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Press attachés to counter ‘fake news’

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To counter the heightened disinformation abroad against the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, the Palace is now pushing the creation of a press attaché post in foreign missions.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar said Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto’s recognition during the agency’s budget hearing for the need of the media coordinators abroad carries a lot of weight to support the call for the new diplomatic position.

“Everytime that I travel abroad and talk to our ambassadors, they would mention the need for press attaches since the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) does not have enough personnel. They are asking for people who would coordinate with media such as broadcasting companies. Thus, our foreign missions are undermanned,” Andanar said.

Andanar noted that foreign media coordinators are greatly needed in key regions such as the United Kingdom, the United States, the Middle East, Japan and China.

“They are the important partners of the Philippines,” Andanar said.

“It is very important that the Philippine government has representatives in these countries who will be responsible for coordinating with media and in providing communication,” Andanar said.

Media relations vital

“All major countries and organizations require media relations. When we don’t have that we have a huge problem,” Andanar said.

Andanar cited the related problem with the budget in creating the posts.
“We have been clamoring for the creation of the posts since 2016 but it failed to materialize due to budget limitation, according to (Budget) Secretary (Benjamin) Diokno. But now, Senate President Tito Sotto has noted the need for such representation,” he said.

He added the recognition from the head of the Senate for such requirement “carries a heavy weight” when it comes to policies that the government should consider.

The new positions will need additional funding since a press attaché will need a living allowance, salary, the maintenance for his office although this is usually accommodated by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Andanar said.

All for forming OPS

Andanar is also backing the call for the creation of an Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) that will take in the PCOO under its wing based on a proposal of Sotto.

Sotto suggested the streamlining of operations of the government’s messaging arm. He said President Rodrigo Duterte was informed about it and the Chief Executive was “receptive” to the idea.

“It’s a great proposal and as a matter of fact, in 2016 when I first came to office, I have already proposed that to Executive Secretary Medialdea,” Andanar said.

He added the suggestion did not prosper because it was “overtaken by events and issues.”

“The proposal of Sen. Tito Sotto was just in time because there are divisions in the PCOO that were dropped from the Office of the Secretary that is still existing,” Andanar explained.

The PCOO was created in 2010 by former President Benigno Aquino III through Executive Order 4 which also established the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office.

Swift House action

Andanar said it only took two minutes for the House of Representatives to pass PCOO’s budget last Wednesday but the Senate approval was deferred to November when Congress resumes session after a one-month break that starts next week.

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