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FOI EO delayed due to sea row

Manila, Philippines – The executive order on the freedom of information has been delayed since the government is focused on another pressing matter – the arbitration ruling on the maritime row in the West Philippine Sea, a Palace official said yesterday.

Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Martin Andanar, however, assured that the proposed EO may be signed by President Duterte this week.

“Wala naman contentious issues doon sa Freedom of Information executive order,” Andanar said over government radio. “Ang nangyari po last week ay we were overtaken by the event. Like for instance the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague. So doon po tayo nakatutok lahat,” he added.

The Palace official was referring to the government’s efforts to resolve the maritime row with China after the international tribunal ruled in favor of the country’s territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea. The President earlier announced plans to initiate bilateral talks with China with former President Fidel V. Ramos as his special envoy.

Andanar said the proposed EO implementing the FOI in the Executive branch has already been finalized. It passed the scrutiny of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, and other Palace lawyers, he added.

The draft EO has already been submitted to the President for review. It was supposed to be issued last week. “This week, sisikapin po natin na mapirmahan ng Pangulo,” Andanar said.

Early this month, Duterte said he wanted to “hurry up the process” with his administration’s planned implementation of FOI in the Executive branch.

The proposed executive order is entitled “Operationalizing in the Executive branch the people’s constitutional right to information and the state of policies of full public disclosure and transparency in public service and providing guidelines therefore.”

Duterte explained that the EO on FOI will only cover the Executive branch, saying he “cannot mind the two – Judiciary and Congress – due to separation of powers.” (Genalyn D. Kabiling)