them repatriated and we will work on the repatriation first. Then obviously, we would want to stop the practice if it is indeed happening and charge the appropriate people.
There are, I am sure, laws that govern desecration of the remains of the decease amongst other things. If there was fraud inherited, again, we have sufficient laws that would empower us to prosecute those, if there were indeed wrong actions or criminal actions done by certain individuals regardless of their nationality.
Q: Just to follow up on the JPEPA, I understand that the Japanese Government wants to provide more lessons—Japanese lessons or trainings to caregivers and the nurses that would be coming to Japan. What were your assessments?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Well, we did ask them that. We did ask them other specifics like the, to repeat myself, of a internationally accepted symbology. And as a way to perfect the requirements of the patient and the nurse of the caregiver understanding each other, how do we facilitate the entry of our workers without sacrificing the interest of the patients? And there are various suggestions that we profounded to the Japanese side during the bilaterals and they agreed to study the matter and they didn’t object to it as a matter of principles. So we’re hopeful that we will achieve a friendly compromised (unclear) that meets everybody’s need.
Kung pwede, walang repeat ng previous question.
Q: Sir, new question. There are reports that Japanese businessmen here in the Philippines are asking for VAT refund and right now—about 14 billion—they have estimated it that the VAT refund it’s about 14 billion. These are for their works like on infrastructure projects and the government has not yet refunded them. So, are you aware of that and what is your directive?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I am not aware of that at this point of that particular request, I’ll inquire form the DOF. Obviously I will have to solicit their opinion as well as that of the BIR. I haven’t studied it. At this point, I cannot commit; I don’t have the available facts. I can’t even confirm the number that you have stated.
Q: (inaudible) of the South China Sea, what is our decision regarding on the side of the Japanese people or the Japanese Government rather or the Chinese Government?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I think we’re on the side of peace. ‘Yung, we would do everything that we can to encourage the dialogue that would resolve any disputes.
We have the declaration on the conduct on the South China Sea, and even if there is no code of conduct (unclear) yet, it has provided a lot of tensions to flare up into hostilities.
Now, you would want something more permanent and more firm. So that’s why you want to push, let us not have a tempt lock by not having a particular document that says, this is how we’re supposed to conduct relations with each other. So, the perspective is still the same. If we were able to come to terms with all the various claims as far as the South China Sea is concern, and we were able to explore the resources that are supposed to be there, it redounds to a higher standard of living for each of the claimant and for the entire region. You create wealth; you increase the standard of living; everybody has a stake in preserving the peace. That is I think the main strategy. Strategy heads the idea on trade is an essential tool to prevent the outbreak of a (unclear). Don’t forget that the particular force has also (unclear) major trade in travel (unclear). So, even in non-claimant countries have a better definite interest in preserving the peace.
What we want to do now is to put it in paper and have very specific rights that we can call upon—specific duties so we would know what the responsibilities are.
Q: Sir, with regards with the rare earth metals, I think, channels reduced the exportation of these rare earth metals. Are we going to have initiatives on doing our own exploration with regards with rare earth metals here in the Philippines?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I know rare earth metals. I know China is the main producer. I am not sure during the talk with the DENR Secretary yesterday whether or not we have sufficient quantities to be able to produce the same, although we would want to hope that there is available locally because it is a major component in so many devices that is in constant use around the country.
Thank you for that question. I will have the DENR to have a look with it and study it.
Q: Secretary Domingo was saying that the Philippines would want the Japan (inaudible) would acquire changes in constitution. He was also reported to have said that the Philippines would ask for some flexibilities in the….and to join in the PPP talks in APEC where they will also be discussing (inaudible) the Asia Pacific… to finally convert the APEC to finally a biding legal forum. What is the Philippine’s position on the  PPP (trans-Pacific) in the first place.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: It hasn’t change. Unfortunately, Secretary Domingo is ill at this present time. He actually has chicken pox. I haven’t seen him for the past few days. So, I would rather, and I haven’t bothered him because I want him to recover as soon as possible. He’ll be a major player in our launching by November 18 of the PPP. I would (unclear) certain points in this and I will be pre-empting my speech if I discuss it right now. But that is also one of the focal point that we want to touch on when we get into APEC.
Q: (inaudible) you were reported to have asked the help of President Obama in trying to get into the…
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I have a very few minutes with President Obama, and I think the whole specific quest, if I remembered it correctly, we might have discussed it with others in the US Government. But with President Obama, it had to deal with an immediate concern of ours, on this (unclear) stock pile (unclear) in Caballo Island which is in Corregidor. That is the most immediate need.
Q: So, there is no extensive discussion on the…
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I have seven minutes, how can you have an extensive discussion?
Q: No, no, I mean afterwards because…
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I only have one meeting with him. It only lasted seven minutes and the major concern was that of the Caballo Island.
Q: So, there was no specific…
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Let me go with the inventory of the items that DFA and DTI were doing. But, as we know that particular trip, part of it was the general assembly, part of it was the bilaterals with so many and a major part of it was with the investors. So specific companies, specific investments, specific areas.
Q: Can I have thoughts on these upcoming reviews also of VFA. How do you see connections on the terror threat now.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: The VFA, specifically the terror threat, we have an issue with regards to that they were not sharing the intelligence with us specifically because according to them we were the targets.
We have an ally; we have the defense treaty with them. I would assume that the first thing you do would be to inform your ally…
I’m kind of limited as to what I can tell you. It will be more proper to tell them and at the same time, if it were our bargaining position, I think it will be foolhardy on my part to tell you all of my negotiating points. I would have probably sold the country down the drain if I tell you all my negotiating points. I hope you understand.
Q: About Myanmar… and then, we see Thailand had been…in their country. How do you respond? How do you see the situation? And then [inaudible] Aung San Suu Kyi, it might be [inaudible] soon so how do you. [interrupted]
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Number one, with the case of Aung San Suu Kyi hopefully, it will happen soon. She has been detained for 20 years. She had won an election. Therefore, the mandate of the people before she was arrested is not [inaudible] to our practices here. We did make an appeal to [inaudible] to make it more inclusive for the release of Madame.  The appeal was for the stability within Myanmar. An all inclusive election would lead to stability because all parties would be tightened parcel of the system rather than those that will be excluded who would have no other recourse than to fight the state.
Unfortunately, that was not heeded. I understand there was a very poor turnout of voters. So, how does that in gender for stability for Myanmar and if a component of ASEAN has instability or is laying the seeds for instability in the future then the entire will be subject to instability? I understand Thailand is already host to something like three million residents of Myanmar and truly another conflict in these parts of the world. The Philippines became the refugee center for that country and we’re a country that is not rich and although we would want to share what we do have, we don’t have that much to share with. So once we start being their host, that changes our ability to fend for our people also. So hence, we feel there is a legitimate right on our part to make appeals to them—to have a more inclusive process in determining mandates with their government.
Q: You have any meaningful memories of Japan?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I met Hirohito in my mom’s state visit that was really…how inspiring to meet somebody who was central in world history? And of course, the words he told me even if its [inaudible] that point in time. That was my first trip to Japan that was I think what made the most significant impression on me.
Q: Sir, what are your thoughts in the strengthening of the Peso? Would you have any agreements in any of the ASEAN countries? And, what will be your agenda or whatever?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Well, in the currency, it will be market revenue. If there is excess liquidity for a particular country your ability to better utilize the same, it is seen as a problem but also an opportunity. Perhaps, items that were expensive that were necessary can now begotten because of the strengthened peso. We would want it not really be at a fix rate but rather at something that has predictability. But there is no single country in the world that can defend or support its currency until the end of time.
So, again the very first thing I think I said during this press conference has to be with the fares with regards the volatility of the market. The rapid increases and decreases in value is something that all countries are concerned with. So you’d want to mitigate these violent swings, ‘no? And there are various options that are open to us and again one that has been presented has been items that has been delayed in select various capital goods that suddenly has become cheaper now we have the ability to get what we need. But I think the peso has been relatively been stable and even the Stock Market is moving at a predictable pattern. It goes up; it corrects a little, and then proceeds like a ladder. So, we cannot help but be heartened with the fact that we are one of the fastest growing, well best performing markets. Also, I expressed caution with Secretary of Finance, NEDA, etcetera, that we don’t become overheated and they tell us that one of the factors is multiples of earnings. Then most of them are still within the band of reasonable investments. And there are a few blue chip stocks that are not performing at the same norm because precisely, the funds that are investing in them are limited to blue chips. So there’s that much more demand compared to the available supplies.
Q: Sir, how are you going to protect our OFWs since they are earning dollars—US dollars?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Again, ‘no? You want to mitigate nga the differences. So that’s the first protection. They are no longer subject to taxes—the income taxes. ‘Yung suggestions to form, actually there are so many suggestions. And again, other aspects there are also… I guess let me put it this way, ‘no, not to sound like Superman because there are really limits as to what you can do in terms of supporting your currencies and when you do so, it is not an isolated act eh. It has effects on various aspects other than that which you were trying to influence. So, one would be very, very conservative in putting the rates. Interest rates for instance, the liquidity that is there, but I think the more [inaudible] the Banko Sentral have been doing a very good job. ‘Yung compare it to the Thai Baht which I understand started at somewhere like 38 and is now at 29. The Japanese Yen which will make everything made in Japan more expensive is what at 80. When I first travelled there, it was over a hundred. So the peso is not fairing that badly. But this is again, without a full recovery of the developed world not just America but other countries then we will still have the tendency na in close of funds to emerging markets which have a greater spread and a greater margin.
Q: Can you give us your 100 day assessment on your government’s anti-corruption campaign and also give us some more data on the country’s financial condition.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: As far as the anti-corruption campaign goes, I think we have kept to our promise of filing cases against smugglers and evaders. Yet, I haven’t been upraised that further a week a major case has not been filed. If I remember correctly, the alternate the BIR starts filing one case the following week. It’s the customs and so on and so forth. We have all of those extreme cases of the person who filed no incomes for 12 years but was able to purchase a Lamborghini sports car. Less than 2000 were made not particularly here. There are no sacred cows I think that has been demonstrated. On a more substantial basis, since cases need to have termination on the judication process what can we cite as immediate case there was a 3.5 billion Pepeng and Ondoy fund by the DPWH. Close to a billion profit 960-something-million was negotiated out. This was stopped as we entered office. We had it rebidded and the price dropped from 960 million plus to about 600 million. So, you saved that’s [inaudible] usually utilized elsewhere.
Look at the issue about the GOCC compensation. Nominees by government to protect the people’s interest were milking all of these corporations dry. That has been stopped by memorandum order which is being questioned by the Supreme Court again and that is again another positive step. Look at peace and order, namely a sensational case that has not been solved. I think we can point to so many instances where the state said we are after you and have demonstrated the arm of the law is really long. We are hiding towards the certainty that if you commit a crime, you will be arrested. Now, we are working on the convicted portion and the convicted happen to be the different branch of government. So, were hoping that would improve. Definitely, we will work on the [inauible] conviction rates which are in an abysmal one percent. So in terms of again sa corruption, think about it, ‘no, how much of the funds were left to us to utilize for the six months of 2010. And the deficit we couldn’t have won the root then borrow, then borrow, then borrow because there’s nothing left—less than 10% if my memory serves me right. But in August, we managed to pose a surplus and the August accounts of revenues versus expenditures because of austerity measures because we went to a zero-based budgeting program because, yeah, maraming because. But the thing is, we have fulfilled, I think substantially, our pledge to empower government by doing away with all of this wastage government.
Now, is empowered to empower [inaudible]. So next year, we will be able to fund not just a [inaudible] of the Conditional Cash Transfer Program but over its one million families. Now to 2.3 million families next year and in another two or three years, we will be able to take care of 4.6 million families. And I can go on and on and on kaya lang baka naman sabihin niyong propagandized ‘yung…
Q: Sir, if I remember it, right before you mentioned that you are to form a body to study the constitution, so any update on this do you have a plan in the near future to order a study on this and what are the possible provisions of the constitution that needs to be changed?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: To be honest with you, with the number of items that we have discovered and that we have to do, that is not first priority for me at this point in time. I want to see the Truth Commission for instance, really start buckling down to work and having an evidence presented before it.
Look at the Laguna Lake project, ano? I dont know if how many of you, how many of you are familiar with the Laguna Lake Project? We were supposed to secure, ‘no? We have a standby credit facility with a Belgian bank to the tune of 18.7 billion pesos. What is the problem? The first goal is to increase the water holding capacity of Laguna lake. What is the problem? We have deluded forest upstream. We have garbage thrown into laguna lake. ‘Yung how much did they envision to remove because of the 18.5 or 18.7 billion, about 12 million cubic meters, how much is the siltation each year because of the deluded forests, ganyan. It’s about four million. So this 18.5 or 18.7 billion would have given us a temporary solution of three years.
Sige, debateable they can remove it in one year. Then, you have three years rest fight but to remove 12 plus million cubic meters, it cannot be done in one year. So, kunwari four million lang tinatangal four million din iyung pumapasok walang net gain. Now, ‘yung increase water holding capacity I ordered the projects stopped. Why should the project be stopped? In the taking citation, dredging it from one portion of the Laguna Lake then transferring it to another portion of the Laguna Lake, bottom line you are not increasing the water holding capacity. And then, NEDA said there are few economic gains to be had by this project. They started putting in so many other components like a reclamation project so gagawin mong reclaimed area where you setup marinas, condos, whatever. So ‘yung first item of increased water holding capacity from the components of the project will not be met. Everybody signed off on that during the past administration. That was brought up to be for confirmation. So, I ordered it stopped. We saved 18.5 billion or 17.7, if I am not mistaken. Pagdating sa problem, there is flooding; there is massive citation that lessens the water holding capacity, but the solution being proposed is a solution that are at best will give us a temporary refight of three years. Maximum na ‘yun and I don’t believe that you’ll be giving us that. So ‘yung part of the propaganda machinery stated that if you don’t draw on the loan, we will pay a penalty fee. So the Secretary of Finance informs us that that is not the case. They can work it out that there is no penalty fee by terminating the project. That penalty is mga one percent of 18.5 billion—mga hundred eighty something million.
Q: …and the volatility of the currency markets, what other issues would you want to highlight when you at the [interupted]
PRESIDENT AQUINO: We have three days. There are 21countries represented. Everybody will be making a speech in four sessions. Kaya, I think I should focus.
Ako, I’ll be just focusing on just the volatility. Think about it, ano, why is volatility such an issue? We are a foreign investor. We go into a country we have certain resources to be converted into the currency of the country. That is your host; you make projections and plans we have to report to your stock holders at the end of the process. And you don’t want it to become a market with wilder dilations.
A business man would normally be prudent and say let’s just wait until it stabilizes. It produces, parang, a situation where in jobs could be had already but already delayed or until they regain that confidence. Too wild a dialation will be counter productive to getting investors to come in any country. Your confidence that your forecast will be proven right diminishes. Hence, there is a need to have as much predictability as less variability in the factors that you used to decide on where and when to less. So, between in ASEAN, we had ten. Ten leaders and everybody had to make a speech. So you had a fifty minute session. Maski na tig-teten minutes sa hundred minutes.
Q: (inaudible)
PRESIDENT AQUINO: There is an understanding between the leaders and the heads of governments and that they, ‘di ba? We want to be known as a country that keeps its word. You will not have good relations with countries that do not trust you. So, that in turn—‘yung ASEAN— what is the main value?
Now, I can call up, for instance, President Yudyohono then ask him for assistance if there is a calamity that they have expertise in. If we have a problem with rice, I can call up President Triet and say, we need assistance here or Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on a first name basis. That’s the value. I’m sorry. ‘Yung you really want to have the scoops but if I start producing everything I’m going to do there, might as well not go there. Then save us from whatever amount of money we’re going be spending. But again, ‘yung, we may have to… well, they would want to make. For instance, (unclear) to make their announcements on appropriate time and there are factors that we might not be aware of. So, these people will help me in fulfilling my promise of generating jobs and I’m not going to give them even the leeway of announcing their timing. That will be at the service of the people.
Ano ba ‘yung susunod? One more question and wala nang follow up.
Sorry ha, I have five more meetings kasi.
Q: On China because they are vocal on what China has been doing. It’s aggressiveness. It just had its recent territorial incident with Japan. (unclear) Is there evidence on… (unclear). Are there new initiatives, even discussing this matter, this China matter?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: As you know, we have… First of all, let me put this in record. The People’s Republic of China’s government has been really very helpful in solving our own issues with them. I want to thank them for adopting this attitude. Perhaps, it is best for all party is concerned and including us to really advance the cause of dialogue rather than to have increased patrols in the area—increased military activity.
We don’t want to create a situation that there can be flash points. So, again, there is emphasis on dialogue as a resolution mechanism to all of these disputes as far as, (unclear) should know.
Perhaps, we will ask others to join us in that call and specifically in the South China Sea issue—the formulation of the Code of Conduct which has been longing to stay. Can I just go this way para I know when I’m finished?
Q: …the corruption thing against GMA?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: ‘Yung, the Truth Commission has been challenged in the Supreme Court even though their challenge is starting already to gather evidence of matters that they will be discussing.
I do not talk to them regularly. Actually, I didn’t talk to any of them after I had appointed them and that is to promote their independence and to preclude any possibility of this being a political exercise. We want the lessons to be learned here whether things actually done and what was the magnitude? How was it done? Do we prevent it? Those are the outputs that we are wanting. Now, we have had issues with the Supreme Court. We are aware of that. All of our executive orders or a lot of them have been challenged.
There have been new challenges that come to the forefront. So we really would go to that extent. Sorry if I used to say like example. You remember of the board of GOCC and you think they are entitled feeding at the public (unclear) and you have the gall to file a case to the Supreme Court after discovery? How does it go? We are doing everything we can but a certain portion of the work really has to be decided by the judiciary and perhaps it’s dusted.
Q: Question on the Code of Conduct. In ASEAN summit, Sec. Clinton from the US placed Chinese agreements…started talking toward binding Code of Conduct. Do you share that idea, binding Code of Conduct?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Yes. Well, the declaration of the Code of Conduct was supposed to be by all parties who are in dispute. Therefore, for it to have a value, then, every country that has acclaimed on the South China Sea should bind itself to that agreement. So that it has a lasting effect for all parties concerned. We resolve everything through dialogue. Again, rather than having an armed race there. It’s counterproductive in every country’s interest then having potential clash points everyday (unclear) and even more so when one country or another starts to exploit the resources there. So the Code of Conduct is essential.
Q: Update on peace process with MILF. Is there a specific date on when the formal discussions?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: There’s still discussion on the person of the facilitator in the country facilitating. We hope to wrap that up very soon and right after that we get to start the formal dialogues. Pero, ang issue again on the facilitator—facilitator person ha, hindi facilitator country.
Q: (unclear)
PRESIDENT AQUINO: We are requesting a change in the facilitator because certain issues that I would rather have the OPPAP talk to you about it.
Q: (unclear) …the change refers to settle the territorial disputes bilaterally but in your end, do you think it is the proper way to do it or by the region?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Well, as far as the South China Sea issue is concerned, when you have… How do you think the last thing solution when you always have just components on the problem being addressed rather than the entirety of the problem? If there is something that can bind all claimants to a common resolution, that will be very practicable, will be long lasting. It will be believable; it will be enforceable.
Like any conflict, it does not take into account other stakeholders who are outside of the ambit of the agreement, will not be bound by it and will work again only on self interest.
How does that promote the stabilities? I think they will subscribe to a concept for everybody who is at stake and is involved in the drafting of the Code of Conduct. At the end of the day, affixes their ratification to it in whatever that agreement have in its final (unclear).
Q: Regarding the facilitator, is it because Mister (unclear) is biased in favor of the MILF? Is that the reason why they’re asking for a change?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Again, I would like to…there’s a way of already treating this on undiplomatic level, I brought the matter up to Prime Minister Najib and we are already asking Malaysia to be the third country facilitator. So, I would rather not conduct my negotiations with them to the media. That adds unnecessary pressure. There are speculations that I think I’m no longer (unclear).
I am confident that they will go with what is proper and what is right. So, it does not help the cause of the country to start any issue here in a public debate. We already have assurances that rightful actions will be taken.
Q: So, you gave an assurance that it will change?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: The process where by… we were explaining to them our issues with the current facilitator. So that is being communicated by various levels in their government by their counterparts in the government. Just to send a very clear message.
Q: Regarding PAL, PALEA threatened to go on strike again because of the recent decision of Sec. Baldoz allowing PAL to outsource some of their services. PALEA is claiming that that will further open up the country on contractualization. What’s your take on this? Are you going to intervene?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Today, I’ve met with several entities including Sec. Baldoz, ES is present, our consultants as far as the labor group is concerned, a representative of the department of finance, and I would want it also to see Sec. of Trade but unfortunately, he has chicken pox e. So unfortunately wala s’ya.
Now, it is a problem not isolated to PAL. If the national flag-carrier and predominant airline that (unclear) something like 40%, if I’m not mistaken of all passenger traffic, ‘no, suddenly goes offline but impacts negatively on the National Economy. Number two, there are so many issues raised by both quarters. We’re going to try to get them back to reconciliation table and come up with that compromise that all of them can give way. Now, there are so many provisions that have to be adhered to. So, I’m hoping that a broad consensus on what we’re supposed to do. Let the details and we will just finish all of these details then we will present it to both parties and hopefully get them back to the table and come up with that agreement.
Filing a notice of strike is a legal maneuver also. There are companies built with national interest. We will take over parang when the case is sent, the airline, ‘no? Baka naman bukas e, the government is taking over PAL? That is not the case. If we take over the case, I think they are also filing the case before the Court of Appeals that we will study whether or not that stops us from reviewing the matter. I’ve been asking these different agencies to provide me with their inputs and commentaries on how to resolve the issue.
To come up with a long lasting solution, we have to really look at the entire problem. For instance, there is worldwide alliance of various airlines so they have become a very, very big entity and they support each other. Pati ‘yung mga miles, travel, ‘yung mga ‘yan. So, many other benefits na they’re binding together. PAL is not a member of any of the alliances. How does it compete with those alliances?
‘Yung one of the questions that’s almost in my mind, is in outsourcing. Does it promote the stability of PAL and the preservation of jobs will be remaining? If not, we will sacrifice these fumes to nobody’s name, is also another question that I asked to study. We have studied the problem from an objective point of view then we can propose and we can have them come to terms with each other. So, we will be meeting both of them once we have the concretized proposal. That of course will happen either in my absence or as soon as I get back.
ENDS.