Press Release
July 26, 2018

Win Transcript - CNN interview

Q: Senate Committee on Economic Affairs and Energy, let's welcome Senator Sherwin Gatchalian. May we know your thoughts on Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as House Speaker?

SEN WIN: Well, it's part of our democracy and the majority have spoken and they want a new leadership in the House, nangyayari naman yan eh. I think they shift now because Speaker Arroyo is known to be an economist so I would expect a lot of shifts towards the economic reforms of the administration. A lot of political talk during the former speaker but now, I think the shift will be on the economic reforms. I think we need that.

Q: That makes you happy I'm sure. Definitely, right?

SEN WIN: All of us will be happy, in the last two years, a lot of conversations revolved around anti-drugs, criminality, even the SONA, the SONA for me is the most-balanced SONA by the President after two years of his administration. We talked about a lot of economic reforms and not in a very complicated jargon but he talked about a lot of things that will improve the business climate and the business environment of our country. Also, he talked about the the ease of doing business and anti-corruption. The ease of doing business, constantly, kapag tinanong mo ang mga foreign investors sasabihin nila ang hirap mag negosyo dito because of red tape so the President called them out. In fact, Congress and the Senate have already approved the expanded anti-red tape, he signed it and he wants everyone to implement it which is good for business.

Q: In fact, sinabi niya yun eh, sabi niya those agencies who have increased red tape records, I'm calling you out but we're going to talk about that, hihimayin natin yan. I know you said it's the most balanced SONA, but I want to shift back first to the House of Representatives, why? Because number one, you're a Senator, number two you were a Congressman for two terms, 2001 and 2013. So this happened yesterday, a shouting match ensued. As a Senator and former Congressman, how do you feel seeing that?

SEN WIN: Again, being a collegial body, it's really the prerogative of the Speaker to call the shots. It is important to move along the agenda and typically in the practice of legislative process, you give them chance to speak but there's a limitation also. Congress being a big body, you can't speak for hours and hours and delay everything so it is really the prerogative of the Speaker on that matter or the presiding officer to move along. I think at that time, sinabi ng Speaker na, 'look, we have to move along, we have to move on kasi hindi ito matatapos'.

Q: But do you cringe?

SEN WIN: Well, I've seen worse to be honest about it. I've seen boxing matches. What is important here is number one, everyone should be heard, dapat walang matataboy.

Q: The majority floor leader was not heard, Congressman Tinio was not heard right?

SEN WIN: I think they had informal talks about it and they had formal discussions already but again, it is the prerogative of the Speaker that things should move along or else the measures will be delayed, the whole process will be delayed and at the same time in our system, the majority really is the ultimate voice.

Q: Well, one thing that was passed or one bill that was ratified didn't happen yesterday but the day before yesterday, is the Bangsamoro Organic Law, finally you're also a part of that. How does it feel that finally the President said he wants to sign it within 48 hours?

SEN WIN: This is actually a momentous moment in the Muslim Mindanao region, a momentous event for the entire country for that matter because for many many years, for decades, the Muslim Mindanao area has been left behind because of instability and I've been there many times and the land, the climate, the potential is enormous but because of instability caused by insurgencies, walang gustong mag-invest doon. I've been to the technical working groups, debates all the way to the end, I've seen how the proponents especially the Bangsamoro Transition Committee of which the members come from both the MNLF and MILF, I've seen them negotiate and compromise, I've seen them give in for peace. Marami sa kanila from the beginning, had a hard stance but at the end sabi nila para umusad and bring stability and jobs to that region, they compromised.

Q: How optimistic are you that this is going to work?

SEN WIN: I think a lot of the shortcomings of the past law were addressed here. A very specific example is on fiscal autonomy, it is one of the key features of this bill. I've seen how ARMM would come to Congress, ask for money, ask for funds pero nakaka-cut but here they have full fiscal autonomy meaning they will now chart their own direction by utilizing those funds and it's no ordinary fund, our minimum count for the allocation including everything will be approximately 120 billion pesos a year so it's no small change. I think with that amount of money, they will now have the capacity to build the basic services there, build what is necessary to grow their region and it will have the autonomy to implement projects that is necessary for the future of that region.

Q: Their domestic interaction but of course I guess it does help that the BBL was established prior to the BOL. During the time of President Aquino, medyo natigil nga iyon because of the Mamasapano, and then the BBL is now called the BOL.

SEN WIN: What is important here is the stability of the region, kasama rin dito is the most important feature is really the commissioning on firearms and the commissioning of the arm group of the MILF and MNLF. This is actually the most important activity subsequently.

Q: I guess because in the end you will see a more unified country fighting a rebel group that is still exists.

SEN WIN: I think this is also a good message to our friends in the CPP-NPA, again, putting a lot of emphasis in compromise. I've seen how the two groups really give in for the sake of peace because they want stability, hindi ito pwedeng pang-habangbuhay eh.

Q: Alright so you have the BOL, the Bangsamoro Organic Law hopefully signed by the President anytime this week or probably even next week but one of the very important issues also being talked about is charter change, Senator Grace Poe when she found out that it was Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who will be House Speaker, she made a comment that baka mamaya magising na lang tayo na ang prime minister who she is referring to GMA, at yung president ay patas na ang kapangyarihan. Do you feel somehow the same way? Ano ang iyong pakiramdam na si GMA ang House Speaker?

SEN WIN: I can say this with certainty that the general sentiment of the Senator is we will not allow charter change to be a tool to perpetuate anyone's power or to prolong anyone's authority. Charter change will be about the Filipino people not about anyone's power or authority extending beyond his mandate.

Q: Do you feel more comfortable though that Speaker Arroyo was saying that she will work hand-in-hand with the Senate on Cha-Cha as opposed to an Ex Speaker Alvarez who's kind of saying that you don't need to vote separately on this.

SEN WIN: This is a legal process and this is really what is supposed to be, the process that is prescribed by the Constitution is that both chambers should vote together not separately.

Q: But it never said voting separately?

SEN WIN: That's another issue that we need to talk but in our case, in our belief, it should be voting separately.

Q: My question is, when we talk about Cha-Cha, are you more comfortable with GMA as speaker compared to Alvarez as speaker?

SEN WIN: To be honest about it, I think it's also one of the principal reasons why a lot of Congressmen chose Speaker Arroyo is because of that unilateral decision of pushing charter change, switching charter change by Congress itself and also the talk of no-el. No-el is very controversial, it doesn't leave a very good impression to our voters. TRAIN 2

Q: Senator Migz Zubiri yesterday said that it was not a priority of the Senator to pass the TRAIN 2.

SEN WIN: I think he was coming from the point that no one filed the version of TRAIN 2 in the Senate, it's already been six months and none of the Senators filed TRAIN 2 so we have nothing to talk about in the Senate. This is my thought on TRAIN 2, napaso na ang mga Senators eh kasi sa TRAIN 1, during the hearings, we were assured that inflation will not breach four percent and that was repeated many many times. In fact, we asked pano kung nag breach ng 4%? Then we included the unconditional cash transfers and the other mitigating measures, funded yan ha, 21 million for the unconditional cash transfers but six months down the road, inflation breached 4% in fact it's 5.2%. So everyone is now saying ano ang nangyari? How come you never forecasted all of these variables outside of the Philippines? And now, we are left here answering to the Filipino people. On top of that, the mitigating measures that we inserted in the bill are not being complied to date, only half of the unconditional cash transfers were given out so may mga ganitong issues. That's why it's hard for us to talk about TRAIN 2 if there are a lot of unanswered questions in TRAIN 1 and now there is also a question of trust. Was the information given to us during the debates accurate? Was it forecasted properly? And how are we assured when we talk about TRAIN 2, that data will be accurate and forecasted properly?

Q: Senator, for now, you were not inclined to support TRAIN 2 at all?

SEN WIN: In my point of view, I will really approach it very very cautiously. The reason why I want to approach it is because it is part of the legislative agenda of the President. The President, being the chief executive, he is looking after the welfare of everyone and since he mentioned it in his SONA, he feels strongly about this. I am assuming that he is given full information about what TRAIN 2 is all about and he made a conscious decision to push it through the SONA that is why we want to look at it.

Q: I understand what you're saying that you will approach TRAIN 2 very cautiously because I guess there were promises that were not fulfilled.

SEN WIN: Correct, we consider the information inaccurate.

Q: The TRAIN package funds education, the healthcare system, one of your advocacies would be education so if you do not pass TRAIN 2, I am not saying that this is certain but there is a possibility that it might affect the fund for free education, how does that make you feel?

SEN WIN: Actually, I would estimate that almost 80% of the TRAIN package will probably fund the Build, Build, Build program. This is the single largest program and expense of the government at eight trillion pesos. Yung mga free irrigation, free education is actually minuscule compared to the eight trillion pesos to be funded in the next four years so it's really to fund the Build, Build, Build program. Admittedly, the Build, Build, Build program is very important to sustain the growth of our country, we're not only looking in the Duterte administration, we're looking also at the next administration and we need those fundamental infrastructures to fund our economy the next 20 years. That's why TRAIN 2 is part of his SONA because I think the President feels that this is important to the future of the country but we are very cautious kasi kumbaga, napaso na tayo in TRAIN 1 and we were not caught in surprise. How come inflation breached the 4%? In fact to the very end of the budget deliberations, if you look at the assumptions here, it's 2%-4% so bakit hindi nakita ito? It is really the responsibility of our economic managers, Bangko Sentral and the DOF to forecast these things and give us accurate information and give us the risks. I don't buy the reason that hindi namin nakita to eh, it's your job to forecast and give us full view of the risk.

Q: Wouldn't that be your job as well?

SEN WIN: It is our job also but we work hand-in-hand with the Bangko Sentral and the DOF because they have a whole building of economies and forecasters so we rely on them on information.

Q: Senator Bam Aquino was one of those who did not support the TRAIN Law, we were speaking to him and he was saying that a way to mitigate this for now, he also enumerated that unconditional cash transfer was not fully fulfilled, is to suspend the excise tax. Would you be amenable to doing that Sir?

SEN WIN: TRAIN Law has three tranches. I think the first tranche will be a bit complicated to suspend. The increase in salary of soldiers and policemen which account for 70 billion pesos, nakapasok na, yung personal income tax na nagbigay tayo ng reprieve to 250,000 earners and below nakapasok na din siya. So I think in the first tranche its quite complicated, that's why we're monitoring the fluctuations on inflation very carefully because the second tranche is a completely new revenue, we could suggest or urge the administration in the second tranche if ever inflation will go beyond controllable point.

Q: but you are talking as if you are going to pass TRAIN 2 because the excise tax in package 2 for petroleum products is in TRAIN 2--

SEN WIN: No excise tax on fuel is part of the package 1 and it comes in three tranches--

Q: But the 2nd tranche will be next year?

SEN WIN: Yes, correct 2019.

Q: It's not, tranche 2 is part of TRAIN 2, nakalatag na. So you're saying it's possible that you may ask?

SEN WIN: We may urge the administration to suspend if ever inflation goes beyond controllable environment. That's why this is such a balanced SONA because it deals with a lot of economic aspect of our nation.

Q: Are you happy, he didn't touch on inflation?

SEN WIN: He talked about tariffication, and it is a tool to solve inflation.

Q: You have a different version in the Senate?

SEN WIN: Different version but it still talks about tarifficaion, market forces dictating the supply and demand of rice.

Q: Entry of a third telco?

SEN WIN: We have some proposals to make it easier for a third telco to come in. There is the Lifetime Mobile Cellphone number bill wherein if you want switch to another telco, di mo na papalitan yung cellphone number mo, dala-dala mo na yan. So for example there's a third telco coming in and you want to move, dala mo na yan yung existing number mo.

Q: Pero hindi mandatory sir?

SEN WIN: Hindi mandatory, option mo yun, if gusto mo ng bagong number option mo yun but that's a barrier for subscribers to move from one service provider to another. He talked about telco being a solution to improve internet speed, to lower down cost, and that's an economic policy because a lot of our small and medium enterprises and I have talked to some of them, they want to do internet e-commerce but sa bagal ng internet natin at kamahal, it's not economic for them to do e-commerce but if they can lay the groundwork for SME's to do e-commerce then we increase our number of SME's.

Q: You can pass a bill on this entry of a third telco, would that require congressional franchise? Or other option is the executive department enticing China, Korea to come in... which is more viable?

SEN WIN: Correct, actually the franchise is really a privilege for them to operate but the mode of coming in and to make sure the third telco will be more viable and will comply with certain standards and will have the financial muscle to withstand heavy competition, that's the job of the Executive, trabaho na nila to scrutinize the muscle and technical capability of the new telco to fulfil its promises.

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