Wednesday, 30 June 2010

PIA Dispatch - Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Aquino, 15th President, vows better life for Filipinos and to curb corruption, excesses

Benigno “P-noy” Aquino III took his oath today as the country’s 15th President, vowing to guide the nation to the right path, lift Filipinos from poverty, give them the benefits and services they deserve, and curb corruption and other forms of excesses of power and authority.

The 50-year-old Aquino, the first bachelor ever to head the nation, said he will lead by example, with the ideals starting from him, as he promised to live up to the legacies of her parents, the assassinated former Sen. Benigno S. Aquino Jr., and the late Corazon C. Aquino, the country’s 11th president and widely regarded as icon of Philippine democracy.

“Ang unang hakbang ay ang pagkakaroon ng tuwid at tapat na hanay ng mga pinuno. Magsisimula ito sa akin. Sisikapin kong maging isang mabuting ehemplo. Hinding hindi ko sasayangin ang tiwalang ipinagkaloob ninyo sa akin. Sisiguraduhin ko na ganito rin ang adhikain ng aking Gabinete at ng mga magiging kasama sa ating pamahalaan (The first step is to have leaders who are ethical, honest, and true public servants. I will set the example. I will strive to be a good model. I will not break the trust you have placed in me. I will ensure that this, too, will be the advocacy of my Cabinet and those who will join our government),”said Aquino in his 22-minute inaugural address delivered largely in Pilipino and applauded more than 20 times by more than a half million who trooped to the country’s Rizal Park.

Aquino, an economics graduate honed in Congress politics in his 15 years as congressman and senator, delivered a straightforward speech to the delight of the attentive crowd majority of whom were adorned with everything yellow.

The color is associated with the pro-democracy movement in the 80’s spawned by the murder of his father in August 1983 up to that fateful February 1986 revolution that ended years of Marcos dictatorship and catapulted the widow Corazon Aquino into power. Yellow has since then been the identifying color of Aquino family supporters and followers.

“Nilabanan ng aking ama ang diktadurya at ibinuwis niya ang kanyang buhay para tubusin ang ating demokrasya. Inalay ng aking ina ang kanyang buhay upang pangalagaan ang demokrasyang ito. Ilalaan ko ang aking buhay para siguraduhin na ang ating demokrasya ay kapaki-pakinabang sa bawa’t isa. Namuhunan na po kami ng dugo at handang gawin itong muli kung kakailanganin (My father offered his life so our democracy could live. My mother devoted her life to nurturing that democracy. I will dedicate my life to making our democracy reach its fullest potential: that of ensuring equality for all. My family has sacrificed much and I am willing to do this again if necessary),” he said.

He said his mission in simple: to be true to ideals of his parents and the Filipino people, be a dutiful son, a good brother and good citizen.

“My parents sought nothing less and died for nothing less than democracy, peace and prosperity. I am blessed by this legacy. I shall carry the torch forward,” he said.

Aquino succeeds Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, daughter of another Philippine president. Arroyo is now congresswoman, after nine years in Malacanang. She won the congressional seat for the second district in her home province of Pampanga.

Aquino took his oath of office at the famed Luneta Grandstand before Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales exactly at 12 noon as mandated in the Constitution.

He went to Luneta in the same car with Arroyo, as required by tradition. The outgoing President however did not wait for her successor’s inaugural speech and left Luneta Park for her own swearing in ceremony in Pampanga.

Vice President Jejomar Binay was also sworn in by Morales. The new President followed and read his oath, his left hand on top of the Bible, his four sisters behind him including a barangay captain who furnished the holy book.

But before the two leaders were sworn in, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile read the joint Congress resolution proclaiming them winners in the May 10 elections, a historic political exercise in the country being the first-ever automated national election.

Aquino said that on Day One of his administration, he wanted an end what he said is the insensitivity by leaders to the plight of the Filipino people, although he said, it will also be the start of his own sacrifice and calvary.

“Ngayon,sa araw na ito – dito magwawakas ang pamumunong manhid sa mga daing ng taumbayan. Hindi si Noynoy ang gumawa ng paraan, kayo ang dahilan kung bakit ngayon, magtatapos na ang pagtitiis ng sambayanan. Ito naman po ang umpisa ng kalbaryo ko, nguni’t kung marami tayong magpapasan ng krus ay kakayanin natin ito, gaano man kabigat (Today marks the end of a regime indifferent to the appeals of the people. It is not Noynoy who found a way. You are the reason why the silent suffering of the nation is about to end. This is the beginning of my burden, but if many of us will bear the cross we will lift it, no matter how heavy it is),” he said.

Aquino said he will straighten the bureaucracy and weed out the corrupt therein.

He promised to give attention to the education system, public infrastructure projects, employment opportunities, revenue collection, public health and housing.

He said specific instructions have been issued to his incoming cabinet to look at the agriculture sector, specially the setting up of trading centers where farmers can directly trade without being hounded by middle men and even corrupt lawmen.

For the millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), he said he has given instructions to the foreign office, labor and welfare agencies to strengthen their welfare and assistance programs for them.

Among the most applauded portions of his inaugural speech were his clear messages pledging to apply justice to all and make accountable those who have been engaged in corrupt activities.

In forthright terms, he said he will not condone even petty abuse of authority.

“Walang lamangan, walang padrino, at walang pagnanakaw. Walang wang-wang, walang counter-flow, walang tong. Panahon na upang tayo ay muling magkawanggawa (No more influence-peddling, no more patronage politics, no more stealing. No more sirens, no more short cuts, no more bribes. It is time for us to work together once more),” he said.

As to his campaign pledge to look into the allegations of corruption against the previous administration, Aquino said he was glad that former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. has accepted his offer to head a truth commission to look into the numerous unexplained issues of corruption in the past.

On the issue of reconciliation and unity, he said: “To those who are talking about reconciliation, if they mean that they would like us to simply forget about the wrongs that they have committed in the past, we have this to say: There can be no reconciliation without justice. Sa paglimot ng pagkakasala, sinisigurado mong mauulit muli ang mga pagkakasalang ito. Secretary de Lima, you have your marching orders. Begin the process of providing true and complete justice for all.”

On the problems in Mindanao, he said: “My government will be sincere in dealing with all the peoples of Mindanao. We are committed to a peaceful and just settlement of conflicts, inclusive of the interests of all – may they be Lumads, Bangsamoro or Christian.”

On the international front, he said: “To our friends and neighbors around the world, we are ready to take our place as a reliable member of the community of nations, a nation serious about its commitments and which harmonizes its national interests with its international responsibilities.”

He closed his inaugural message, thus: “Layunin ko na sa pagbaba ko sa katungkulan, masasabi ng lahat na malayo na ang narating natin sa pagtahak ng tuwid na landas at mas maganda na ang kinabukasang ipapamana natin sa susunod na henerasyon. Samahan ninyo ako sa pagtatapos ng laban na ito. Tayo na sa tuwid na landas (My hope is that when I leave office, everyone can say that we have traveled far on the right path, and that we are able to bequeath a better future to the next generation. Join me in continuing this fight for change).”

International community welcomes new RP President Aquino

Representatives and guests from 81 foreign nations provided international prestige today to the inaugural event in Manila  for new Philippine President Benigno “P-noy” Aquino III, the 15th president of the country.

The Malacanang Protocol Office, said representatives of some 81 countries and international institutions and organizations attended the inauguration of Aquino and Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Most prominent among the foreign guests were Timor–Leste President Jose Ramos Horta and 21 states have sent high-level and ministerial-level delegates, who started arriving in Manila one after the other since last Monday.

The United States was represented by Trade Representative Ron Kirk, and The Holy See by the Apostolic Nuncio to Korea The Most Reverend Osvaldo Padilla.

Also in attendance were China’s National People's Congress Vice Chairperson Madame Yan Junqi, Japanese State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Osamu Fujimura and Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, Spain’s Defensor del Pueblo Enrique Mugica, Singapore Foreign Minister George Yong-Boon Yeo, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Minister of State of the Foreign Affairs Dr. Nizar bin Abaid Madani;

Brunei Darussalam Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma, Cambodian Minister of Information Khieuk Kanharith, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Dr. H.R. Agung Laksono;

Korea's Chairman of the Board of Audit and Inspection Kim Hwang-Sik, Laos' Chief of Cabinet to the President Souban Srithirath, Malaysia's Minister for Women, Family and Community Development Senator Dato' Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, Thailand's Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Ongart Klampaiboon, and Vietnam's Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang.

Other foreign dignitaries who were witness to the historic event included Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Assistant Secretary-General Samir Diab, Peru Ambassador to Indonesia Jorge Castaneda Mendez and members of Parliament that included Australia's Julie Owens, Canada's Jim Abbott and New Zealand's John Hayes.

Representatives of international organizations included the United Nations' Resident Coordinator Jacqueline Babcock, Food and Agricultural Organization's Kazuyuki Tsurumi, International Committee of the Red Cross' Jean-Daniel Tauxe, International Labor Organization’s Linda Wirth, and International Monetary Fund's Dennis Bothman.

Other representatives of international organizations included: International Organization for Migration's Duc Tran, United Nations Children's Fund Vanessa Tobin (represented by Colin Davis), UN Development Programme Renaud Mayer, UN High Commission for Refugees Rico Salcedo, UN World Food Programme Stephen Anderson, World Banks' Bert Hoffman, and World Health Organization's Dr. Linda Milan.

The foreign dignitaries are expected to attend the vin d'honneur reception at 6 p.m. in Malacañang.

Most Reverend Padilla expressed hope that President Aquino will exercise outstanding leadership and achieve great success in overcoming difficult challenges.

Laos’s Souban Srithirath said he wants to convey to President Aquino, “my very best wishes for great success.”

“I want to wish him, sincerely, great success in his work as the new President,” Horta briefly said.

Binay shares oath ceremony with P-Noy

Vice President Jejomar Binay took his oath of office today also before Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales minutes before President Benigno “P-noy” C. Aquino III was sworn in by the lady magistrate at 12 noon at the Quirino Grandstand, Rizal Park in Manila.

Binay placed his hand on top of the Holy Bible held by his spouse, former Makati City Mayor Elenita Binay, as he recited his constitutional pledge after Justice Morales.

After the simple oath taking ceremony, Binay was congratulated by President Aquino, family members and other officials including former President Joseph Estrada.

Prior to their high-noon oath taking, Binay first heard mass at the Manila Cathedral early in the morning. From the cathedral, Binay proceeded to the Manila Hotel until he was given a go-signal to proceed to the Quirino Grandstand.

When then President-elect Aquino and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo left Malacanang for inaugural rite, Binay rode on board a Makati-made electric jeepney in going to the Luneta Grandstand.

Binay succeeded former Vice President Noli de Castro after winning in the first automated elections last May.

Among Binay’s supporters seen at the inaugural rites were Makati residents and some 500 members and officers of the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity.

Sea of yellow back in P-Noy inaugural

The sea of yellow that gave birth to the first people power in the country more than two decades ago came roaring back as the nation witnessed the inauguration of Benigno Simeon Aquino III as the 15th President of the republic.

The son of martyred Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and former President Corazon Aquino was sworn in at exactly 12 noon today amidst an adoring throng of supporters, volunteers and ordinary folks who have seen him as a symbol of change and hope for a better Philippines.

Estimates put the crowd at the gaily bedecked Rizal Park at more than 600,000 although millions more must have watched the historic proceedings at their television sets, witnesses to the peaceful transition of power in their government.

The day was declared a non-working day by outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to give Filipinos a chance to witness the inaugural of the country’s first president elected under the automated polls.

The outgoing Chief Executive had earlier been fetched by Aquino in Malacanang. Together, they rode the presidential limousine to the Quirino Grandstand for the traditional ceremonial ride.

Garbed mostly in yellow, people composed of students, employees from the private and government sector, as well as the who’s who in high society circles filled the grandstand, some of them waving yellow banners, wearing yellow sunglasses and fanning themselves with so-called Noynoy fans.

An air of optimism pervaded the atmosphere as can be seen from the wide smiles and cheerful attitude of the crowd who braved the mid-day sun and the discomfort of having to stand for an extended period of time to see history in the making.

Jennifer Santos, a 46-year old housewife and mother of two was one of the hundreds of thousands of Aquino supporters who went to the inaugural venue to witness Aquino’s oath taking.

Santos, who voted for Aquino in the May 2010 national elections, said she was optimistic that Aquino has what it takes to bring permanent and lasting change to the country.

She joined the more than 15-million voters who backed Aquino on the basis of his “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” campaign slogan.

Santos said she believes wholeheartedly that the new President will bring about the necessary changes to bring the nation back to its feet.

In his inaugural speech which lasted 22 minutes and applauded some 30 times, Aquino vowed to push for governance that is pro-people, anchored on democracy and free from corruption.

Not one but four handshakes for PGMA, P-Noy

No less than four handshakes marked the formal meeting of outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and President-elect Benigno Aquino III at Malacanang today prior to their traditional ceremonial ride to the Quirino Grandstand at the Rizal Park  for the inaugural ceremonies of the new Chief Executive.

Clad in off-white long-sleeved barong Tagalog, Aquino, waited anxiously at the flower-bedecked ground floor lobby of the Palace as President Arroyo descended the stairs for the historic event.

The outgoing Chief Executive smiled as he approached the President-elect and extended her hand to the man who would replace her at the helm of the republic. Together they posed and repeated the handshake three more times for photographers and cameramen who had positioned themselves earlier.

The outgoing President then joined President-elect Aquino to the presidential limousine.

They were accompanied in the convoy to the Quirino Grandstand by Vice President Noli de Castro, Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza, former Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila, Justice Secretary Alberto Agra, Public Works Secretary Victor Domingo, Finance Secretary Gary Teves and Press Secretary Crispulo Icban Jr. Also at the Palace was former Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera.

Except for Vice President de Castro, the Cabinet members joined the outgoing President in her lunch at her home in Lubao, Pampanga where she proceeded after the ceremonial military honors.

Just the night before, the same cabinet members hosted a farewell party for President Arroyo at the Bahay Pangarap in Malacanang following their last cabinet meeting.

Outgoing Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza said they thanked President Arroyo for giving them the opportunity to serve under her.

“She thanked all of us and we thanked her also for giving us the opportunity to serve under her. Then we sang songs and she sang with us her favorite tune from the Carpenters, “I have you,” recalled Mendoza.

“We also sang a Cabinet piece composed by the Department of Social Services which narrates the accomplishments of the Arroyo administration in Tagalog to the tune of “Ang Sabi Nila,” he added.

The President, according to Mendoza, told them to keep in touch and meet each other very often.

P-Noy swears in new Cabinet officials

President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III inducted today his Cabinet officials in simple ceremonies at the Rizal Hall in Malacañang.

Sworn in this afternoon were Executive Secretary Atty. Paquito Ochoa Jr.; Presidential Spokesperson Atty. Edwin Lacierda; Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alberto Romulo; Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima; Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Florencio Abad; Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon Soliman; Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Armin Luistro;

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin; Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Enrique Ona; Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz; Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Gregory Domingo; Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Mario Montejo; Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Jose Rene Almendras;

Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Jose de Jesus; Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje; Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Albert Lim; Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson; Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala; Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes;

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles; Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairman Patricia Licuanan; National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Cayetano Paderanga; Presidential Legal Counsel Eduardo de Mesa; and Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Director-General Julia Abad.

The President also administered the mass oath taking of newly elected district representatives, governors, vice governors, board members, city mayors, vice mayors and councilors most of whom belong to the administration’s Liberal Party.

Aquino Cabinet holds maiden meet, gives 1 month reprieve to contractual gov’t workers

President Benigno “P-noy” C. Aquino III and his Cabinet held their first official meeting minutes after he inducted the cabinet officials en masse at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room in Malacanang.

The Cabinet members who attended were Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, Budget Secretary Butch Abad, Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Education Secretary Armin Luistro (who the President tasked to deliver the opening prayer;

Economic Planning Secretary Cayetano Paderanga, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala (of Quezon), Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje, Transportation and Communication Secretary Jose de Jesus, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim;

Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, Science and Technology Secretary Dr. Mario Montejo, Energy Secretary Rene Almendras, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson, Peace Adviser Ging Deles, Presidential Management Staff Chief Julia Abad, Presidential Legal Counsel Eduardo de Mesa, and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

The President had planned a short session, but the meeting lasted for an hour tackling among others, issues like the fate of contractual government employees and non-Career Executive appointees whose terms were deemed to have expired today.

Also taken up were the budgetary proposals that must include the priority programs which the new Chief Executive will spell out in his first state of the nation address on July 26, and the formation of the Truth Commission, with former Chief Justice and Ambassador to the United Nations Hilario Davide.

At a press briefing after the Cabinet, Spokesperson Lacierda briefed the media along with Justice Secretary de Lima and Finance Secretary Purisima.

Lacierda said the President made it clear that his administration will not attempt at moves toward a balanced budget but will be keen on proposals to improve tax and customs collections and broadening the tax base to support his social programs.

Lacierda read out to media Executive Order No. 1 issued by Executive Secretary Ochoa, which extended the terms of contractual employees for one month or until July 31, 2010, subject to review by their superiors as to their performance. But the positions of non-career presidential appointees, whose terms ended with former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo were deemed vacant. Lacierda said that an inventory submitted to Secretary Ochoa by Arroyo officials showed about around 4,000 positions in the non-career category.

“The EO does not cover midnight appointments,” Lacierda said.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

PIA Dispatch - Thursday, June 24, 2010

PGMA’s farewell message

My fellow Filipinos,

We come together tonight as we approach a hallmark of democracy for our great nation – the smooth transition of power to a new leader.

We have just come through a historic election. It was open and it was modern.

As a result, we were able to declare winners in hours and days rather than weeks and months. The face of politics in our nation has changed forever.

Tonight, I once again congratulate president-elect Aquino and vice president-elect Binay.

Nine years ago, I came to the presidency at a time of great turmoil in our nation. I accepted the challenge of the office when it was thrust upon me.

At that time, our country was reeling from political intrigue and a distressed economy.

We set to work to reform our economy and invest in our people. Along the way, we had to make unpopular choices such as raising taxes but we did so against the odds for a very simple reason: we had to have new money for more and better healthcare, education, and job creation.

We needed new and better roads, bridges, ports and a technology backbone to attract new businesses and investors to create new jobs.

Through hard work, determination and a clear plan of action, we helped achieve many of these objectives.

As a result, we have had 37 quarters of uninterrupted economic growth even against the headwinds of a major global recession.

Look around you in our cities as you drive by the office towers that have changed the skyline.

Look around you in our provinces as you drive along the roads, bridges and Ro-Ro ports where we have made massive investments.

This is the face of change.

Eighty-five percent of our people now have access to Philhealth insurance, over a hundred thousand classrooms have been built and nine-million jobs have been created.

We developed the call-center industry almost from scratch. Today there are 500,000 call-center and BPO jobs when only 5,000 existed when I took office.

Yet, these accomplishments are merely part of the continuum of history.

The gains I made were built on the efforts of previous leaders. Each successive government must build on the successes and progress of the previous one.

Advance the programs that work and leave behind those that don’t.

I feel confident that we are leaving this nation much stronger than I came to office but I leave that for history to judge.

Tonight, I call on everyone to unite behind our new leaders. I am optimistic and I am hopeful about our future yet until every Filipino child is born to a family free of poverty, we cannot rest.

We must always set our sights on the future and keep an eye on improving our economy, investing in people and building bridges, not just bridges of iron and steel but bridges between people, generations and governments.

The bridges we must build to the future rest on the hard work, grace and compassion of our people.

The people of our nation are our greatest asset.

You are the backbone that drives our nation forward everyday.

From the fisherman to the farmer, to the taxi driver and the teacher, we are a nation of industrious, hardworking people.

I thank each and everyone for your contribution to help the Philippines  achieve our potential.

This time next week I will be moving into new phase of life leading a quieter public role.

We’re all on a journey together. As our nation moves forward let us all join hands in unity and walk confidently towards a better tomorrow.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for giving me the honor and privilege of serving you.

Malaking karangalan ang makapag-lingkod sa sambayanan bilang Pangulo.

Sa inyong lahat na napag-silbihan ko sa mahirap ngunit makasaysayang landas, maraming maraming salamat.

SK leaders thank PGMA

Four very articulate leaders of the Sangguniang Kabataan, or the youth councils, all over the country took turns in praising and thanking President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for her full support to their needs and concerns and for championing the cause of education and environment for future generations of Filipinos.

In their separate speeches, Jane Censoria D. Cajes, president of the Sangguniang Kabataan National Federation; Marinelle Formentera SK Federation from Parañaque representing Luzon; Karl Guisseppe Gumban of Iloilo representing SKs in the Visayas and Jessa Lumanog SK president for Davao del Sur, representing SKs in Mindanao took turns in praising the steadfast leadership, the vision, the programs and projects of President Arroyo, which they said helped spur growth in the countryside.

The SKNF leaders paid a courtesy call on the outgoing Chief Executive Wednesday afternoon to bid her farewell.

“By name she is known as the President of the Republic. But in our hearts, she is the mother of SK’s empowerment. The support, trust and confidence she has extended to us and to our program have demonstrated how the statement in our constitution is translated into action,” said Cajes.

“She has been a great mother to this nation. The motherly leadership that she exhibited during her term is definitely a unique statement of her leadership principles and philosophies,” she added.

Through rough and trying times, we have seen how she managed to brave all challenges and how she triumphed over political battles and how she forged all the storms and turbulence, Cajes said.

For her part, Lumanog said that the youth from Mindanao will forever be grateful to President Arroyo for the various infrastructure projects, the tourism industry, the ports, airports and seaports, the scholarship programs, the peace effort that are being implemented in different approaches and the battle to maintain and promote peace, security and peace and order in our homeland.

Gumban said “the SKs and the youth of the Visayas are grateful for your dedication and for the development that you have sowed in the humble lands of the Visayas.”

“We are thankful for the school buildings you built especially in remote barangays, the hollowed grounds where dreams, aspirations and wishes of young children are being conceived, born and nurtured,” Gumban said.

“We thank you for your efforts to attract investors to invest in the Visayas, your presence in the Visayas which made us and the people Mindanao feel important. We value your presence and your programs,” Gumban said.

According to Gumban, the present generation and those to come, “shall experience and appreciate how you have labored for development to flourish in the Visayas area.”

Formentera, on the other hand, told the President that her “attitude towards leadership changed when she began to be inspired by a person who has gone through a lot of challenges yet remained strong, firm and decisive.”

“The person (referring to the President) encouraged me to face the challenges that I met in performing my duties and responsibilities. She is one of the most powerful women in the world,” she added.

Se noted that the President’s accomplishments in various programs to uplift the lives of Filipinos are great but like other public figures she has been subjected to the harshest criticisms by people who chose to be blind to see the fruits of her labor.

“For me and for many young Filipinos, Her Excellency, President Arroyo is the modern face of an empowered woman, the guiding vision. Her constant passion, admirable discipline and remarkable persistence clearly led her to achieve and accomplish so much for a better Philippines,” she concluded. (OPS)

PAPI fetes PGMA for accomplishments

The Publishers Association of the Philippines, Inc. (PAPI) honored President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo today for her exemplary accomplishments in public governance particularly in growing the economy and infrastructure development and for supporting the community press over the years.

The Chief Executive was conferred the “Parangal at Pasasalamat” plaque of appreciation by PAPI president Juan Dayang and PAPI secretary Johnny Nunez during the organization’s 14th Midyear Media Conference and Executive Session at the Makati Sports Club this morning.

Organized in 1974, PAPI is the largest organization of community editors, columnists, correspondents, publishers and broadcasters in the country.

Being at the forefront of community journalism, PAPI has been informing and rallying public support for constructive and beneficial government programs.

“Our job is to support programs of government and President Arroyo, in recent history, is the only one who participated actively in the affairs of the Publishers Association of the Philippines,” Dayang said.

Dayang, who has been at the helm of PAPI for more than 14 years, said the President has actively supported the activities of PAPI since she was still undersecretary at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

“And in all these activities, the President realized that the community journalists can play a vital role in development,” Dayang said.

In support of the community press, Dayang said the President also issued Presidential Proclamation No. 1187 in 2007 declaring December of every year as “National Press Congress Month and the Month of the Community Press in the Service of the Nation.”

Dayang said the proclamation provided the legal mandate for the annual National Press Congress which PAPI spearheads every year as the officially designated lead agency for the month-long observance.

During the event, PAPI members thanked and appreciated the President’s governance and beneficial programs particularly in the countryside.

Arthur Daguro, publisher of the Brigada based in Cauayan City, Isabela, thanked the President for her agricultural projects including the farm-to-market roads which put the Cagayan Valley area as the premier food and rice basket of Luzon.

Nestor Abrematea, publisher of the Tacloban Star, cited the President’s visit even to the remote areas in Samar and Leyte to personally inspect the completion of projects including the Samar Circumferential Road and the Agas-Agas Bridge in Sogod, Southern Leyte which he said, opened the route from the Visayas going to Surigao in Northeastern Mindanao.

Ben Diansay, publisher of the Mindanao Gazette based in Davao City, also thanked the President for her various development projects such as the upgrading of the 1,500-bed capacity Davao Medical Center, highways, circumferential roads, airports, and establishment of roll-on roll-off ferry system which enabled Mindanao farmers and businessmen to bring agricultural and other products to Luzon within 36 hours.

“Overall, she has done much better than many of her predecessors. I am confident history will judge her fairly and kindly,” Dayang said. (OPS)

PGMA streamlining saves government P2.234 billion

A total of P2.234 billion has been saved as a result of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s order of streamlining the bureaucracy to make it lean but efficient.

In a press briefing, Budget Undersecretary Laura Pascua said the approval of the rationalization plan of 76 government agencies resulted in the abolition of 11,256 positions of which 5,930 were funded positions.

Ninety-four more rationalization plans of departments, agencies or government-owned and controlled corporations are still being evaluated by the Department of Budget and Management, according to Pascua.

The government, she added, has paid P1.2 billion in benefits and incentives but stressed that the benefits paid were “recouped within the year.”

Pascua expressed hopes that the Aquino Administration would continue implementing the rationalization program.

EO 366, entitled "Directing a Strategic Review of the Operations and Organizations of Executive Branch and Providing Options and Incentives for Government Employees Who May Be Affected by the Rationalization of the Functions and Agencies of the Executive Branch," aims to promote effectiveness, efficiency, affordability and transparency in government service.

Under the plan, government agencies are required to submit their own rationalization plans to weed out redundant positions and avoid duplication of functions.

The government will allocate funds to pay state employees who opt to voluntarily retire from service under the rationalization program.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) will provide "seed funds" to agencies upon submission of the separation and retirement package.

The EO is based on the mandate of Republic Act 9206, as reenacted, authorizing the President to direct changes in the organizational units or key positions in any agency; require the executive branch to conduct comprehensive review of its mandates, missions and operations; and implement structural and functional adjustments to improve the delivery of government services.

It is also grounded on the Administrative Code of 1987, which vests the President the authority to reorganize the executive branch. (OPS)

PGMA fiscal program puts RP in stronger position

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s adroit fiscal management has been cited for the nation’s stronger fiscal position today compared to nine years ago when she inherited an economy on the brink of bankruptcy.

In a news briefing in Malacañang, Finance Undersecretary Gil Beltran stressed that major tax reforms have boosted revenue collections. These reforms include the imposition of excise tax on liquor, cigarettes, and tobacco, the attrition law and the reformed value added tax law.

These reforms Beltran said resulted in increased revenues for social programs such as vital infrastructures that created more jobs and regained the international financial communities’ confidence that resulted in major investments.

Another milestone of the Arroyo administration in fiscal management, he said, was the implementation of administrative reforms such as the RATE (Run After Tax Evaders) program, RATS (Run After Smugglers) program and the RIPS or Program Rest in Peace aimed at running after estate tax evaders.

Other reforms included computerized filing of taxes and computerized tax audit, third part information and Oplan Kandado.

Beltran pointed out that the nation’s fiscal position was stronger during the Arroyo administration because of the proactive debt management where the national government debt rate dropped to a manageable level by cutting deficit, debt exchange, debt pre-payment and debt conversion.

Thus, he recommended that it is but prudent for the new administration to raise more taxes to continue with the improvement in infrastructure efforts. (OPS)

GMA lauded for sugar industry resurgence

The sugar industry found an ally and staunch supporter in President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo with her administration’s programs and policies that resulted to sustained production gains, a representative from the small planters group recently said.

Preciosa Maturan, 2008 Gawad Saka awardee, lauded the outgoing president for ensuring the welfare of thousand of sugar farmers across the country, saying that the resurgence that the industry is currently experiencing is largely due to the policy considerations extended by the Arroyo administration.

Maturan recently gave testimonial on the positive impact of programs implemented by the Department of Agriculture during a Retrospective Program for PGMA, along with other farmers from the country, including Jose Maria Zabaleta, chairman of the San Carlos Bioenergy Inc. who talked on biofuels and renewable energy.

In her testimony, Maturan said the industry attained surplus production for seven consecutive crop years starting 2002.

“In fact, during crop year 2007-2008, the sugar industry attained a production volume of 2.45 million metric tons – the highest production volume the Philippine has achieved in 25 years,” she stressed.

Maturan also attributed the industry’s steady growth to PGMA’s legislative initiatives, particularly the Biofuels Law and Renewable Energy Law, which, she claimed, have encouraged additional sources of income to sugar farmers and promoted rural development while, at the same time, responding to the challenges posed by climate change.

She also cited DA’s policy initiatives, through former Secretary Arthur Yap, which increased the competitiveness of the industry such as the modification of sugar’s World Trade Organization Bound tariff from 50 percent to 80 percent and the transfer of sugar from the temporary exclusion list to the sensitive list in the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement.

Maturan also noted the full government support for the retention of sugar tariffs beyond 2010.

She also reiterated the industry’s appreciation to PGMA for the issuance of Executive Order 285 which curbed technical smuggling of sugar in the guise of premixes and the Presidential Memo Order 850 on the sugar counter-trade program that allowed the Philippines to fill the additional volume of the U.S. quota.

“Millions of sugar farmers in the country, including their families, will remain grateful to President Arroyo for her trust in the industry,” Maturan said, adding the she will always be considered a champion of sugar farmers. (DA-SRA)


Reported Rise of Sugar Prices Debunked

Contrary to the perception that the price of sugar has began to increase, data from the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) reveal THAT PRICES REMAIN TO BE STABLE.  Prevailing and average prices remain within the suggested retail price (SRP) of P52.00 per kilogram for refined sugar.  Wet markets monitored by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) last 16 June 2010 reported the following:





















Groceries and supermarkets monitored by the Regulation Division last 15 June 2010 reported the following:       





















Indeed, some stores have been monitored to be selling at more than the SRP but these are the exceptions rather than the rule.  The prices (of more than P52 per kilogram) reported are in the higher end of the range and do not reflect the majority of the stores selling sugar.  The Department of Agriculture issued a “Show Cause Order” to those stores selling beyond the SRP and if found to be overpricing, a case is filed against them.

Note: The data presented may be verified with Ms. Rosemarie S. Gumera, Manager III of the SRA Planning and Policy Department (02 455 0446 or 02 455 2352).

This was confirmed by a random sampling conducted last 17 June 2010 in Makati (3 groceries and supermarkets) which revealed the following selling prices:

Refined                       P51.50 to P53.00

Washed                         P46.75 to P52.00

Brown                            P45.50 to P49.00