Press Release
August 19, 2019

Excerpts from CNN's Interview with Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon
CNN's The Source with Ms. Pinky Webb
19 August 2019

Q: Congratulations on your award, Sir. Many years of development, an area na hindi masyadong napapansin noon.

Drilon: Thank you very much. One of my greatest pride is being able to revive the Iloilo River and there I worked closely with Gina Lopez. Gina was a warrior of the environment. Indeed, I am saddened by her passing and I express condolence to the Lopez family. We shared good practices and I was convinced that she was good for the environment, that's why I supported her fully when she was before the Committee on Appointment. Unfortunately, she left us. It is a void that is difficult to fill.

Q: What would you most remember?

Drilon: Her passion. Indeed, she would not let anyone stand in the way in her passion to bring back the environment to where it should be.

Q: Do you find that concerning?

Drilon: First, I support Sec. Lorenzana's recommendation. The security aspect is something that we cannot just brush aside. That's the job of sec. Lorenzana to advise us on matter of security. He did mention that this poses some difficulties, at the very least, and danger to our security given the proximity of the POGO hubs to our military camps. I cannot understand why it is so difficult to allow them only in areas where the security concern would not be an issue. Sec. Lorenzana is a competent official. He has nothing but good intentions. Why don't we defer to his judgment? What's wrong with that?

Q: Is it concerning?

Drilon: It is a concern.

Q: Do you think it's purely incidental?

Drilon: Maybe it's not deliberate. But it gives them the opportunity when there's a need for it. It's convenient when there is a need for it. I am not saying that Sec. Lorenzana's concern is not valid. We should defer to him. He has nothing but good intentions. I can't understand why we can't have POGO locations farther away from military camps.

Q: One thing is, if they're in those hubs, there is the chance that they can be used for information gathering.

Drilon: That's right. Maybe not right now. But why should we leave that chance unchecked?

Q: On the Chinese Ambasaddor's statement that OFWs may be suspected of spying

Drilon: I would rather recall the statement of Sec. Lorenzana when he described that possibility of our OFWs in China spying for the Philippines as "preposterous". Our OFWs are there to earn a living. I cannot imagine that they're being engaged in spying activities. I would associate myself with the statement of Sec. Lorenzana. This is preposterous and simply beyond the realm of possibilities.

Q: So, you are for possibly putting them in a hub?

Drilon: Yes, I would have no objection to that. Let's examine it closely.

Q: Are you for POGOs?

Drilon: I am not for POGOs. I am against gambling. POGOs deprived our workers opportunity to earn a living. Filipinos are not adept at Mandarin but it is something that can be learned. Basically, POGO is a gambling game; here, however, since we recognzie the industry, we did allow them to come in.

Q: Would you rather na ipagbawal po ang POGO dito?

Drilon: I am open to that. I would like to think there is certainly great merit into looking at the possibility of closing down POGOs.

Q: On Chinese vessels passing through Philippine waters. What's going on, Sir?

Drilon: We don't know. That's precisely the cause of concerns of many of us; we don't know what's happening there. It made worse by what appears the arrogance of Chinese government in disregarding our territorial limits and, worst, not even observing rules of advising our Armed Forces of their passing through our waters. From the policy point of view, this must be corrected, because as we keep on tolerating it weakens further our claim over the West Philippine Sea. What is important is our being consistent in protesting these to the Chinese government and asserting our sovereignty over our Philippine waters. Through diplomatic pressures and bring it before the international bodies. We can generate world opinion to put pressure on China. We cannot afford an attitude na "hindi natin kaya iyan." No, that's totally wrong. We keep on asserting our sovereignty so we will not be viewed as we're giving it up.

Q: On the comment of Sec. Panelo that China's action becomes an irritant

Drilon: Maybe at the start, it's just an irritant but when it goes on, it becomes serious than simply being an irritant. As I said, it will erode our claim over the WPS, as sustained by the arbitral court. That's the danger if we just watch this without saying anything. As I said, we have no military capability but we have venues in the world stage available to us.

Q: What can the Senate do? I know you have this resolution expressing the sense of the Senate...

Drilon: That will go a long way. I urged the new committee chairman, Sen. Koko Pimentel, to actively expose to public debates this issue on the WPS.

Q: As senator, what do you want to hear from the President when he brings this up with Chinese President?

Drilon: In general, our President should continue to assert our claim on the West Philippine Sea as supported by the ruling of the arbitral court that we secured three years ago.

Q: Do you think it's a little too late?

Drilon: No, it's never too late. If you look at experience, territorial dispute takes a long time. What is important is consistency, so that we cannot be deemed as abandoning our claim.

Q: On Philhealth losses and unpaid claims

Drilon: I suspect that this is just a tip of the iceberg. We do not know deep it is. We do not know how far it is and how prejudiced the actuarial life of Philhealth is. Given these losses, the actuarial life is an issue. Also, the burden on the national budget becomes heavier every year. With the Universal Health Care Law, every year the budget will be so much.

Q: Where will you get that?

Drilon: We are imposing taxes. We are doing again another round of tax increase. In other words, we burden our people with taxes in order to support the UHC, which is very important, and now, you hear of all these anomalies. I do not agree with Mr. Morales that he needs more people. No, Sir, what you need is a system check. In this age of technology, I cannot understand how we cannot have a system.

Q: If you are a Philhealth, P26 billion in net losses and P48 billion unpaid claims, what happens to these hospitals which are not being paid?

Drilon: Exactly. It's a chain reaction. The regional hospitals, public hospitals creating to the poor, which are using their maintenance and operating budget to service the poor, hoping that they would get reimbursement. If they don't get reimbursement, it becomes worst, because they will not be able to serve the poor. It is really a very difficult problem. The corruption there must be addressed, that's why I push hard to have a special audit, so we will know what's happening there.

Q: Nanganganib po ba ang UHC?

Drilon: We will not allow it to collapse. But that is at the price of more burden on the national budget. This is a zero sum game. The budget is put in Philhealth but we remove it from something else. That is why every one should be concerned. This is really something that requires immediate action.

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