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No EJKs in the Philippines, says trade official

26 July 2017

By Daisy CL Mandap

Trade and Industry Secretary
Ramon M. Lopez
There are no extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, only deaths that resulted from big drug syndicates fighting each other in the wake of the government’s massive anti-drug campaign.

This was the assurance given to investors by the Philippine Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, during the ASEAN-Hong Kong Business Conference held at Cyberport in Pokfulam on June 12.

“What we have been telling business people is, one, our President has been very clear that there will be no abuses. There will be no deaths under investigation. In fact, EJK is a word wrongly used. To us, there is no EJK because all of the police action taken...all are following rules of engagement. It is clear that if they (drug syndicates) fight back, they will be eliminated,” said Secretary Lopez.

He was responding to a question from Prof. Mark Thompson of City University of Hong Kong on how reports of thousands of people being killed as a result of the government’s anti-drug campaign have affected investors’ confidence in the Philippines.

Media reports in the Philippines and overseas have placed the number of EJK deaths to as high as 12,000 but Lopez said the figures are “all wrong”.

“The number is really 2,000 but recognizing again, that these..you are up against big drug syndicates and they are fighting back”, Lopez said.

He conceded that there could have been a higher number of casualties, but reiterated that this was the result of a “cleansing” among big drug syndicates, and did not involve the police.

Those looking at investing in the Philippines  must also look at the 70,000 “peaceful arrests” made by the police, Lopez said, as well as the three million drug dependents who have surrendered since the government’s campaign began.

Another controversial question he deflected came from Prof. Reuben Mondejar, also of City U, who asked about reports about President Rodrigo R. Duterte being in poor health, fueled by his disappearance from public view for as long as five days in a row.

Lopez laughed off the question, saying the President is “as strong as a carabao”.

In his keynote address, Lopez made a strong pitch for investing in the Philippines, calling the country as “one of the fastest growing economies in the world”.

He cited the country’s comparatively high GDP growth, which hovers between 6.4 to 6.8%. He said the high GDP is fueled by the growing confidence not just among consumers, but also investors.

“Make your company grow with us,” he urged investors. “President Duterte is very much into ensuring peace and cracking down on corruption.”

Lopez also thanked the organizers of the networking event, which brought together 10 ASEAN states, including the Philippines, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and Brunei

The event was organized by HK Expat Networking to mark the 50th founding anniversary of ASEAN, and the Philippines’ hosting of the annual gathering of member-states in November this year.

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