Sunday, 30 November 2008

PIA Dispatch - Friday, November 28, 2008

PGMA is back from APEC Leaders’ Summit meet in Peru and visits to Colombia and U.S.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo returned to the country late Thursday night after a trip to Peru where she joined other world leaders in the 16th Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) Leaders’ Summit in Lima.

The President had also visited Colombia before proceeding to the United States to meet the Filipino community in Los Angeles en route to Manila.

The Philippine Airlines flight PR001 carrying the President and her delegation touched down at the Centennial Terminal of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) at around 10:30 last night (Nov. 13).

On hand to welcome the President were First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Armed Forces chief Alexander Yano and National Police head Jesus Versoza.

In an earlier statement, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said the President “returns home from the APEC summit in Peru confident that her strong advocacy for the less-developed economies in the midst of present-day financial challenges finds resonance amongst world leaders."

During the two-day meet (Nov. 22-23), the 21 APEC leaders agreed to hasten the conclusion of the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round of talks which seeks to promote freer trade.

They also signed a statement rejecting trade protectionism as they renewed their commitment to boost ties to cope with the global economic meltdown.

The APEC leaders also expressed support for small and medium enterprises as well as for institutions that could address the liquidity problems of nations hit by the financial turmoil.

After the summit, the President flew to Colombia for a visit during which she had a bilateral meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

The Chief Executive then flew to Los Angeles where she met with the Filipino community and executives of Ingram Micro, an international firm engaged in technology solutions and marketing.

The President also met with Teletech CEO Kenneth Tuchman and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa with whom she discussed matters of common interest, particularly the welfare of some one million Filipinos in Los Angeles.

Chief Girl Scout PGMA honors 2008 outstanding girl scouts

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the country’s Chief Girl Scout, presented today the Chief Girl Scout Medal to 324 senior and cadet Girl Scouts from all over the country in recognition of their exemplary achievements in community development projects in a simple ceremony held at the Heroes Hall in Malacañang.

Northern Luzon topped the number of this year’s awardees with 104 (32 percent); followed by Southern Luzon, 97 (30 percent); Central Luzon, 45 (13.9 percent); Visayas, 31 (9.6 percent); Eastern Mindanao, 30 (9.3 percent); and Western Mindanao, 17 (5.2 percent) awardees.

Dressed in a Girl Scout uniform, the President presented the Chief Scout Medal to each of the 324 awardees who worked on community projects of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP) on ecology, livelihood, cultural heritage and health.

She also donated P1 million that will go to the GSP badge bank so badges could be distributed for free to GSP members.

“Your year-long community development project for 2007-2008 has certainly benefited your barangay and generated awareness of what a Girl Scout can do to improve the quality of life in your community,” the President said in a printed message distributed after the event.

The President noted that the GSP program, which started in 1976, is aligned with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) which uphold the dignity of women, among others.

The GSP’s Chief Girl Scout Medal is the highest award in Philippine Girl Scouting that is built on the concept of developing the total woman, making her well rounded in all aspects -- spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, and social.

The President said the government has made encouraging strides toward the attainment of targets on poverty, child mortality, gender equality, among other MDGs, but that serious challenges and threats remain the same in attaining the 2015 targets.

‘‘But with you, as the role models for young people everywhere, we can ensure a better life for everyone and build prosperity for the greatest number of the Filipinos,’’ the President said.

“Thank you for being the government’s partner in building a strong and united Philippine Republic,” the President added.

Message of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Re: Girls Scouts of the Philippines’ Chief Girl Scout Medal Scheme

Congratulations to the 324 Senior and Cadet Girl Scouts who met the criteria for the Chief Girl Scout Medal Scheme.

Your year-long community development project for 2007-2008 has certainly benefited your barangay and generated awareness of what a Girl Scout can do to improve the quality of life in your community.

Since the Philippines first resolved to adopt the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations, our government has made encouraging strides towards the attainment of targets on poverty, child mortality, etc.

I am proud, as your Chief Girl Scout, to note that the program of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines is aligned with the MDGs which uphold especially the dignity of girls and young women.

Serious challenges and threats remain the same in attaining our targets by year 2015. But with you, as the role models for young people everywhere, we can ensure the better life for every one and build prosperity for the greatest number of the Filipinos.

My heartfelt thanks to you, your family, troop leader, barangay chairman, council board, school administrators, and all those who supported you in your worthy project.

Thank you for being the government’s partner in building a strong and united Philippine Republic.


PGMA presents BizNews Asia’s Awards to VP, Fernando, Belmonte and 19 others

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo presented today the 2008 BizNews Asia’s Real Estate Who is Who (BREW) and 2008 Business Icons Gold (BIG) awards to 22 business legends and empire giants, and three government officials, as a tribute to their innovative works, and achievements in the real estate industry that remains bullish despite the global financial crunch.

The trophies and plaques were handed by the President this afternoon to the BREW and BIG winners during the 7th founding anniversary celebration of BizNews Asia (BNA), the country’s largest weekly business news magazine, at the Grand Ballroom of Hotel Intercontinental in Makati City.

The BREW awardees who received plaque of recognition from the President are Vice President Noli de Castro, chairman, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council; Willie J. Uy, president and CEO, PHINMA Properties; Jose E.B. Antonio, chairman, Century Properties Group; Reghis M. Romero II, president and CEO, R-II Builders Inc.; Alfred Xerez-Burgos Jr., President and CEO, Landco Pacific Corp.; Nestor S. Mangio, chairman, Central Country Estate, Inc.; Isidro A. Consunji, President and CEO, DMCI Holdings, Inc.; Exequiel D. Robles, president and CEO, Sta. Lucia Realty and Development Inc.; Victorio V. Soliven, president and CEO, V.V. Soliven Group of Companies; Mayor Feliciano R. Belmonte Jr. of Quezon City; Chairman Bayani F. Fernando of the Metro Manila Development Authority and Rosemarie Basa, director, Global First Financial Inc.

Vice President De Castro was selected BREW awardee for his initiative to make housing facilities affordable to the masses thru lower interest rates, while Fernando was cited for creating Metro Manila clean and orderly through of his Metro Guwapo campaign.

Quezon City Mayor Belmonte was also cited for rescuing a city burdened by a huge debt, bloated bureaucracy, notorious red tape and a dirty environment, and transforming it into a model of financial health.

The Asian Institute of Management has cited Quezon City as the second most competitive in the country, with a score of 6.61 which is next to Davao City with 7.1 Quezon City also named as the richest city in the metropolis.

The BREW Awards was founded by the BNA to give recognition to the vision, innovative work, and other outstanding achievements of this year’s awardees in the field of real estate despite the global economic and financial crises.

The 2008 BIG awardees who received trophies from the President were Manuel Villar of Vista Land & Lifescapes, Inc.; Alfonso T. Yu-chengco, chairman emeritus, RCBC; Andrew L. Tan, president and CEO, Megaworld Corp.; Raul T. Concepcion, chairman, Concepcion-Carrier; Oscar Lopez, chairman and CEO, Ben-pres Holdings; John Go-kongwei Jr., chairman emeritus, JG Summit Holdings Inc.; Henry Sy Sr., chairman emeritus, SM Investments Corp.; and Ramon Ang, president and COO, San Miguel Corp.

Those who failed to attend in the awarding rites are Atty. Felipe Gozon, chairman and president of GMA Network Inc.; and Manuel Pangilinan, president and CEO, Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) Co.

Before the awarding rites, the President cut the ribbon for the opening of the painting exhibit of Leonardo Lopez, elder brother of BizNews Asia president and Publisher Antonio Lopez.

The BizNewsAsia Who is Who in Real Estate (BREW) awards honor tycoons, taipans and chief executive officers (CEOs) who have made significant contributions to the flowering of real estate and allied industries and services.

PGMA talks on governance focus, faith, discipline, unpopularity, heartaches, calories and fulfillment

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo admitted today that her unwavering focus on governance to bring stability and peace to the country had cost her the popularity that every chief executive aspires for from the governed.

In an interview with BizNews Asia publisher Tony Lopez who asked her what her biggest achievement is after eight years in the presidency, the President said, “… It’s really up to history to judge.

“What I can say is that during my presidency, we've been focused on reforming the economy, we've been focused on generating investment, we've been focused on creating new and better infrastructures, we've been focused on building a social safety net, especially in healthcare, education and to bring stability and peace to the country.”

And at what cost? “Well, if you look at the cost, we've been able to have a very prudent fiscal situation.

“So, if ever, the cost is only to my popularity,” the President lamented.

She pointed out, however, that she had come to the presidency prepared for such situation as she had been well advised by her late father – former Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal – who had told her, “You don't enter public life to enjoy your self – you enter public life ready to serve the people, to sacrifice, to suffer if need be.”

Asked what her biggest presidential disappointment is so far, the President kept her heartaches to herself: “That, I keep to myself. Because, as I said, it's not the–-since one is prepared to sacrifice, and one is prepared to suffer, there's no need to wear one's heart (on one’s sleeve).”

Could she be suffering in silence? The stoic President Arroyo stressed: “Let's just put it this way. I am a very disciplined person so I will not … I do not… (waste time) on self pity.”

But disappointed she may be, the President is not letting the downs of the presidency weigh her down. Asked for the secret of her youthful looks that makes her “seem to be getting younger each day despite the burden,” the now 61-year-old President unveiled her fountain of youth:

“Hard work, faith – very strong faith -- and discipline in my regimen.”

The regimen of 16 hours of work everyday? “No, it's not what you count in work, it's what you count to give yourself stamina.

“Seven hours of sleep, three-times-a-week exercise, keeping my schedule disciplined so that I don't over fill my day with the less significant activities; and then my vitamins, my diet – it's a very healthy diet,” the President shared.

As to the very healthy diet, the Chief Executive pointed to the palace chefs: “It's made by the kitchen. They count calories and they give me the amount of food that they think I should eat.”

“… It's just the quantity, the moderation… It’s the calorie count. So, the kitchen takes care of that.”

The President added that it is also the Palace kitchen that concocted the low-calorie, low-cholesterol “heart’s delight” diet especially for First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo following his surgery a year and a half ago at St. Luke’s Hospital.

“When my husband went to St. Luke's for his surgery a year and a half ago, they gave him a diet called heart's delight. So, I'm sure that diet is available to anybody (who may be interested to try it). Heart’s delight. Well, it's good for the heart.”

Odds favor RP not going into recession -- PGMA

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said today that predicting the impact of the global financial meltdown is a risky business, but given its strong economic fundamentals, the Philippines will not go into recession.

“At least not as far as our predictions are concerned,” the President said in an interview with Tony Lopez, president and publisher of BizNews Asia (BNA).

She said predicting the actual effect on a particular economy of the financial crisis sweeping across the world would be akin to reading a crystal ball because of the inherent intractability of the problem.

“What is important for us is to be confident that we have been able to do what we have to do to buffer our economy and to continue to work on our plans to keep the economy moving . . . to help the poor,” the President said.

The interview with the President was conducted on the occasion of the seventh founding anniversary of BizNews, the country’s biggest weekly news magazine.

The President said it’s extremely difficult to speculate on the full range and impact of the unprecedented financial debacle. But “what we can say is that we made tough decisions over the last seven years, and these decisions have borne fruit.”

These tough economic reforms, notably the expanded Value Added Tax (EVAT), have made the Philippines more resilient to the blows of the current crisis, she pointed out.

But the government, the President added, must continue to beef up its programs and strategies to keep the economy on the move. “We are taking actions to keep the economy moving and also to make sure that the poorest of our poor have additional relief from the burdens they bear.”

Moreover, the government has adopted a contingency plan in the event the United States, the Philippines’ biggest trading partner, goes into recession, she said.

The President explained that the contingency plan, like those of other countries, is basically a stimulus package.

The stimulus package calls for massive infrastructure spending, emphasis on investments on agricultural production to ensure adequate food supply at affordable prices, and investments in energy. “At the end of the day, we want the private sector to continue to invest and they need infrastructure,” she said.

The President demurred when asked about what she considered her biggest achievement, saying, it’s all up to history to judge.

“What I can say is that during my presidency, we’ve been focused on reforming the economy, we’ve been focused on generating investments, we’ve been focused on creating new and better infrastructure, we’ve been focused on building a social safety net, especially in healthcare, education and bringing stability and peace to the country,” she added.

Brunei, Libya join Japan in decision to remain with IMT despite Malaysia's pullout

After Japan had confirmed its continued stay in the International Monitoring Team (IMT) on Mindanao, Brunei and Libya likewise made a similar decision, it was learned on Friday.

On Thursday, the Foreign Minister of Malaysia, which leads the IMT's four-country contingents, announced it has opted to defer an extension beyond the Nov. 30 mandate. It has the biggest delegation of 12 soldiers.

Japan confirmed its presence until end of February next year, with its two members monitoring aid implementation.

The IMT monitors the implementation of truce agreements between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon Jr. expressed "profound gratitude to Brunei, Libya and Japan for readily agreeing to extend their participation in the IMT so that the peace process will continue unabated until a genuine and lasting peace is achieved in Southern Philippines."

“We acknowledge the important role played by the IMT all these years to keep the peace process burning even in the most trying times,” added Esperon.

He said Malaysia’s decision to terminate its role in the IMT “will not deter us from seeking ways and means in pursuing the resumption of the stalled peace talks.”

Esperon stressed that the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is “fully committed” to attaining a lasting peaceful settlement to the Mindanao problem, saying: “We will not give up on peace.”

Talks with the MILF hit a snag last August following the aborted signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).

Malaysia captained four of the seven years of GRP-MILF talks.

Esperon also welcomed Malaysian Foreign Minister, Dr. Rais Yatim's declaration that Kuala Lumpur may reconsider its future participation in the IMT. DR. Rais said it would make a decision when it formally receives a request from both the GRP and the MILF.

For his part, AFP chief Gen. Alexander Yano said the military appreciates the role of the Malaysians in the maintenance of peace and order in Mindanao.

“We appreciate the support of the IMT in our journey towards lasting peace in Mindanao. It has played a significant role in keeping the intensity of the conflict at a manageable level for four years.”

“If it is inevitable that the Team's tour of duty would be terminated, then we shall proceed with the local peace mechanisms that are in place and probably introduce more effective ways of resolving the conflict,” Yano also said.

Yano expressed belief that the “success of the peace process cannot solely be anchored on foreign involvement.”

“I have confidence in the capability of the Filipino people, despite its diversity in culture and belief, to reach an understanding that would finally bring lasting peace in Mindanao. A brand of peace that is founded on mutual respect and justice,” he said.

“The IMT withdrawal is a golden opportunity for the GRP and MILF to prove that peace talks can be restored and pursued even without what he called an international 'watchdog' or 'referee'". (PNA)

Gov't to infuse P44 billion in agri fund

Legazpi City -- By stirring up the rural economy and spurring agricultural production with a P44-billion fund infusion in the countryside, the government seeks to find refuge from the international recession.

This, according to Albay governor Jose Ma. Sarte Salceda, financial adviser of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Salceda, who was a former research head of a Swiss bank, said this "would be the biggest intervention of the government in response to the global economic crisis."

He said the government's stimulus in the countryside will be much bigger if the reinvigorated reforestation program pushes through with a P5-billion initiative next year to shield the country from global warming.

Salceda said all these initiatives are intended to create wealth and purchasing power in the countryside with assistance to the farmers and to produce cheap and abundant food for all once the effects of the world-wide financial meltdown start to set in after the first quarter of 2009.

Based on the 2009 proposed national budget, the Department of Agriculture has allotted P45 billion and the National Food Authority has a contingency provision for a P32-billion yearly loss, which increases the loss coverage from P8 billion with additional P24 billion.

Salceda said the incremental loss provision of P24 billion will go to farmers' assistance with P8.5 billion and to consumers' subsidy (for the poor) with P14.5 billion.

He said there will be more aggressive palay procurement next year, of which P17 billion is set aside to buy palay at P17 a kilo.

Salceda said P20 billion of the 2009 agriculture department's budget is for subsidy to food producers, of which P10 billion is for the so-called FIELDS program, which involves more infrastructure in irrigation, storage, farm-to-market roads, among other things. (w/MS Arguelles PIA, Albay)

Local Peace Mechanism In-Place Even As IMT Pullout-COS, Yano, AFP

“ We appreciate the support of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in our journey towards lasting peace in Mindanao.”

“ The IMT has played a significant role in keeping the intensity of the conflict at a manageable level for four years;”

“If it is inevitable that the IMT’s tour of duty would be terminated, then we shall proceed with the local peace mechanisms that are in place and probably introduce more effective ways of resolving the conflict; “

“The success of the peace process cannot solely be anchored on foreign involvement. I have confidence in the capability of the Filipino people, despite its diversity in culture and belief, to reach an understanding that would finally bring lasting peace in Mindanao. A brand of peace founded on mutual respect and justice.”

“The IMT withdrawal is a golden opportunity for the GRP and MILF to prove that peace talk can be restored and pursued even without an international ‘watchdog’ or referee’”.

“The sincerity, maturity and steadfastness to the peace process of both parties will be tested under a freer environment, i.e. without foreign intervention. “

“:The sovereign will of our people must be respected at all times”, said COS, Yano, AFP.

Task Force 211 Solves Latest Media Killing

Give credit where credit is due.

This time it is to the government. At 11 am today (Friday, November 28), the murder case of Arecio Jandag Padrigao, the hard-hitting radio commentator based in Gingoog Misamis Oriental who was shot to death on November 17, 2008 by two unidentified gunmen riding a motorcycle in tandem, has been resolved.

After eleven days of persistent work, the law enforcement components of Task Force 211, the government body tasked to address extra-legal killings, were able to positively identify the suspects and charge them with the murder of Padrigao. The suspects were identified as Benjamin K. Palarca and Ariel M. Degamo. The charges were filed at 11 this morning at the Hall of Justice in Cagayan de Oro City.

Justice Undersecretary and Task Force 211 Chairman Ricardo R. Blancaflor, who is personally overseeing the filing of the case now in Cagayan de Oro, indeed proved his detractors wrong. Earlier this week, Blancaflor has been getting criticisms in the aftermath of this latest media killing. He, however, took all these as challenges. Believing that action and results will speak better than words, Blancaflor sent a team of prosecutors and investigators to Gingoog a few hours after the incident to oversee the investigation and expedite the case.

“The Task Force 211 would like to thank the team that successfully concluded this investigation and case build up. They include Regional State Prosecutor Jaime Umpa, NBI Senior Investigator Marlou Baltazar, former NBI chemist Dr. Idabel Pagulayan, NBI Cagayan de Oro City, and other members of the investigation team for their efficient and thorough work”, Blancaflor said.

Undersecretary Blancaflor assured the local media in Cagayan de Oro City that the witnesses and victim’s family will be taken care of under the Freedom Press Fund, which the Office of the President gave to the Department of Justice for this purpose.

“Once again, Task Force 211 reiterates its commitment to all media practitioners that it will not hesitate to go after any media killer, whether here or abroad”, Blancaflor stressed.

Statement by the Public Affairs Office

ASEAN Secretariat, 27 November 2008 - Queries have surfaced as to whether the 14th ASEAN Summit will be held as originally scheduled in mid December in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, is currently on his way to clarify this matter with Thailand , which currently holds the chairmanship of ASEAN. The ASEAN Secretariat would issue a statement once there is a definite clarification on this matter.

Gov’t Agencies Directed To Post Citizen's Charters-CSC Saludo

All government agencies nationwide should streamline and post the procedures for their most heavily utilized services not later than December 31, 2008. This was announced yesterday by the Civil Service Commission (CSC).

Streamlining and posting of procedures are only among the things government agencies are required to do under Republic Act No. 9485 or the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007.

"Red tape in government has long been a bane to development, " Saludo said, adding that the new law provides for the adoption of specific courses of action for all government agencies.

The CSC Chief added that the Anti-Red Tape Act promotes transparency of government frontline services and encourages public vigilance. It also helps weed out fixers.

Under R.A. 9485, agencies are also required to draw a Citizen's Charter. It should contain a step-by-step procedure of the agency's top 20 services, including the name of employee responsible for each step, the maximum time to conclude the process, documents to be presented by the client, amount of fees, procedure for filing complaints in relation to requests and applications, feedback mechanisms, among other information.

The Office of the President has issued Administrative Order No. 241-A to expedite implementation of the Act. The same directive has required agencies to "establish in their respective offices a public assistance and complaints desk and provide the public hotline number/s which should be purposely set up to effectively receive feedback and monitor customer satisfaction" also by December 31.

Congress passed R.A. 9485 last year; the CSC drew up the law's implementing rules and regulations which took effect September this year.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

PIA Dispatch - Thursday, November 27, 2008

Statement of Press Secretary Jesus G. Dureza Re: PGMA’s APEC trip

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo returns home from the APEC summit in Peru confident that her strong advocacy for the less-developed economies in the midst of present-day financial challenges finds resonance amongst world leaders.

The President, during the discussions, "brought to the table" the concern for the poor and the vulnerable, reminding everybody that we should not forget that it’s the poor eventually who will bear the brunt, and so any solution should take the poor and the vulnerable into account.

Her call for the world trade ministers to convene immediately to bring an early conclusion of the Doha talks (of the World Trade Organization) was shared by leaders. DTI Secretary Peter Favila described it as an exhaustive and productive event.

An early meeting in Geneva of trade ministers is expected as a result of President Arroyo’s initiatives.

The meeting in Colombia with President Alvaro Uribe and other leaders, like former President Andres Pastrana and his former vice president, as well as business leaders from the private sector, augured well for closer relations between both countries -- considering the similarities in both economies, similar challenges and similar solutions that were noted in their discussions.

Before flying back home, the President met with leaders of the Fil-Am community in Los Angeles. She met also with executives of Ingram Micro, a leading player in the technology value chain, who presented to the President their business expansion plans in the Philippines.

She was also cited by the Filipino veterans in California for her strong support for their cause as they continue campaigning for equitable recognition and benefits from the American government.

Before taking her return flight to Manila, the President met with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and discussed matters of common interest. Mayor Villaraigosa extolled the President as a vibrant leader of Filipinos who is held in high esteem by Filipino immigrants in his city. The city of Los Angeles is home to close to a million Filipinos.

Malacañang condemns Mumbai terrorist attacks, sympathizes with the families of the victims

Malacañang condemned today the terrorist attacks on India’s financial district of Mumbai Wednesday by saying that the Philippines and all Filipinos join the entire Indian nation and the rest of the world in its collective quest to end terrorism.

In a statement read by Deputy Spokesperson Anthony Golez this afternoon in Malacañang, Golez said the country condoled with the families of the victims of the attacks which, according to reports, have already claimed more than 100 lives.

“The entire Filipino nation and the Filipinos around the world mourn with the families of those who died, and sympathize with those who were hurt because of the Mumbai attacks,” Golez said.

“We condemn these terroristic attacks against mankind and we will be united with the entire Indian nation and the rest of the world in the quest to end terrorism the soonest possible time,” he added.

He pointed out that the Mumbai attacks “have been the cause of concern with regards to terrorism and terroristic attacks and that is the reason why… we are beefing up all our security and making sure that each and every citizen can be responsible also in giving out intelligence reports to our authorities in order for these attacks not to happen here in the country.”

He expressed confidence that the law enforcement agencies and its intelligence network were always on alert to prevent similar attacks from happening in the country.

“Rest assured that the government is doing everything it can to counter these terroristic activities,” Golez said.

Teams of gunmen stormed luxury hotels, a popular restaurant, a crowded train station and a Jewish group’s headquarters in India’s financial capital, killing at least 101 people, taking Westerners hostage and leaving parts of the city under siege Thursday, according to AP.

PGMA ends weeklong official foreign trip, lists gains

LOS ANGELES -- Malacanang said today that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s appeal to rich nations to help poor and developing countries cope with the current global financial debacle has elicited the sympathy and support of world leaders.

The President aired her appeal during last week’s 16th Asia-Pacific Leaders Summit held in Lima, Peru.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza, in a press statement, said the President returns to Manila from the APEC summit confident that her strong advocacy on behalf of less-developed economies in the “midst of present-day financial challenges finds resonance amongst world leaders.”

The President is scheduled to arrive tonight from Lima via Los Angeles.

At both the Lima APEC summit and the 7th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) held in Beijing last Sept. 24-27, the President led the charge for wealthy industrialized countries to come to the aid of the struggling and vulnerable economies caught in the web of the most crippling global financial crisis in years.

“We count on the G-7 members of ASEM to consider the emerging economies in the bold actions and extraordinary measures that they plan to undertake to ease the crisis in the global financial system,” she said at the Beijing summit.

G-7 refers to the group of seven industrialized countries: United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Canada, Japan and Italy.

In her address at Lima’s Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola, where she was conferred an honorary doctorate degree last Sunday, President Arroyo called on the “countries of the G-20 to include the developing economies in the brave action of extending help that they intend to take to abate the problem in the global financial order.”

Dureza said that during the discussions among the APEC leaders, the President “brought to the table” the concerns of the “poor and vulnerable, reminding everybody that we should not forget that it’s the poor eventually who will bear the brunt (of the economic crunch), and so any solution should take the poor and the vulnerable into account.”

He said that the President’s initiative for the resumption of the stalled Doha Round of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) talks is expected to bear fruit soon.

He added that her meetings with President Alvaro Uribe and other and political and business leaders of Colombia are expected to strengthen Philippine-Colombia relations, considering that the two countries share similar challenges and solutions.

During her stopover in Los Angeles en route to Manila, the President met with the leaders of the Filipino-American community, and with executives of Ingram Micro, a leading player in the technology value chain.

Ingram Micro officials presented to the President their company’s business expansion plan in the Philippines, Dureza said.

She also met with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who “extolled the President as a vibrant leader of Filipinos who is held in high esteem by Filipino immigrants in his city.”

Los Angeles is home to about one million Filipinos.

The President was also “cited by the Filipino veterans in California for her strong support for their cause as they continue campaigning for equitable recognition and benefits from the American government,” Dureza said.

Ingram Micro execs call on PGMA in L.A.; consider R.P. ‘a very fertile investment’ haven

Executives of Ingram Micro, the world’s largest technology distributor, called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Los Angeles today (Wednesday in the US) and committed to expand their business operations in the Philippines.

Press Secretary Jesus G. Dureza, in an interview over Radyo ng Bayan at noon today (Nov. 27), said Ingram Micro officials presented to the President their company’s business plans which include locating in the Philippines.

Dureza said Ingram Micro executives “look at the Philippines as a very fertile investment” haven and that their commitment to expant their business operations in the country despite the current economic crunch bodes well for the Philippines.

“Despite the financial crisis, yung world leader in technology (Ingram Micro), tini-tingnan pa rin ang Pilipinas (as an investment destination).”

“Despite (economic) slowdown concerns, the biggest technological player worldwide (told the President), mag-i-invest kami diyan (Philippines),” Dureza said.

He added that economic analysts he met in the US said that the worldwide financial crunch could even be advantageous to the Philippines, predicting that US companies may just start laying-off workers and then “outsource to the Philippines.”

“Advantage pa natin!” Dureza further said.

In a press statement summarizing the gains of the President’s attendance at the 16th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Summit, Dureza said that “before flying back home, the President met with leaders of the Fil-Am community in Los Angeles (and) with executives of Ingram Micro, a leading player in the technology value chain, who presented to the President their business expansion plans in the Philippines.”

“She (President Arroyo) was also cited by the Filipino veterans in California for her strong support for their cause as they continue campaigning for equitable recognition and benefits from the American government.”

Dureza added that the President also met with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and discussed matters of common interest,” with the LA mayor extolling the President as a “vibrant leader of Filipinos who is held in high esteem by Filipino immigrants in his city” which is home to almost a million Filipinos.

PGMA presents BizNews Asia Awards to VP De Castro, Villar and 19 others

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will lead other government officials and business leaders on Friday in honoring the some 21 2008 BizNews Asia’s Who is Who in Real Estate (BREW) and 2008 Business Icons Gold (BIG) who are business legends and empire giants for their innovative work, and achievements resulting to the success of real estate industry in the country.

The awarding rites will highlight the 7th founding anniversary celebration of BizNews Asia (BNA), the country’s largest weekly business and news magazine which will be held at the Grand Ballroom of Hotel Intercontinental in Makati City.

The BizNewsAsia Who is Who in Real Estate (BREW) awards honor tycoons, taipans and chief executive officers (CEOs) who have made significant contributions in the field of real estate and allied industries and services in enhancing the lifestyle and lives of Filipino.

This year’s BREW awardees are Vice President Noli de Castro, chairman, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council; Willie J. Uy, president and CEO, PHINMA Properties; Jose E.B. Antonio, chairman, Century Properties Group; Reghis M. Romero II, president and CEO, R-II Builders Inc.; Alfred Xerez-Burgos Jr., President and CEO, Landco Pacific Corp.; Nestor S. Mangio, chairman, Central Country Estate, Inc.; Isidro A. Consunji, President and CEO, DMCI Holdings, Inc.; Exequiel D. Robles, president and CEO, Sta. Lucia Realty and Development Inc.; Victorio V. Soliven, president and CEO, V.V. Soliven Group of Companies; Mayor Feliciano R. Belmonte Jr. of Quezon City; Chairman Bayani F. Fernando of the Metro Manila Development Authority and Rosemarie Basa, director, Global First Financial Inc.

On the other hand, the 2008 Business Icons Gold (BIG) Awards is an initiative of BizNews Asia to honor entrepreneurs, tycoons and taipans for their contribution to the growth of the country and become icons and inspirational symbols of success and corporate social responsibility.

BNA president and publisher Antonio Lopez said the icons awardees are business legends and empire builders with solid track record of entrepreneurship and achievements.

The 2008 BIG awardees were Manuel Villar of Vista Land & Lifescapes, Inc.; Alfonso T. Yu-chengco, chairman emeritus, RCBC; Manuel Pangilinan, president and CEO, PLDT; Andrew L. Tan, president and CEO, Megaworld Corp.; Raul T. Concepcion, chairman, Concepcion-Carrier; Oscar Lopez, chairman and CEO, Ben-pres Holdings; John Go-kongwei Jr., chairman emeritus, JG Summit Holdings Inc.; chairman and president Felipe Gozon of GMA Network Inc.; Henry Sy Sr., chairman emeritus, SM Investments Corp; Ramon Ang, president and COO, San Miguel Corp.

This year’s winner’s is set to receive trophies and certificates from the President herself during the awarding ceremony.

The BREW Awards is to recognize the vision, innovative work, achievements of the awardees in the field of real estate. They are also an acknowledgement of the boom in real estate, now the most dynamic and robust sector of the economy.

Also, during the program, the President is expected to cut the ribbon of the exhibit of watercolor paintings of Leonardo Lopez, brother of Antonio Lopez, BizNews Asia president and Publisher.

PGMA to honor Outstanding Girl Scouts Wednesday

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will lead the recognition rites for the country’s Outstanding Girl Scouts in ceremonies that will be held at the Heroes Hall in Malacanang tomorrow morning.
There are 322 Chief Girl Scout medalists from the different regions in the country who are awardees.

The yearly presentation of the Chief Girl Scout Medal started in 1976 to give recognition to top Senior Girl Scouts, who meet the criteria for outstanding service to their community.

This is built on the Girl Scout's concept of developing the total girl, making her well rounded in all aspects - spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, and social.

The chief Girl Scout Medal is a continuing incentive that senior or cadet girl scouts can aspire for as they become actively involved in the conduct of community and national affairs.
The Chief Girl Scout Medal is the highest award in Philippine girl scouting.

The Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP) is the national guiding association for girls and young women of the Philippines. Its mission is "to help girls and young women realize the ideals of womanhood and prepare themselves for their responsibilities in the home, and to the nation, and the world community.

The GSP is non-stock, non-profit, non-sectarian, non-political, independent, and voluntary.

UPV study reveals sub-lethal stress in Guimaras’ mangroves

Iloilo City (PIA)- There is still a need to continue monitoring to determine full recovery of mangroves affected by the Solar 1 oil spill in Guimaras two years ago.

This was disclosed by Dr. Resurreccion B. Sadaba, program nanager of the University of the Philippines ’ Oil Spill Response Program, who presented a paper titled Monitoring of Impacts, Response and Recovery of Mangrove Trees and Seedlings Within TINMAR (Year 1).

It was noted that PAH in mangrove sediments was below maximum standard after 11 months of spill but most sites still had Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon (TPH) above normal, although decreasing in trend. In general, indicators of sub-lethal stress among the surviving mangroves and there is still a need to continue monitoring to determine full recovery, the study disclosed.

The study focused on the mangroves within the Taklong Island National Marine Reserve (TINMAR). The activities undertaken included 1) montly collection of litter fall production; 2) determination of leaf size, internode length, standing leaves, rate of defoliation and appearance of new leaves; 3) quarterly quantification of Na/K, N/P/K and heavy metals content in leaves as possible sublethal indicators; and 4) quarterly determination of the concentration of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon and Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon in sediments.

In the first year monitoring from October 2007 to September 2008, Sadaba said they get samples from five mangrove species- Avicernnia marina, Rhizophoraapiculata, R. mucronata, R. stylosa, Sonneratia alba. For chemical assessments, sampling was done quarterly. Mature leaves were collected for Na/K; N/P/K and heavy metal content.

Sample digestion was performed followingthe beaker digestion technique (US EPA, 1999) and extracts were analyzed using the Flame Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy at the Chemistry Analytical Lab, UPV. Sediment samples were collected at each site at 3 depth, 0-12; 10-12; and 20-22 cm.

Samples were sent to the analytical services laboratory in Czech Republic for Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon (TPH) and 16 Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) as priority pollutants based on US EPA).

It was noted that PAH in mangrove sediments was below maximum standard after 11 months of spill but most sites still had TPH above normal, although decreasing in trend. In general, indicators of sub-lethal stress among the surviving mangroves and there is still a need to continue monitoring to determine full recovery, the study disclosed.

It will be recalled that MT Solar I carrying some 2 million liters of oil sank off Guimaras Strait in August 2006. (PIA 6/T.Villavert)

ASEAN Secretariat and Shaanxi Province Promote Economic and Trade Cooperation

Jakarta, 27 November 2008 - The Shaanxi-ASEAN Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum was held today at the Shangri-La Hotel in Jakarta. The Forum was jointly organised by the Shaanxi Provincial People’s Government and the ASEAN Secretariat.

The aim is to bring together the business communities and government officials from ASEAN and China to appreciate the trade and investment prospects that the two regions have to offer.

In a message delivered by Mr Dhannan Sunoto, Principal Director of Bureau for External Relations and Coordination, Dr Surin Pituswan, Secretary-General of ASEAN said, “Shaanxi is one of the provinces where ASEAN businesses need to look more closely at the opportunities available, even as traditional markets are affected by the global economic slowdown.

The ASEAN business community should, at this time, strive even harder to look for new markets and ventures.” Dr Surin also encouraged the Shaanxi business community to fully explore opportunities in ASEAN for joint ventures, partnerships and closer business relations.”

At the Forum, both sides agreed to the final text of and initialised the Memorandum of Cooperation which will promote cooperation activities in areas of mutual interest. The Memorandum will be signed by Dr Surin and Mr Yuan Chunqing, Governor of the Shaanxi Provincial People’s Government, at the earliest convenience.

Present at the Forum were delegates from the Shaanxi Province, Ambassador and officials from the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Indonesia, representatives from the ASEAN Embassies in Indonesia and the ASEAN Secretariat, as well as the business community.

The ASEAN Secretariat had earlier signed Memorandum of Cooperation with Hubei Province and Guangdong Province. The objective is to explore cooperation possibilities with the Central and Western provinces of China which can offer opportunities to deepen and widen ASEAN-China economic relations.

RP exporters book $19.9-M in sales in Halal World Expo

Filipino exporters have booked sales of food products totaling $19.91 million in the recently concluded Halal World Expo 2008 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to Department of Agriculture (DA) officials.

The exporters which participated in the expo were: AgriNurture, Inc., Beaches Farms and Trading Corp., C’Est La Vie Food Phil. Inc., Florence Foods Corp., Guaranfood Manufacturing, Q-Phil Products International, RFM Corporation, Sr. Pedro Lechon Manok, and Visayas Chamber of Mango Industry MPC.

Assistant Secretary Clayton Olalia said in his report to DA Secretary Arthur Yap that this positive response by UAE buyers to the Philippines’ participation in the recent food fair bodes well for ongoing government efforts to help Filipino producers and exporters corner a significant share of the $500-billion Halal market across the globe.

Halal refers to the kind of food permissible under Islamic Law.

Olalia, who led the DA team to the Halal Expo held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibit Center in mid-November, said C’est La Vie has already formalized part of these booked orders by signing a supply and purchase contract with UAE buyers for processed tuna and processed mango products worth $960,000 a year for a two-year period. The Filipino firm has also booked sales for Cavendish and Cardaba bananas and fresh mangoes.

He said that Beaches Farm and Trading Corp. has already signed contracts with UAE buyers for white table eggs worth $1.98 million a year for two years; and Florence foods for its various food products worth $960,000 a year, also for two years.

Olalia, who is assistant secretary for administration and the DA official in charge of the Halal sector, said Beaches Farm also formalized contracts for the one-year supply to Iran of dessicated coconuts worth $60,000; fresh Cavendish bananas worth $1.08 million; and canned pineapples worth $1.3 million.

Olalia said the Philippines has a competitive edge in the Halal trade because it is free of both the avian influenza (AI) or bird flu virus and the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

He observed that the combined food bill of the Middle East grew a hefty 25% from $16 billion in 2006 to $20 billion in 2007, with the UAE alone accounting for $4 billion.

Because of the UAE’s “strategic business location as an active and challenging market as well as a re-export hub in the Middle East and Africa,” Olalia said the Philippines can “look ahead to major expansions in trade,” particularly in exports of food and related agricultural products.

The UAE is the top export market of the Philippines in the Middle East and Africa, Olalia said, and it is in this country where the Philippines acquired its Halal accreditation in June 2006.

The Philippines , specifically Mindanao , can count on a reliable supply of feed ingredients like corn, rice, copra meal and fishmeal to make its Halal food exports credible and genuine, he said.

Besides recently launching the Philippine National Standards for Halal Foods, the Arroyo administration, thru the DA, has built 12 Halal abattoirs in the South, mostly in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The Department has likewise provided technical assistance through the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), which recently conducted a “Basic Halal Meat Inspection Training Course,” funded by the ARMM regional government.

As an active member of the ASEAN Working Group on Halal Food Guidelines, the Philippines has also been involved in the ASEAN-wide cooperation on Halal food industry development since the early 1990s, when the Halal food export business was just starting to grow in Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Malaysia. (DA-PRESS OFFICE)

IACAT and IJM Elated Over Latest Conviction of Human Trafficker

The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) and the International Justice Mission (IJM) are glad to announce the latest conviction of a human trafficking case promulgated this morning (Thursday, November 27) in Paranaque City .

According to the decision penned by Judge Jaime M. Guray of the Regional Trial Court of Paranaque City Branch 260, Charmela Barrameda, Roberto Acuin aka “Wowie”, Salvacion Alamares, and Gina Ajero were convicted for the crime of Qualified Trafficking in Person.

The four (4) accused were convicted for victimizing minor girls, with ages ranging from 14-16 years old. The victims had been sexually exploited and were made to work as prostitutes by the accused. One of the four complainants was promised the job of a cashier, while the other three were told they will work as group dancers. Instead, they all ended up as GROs in a videoke club and were forced to engage in acts of prostitution. They also were not brought to Laguna as agreed, but instead to Daraga, Albay. The victims were never allowed to leave the videoke club, until they were rescued by the NBI Anti-Human Trafficking Division.

The court found the accused, Salvacion Alamares and Gina Ajero guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of RA 9208 and were sentenced to each suffer the penalty of imprisonment of twenty (20) years and to each pay a fine of One Million (Php 1,000,000.00) pesos.

An alias warrant of arrest was issued for Roberto Acuin aka Wowie, and Charmela Barrameda.

This is the 12th conviction recorded by IACAT. Being the body created by law to coordinate and monitor the implementation of Republic Act No. 9208, otherwise known as the “Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003”, the IACAT is monitoring about 600 other cases of human trafficking.

The International Justice Mission (IJM) was steadfast in its support for the Philippine government in terms of fighting human trafficking. Since 2001, the IJM has been engaged in aggressive campaign against sex trafficking in the Philippines .

IACAT Acting Chairman Ricardo R. Blancaflor is thanking DOJ prosecutors and the NBI for their diligent work, and he expressed hopes that the same amount of preparations and efforts will be made in future human trafficking cases.

“Let this be a warning also against human traffickers that their glory days are over, and they must immediately stop. Whether here or abroad, the IACAT will not leave any stone unturned in its efforts to fight the crime of human trafficking”, Blancaflor said.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

PIA Dispatch - Wednesday, November 26, 2008

PGMA appeals to rich countries to help poor nations amid global financial turmoil

LIMA, Peru (via PLDT) – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has welcomed any bailout package that rich nations may extend to help developing economies address the problems posed by the global financial debacle.

The President issued her call for help of the advanced economies in her speech after she was conferred an honorary doctorate degree, honoris causa, by the Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola here.

"We called on the countries of G-20 to include the developing economies in the brave action of extending help that they intend to take to abate the problem in the global financial order," the President said in Spanish.

Although the Philippines has not been severely affected by the global financial crisis, it faces serious threats brought about by the global economic uncertainties.

“We don't have crisis in the Philippines. But there are serious threats before us. During these times, it is the obligation of governments to assuage their people vis-a-vis the fear of prices and economic difficulties brought about by the world crisis,” she stressed.

She added that the recession now being experienced by countries could be avoided by optimizing economic stimulus packages for economic recovery.

At the conclusion of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Summit here, the President and 20 other APEC leaders also called for the conclusion of the stalled Doha Round of talks of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Trade Secretary Peter Favila said an APEC Ministers Meeting might be held before the end of the year to push for the conclusion of the Doha trade discussions.

Palace calls dismissal of impeachment complaint vs PGMA “a welcome development”

Malacanang said today the decision of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Justice to junk the latest impeachment complaint filed against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a “welcome development.”

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, in his weekly press briefing in Malacanang today, said this is the fourth time that the President’s detractors filed an impeachment complaint against her and the issues raised in the latest case were a mere rehash of the first three complaints.

“What is important is that we follow the procedures,” Ermita said, adding that the final decision is still to be made after the plenary debate on whether or not to ratify the dismissal of the impeachment complaint by the House Committee on Justice.

Ermita acknowledged though that the President’s having many allies in the House of Representatives is “something working for us and we are glad we have such allies in Congress.”

He stressed that the President’s close relations with Congress works in favor of the administration, especially in the passage of important legislations that will improve the lives of the people and move the country forward.

The impeachment complaint against the President -- which the House Committee on Justice junked today -- was filed by businessman Jose "Joey" de Venecia III, son of former House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr.

Voting 42-8, the committee ruled that the complaint was "insufficient in substance."

This is the fourth impeachment rap filed against the President since 2005.

Under former Speaker Jose de Venecia’s leadership, the House dismissed the impeachment complaints against the President in 2005, 2006 and 2007 for lack of merit.

Philippine law allows only one impeachment complaint each year against the president. The younger De Venecia's complaint was filed last Oct. 13, or a full year after the last impeachment complaint was dismissed by the House of Representatives.

PGMA remains supportive of charter change moves

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo remains a strong supporter of any moves to amend the 1987 Constitution, particularly on economic provisions and political structure.

Executive Eduardo Ermita, in his weekly press briefing in Malacanang today, said the President’s support for charter change is “not something new” as amending the constitution has been in her presidential campaign platform in 2004.

“It is something we are saying we are not totally averse to… What is important is the results of these efforts to amend the Constitution, without any effort from Malacanang to push for it,” Ermita said.

Ermita said that for the country to move forward, “there is indeed a need to revisit the Constitution, especially the economic provisions.’’

He lamented, though, that the President’s critics have always linked any move to amend the Constitution to her desire to extend her term of office.

“Talks now must focus on the need to improve our economy and our political system by amending the Constitution,” he stressed.

The President made charter change one of her key issues when she ran for president, mentioned it in three of her State of the Nation Addresses and has campaigned for amending the Constitution.

The President started to become more vocal about charter change during her campaign for the presidency. Before she filed her certificate of candidacy, she announced that lobbying for a shift to a parliamentary and federal government is in her party’s campaign platform.

She told her supporters on Jan. 5, 2004: “We have made progress but we will need your support to get the job done for the fundamental change in our political system.”

She said the process is “a strategic hope for change” and is “about getting the Philippines back in the world map and putting the Filipino people on the road to peace and prosperity permanently.”

DOTC secretary accuses De Venecia of twisting facts on NBN-ZTE deal

Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza today accused former House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. of deliberately twisting the facts about the cancelled National Broadband Network (NBN)-ZTE deal in a continuing attempt to besmirch President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In a press statement distributed during the regular Wednesday press conference of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita in Malacanang this afternoon, Mendoza said that after the Supreme Court dismissed with finality the claims of De Venecia’s son “Joey” against the NBN-ZTE deal, the former speaker continues to make baseless allegations against the President.

“He (De Venecia) found this opportunity with the House Justice Committee’s impeachment hearings,” Mendoza said.

The DOTC secretary debunked De Venecia’s claim that First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo lobbied for ZTE to secure the NBN project. “Nothing that De Venecia said, however, showed that the First Gentleman did by word or action. It was the Chinese government (which) chose ZTE,” Mendoza said.

He added: “In contrast, JDV himself intervened and exerted his influence for the approval of his son’s Amsterdam Holdings BOT (build-operate-transfer) proposal to NEDA.”

Mendoza also refuted De Venecia’s allegation that it was during the Shenzhen golf game that the mode in the implementation of the NBN project was changed from BOT to government-to-government.

He explained that as “early as October 2006, the CICT as the lead NBN agency, in a letter to NEDA already recommended that the NBN project be pursued as a G2G project as proposed by ZTE. This recommendation was concurred in by DOTC, endorsed by NEDA ICC and eventually approved by the full NEDA Board.”

On De Venecia’s claim that his son’s BOT proposal thru Amsterdam Holdings was superior to ZTE’s since it entailed no cost to the Philippine government, Mendoza riposted that nothing could be farther from the truth.

“In the first place, Amsterdam Holdings had no money, no telecommunications franchise, no technical knowledge or competence. It was a shell company meant to exploit a government contract to be awarded thru JDV’s influence and intervention. Moreover, JDV conveniently fails to mention that his son’s proposal will cost the government a substantial amount of money in terms of service fees it will charge the government. It was meant to be a profitable money-making venture” for Amsterdam Holdings, Mendoza said.

The DOTC chief also cited “two very glaring and damning omissions” of the former speaker:

“First, under the BOT Law, an unsolicited proposal like Amsterdam Holdngs’ is prohibited for a project like the NBN as the same is listed in the MTPDP (Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan).

“Second, relatives of the Speaker of the House are prohibited from being interested in government contracts. His son is the owner of Amsterdam Holdings.”

Palace taking hands-off stance on moves to expel JDV from Lakas

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said today any move to expel former House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. from the ruling administration party for endorsing the impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal is a purely party matter and Malacanang will take its hands off the matter.

In his weekly press conference in Malacanang this afternoon, Ermita said the Palace will “leave (De Venecia’s fate) to the party.”

“Ang bawat party, may rules na sinusunod on the conduct of its members,” he said, in response to a newsman’s question about any possible party action against the former speaker for his all-out support for the opposition-initiated impeachment complaint against the President.

“I don’t want to speak on behalf of the party (Lakas) because I am not an officer of the party. It is a party matter so let’s leave it to them,” he added.

Asked if the ouster of De Venecia from the party was discussed in the Palace, Ermita said: “Hindi. No such discussion… Somebody has to initiate that. Iwan na lang natin ang bagay na ‘yan sa partido.”

On the alleged statement of former Presidential Legal Adviser Sergio Apostol that De Venecia is facing ouster from the Lakas, Ermita, who is also the Presidential spokesman, replied that “there are procedures that we need to follow in the party. Let the procedures take their course… Let us see how it will progress.”

Told that the impeachment complaint was likely to give De Venecia free publicity for his newly released book, Ermita shrugged it off, saying: “It is a free country. Free choice… Why not? If he succeeded on that, why not? Pagbigyan natin sila kung ganon ang kanilang objective.”

Palace: No hand in House resolution seeking one-year extension of elected officials’ term

Malacanang today denied any hand in a House resolution calling for a one-year extension of the term of office of all elected officials, including the President.

“I don’t see how we can react to such position taken by a congressman. I’m not qualified. It only happened yesterday,” Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

He was referring to the resolution filed by Batangas Congressman Hermilando Mandanas that the May 10, 2010 election be reset to May 9, 2011 “to better synchronize local and national elections and to afford time for the necessary transitory preparations and the required adjustments.”

“We will not be lured into reacting to any congressional resolution,” Ermita said.

“Ang masasabi ko, the members of Congress are elected officials. They are in their own right to take action as they see fit as representatives.”

The Batangas solon, Ermita said, “thinks of his position as such and where he sits as congressman, he has own ideas on what is good for the country.”

“It’s not for the palace to make interpretation on any subject matter coming from any congressman,” he added.

Asked if the Palace was consulted on the matter, the Executive Secretary said, “no.”

“I spoke about it with (Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Gabriel) Gabby (Claudio). He said, no, he does not know” about the resolution,” Ermita added. “I asked PLLO (Presidential Legislative Liaison Jake) Lagonera. Sabi, no, we have not been consulted by Congressman Mandanas.”

Will the Palace seek the recall of the resolution? “Well, ‘di ko naman gagawin ‘yan. I am being too presumptuous as to say that would be my action, and that it is the instruction of the President. They (congressmen) are acting on their own as elected officials,” Ermita said.

U.S. Embassy closed Thursday for Thanksgiving holiday

The United States Embassy and its affiliated offices will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 27, in observance of Thanksgiving Day.

The traditional North American holiday is observed on the fourth Thursday of November in the U.S. usually with a turkey dinner revolving around family and in Canada on the second Monday of October.

Considered a harvest festival, it originated in 1621, when Gov. Bradford of the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts appointed a day for public praise and prayer after the first harvest.

The practice spread throughout the other New England colonies, and then throughout the U.S. (PNA)

BPO industry collaborates with academe on employment opportunities

Key representatives from 20 schools all over Metro Manila gathered for the Academe Day, a pre-event in preparation for the upcoming BPO Summit Philippines 2008, the major annual event of the Philippine non-voice outsourcing industry.

The special meeting for the academe was put together by five industry associations on how to work together to sustain the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector’s optimistic business and employment projections until 2012.

Jonathan De Luzuriaga, executive director for industry affairs of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPA/P), said the trade group is entertaining one to two investors every week.

While they are considering alternative locations such as China, Sri Lanka or India, he said, these investors are choosing the Philippines.

Luzuriaga noted that support sectors such as training, telecommunications and real estate are already beefing up for this steady flow of investment.

“The outsourcing industry is growing exponentially, expecting to provide one out of every 10 jobs created in the Philippines in the next three to four years," he said. The remaining question is the supply of talent –if it can sustain the growth of development for the next five years.

It was the same appeal from the other outsourcing industry associations.

Avic Ilagan, executive director of the Animation Council of the Philippines Inc. (ACPI), explained, “Filipinos are very talented and it’s time the world knows of the diversity of the Filipino talent.”

On his part, Ranulf Goss, representing the Game Development Association of the Philippines (GDAP), shares how many Filipino artists and programmers are behind many of the games in popular consoles such as the Microsoft XBox 360 and Sony PlayStation.

“Many more foreign companies are looking to outsource their business and are eyeing the Philippines,” he bared.

As such, the role of the academe is crucial to the BPO industry.

During the Academe Day, the different members of the academe expressed their support and desire to review with their school boards the new statistics from the BPO industry and how they can help fuel and sustain the growth of the BPO industry and contribute to the economic progress of the Philippines.

The BPO Summit Philippines 2008 will be held on December 2-3, 2008 at the Crowne Plaza Galleria Manila and Holiday Inn Galleria Manila in Ortigas Center, Pasig City.

SEARCA announces climate change photo contest winners
by Ranell Martin M. Dedicatoria, KMU-SEARCA
25 November 2008

The entry “Wood gatherer in Bangui” by Ramon Castillo won first place in the SEARCA Photo Contest 2008 themed Coping with Climate Change: Finding Solutions. Castillo also bagged third place for his entry “Reforestation.” On the other hand, Gina Meneses’ Rebirth placed second.

The winning entry of Castillo was taken in Ilocos Norte. It depicts a wood gatherer with the wind turbine as his background. According to him, both the wood gatherer and windmills use renewable source of energy, which is a good way to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Meneses’ Rebirth shows the danger posed by forest denudation and how it impacts the mangrove ecosystem while Castillo’s Reforestation presents another effective solution to address climate change, and that is through planting.

The said photo contest ran from August 16 until November 17, 2008. It is expected to elicit photos depicting adaptation and mitigation to climate change, a pressing global issue at present. A total of 195 photo submissions coming from the Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, and India were gathered.

The entries were judged based on the following criteria: relevance (35%), regional flavor (20%), originality (20%), composition (15%), and sharpness (10%). Dr. Ma. Victoria Espaldon, Dean of the School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM), University of the Philippines Los Baños; Mr. Al Benavente, Mr. Edwin Cortes, and Mr. Joel Cardenas (photographers); and Dr. Ma. Celeste Cadiz, SEARCA’s Training Manager served as judges.

The winning photos together with 12 other shortlisted entries will be exhibited during SEARCA’s 42nd anniversary on November 27. Awarding ceremonies will be on the same day. Winners will receive $500 (first place), $300 (second place), and $200 (third place).

High-level roundtable on post Nargis relief and recovery efforts in Myanmar

“Continued commitment by Tripartite Core Group to recovery efforts for Nargis survivors”

Yangon, Myanmar, 26 November 2008 - The Tripartite Core Group (TCG) convened a high-level Roundtable on Post Nargis Relief and Recovery Efforts in Yangon today to review TCG’s current efforts in implementing the relief and recovery activities on the ground, and preparedness planning efforts. The Roundtable also identified the next steps for various stakeholders to ensure progress in the recovery of the Delta and to maintain support for the affected population. More than 100 participants attended the Roundtable, including high-level representatives from ASEAN countries, TCG members, international humanitarian organisations, donors, and media.

In his welcome remarks, Mr. Bansarn Bunnag, Senior ASEAN member to the TCG and Thailand ’s Ambassador to the Union of Myanmar, said, “ASEAN’s leading role in relief and recovery process of the Cyclone-hit areas is outstanding. In a way, it is shown to be an invaluable factor in the post-Nargis relief and recovery efforts. ASEAN, together with the United Nations and the international community, must maintain a concerted effort to help those severely affected by Cyclone Nargis to build back their lives.”

More than six months after Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar , 63% of the UN’s Revised Appeal of USD 473 million has been raised. However, continuing funds and support are needed.

At the Roundtable, the TCG updated on the progress of the first Periodic Review. The Periodic Review teams have finished collecting the data at the township level and the preliminary findings were shared. The full report will be launched at the ASEAN-UN Summit Meeting in Thailand in mid-December 2008.

Deputy Foreign Minister of Myanmar and TCG Chairman U Kyaw Thu said, “The outcome of the Periodic Review is important in that it will not only inform us on the current needs of people on the ground, it will be a driving wheel in the recovery processes.”

The progress of the TCG Post-Nargis Recovery and Preparedness Plan (PONREPP) was also reported at the Roundtable. The finalised plan is scheduled to be presented at the ASEAN-UN Summit in mid-December 2008.

“It is important that the TCG continues its constructive engagement to facilitate the cyclone response delivery. Critical elements today are in the sectors of water, shelter and livelihoods, including agriculture. Continued collaborative efforts and support are key to success in the challenges ahead,” said the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Bishow Parajuli.

Army explains checkpoints

ICC, Iligan City (26 November). Army checkpoints to increase security measures were up early this week along the road connecting the cities of Iligan and Marawi, in front of the 104th Infantry Brigade camp at Barangay Maria Cristina of the city, attracting varied reactions from the people in the area.

A commuter complained claiming that there was discrimination as the checkpoint stopped and inspected their vehicle upon seeing the occupants to be Maranaos. It was argued that there was a seeming bias against the group that can provoke resentment and was further considered to violate Human Rights. On the other hand, many local folks particularly from Iligan City welcomed the checkpoints as it was viewed to provide them more security.

Col Benito de Leon, Commander of the 104th Infantry Brigade declared that he ordered the checkpoint along the Iligan-Marawi route to control the passage of lawless armed groups that were reportedly just freely passing through the road.

He said that no prejudice was directed towards a certain group as he disclosed even requiring at one point for all vehicles be checked including those of the military, police, or other government agencies.

This measure, he said would curb those who plan to impersonate persons in authority, and allow the military to monitor the passage of security concerned forces. Certain individuals were also reported carrying firearms without authority and even on board government vehicles or ambulances, hence the checkpoints, he adds.

Col De Leon, himself, went on radio broadcast to explain the rationale of checkpoints which is intended to complement police enforcement activities and contribute to the efforts of ensuring good peace and order.

He explained that “check points” is a mechanism in accord with the AFP’s Rules of Engagement and does not violate Human Rights.

As Col. De Leon apologized to the riding public for the inconvenience of the checkpoints, he also asked them to extend cooperation to facilitate the job of the military security forces.

He advised vehicle drivers on approaching a checkpoint the following: slow down and prepare to stop if signaled; dim their lights; open their windows; and turn on their cabin lights.

“Rest assured that we will establish any security arrangement allowed by our laws and regulations, including the conduct of checkpoints, if only to protect the people we are duty-bound to serve,” emphasized Col de Leon.

PIA Dispatch - Tuesday, November 25, 2008

PGMA, Uribe compare governance notes in Cartagena, Colombia

CARTAGENA, Colombia -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe exchanged governance tips amid banter and both found to their surprise that their countries, although worlds apart, have many similarities and strengths, and share common challenges and solutions.

In their casual discussion that lasted one and a half hours in the sitting room of a historic site in the coastal metropolis of Cartagena, the two heads of state exchanged views on how they deal with rebels, the current financial crunch and a variety of common topics.

Businessman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and his wife Lizzie, who comes from a sugar-producing family in Colombia, played host to the President in their Cartagena home later in the day.

When President Arroyo asked President Uribe what he was doing in the face of the financial crunch, the latter said his government was extending direct help to the poor with conditional cash transfers, subsidies through school and medical aid, attending to rice and food sufficiency, and taking care of the poor and vulnerable through “fiscal stimulus.” And yes, addressing the rebels.

Finding resonance in the Colombian formula, President Arroyo acknowledged that the Philippines has learned from the good practices in South America and that, in fact, what Uribe mentioned were exactly what she has been doing in the Philippines.

“Yes, we are doing exactly the same thing back home. In fact, we adopted the good practices of South America to deal with our present -- day challenges,” President Arroyo said.

The conversation started in a light banter, with President Arroyo saying that the two best known women of Colombia got Filipino husbands, namely Stella Marquez-Araneta, a former Miss International, and Lizzie, referring to Mrs. Zobel.

Both presidents exchanged views on investment incentives like economic zones, and tax holidays. President Arroyo also invited the Colombian leader to visit the Philippines soon.

Like the Philippine President, Uribe is known for his work ethic, his frequent visits to his constituents, and doing governance in remote areas of the country whose population of 45 million is roughly half that of the Philippines.

The President’s small delegation, composed of two Cabinet secretaries, Peter Favila and Jesus Dureza, and five congressmen, was billeted in a century-old monastery converted into a quiant hotel within the walled part of the city very similar to Intramuros. The monastery was also built years ago to protect the Colombian hideaway from marauding pirates.

Today, Cartagena is a world tourist destination, and the walled portion of the city is a world heritage site.

RP, Peru business groups agree to explore trade opportunities

LIMA, Peru (via PLDT) – Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila witnessed on Sunday the signing of a private cooperation agreement between Peruvian and Philippine business groups on the possibility of expanding trade between the two countries.

The agreement was signed at the of Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola here during the reception that followed the conferment of a doctorate degree, honoris causa, on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Favila said the cooperation agreement could open many opportunities for the businessmen of the two countries, which share a common history of having been under Spanish rule for hundreds of years.

“We should forge closer ties economically with Peru given the similarities of our two countries,” Favila said.

He said a Peruvian company is keen on tying up with the Zuellig pharmaceutical company in the Philippines.

Peruvians are also interested in pre-fabricated housing materials to support the construction boom in this South American nation, Favila said.

“They (Peru businessmen) are still on the stage of exploring opportunities (in the Philippines),” Favila said.

Palace dubs House opposition walkout as “immature tantrums”

The Palace has dubbed the walkout of the House opposition members during the impeachment hearings today as nothing but “immature tantrums” to prevent themselves from hearing the arguments of their anti-impeachment colleagues.

In a media briefing today, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Anthony Golez Jr. said of the walk-out started by San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora: “What we saw are immature tantrums of walkout.”

“Tapos, pinakita nila na ‘di nila nagustuhan ang nakita nila,” added Golez.

“Pinakita nila sa sambayanan na kapag sila ang nagsasalita, dapat nakikinig… ‘Pag iba ang nagsalita, bakit ayaw nila makinig,” asked Golez who pointed out that the first day had the Filipino people listening to the impeachment proponents saying their piece – whether their claims are true or not.

“We are hoping that both sides of the coin would be heard, respected and argued about – ‘yan ang proseso ng impeachment,” Golez urged.

“Unang araw yung pro-impeachment -- yung tumutulak sa impeachment ang una magsasalita. Narinig natin ang mga sinabi nila -- whether kasinungalingan o otherwise -- pinakinggan ng tao.

“Susunod na araw, argument na nagsabi wala dapat impeachment o anti impeachment. Sinabi ang basehan kung bakit di dapat ma-impeach and Pangulo… ‘Yan ang proseso -- dapat nirerespeto ang impeachment (procedure).”

The opposition walked out when Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga pointed out that the impeachment document itself may be considered a falsified document because while it was notarized on Oct. 10, the affiants attested to the veracity of its contents only the following day, Oct. 11.

Barzaga said the mix-up in the dates is “so simple that even the ordinary man on the street” would notice it.

He reiterated that the notarization date was Oct. 10, 2008, but was executed only on October 11. “The crime of falsification is very apparent,” Barzaga had added, saying the proponents could be meted the punishment of “prision correccional.”

Before his walk-out, Zamora had asked the Justice Committee chair, Rep. Mat Defensor, to immediately rule on whether the document is falsified or not based on Barzaga’s contention; but Defensor stressed that he was not competent to rule on the matter right away.

PGMA will veto bill on term extension -- Golez

In one of its most forceful declarations on the Charter change issue, Malacanang said today that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will veto any bill extending her term of office beyond 2010, if such a legislative measure is ever approved by Congress acting as a constituent assembly.

In a radio interview, Deputy Presidential Spokesman Anthony Golez Jr. branded as baseless the charges by administration critics that the proposal of some members of Congress to amend the Constitution is intended to prolong the President’s term of office.

Golez’s statement was consistent with Malacanang’s pronouncements that President Arroyo will step down upon the expiration of her constitutional term of office in June 2010.

The President herself has repeatedly and openly declared that her presidency ends in June 2010 as mandated by law, period.

Golez also said that the President is staying above the political fray over the proposed Cha-Cha and the investigation by committees of both Houses of Congress of the alleged fertilizer scam.

He also said that there was no question about the political stability in the country despite the increased decibel of political noise over the Cha-Cha and the fertilizer investigations.

Otherwise, the President would have cancelled her trip to Peru where she attended the 16th Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) Leaders Meeting, he added.

The President left the Peruvian capital at the end of the two-day APEC Summit yesterday and flew to Colombia before returning to the Philippines via Los Angeles, California.

She is expected to arrive in Manila on Friday at 5 a.m. Nov. 28.

Monday, 24 November 2008

PIA Dispatch - Monday, November 24, 2008

Gov't prepared to pursue peace talks based on authentic consultations

LIMA, Peru – The Philippine government is prepared to go back to the negotiating table with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as soon as positive results are gathered from the ongoing consultations with stakeholders and affected communities in Mindanao.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said this was what President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo told United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during their meeting Saturday night (Nov. 22) at the Ministry of Defense (MOD) compound here.

Briefing the Philippine media at the Hotel Las Americas Pardo in Miraflores District here, Dureza said Rice asked the President about the developments in ongoing peace process in Mindanao. The President explained the new paradigm of her administration in pursuing the peace talks with the MILF based on more authentic consultations and not dictated by any armed group.

He said the President, also expressed her gratitude for the continuing US assistance in the Mindanao peace process.

Dureza expressed confidence that the ongoing consultations with the stakeholders as mandated under the new paradigm might be completed very soon.

“There might be a new announcement very soon about the resumption of peace talks with the MILF. But she (President Macapagal-Arroyo) reiterated the bottomline that communities must be secured first and the responsible elements of the MILF must take control,” he added.

Hopefully, Dureza said, positive results from the ongoing multi-sectoral consultations would come out as early as next month to enable the government to address the immediate needs of the displaced families and affected communities in the south.

APEC leaders agree to bolster cooperation to address financial crisis facing region

LIMA, Peru – The Philippines and other leaders of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) agreed today to further strengthen regional cooperation on all fronts to promote growth and development and pave the way for rapid recovery from the most daunting financial and economic challenges the region has faced since the APEC creation in 1989.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the 20 other APEC leaders issued this proclamation in their final declaration at the close of the two-day 16th APEC Leaders Summit on Sunday afternoon (Nov. 23) at the Ministry of Defense (MOD) convention center here.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia Perez read the Spanish text of the APEC leaders’ final declaration. This was followed immediately by the simple turnover acceptance speech of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore which will host of the 2009 APEC Leaders Summit.

Afterwards, the President and other APEC leaders, garbed in the traditional Peruvian brown-colored “poncho,” had their official group photo taken.

In their declaration, the APEC leaders agreed to liberalize trade and promote investments, support and implement structural economic reforms, improve human security, and promote corporate social responsibility to ensure that all member-economies benefit from globalization.

“The current global financial crisis is one of the most serious economic challenges we have ever faced. We will act quickly and decisively to address the impending global economic slowdown,” the leaders said.

In response to the global crisis, the APEC leaders vowed to oppose protectionism by strongly pushing for the conclusión of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round of Talks, and refrain from raising the current levels of applied import tariffs at least until the end of next year.

“We welcome the monetary and fiscal stimulus provided by APEC member-economies and will take all necessary economic and financial measures to resolve this crisis,” the declaration read.

The leaders also endorsed the 2009 work plan for the APEC Regional Economic Integration (REI) agenda, emphasized the importance of strengthening financial markets in the region, and welcomed the capacity-building activities initiated by APEC finance ministers to reform capital markets.

They also affirmed their commitment to strengthen the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) in the region as they welcomed the progress being made by the economies to implement APEC’s anti-counterfeiting and piracy initiatives and efforts to improve the patent systems.

The leaders also vowed to improve food security in the region and supported a fully-coordinated response and a comprehensive strategy to tackle this issue through a broad framework for action developed by the United Nations (UN) task force on global food security crisis.

The APEC leaders also agreed to cooperate on disaster preparedness and management, and confront the challenges of climate change.

“As a global issue, climate change must be addressed in a comprehensive manner, through international cooperation under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2009,” they said.

During the summit, the Philippines backed the G20 declaration in Washington last week to reform and strengthen international financing institutions which provide overseas development assístance (ODA) grants and other financial liquidity infusions to developing countries.

The Philippines also reaffirmed its continuing commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including the fight against poverty, hunger and food security, terrorism, climate change, energy security and clean development.

PGMA unveils Rizal's bust at the Rizal Park in Lima

LIMA, Peru – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo unveiled today the bust of Dr. Jose Rizal at the newly-named Rizal Park in this capital city.

The unveiling rites were held on the last day of her visit to Peru to attend the two-day 16th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting at the Ministry of Defense Convention Center, this city.

Welcoming the President at the Rizal Park at the Avenida La Floresta and Paseo de los Eucaliptos here were La Molina District Mayor Luis Dibos Vargas Prada; Philippine ambassador to Chile, Peru and Ecuador Amb. Maria Consuelo “Baby” Puyat Reyes; and some 50 Filipina nuns and Filipino overseas workers here.

The ceremony was kicked off by Mayor Prada’s welcome remarks, followed by the singing of the national anthems of the two countries, and then by the unveiling of the bronze bust of Rizal by President Arroyo and Mayor Prada.

In his remarks, Mayor Prada said they are honored with the presence of the President, adding that Peruvians can learn from Rizal’s patriotism.

The bust of Rizal was designed by Czech sculptor Libor Piszlac of Litomerice, Czech Republic, the place where Rizal’s friend, Ferdinand Blumentritt, once lived.

The bust is mounted atop a quadrilateral pedestal where four inaugural plaque markers are mounted on each side.

Inscribed in one marker are the words: “Dr. Jose P. Rizal, Heroe Nacional de Filipinas, Nacionalista, Reformador Political, Escritor, Linguistica y Poeta, 1861-1896.”

Inscribed in another marker are the details of the formal inaugural rites led by the President and witnessed by Mayor Prada.

The bust of Rizal was donated by Hans Gunter Schoof -- a German married to a Filipina from Baclayon, Bohol -- who is a passionate admirer of Rizal, especially the national hero’s exploits in Germany.

Schoof now owns a plush resort in Bohol which boasts of a fine collection of Rizal memorabilia.

The establishment of the Rizal Park here was made possible through the collaborative efforts of the Philippine Honorary Consulate in Peru and the municipality of La Molina.

Peru's leading University honors PGMA

LIMA, Peru – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was conferred here today a doctorate degree in science, economic and public administration, honoris causa, from the Universidad de San Ignacio de Loyola, one of the most distinguished and prestigious educational institutions in Peru.

Donning a graduation hood and gown, the President received her diploma and medal from University Director Dra. Lourdes Flores Nano and Señor Lic. Raul Diez Canseco Terry, president and founder of the Organizacion Educativa de Universidad de San Ignacio de Loyola.

Terry said the President is the first Head of State/Government in the Asia-Pacific to be accorded the honor in recognition of her efforts to promote quality education, including the inclusion of the Spanish subject in the Philippine education curriculum.

At the reception that followed, the university official also presented the President with a four-foot image of the Peruvian saint, Sta. Rosa de Lima, also the patron saint of many towns in the Philippines.

After the conferment ceremony, the President proceeded to hear the 6 p.m. special Sunday Mass at the shrine and church of Sta. Rosa de Lima which was officiated by Msgr. Allen Aganon, a Filipino. A number of Filipinos, including priests, nuns, religious workers and others working in Peru, attended the mass.

A devout Catholic, the President has made religious visits in the past to churches and religious shrines on the sidelines of her official and working visits in the Philippines and abroad.

Born April 30, 1586, Sta. Rosa de Lima, the first saint of Peru, was officially proclaimed by Pope Clement X as the Patron Saint of the Americas, Peru and the Philippines on Aug. 11, 1670.

It was also Pope Clement X who canonized Sta. Rosa de Lima as a saint on April 12, 1671.

APEC leaders vow to improve food security to help vulnerable sector

LIMA, Peru — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the 20 other leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) committed today to improve food security to help the poor in the region who are most vulnerable to the impact of tight food supply and escalating food prices worldwide.

In their final declaration here, the APEC leaders said the current volatility of global food prices, combined with food shortages in some developing economies, are affecting gains in reducing poverty in the region.

“The poor are especially vulnerable to increases in food prices. We support a fully coordinated response and a comprehensive strategy to tackle this issue through the Comprehensive Framework for Action developed by the United Nations (UN) Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis. We will support the application and implementation of this Framework within the region, as appropriate,” the APEC leaders said.

The leaders said APEC members’ individual and collective policy responses to expand food and agricultural supply in the region should strengthen market forces to encourage new investments in agricultural technology and production systems.

They also called for the early conclusion of the stalled Doha Round of Talks of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to open the way for substantial improvements in market access and reduce market-distorting measures in global agricultural trade.

“We commended the work that APEC has undertaken in the area of food and agriculture, and welcome the work plan endorsed by APEC Ministers to refine and strengthen APEC’s agenda to meet current and emerging food security challenges,” the leaders said.

They also vowed to increase technical cooperation and capacity building that will help foster agricultural sector growth, including efforts to increase food production, improve agricultural education, enhance natural resource management, promote the development of next-generation biofuels made from non-food materials, build well-functioning markets and regulatory institutions, and make food storage, transportation, and distribution systems more efficient.

Long before the global credit crunch, the President had directed the Department of Agriculture (DA) to implement a comprehensive agricultural program focused on higher spending on irrigation and rural infrastructure, post-harvest facilities, certified and hybrid seeds, research and development, rural credit facilitation, and establishing more markets for Philippine agricultural products.

The President also secured agricultural grants and loans, including $216.5 million from the United States last June, to help ensure food security amid the rising prices of rice, fuel and other commodities worldwide.

UN and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) officials are currently meeting in Manila on food security to determine how the UN can assist ASEAN in implementing its Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security (SPA-FS).

The meeting is preparatory to a meeting between the UN and ASEAN leaders in Chiang Mai, Thailand to next month.

ASEAN made progress on ASEAN Digital Broadcasting Implementation

ASEAN Member States met to further discuss policy, technology and content issues in regard to the implementation of digital broadcasting in the region.

The 7th ASEAN Digital Broadcasting (ADB) Meeting, co-chaired by Brunei Darussalam and Singapore in Bali, Indonesia on 18 November 2008, successfully concluded with officials agreeing to set up an Interactive Compliance Centre (includes testing of interactive applications in set-top boxes, creating and exchange of interactive applications and training).

Member States recommend that fees should not be imposed on Free-to-Air broadcasters for the use of MPEG4-AVC technology.

Recognizing the importance of using the broadcast technologies to issue early warning systems, Member States agreed to set-up a study group on the Early Warning System on the digital TV platform.

Member States agreed to discuss with the European Union to collaborate in digital terrestrial broadcasting deployment.

Member States aim for early digitalization to reap the benefits of the digital dividend and to ensure that terrestrial broadcasting remains relevant in the face of competition from mobile and internet TV.

Recognizing that Member States are at different stages of digital TV implementation, Member States recommend that ASEAN adopts a phased approach towards Analogue Switch-off.

Member States also underscored the importance of public education and capacity building in preparation for digital roll–out and that there was much scope for sharing of best practices among ASEAN countries.

Noting the different levels of expertise on HD production, Member States agreed to set-up a virtual HD Training Centre to serve as self-help resource to equip members with the necessary skills set for HD production and to collaborate through co-productions.

Taking into account the experience of ASEAN Dialogue Partners, namely China, Japan and Korea, India and European Union in digital broadcasting implementation, ASEAN agreed to engage them for capacity building on content production on HD.

DA provides jobs and livelihood projects for unemployed

The Department of Agriculture (DA) Region 2 is set to generate about 14,000 jobs for unemployed individuals by 2009 through the implementation of the Emergency Employment and Livelihood Programs of the government.

Dir. Lucrecio R. Alviar, DA Regional Technical Director for Administration, said the move is response to the memorandum of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to create and implement emergency employment and livelihood programs especially for those in the low and middle income class of the society. DA formulated three projects that is set to generate jobs and livelihood programs.

For Region 2, Alviar said DA will facilitate the identification and development of new agribusiness lands that is programmed for planting rice, corn, fruit trees, vegetables and fish products.

He also said that agriculturist trained farmers and led extentionist all over Region 2 on organic fertilizer production as one way of providing livelihood to farmers and helping them in lowering cost of fertilizers.

DA and NIA will also facilitate the joint project in the restoration and rehabilitation of irrigation canals and small impounding projects and continue farm-to-market roads and other infrastructure projects on agriculture.

"Through these projects we will be able to generate thousands of jobs and livelihood for the people to ensure that those in the lower and middle level will not be greatly affected by the global financial crisis," Alviar said.

For this program, DA 2 will be given a budget of 300 million pesos to implement the projects while NIA will spend billions of pesos for the irrigation projects. (PIA-Cagayan)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon touched by RP hospitality

NEW YORK—United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was profuse in expressing his appreciation to the Philippines, saying he was touched by the kindness and hospitality extended to him during his visit to Manila last month.

"I am touched and deeply honored by how well I was treated and received by the people and the government of the Philippines," the Secretary General told Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban B. Conejos Jr. and Philippine Permanent Representative Hilario G. Davide, Jr. at the United Nations on Friday.

During the 20-minute meeting at his 38th floor office, the Secretary General repeatedly expressed his appreciation to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who accorded him honors befitting a head of state during his visit to Manila from 28 to 30 October to take part in the Second Global Forum for Migration and Development (GFMD).

According to the Philippine Mission to the United Nations, the Secretary General congratulated President Arroyo, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo and Undersecretary Conejos for the successful Philippine hosting of the GFMD and expressed hope that the Philippines will continue to lend its active support to the forum.

The Secretary General thanked the President not only for receiving him but also for hosting a state dinner and conferring on him the Order of Sikatuna with the rank of Rajah—the country's highest decoration of diplomatic merit. He also expressed his appreciation to the University of the Philippines for conferring on him the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa.

"I regard this as a great, great honor," the Secretary General told the two Philippine officials.

Although the Secretary General briefly met President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo after addressing last month's meeting of the General Assembly on interfaith dialogue, his meeting with Undersecretary Conejos and Ambassador Davide was the first time he sat down with Filipino officials since arriving from the Philippines last month.

The Secretary General expressed regret that he was not able to spend more time with the President during her stay in New York. He said he went down the podium to greet the President who unfortunately had to leave for Manila immediately after she introduced the Philippine-initiated resolution on the promotion of inter-religious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace.

The Philippine Mission said the Secretary General also took his time in sharing with Undersecretary Conejos and Ambassador Davide what he said were his many good memories about the Philippines as it was the first country he visited in an official capacity as a junior foreign service officer in the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1976. The Philippines was also the first country he visited after he was appointed Foreign Minister in 2004.

The Secretary General also expressed his high regard for Filipinos, describing them as very talented and very sincere. He mentioned his experience working with former Foreign Affairs Secretary and now Ambassador to Berlin Delia D. Albert and former Ambassador to Vienna and now to Paris Jose A. Zaide as well as Filipino members of his staff at the United Nations.

Aklan to take center stage in the country's campaign to remove VAW

Kalibo, Aklan - Aklan will be one of the sites of the first national congress of the Men Opposed to VAW Everywhere (MOVE) on December 5 – the last day of the 18 – Day Campaign to End Violence Against Women (VAW).

Spearheading the 18-Day Campaign to End VAW is the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW) which starts November 25 and will end Dec. 5.

The 18-day campaign, with the theme "CEDAW ng Bayan:ReMOVE VAW, this year will highlight the critical roles of governments at the macro level, and of men, as individuals and groups, at the micro levels in curbing and responding sensitively to VAW.

"While there is a call to get all levels of government to become more VAW – responsive, the Campaign will also recognize concrete efforts of local government units (LGUs) and members of the judiciary in promoting women's human rights and in addressing gender-based violence through the Search for Outstanding VAW-Responsive LGUs and the Gender Justice Awards II. As a kick-off activity, the NCRFW will officially launch the year-long Search on Nov. 25 at the Astoria Plaza Hotel, Ortigas Center, Pasig City," said the online CEDAW campaign brief.

The First National Congress of MOVE will highlight the vital role of men in the fight against VAW, taking off from previous efforts in building a network of male advocates against VAW.

In Aklan, the MOVE Congress for the Visayas Hub will be held at La Carmela de Boracay in Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan.

According to Franklin Quimpo, MOVE-Aklan President, provinces which have confirmed attendance to the Congress on Dec. 5 are Northern Samar, Southern Leyte, Eastern Samar and Masbate.

With the theme "Kilos Mga Kalalakihan! Sugpuin and Karahasan Laban Sa Kababaihan!" the MOVE Congress will be held in four sites simultaneously – Aklan (Visayas), Astoria Plaza Hotel (Metro Manila), Quezon Province (Luzon) and Davao City (Mindanao).

These sites will be linked together through video conferencing. (PIA/Venus G. Villanueva)