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    Q&A with Vice President Leni Robredo Rotary Club of Makati – RVote Session 3

    Q&A with Vice President Leni Robredo Rotary Club of Makati – RVote Session 3

    REGGIE NOLIDO: Thank you very much, Madame Vice President for your very inspiring words. Of course, the question everyone wants to know is is pink the color of hope? And so from that, we move on therefore to our Q&A session. Now this is a little departure from our usual Q&A session in that for today, we will have a panel of distinguished gentlemen who will lead us in the Q&A. Now for the audience, again if you have any questions please place them in the chatbox and our panel will be sure to cull through them and then pick up those that are going to be relevant.

    For our panel today, we have heading it the former president of the University of the Philippines, the incoming president of the Management Association of the Philippines, and the past president of the Rotary Club of Makati for rotary year 2018 - 2019, past president Fred Pascual. With him in our panel is the former deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Customs, the current community service chair in partnership with district 3830 and a partner of Stamp Law Office, immediate past president Peter Manzano. We also have in our panel the convenor of 1Sambayan, the senior managing partner of Calleja Law Office, and a member of the Rotary Club of Makati since 2013, rotarian Howie Calleja. And lastly, but not the least, we have the current district chair of the Rotary Community Corps, a past president of the Rotary Club of Makati Bel air, and a stalwart of the district, past president Harold Dacumos. Ron, I think we have to address the feedback? Gentlemen, the floor is now yours.

    FRED PASCUAL: Thank you, PP Reggie. Thank you, Vice President Leni for your inspiring and empowering speech, particularly when you touched upon the problems that the pandemic has brought to us. It's good to see you again, though virtually.

    VP LENI: It’s good to see you again.

    FRED PASCUAL: The members of the Q&A panel will ask their respective questions sequentially in two or more rounds. So the questions they will articulate would come from the audience.

    Let me ask the first question. In your speech, you referred to inherited problems, particularly those related to the pandemic, or more specifically the handling of the pandemic, and you explained your three-point COVID-19 freedom plan to address these pandemic-related challenges. But aside from these problems that we linked to the pandemic, what are the most serious problems that bothered us for generations that you see in the country? And based on your five-year experience as vice president, how would your administration intend to tackle these sometimes existential, sometimes pestering problems?

    VP LENI: Thank you very much for that sir. It is very good to see you again. Again, I remember under your leadership, we had a partnership in setting up dormitories in far-off public high schools.

    I mentioned earlier that much of the problem brought about by the pandemic concerns health and economy. But the third point that I tried to emphasize is the problem with education, and you know this problem with education, we were already having this even before the pandemic. In fact I mentioned earlier that with regards to education, we need clear guidelines on the resumption of face-to-face classes. I was telling you earlier that we need to have a risk-assessment map for low-risk areas and for high-risk areas. But if you look at the problem as I have said earlier, it was a problem even before the pandemic. We need to allocate—our computation is P68 billion for education-related assistance. And by following the current models being done by the OVP, to create really more community learning hubs, more teacher training. If we look back, even before the pandemic, we have ranked at the bottom of many international student assessments the past several years. So we need to find out what we are doing wrong, and immediately institute honest-to-goodness remediation and one of these is to increase the education budget. Right now our education budget, I think, is at 3% of GDP. Our proposal is to increase it to 6% of GDP, or that's more than P1 trillion by 2024 - 2025. And 6% of GDP is the UN proposed portion of the GDP to be spent in education. And this will go, among other things, into investing heavily on teacher training and capacitation. We have to improve our teacher-to-student ratio, and our class sizes and revisit our curriculum. Our plan is that by 2022, we will have created a multi-sectoral education commission to address issues of governance, access, and quality, and develop a roadmap to measurably improve learning outcomes. In fact, I have suggested early on that we should declare an education crisis already. And to turn around our performance in international student assessments, the first step really is to invest in data-gathering capabilities for effective decision-making. This would include rolling out a national learning assessment program that will diagnose mislearning at the student and school level. Again, I mentioned earlier to create an honest-to-goodness remediation program guided by this national learning assessment program to address learning losses and continue participating in international large-scale learning assessments to actively trace improvement in test scores. For me, education is very crucial because the effects is really intergenerational, and it is something that we have to address early on as we are addressing the effects of the pandemic.

    FRED PASCUAL: Thank you. Just a quick follow-up. Of course you cannot do things on your own, you'll have to form your team. Now, I'd like to ask: how would you go about selecting your cabinet members to ensure that you have the best possible appointed leaders as your alter egos in the various government departments? As you very well know, over the past so many administrations, there have always been [an] issues on the choice of cabinet members.

    VP LENI: Sir, we will appoint cabinet members and officials based on merit. We will choose people who are not just experts in their respective fields, but have actual on-the-ground experience of the work that they are expected to do. They should be good managers. They should have a reputation of actually getting the job done, bears no conflict of interest, and very well-respected in their field of expertise. As president, we have an obligation to the people that those who will be appointed are competent and qualified.

    FRED PASCUAL: Thank you. Over to you, PP Peter.

    PETER MANZANO: Thank you, madam Vice President. Among the presidential aspirants—and by presidential aspirants I mean those who have filed their certificates of candidacy for president—who do you think is your toughest opponent, and how do you plan to win the elections?

    VP LENI: You know sir, it is difficult to say. It is difficult to say; right now we are very much focused on the kind of campaign that we want to do. You know that I decided at the eleventh hour, so there is much catching up to do. Our only focus is really how to get the job done. You know, our campaign is turning out to be very unconventional, unlike any of the campaigns I've been a part of since 1988. Our supporters are the ones causing the ground to shift. They've been organizing, fighting trolls, keeping us present on social media platforms, putting up billboards, printing tarps, creating campaign merchandise, planning events. Kami na sir iyong sumusunod. But we comfort ourselves with the thought that history has shown us that no amount of resources, political power, or machinery can topple the will of the people. And if this people's movement can be sustained until May, then we are very hopeful we would have a very good chance at making it.

    PETER MANZANO: Speaking of presidential aspirants, and this is a question from our friends with the media, may we ask for your response on the statement of former Senator Bongbong Marcos Jr. yesterday telling you to tell the petitioners to drop the case against him. I believe this is in line with your earlier statement that the disqualification filed against him to remove him from the contest is not necessary.

    VP LENI: Sir, if I am not mistaken, Atty. Howie Calleja is one of the petitioners. Tanungin natin si Atty. Howie if we had anything to do with the petition?

    HOWIE CALLEJA: Of course, madam Vice President, I'm here to confirm that we never talked about the petition.

    VP LENI: Kaya nga eh.

    HOWIE CALLEJA: So I think that is to clear the air on everything.

    VP LENI: At saka naman, sa akin naman hindi naman kami diktador. Bakit didiktahan namin iyong mga petitioners na i-withdraw iyon? But if Mr. Marcos thinks that there is no ground for the petition to prosper, wala naman siyang dapat ikatakot.

    PETER MANZANO: Thank you. I think I'll give it now to PP Harold.

    HAROLD DACUMOS: Good afternoon madame president.

    VP LENI: Good afternoon, sir.

    HOWIE CALLEJA: I'm very glad that one of your platforms is to eradicate poverty. In the recent report of [the] World Bank, at least 2 million more Filipinos became poor in 2020 due to reduced household income and disrupted business activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, citing the July 2021 edition of the lender's Philippine economic update, World Bank economist Kendrick Chua said poverty is estimated to increase by around 1.4 percentage points in between 2018 and 2020 based on the lower middle poverty line of $3.2 per day. So can you—although you weren't asked that in your program, as one of the pressing priorities—can you discuss as how you will be able to increase the low economic growth that we are suffering right now. And because of the pandemic, it created unemployment and exacerbated the poverty situation in the Philippines. And there are more than—if we are estimating that 107 million Filipinos, 21% World Bank said that they are now in extreme poverty, that's more than 22 million, madame President.

    VP LENI: Unemployment is at an alarming rate now. One of the highest in many, many years. But our main philosophy is number one, to protect, and number two, to create jobs. First to protect: we have to make sure that no more jobs are lost due to the pandemic. That is why we are proposing a conditional stimulus package for MSMEs, hinged on the condition that they do not lay off workers. The next step is the bigger one, which is to create jobs. We need to rebuild trust in government by making sure that policies are dependable and predictable. Foreign and domestic investments, we all know, will only dramatically rise if we have the necessary infrastructure and logistics for them to thrive. And we can offer a stable, a strong political and economic climate. We need to prioritize lowering of power rates and other utility costs, prioritize mass transport. Our government, aside from improving ease of doing business, will not change, we will promise not to change the rules for business in the middle of the game. That's usually the complaint. And we'll make sure that everyone is given a level playing field. The government will also focus on training, reskilling, upskilling our work force to prepare them. Accelerate our tech and digital infrastructure. We will also need to ensure that we encourage community entrepreneurship and provide the necessary environment for it to thrive. Also strengthen rural development and giving agriculture the much-needed boost.

    HAROLD DACUMOS: Madame president, related to that is a question on the war on drugs. Now, since taking office 2016, President Duterte's war on drugs has led to the death of over 12,000 Filipinos as reported. And mostly these are urban poor. So what is your specific prescription on this and your take about this war on drugs? Will you continue what President Duterte is doing? Mobilizing the PNP, PDEA? And if you are elected president, how will you be able to institutionalize to really fight this menace in our country?

    VP LENI: Sir, we will continue to fight drugs in the Robredo administration, but we will change the approach, definitely. From a purely enforcement focused one to a whole of government approach. We will apply the lessons and international best practices. We will change the leadership and composition of the ICAD. I was given the privilege of being ICAD co-chair for 18 days, but that gave me the opportunity to see for myself what is being done wrong. In fact, after I was booted out of ICAD, the first thing that I was able to submit a really comprehensive, a report on step-by-step recommendations. And the first recommendation that I gave was really to ask DDB, [the] Dangerous Drugs Board, to lead ICAD instead of PDEA. DBB is more policy, and PDEA is enforcement. That should change the course of the entire anti-drug war. Number two, to really institute a data-driven approach, and this entails acquiring reliable baseline data not just on the number of drug dependents but how much illegal drugs are in the market with clear segregations between the number of users from pushers. I remember when I was in ICAD, this was not available. There will be a uniform monitoring system to track what interventions are needed for drug-dependents and the outcomes of these interventions. We'll also concentrate on supply constriction instead of focusing on street-level enforcement. Again, during my stint in ICAD in late 2019, we found out that in the years 2017, 2018, and 2019, only 1% of the country's drug supply was curtailed. So clearly, a primary orientation on street-level enforcement was not working, and this was after so many deaths already. We will change the approach and go for the big fish. This entails shifting the focus of law enforcement agencies to really constricting supply where the big players are, and providing the necessary equipment and staffing to law enforcement agencies to capacitate them to more effectively prevent the entry of illegal drugs into the country, and also strengthening the role of the AMLAC in the anti-illegal drug campaign.

    I remember when I was ICAD co-chair, I felt that the membership of AMLC in ICAD was not being maximized to the fullest.

    HAROLD DACUMOS: So thank you very much madame Vice President for that succinct, very clear, and comprehensive approach to these two major issues confronting our country today. Atty. Calleja, maybe your turn?

    HOWIE CALLEJA: Good afternoon, madam Vice President.

    VP LENI: Good afternoon, Sir.

    HOWIE CALLEJA: Again, let me clarify, we did what we filed in our own personal capacity, madam, without your knowledge.

    VP LENI: Thank you for that, attorney.

    HOWIE CALLEJA: And now for the questions, Ma'am. We go back to a little politics, ma'am. We know that the NTF-ELCAC has increased its budget for the year 2022 to fight the NDF-NPA. But actually the P26 billion funds is suspected to be used for elections purposes, especially in giving to the baranggays. What will be your—how would you adjust these funds, if ever anything will be left, if ever you win come June, or May 2020. Or how would you counteract, if any, the use of these funds during the campaign.

    VP LENI: Attorney Calleja, I think I already mentioned this in some of the previous interviews that there is really a duplication of many efforts—the duplication of the mandate. The duplication of the mandate, and it has to be abolished. Ang pinaka-takot ko dito is that magiging tokhang ulit ito. Magiging tokhang version two in the sense that the mandate given to the body will be abused, will be used to harass people. I have always been very clear on my position on the issues on peace talks, the issues of NDF-NPA, issues on how to combat insurgency, and I have always been very vocal about my push to reengage, again, communities and civil society organizations in demanding not just from CPP-NPA-NDF but also from the government to create a more conducive and enabling environment for peace negotiations to resume. There must be a call for a complete cessation of hostilities and violence and to spare communities in conflict-affected areas. There must be a rejection of the militarist approaches to ending internal armed conflict, and instead, encourage strong participation of CSOs, the private sector, the church in the peace process. Iyong nangyayari kasi ngayon parang sobrang emphasis on a purely militaristic approach. Also, improve the targeting and increase of resources for basic services and communities with special focus on conflict-affected areas. Kapag sinabi nating services, that would include education, health, social protection, basic infrastructure for livelihood, communication and connectivity, microfinance, ayon, the works. And also, strengthen the government reintegration programs for former rebels, families and communities, to allow them to lead peaceful and productive civilian lives. Para kasi sa akin, this cannot solved by using a purely militaristic approach. We have to go to the root of the problem of insurgency to be able to give a more long-term solution to the same.

    HOWIE CALLEJA: Thank you for that. And on my second question with regards to the election, just this morning, Vice Mayor Baste Duterte, I think you’ve heard, withdrew his candidacy for vice mayor, raising speculation that he will substitute Sara for vice mayor then Sara to go up for president or vice president. Would the substitution—if it would take place on or before November 15—would it change any of your campaign strategy or would it—how would it affect your coalition-building or campaign strategy as the election goes near?

    VP LENI: As far as our ticket is concerned, I don’t think it would affect us at all. If at all, when that happens, the lines will be clearer. I was saying earlier that this campaign is turning out to be very unconventional. Very unconventional in the sense na the more conventional approach is, we are the candidates, we are the ones who organize on the ground. You know, we are the ones who commission ad agencies to do all the campaign materials, to do our campaign ads. But right now, it’s the opposite. It’s the opposite. I was saying earlier that our supporters are the ones causing the ground to shift. Kadalasan nga, kami iyong nag-a-adjust. Even the color—even the color, I really planned on blue to be the color of the campaign but the supporters unified on pink as the symbol of the shared initiatives that are being done, so we followed. Gaya ng sabi ko kanina, ano naman, the way things are turning out now, iyong groundswell is making the campaign really not a campaign but a people’s movement. And as I’ve said earlier, that history has always shown us that no amount of resources, political power, machinery, can really topple the will of the people.

    HOWIE CALLEJA: Okay, thank you, Madam Vice President. Again, I’ll throw you back to VP Fred for another set of questions po.

    FRED PASCUAL: Thank you, Atty. Howie! Let me ask a question related to inter-administration transitions. You know, there are practices that we have seen of the new administration erasing everything that has been done by the previous administration and starting anew. In relation to this, I’d like to ask, Madam Vice President, what are the policies of the current administration you think are worthy of being continued with or without modification? And which policies do you think have to be changed or dismantled outright?

    VP LENI: One of the policies that I feel should be pursued in the next administration is the Build, Build, Build program. But we will be tweaking it in such a way that there will be more emphasis on infrastructure that will spur rural development. There’s been a lot of effort on strengthening the justice system and I feel that it is one of the things that we really need to continue. There are a lot of things that we want to change. One of them I already mentioned earlier the war on drugs. Second, we really need to speed up our infrastructure on tech and digital inasmuch as the pandemic only made it clear how much we are lagging behind. Foreign policy, we will have to tweak it. We will have to tweak it in such a way that, you know, there is a lot to strengthen, there is a lot to put in order. I was in a talk in Bacolod during the weekend and I was telling them that the first order of business is, of course, controlling the pandemic and mitigating the effects. But also to put the house in order, restore the confidence in the Philippine government, engage all of Philippine society because the rebuilding will take so much from us.

    But I agree—I agree with you, Sir, that, you know, one of the things that is very wrong when there is a change in administration is that everything is on a reset button. For example, one of my biggest frustrations after the change in administration in 2016 was the doing away with the bottom-up budgeting, which I felt would have been a very good vehicle in spurring rural development. We need to take stock of what are the things that are doing well and continue with it. What are the things that aren’t working and those are the things that we need to change.

    FRED PASCUAL: You mentioned, Madam Vice President, foreign relations. Just quickly, how would you balance the country’s relations with the US and China to maximize benefits we can draw from each one of them or protecting the country’s national interests?

    VP LENI: Again, Sir, this is all about balance and inclusiveness, always bearing in mind that the interest of the country and the people are foremost. We will continue to nurture our important relationship with China. But it must premised on the mutual respect and in accordance with international law, which includes the UNCLOS and the decision of the international tribunal for the law of the sea. This is the judgment of the arbitral—award of the arbitral tribunal with regards to the West Philippine Sea. And to protect our national interests, we must also strengthen our ties with emerging security partners, such as Japan, South Korea, India, Australia. Our traditional allies will also continue to deal with the United States—our only mutual defense treaty ally—and the fields of economics and trade, countering terrorism, trafficking in persons, disaster response and fighting the illegal drugs trade, and also with our pandemic response.

    FRED PASCUAL: Thank you! VP Peter?

    PETER MANZANO: Thank you, VP Fred! This is a question from Ms. Marissa from the audience. Apart from the immediate issues facing the countries’ drive to manage the pandemic and the healthcare situation, what would be the top three areas you would be addressing in your first six months of presidency if elected?

    VP LENI: I think I mentioned it a while ago already that education is one and not just education, the damage to education because of the pandemic. But also, the education crisis that we have been facing even before the pandemic. Putting the house in order. I think I mentioned this a while ago—restoring the confidence in the Philippines, fixing, you know, I already mentioned our upholding the arbitral ruling by taking a principled stand backed by stronger domestic capabilities. You know, push for stronger relations with international partners. Reclaim our place as a respected member of the community of nations. The economy will be major inasmuch as the unemployment will—if not abated—will really all boil down to hunger, food security, poverty, and its many effects. I think I already mentioned earlier what we intend to do as far as making our country—making the business community or inviting foreign investments and strengthening domestic businesses to thrive and giving them a business climate that will make them stay. I mentioned earlier already about fixing logistics, fixing infrastructure, taking care of the high costs of power, providing for more rural development. I think it’s a combination of many different things.

    PETER MANZANO: Okay, yeah, I think that answers the question of Mr. Limjoco: how do you propose to create jobs critically needed to reduce poverty. And here’s a question related to that also, apart from PP Junjun Dayrit, Madam Vice President, what will be your program for agriculture if you are elected to the presidency?

    VP LENI: Agriculture during the pandemic has shown us that it is one of the most resilient—it is one of the most resilient of all the sectors and you know, we have not been giving focus on agriculture as a major sector. We have been talking to a lot of many farmer groups, many fisherfolk groups, and the complaints are similar. One complaint is really how our policies have been because of import liberalization and setting aside from the meantime our issues about our international trade agreements. The call for us to carefully calibrate imports is consistent with our stand that the Filipino farmer must be accorded adequate and appropriate policy and other support measures to make farming more profitable. Iyon talaga iyong pinaka-reklamo nila ngayon, eh. Hindi na sila nag-e-earn, nagpo-profit dahil sobrang bagsak iyong presyo ng mga imports na pinapasok natin. And it’s like a chicken and egg thing. One of the reasons why most of our farmers cannot compete with very low import prices is that most of the imports are being subsidized by the government. So it is one thing that we should take into consideration. Baka kinakailangan na nating i-subsidize iyong maraming mga bagay na contributory to making our agricultural products uncompetitive to foreign markets.

    At the Office of the Vice President, we also started a program for farmers where we are training farming communities to be entrepreneurs. And it has yielded very good results. One—what we have been doing is when we train them to be entrepreneurs, they learn how to deal with institutional buyers and they are able to take away middlemen already. We are doing a program in Camarines Sur. It’s called Omasenso sa Kabuhayan, where what we did was partner with the business community and different farmer groups. Parang mas cooperative style pero mas loose na cooperative. We’re helping them with inputs, we’re helping them with financial grants. We’re working with DAR, DTI and DOST in helping them out. So parang binubuhos iyong tulong sa mga farmers to capacitate them, to help them produce the quantity and quality needed by institutional buyers. We serve as a platform in linking insitutional buyers to farmer groups and iyong resulta nito, napakaganda. We were able to develop this model from the model being done by Jolibee already and I think it’s a very good model that can be followed elsewhere, especially as far as small farmers are concerned.

    On the issue of Agrarian Reform as a factor in helping farmers, I am fully aware of the apprehensions about the program’s failures and shortcomings especially where support services have failed to turn agrarian reform beneficiaries into economically viable farmers. But we are also cognizant of the successes, and the need for government to replicate those successes in areas already covered in the program. Iyong successes na ito iyong sinasabi ko. I was also in Bacolod during the weekend, and one of the things discussed to me is the concept of block farming. It’s a very good model which can be replicated in many other locations around the country. Iyong support for iyong support services that are needed, pag minsan kasi, one of the many things that I saw when we were doing the program was a lot of agencies have very good programs but are working in silos. Ang isa pa, parang mali iyong ating metrics. Iyong metrics na ginagamit natin ngayon, parang we measure activities, and not outcomes, and I think that should change. Not just in agriculture but in many other agencies in the government. We will be more concerned with outcomes rather than activities. Kasi napansin ko, halimbawa, feeding progams. Pag nire-report ito, parating ang report, ilang bata iyong na-feed. Sa agriculture ganoon din, ilan ba iyong nabigay na hindi sinusukat kung ano iyong epekto noong naibigay.

    PETER MANZANO: Thank you, Madam Vice President. PP Harold?

    HAROLD DACUMOS: Madam President—can we call you Madam President? Well, given that other countries are now recovering from the pandemic, and some even managed to keep the number of cases under control, what concrete plans do you have in mind in overcoming the pandemic in our country? Also, do you have plans to shift the healthcare system to create a more affordable, accessible, and yet efficient service for all Filipinos? For example po, iyong cheaper medicine, free healthcare, at ito po ay tanong galing sa ZIE Business School, Patricia.

    VP LENI: Actually, sir, yesterday we had a press conference. We had a press conference, it was [an] extensive discussion of our COVID plan. And in my speech earlier, I already gave a summary of what it is about. The entire—the detailed steps can be found at the website. But just to summarize again what the steps are, we divided our plan into three. And the first one is health, the second one is economy, and the third one is education. As far as health is concerned, we saw a lot of gaps that needed to be filled. Ang example diyan, sir—this was exposed during the surge, especially the second to the last one, and the last one—iyong pila na napakarami sa mga ospital. Iyong mga namamatay na naghihintay sa mga tents. Iyong mga namamatay habang naghihintay ng ospital. Kapag tiningnan natin iyong number of hospital beds as a factor of population, makikita natin na sobrang laki ng gap. Sobrang laki ng gap, like, Metro Manila has 1.4 beds for every 1,000 population. Pero kapag tiningnan natin, iyon na iyong pinakamataas. Iyon na iyong pinakamataas, ang susunod doon, sobrang baba na. Halimbawa, iyong MIMAROPA, 0.1 lang—0.1 bed to 1,000 population. So parang hindi equal iyong distribution. Hindi equal iyong distribution iyong pag-ayos ng hospital capacity. And we are not just talking on the number of beds. Kasama pa dito iyong equipment, iyong kakayahan ng mga ospital na makapagbigay ng serbisyo. That is just one part of it. Pero kapag tiningnan kasi natin, to just summarize everything—kapag tiningnan natin, parang we are only spending about $50 for every patient. Pero iyong average ng mid-level income countries, parang nag-a-average sila parang $190 US dollars per patient. So sobrang layo natin. Sobrang layo natin doon sa international standard, na kailangan talagang dagdagan natin iyong budget for health. Pero ano iyon eh, it’s very complex. Hospital facilities—I mean, health facilities is just one, accessibility is also a problem. So iyong sa akin, mas pagbaba sa communities ng not just service but facilities also. Asikasuhin iyong pag-equip ng mga barangay health centers, ng mga rural health centers. Hindi lang pag-equip sa gamit pero making sure that at least there is a nurse in every barangay. Tapos iyong paggamit ng extensive na telemedicine. We have been doing that since April. Kami nga, wala kaming kaalam-kalam sa medicine, but we are–—we have been doing Bayanihan E-Konsulta wehre volunteer doctors have been helping us. But we saw how important this is, especially for patients who do not have real access to medical services. Pangatlong problemang nakita natin during the pandemic, wala talagang—kulang na kulang iyong ating healthcare personnel. Kulang na kulang iyong ating healthcare personnel, kahit mayroong beds available, hospitals cannot take in patients anymore dahil kulang. Kapag tiningnan natin iyong entry-level salary ng nurses natin, for example, ang layo natin. Ang layo natin compared to other countries. I think ang entry-level natin is only about 32,000 to 34,000. Tapos iyong parang mid-level na mga nurses yata natin mga 40,000. Kapag ikinumpara natin iyon sa other countries, ang layo. Ang layo ng suweldo ng ibang bansa. So, how do we keep? How do we keep our healthcare personnel if we do not compensate them enough? Marami. Marami, Sir, but all of this is available in our website. Pero there is much that—there is much to be done. Pati iyong rollout ng universal healthcare, matagal na itong na-pass pero hanggang ngayon, hindi pa operationalized most of the provisions of the universal healthcare.

    HAROLD DACUMOS: Maraming, maraming salamat po, Madam Vice President. May related question ako na last question: It’s reported that the national government outstanding debt stood at P11.61 trillion as of July 2021. Iyon pong programa ninyo na in-outline about health, economy and education, obviously need funding, okay? At how do you address this ballooning debt, okay, of our national government in relation to other programs that need priority funding, assuming that you will make it in the May 2022 election, Madam?

    VP LENI: Actually, Sir, during the press conference yesterday, I mentioned– I mentioned yesterday na may na-identify na kami. Na may na-identify na kami na about P500 billion. Hind siya new entry in the budget. Pero mga nasa budget siya na puwedeng i-convert for—puwedeng i-refocus into pandemic fund. Kapag tiningnan natin iyong outstanding debt natin ngayon, almost P13 trillion. A big percentage of this comes from loans from the World Bank and the ADB. And these were concessional and emergency loans na gustong sabihin, lower iyong interest rates niya, at saka mas maayos iyong debt structure. So para sa akin, the more pressing issue really is not the absolute amount of the debt, pero papaano ba natin ginamit? Papaano ba natin ginamit o papaano ba natin ginagamit iyong perang hiniram natin?

    So first of all, we will have to signal to the creditors na we will abide by the terms of the debt. Second, we need to show that we used and are using the money wisely. We will ensure that corruption issues hounding COVID response now will stop. We will make the message very clear, iyong perang pinahiram sa atin, ginagamit natin ito nang maayos for the Filipino prople. Tapos iyong pangatlo siguro dito, kapag tiningnan kasi natin iyong debt to GDP ratio, ngayon nasa 60% na tayo. Nasa 60% na tayo, before pandemic I think a little over 40%. So grabe na iyong tinaas niya talaga. And this is worrying. Because kapag lumampas pa ito sa 60%, magsi-signal na ito ng debt crisis. So kailangan, we need to plug in the leaks to make sure that no money is lost to corruption. And that iyong utang that we are acquiring should go to where it is meant to. We will focus on increasing economic activity, and try to return to normal as soon as possible. Kasi iyong susi kasi dito, how fast we recover so that we will incur less debt in the future. Hindi na natin kailangan umutang kasi bumabalik na tayo sa maayos. At saka mababa natin iyong debt-to-GDP ratio para ma-prevent natin iyong possible na credit ratings lost. We will also implement the budget and the programs of the government properly.  We will implement social protection programs to ensure no one is left behind. Kanina ikinuwento ko na ito na iyong tulong sa MSMEs para ma-prevent iyong more unemployment. Iyong big ticket projects like infrastructure, we will partner with the private sector so that we will not add to the burden of government. Financing infra projects, and we can concentrate on incentivizing innovations. Social protection for the vulnerable, improving programs for social mobility, and helping our SMEs recover. Ako, Sir, while malaki iyong problema natin, I am confident na pag na-arrest natin ito after the elections, we will be on the road to recovery as long as we restore confidence of the people sa kanilang gobyerno.

    HAROLD DACUMOS: Maraming, maraming salamat po. Attorney Howie, your turn, please.

    HOWIE CALLEJA: Okay. Good afternoon again, Madam Vice President. And sinabi na po ni PP Harold, President Leni. So ang akin pong huling katanungan, Madam President, pagka po inyong panalo sa May at pagkaupo niyo po sa June 2020, ipagpapatuloy niyo po ba ang ayuda, o isusulong niyo po ang across the board na increase sa ating minimum wage na siguro po 10% para po matulungan ang ating kababayan at para po matulungan ang ating ekonomiya? So maybe an increase in the minimum wage of 10%, Madam President?

    VP LENI: Ako, iyon iyong kahilingan. Attorney Howie, iyon iyong kahilingan ng maraming mga manggagawa na kabahagi ng ating programa since 2016. Pero iyong sa amin, iyong parati naming policy dito sa office since I assumed office in 2016, na iyong lahat na policy na lumalabas, sisiguraduhin na napapakinggan. Sisiguraduhin na maglagay kami ng mekanismo para mapakinggan iyong maraming mga hinaing ng mga iba’t-ibang mga sektor. We will make sure government is there to help the more vulnerable. Level playing field ito sa lahat, pero naiintindihan ko na dapat iyong aksyon ng government, mas tinutulungan niya iyong mas nangangailangan. Pero having said that, I’ll also provide an environment for businesses to thrive. Kasi ano naman iyon, eh, hindi siya magkahiwalay. Hindi siya mutually exclusive. Actually, iyong pag-thrive ng businesses is part of helping the labor sector. Pero we will always find ways in making sure na iyong mga naiiwan sa—iyong parati kong sinasabi na naiiwan sa laylayan ng lipunan, hindi siya lalong maiiwan. Hindi siya lalong maiiwan kapag hindi binibigay sa kaniya iyong mekanismo para makahabol siya. And just a part of that, maraming mga conflicting na mga pagtingin. Halimbawa, one of the things na hinihingi ng maraming mga labor sectors na nakakausap natin, na magkaroon ng uniform na minimum wage na national in scale. Ngayon kasi naka-regional tayo. So maraming mga bagay na kailangan idiskusyon. Pero parati iyong assurance is bibigyan ng boses ang lahat. At they will take part directly in governance, they will take part directly in policy-making.


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    Posted in Transcripts on Nov 09, 2021