- President Rodrigo Duterte forms committee to hold talks with Church
- The committee will consist of Roque, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella, and Pastor “Boy” Saycon
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has agreed to engage in talks with religious leaders in the country to help reduce tensions between his government and the Church, Malacañang announced on Tuesday, June 26.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. in a press briefing held here said the President ordered the formation of a three-man committee to oversee the conduct of a dialogue with the Catholic Church and other religious groups.
The committee will consist of Roque, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella, and Pastor “Boy” Saycon. Roque said the agenda would be defined by both parties once the dialogue commences.
“Ang tema ng mga pag-uusap ay paano mabawasan ‘yung hidwaan sa pagitan ng gobyerno at ng simbahan,” the Spokesperson stressed.
“Tingnan natin kung paano mapapabuti ang samahan dahil iisang lipunan lang naman po ang pinaglilingkuran ng gobyerno at ng simbahan,” he added.
Roque said the President’s decision came after calls were made by different church groups, including the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEP), for the government to hold talks with them.
The Cabinet official said he would be reaching out to the PCEP soon to inform them of the formation of the committee. Furthermore, Pastor Saycon was asked to contact the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to notify them of the government’s commitment to open a dialogue.
“Rest assured that whatever I get from the churches, I will relay to the President,” Roque stressed.
Meanwhile, the Palace Spokesperson defended anew President Duterte’s remarks about the Church, stressing that even the Chief Executive is entitled to his own religious freedom.
“No one can question a person’s faith, lack of faith, or his own interpretation of the god that he believes in. ‘Yan po ay karapatan ng lahat. Pati po ang Presidente, may ganyang karapatan,” Roque said.
“Paulit-ulit namang sinasabi ng Presidente na nirerespeto niya ang kalayaan ng malayang pananalita at malayang pag-iisip. So tanggapin po natin ang mga sinasabi ng Presidente within the context of these freedoms,” he added.
Rice, corn output rises in first quarter of 2018
During the same press briefing, Malacañang welcomed the latest Rice and Corn Outlook Report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), which showed an increased production of rice and corn during the first quarter of 2018.
Citing the report, Secretary Roque said palay production reached 4.62 million metric tons (MT) for Q1, surpassing by 4.61 percent the January-March 2017 output of 4.42 million MT.
Likewise, the January-March 2018 corn output increased by 4.66 percent at 2.48 million MT compared to the 2.37 million MT record for the same period of last year.
“According to the PSA, the increase in palay and corn production were largely attributed to the improved harvest areas due to the early onset of rainfall, constant use of high yielding varieties of seeds, and technical and financial assistance from the government and private sectors,” Roque said.
According to Roque, the Duterte administration also plans to expand the coffee production areas to about 1,000 hectares in the Davao Region, one of the top producers of coffee in the country with a total area of 2,300 hectares.
“At present, a total of 185,500 trees were rehabilitated region-wide, which include 13,000 trees in Davao City, 82,500 trees in Davao del Sur and Davao Occidental, 15,000 trees in Davao Oriental, 15,000 trees in Davao del Norte and 60,000 trees in Compostela Valley,” the Spokesperson cited.