Palace explains status of ‘economic adviser’

November 06, 2018
Rodrigo R. Duterte
Rodrigo R. Duterte

WEEKS after President Rodrigo Duterte denied appointing Michael Yang as an adviser on economic affairs, his spokesman confirmed yesterday  that the Chinese businessman had been engaged as a Palace consultant on economic matters.

“[He is] one of the consultants of the President. He consults him every now and then,” Presidential spokesman and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo said at a news conference.

“He rose from poor origins to being a wealthy man and he has a technical know-how to run a business and also because he is Chinese he knows a lot of people in the Chinese government and he knows the psychology of the Chinese,” he added.

Panelo made the confirmation after a report citing records from Malacañang showed that the Palace entered into contracts with Yang, giving him the title of “Economic Adviser to the President.”

Asked if the President appointed Yang, Panelo said: “It appears from the document that I saw, signed by Secretary (Menardo) Guevarra and (Executive) Secretary (Salvador) Medialdea.”

Yang was tapped as an “economic adviser to the President” from January 1, 2018 to June 30, 2018 and from July 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018.

Yang was identified in the documents by his Chinese name Yang Hong Ming, according to the report.

Panelo insisted that it was the two Secretaries who signed Yang’s contracts and not President Duterte.

Duterte earlier denied Yang was his adviser after the Chinese businessman allegedly claimed that he was the President’s economic adviser.

Panelo went on to defend Yang’s contracts, noting that Duterte needed a man like him who “has a technical love on running [a] business.”

“He (Duterte) consults him (Yang) every now and then…He has a technical love on running business and also because he is Chinese, he knows a lot of people in the Chinese government. And he knows the psychology of China. On that aspect, the President needs people like him,” Panelo said.

He also dispelled concerns that Yang might use his position to influence the government’s foreign policies.

“One, [the] economic adviser cannot create policies. It’s the President who creates policies,” he stressed.

Duterte previously revealed Yang’s close relations with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua. The President also cleared the Chinese businessman of any links to the illegal drug trade.