Thursday, 31 March 2011

PIA Dispatch - Thursday, March 31, 2011

Palace directs DBM to create comprehensive gov’t manpower database to stop abuse of PS spending

Malacañang has directed the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to establish a comprehensive database on government personnel to prevent the abuse of savings generated from the release of funds on the basis of authorized positions.

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. said on Thursday the directive was contained in Executive Order No. 31 signed by President Aquino III on March 30, which aims to cut down spending on personal services (PS).

According to Ochoa, the creation of the comprehensive database will allow government to accurately determine the number of people under its employ so that “only the appropriate funds for filled positions will be included in the national budget and be released accordingly.”

The government is the single biggest employer in the country with 1.3 million workers and spends one-third of its P1.645 trillion national spending package on payroll alone.

“The government is doing everything to ensure that we maximize our resources, and that begins with spending only what is necessary and avoiding extraneous costs because every peso counts,” Ochoa said. “If daang matuwid will save money lost to graft and corruption, daang matipid will help government save money lost to wastage and inefficiency.”

Under EO 31, the Comprehensive Database on Government Manpower (CDGM) will replace the existing Government Manpower Information System (GMIS), a computer-based management information system on employees in the Executive, Legislative and the Judiciary, as well as constitutional offices.

It also expands the coverage of the CDGM to include military personnel under the Department of National Defense, uniformed personnel of the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Philippine Coast Guard, casual and contractual government workers, and employees of government-owned and -controlled corporations and government financial institutions.

“The effective management and control of the PS expenditures require the urgent coverage in the GMIS of all the personnel in all these aforementioned departments and agencies… through the enhancement and continuous development of this information system in order to accurately determine the government’s manpower complement for budget management purposes,” the EO said.

The DBM has three years to establish the enhanced information system on government personnel. All heads of departments and agencies of the national government are required to immediately submit to the budget department complete information on positions, incumbents and authorized compensation of all civilian, military and uniformed personnel – whether they are regular, casual or contractual – and the source of their PS requirement.

To ensure responsible budgeting, agencies and department heads shall ensure that their proposed PS requirement is consistent with the CDGM and in accordance with authorized compensation.

The DBM, in coordination with the Civil Service Commission (CSC), is also instructed to conduct a regular risk-based personnel audit of the manpower complement of government agencies.

The EO also authorizes the linking of the CDGM with the personnel information systems of the CSC, the Government Service Insurance System and Bureau of Internal Revenue. (PCOO)

Aquino announces approval of fuel subsidy for jeepneys, tricycles

President Benigno Aquino III announced the approval of fuel subsidy for public transport jeepneys and tricycle to cushion the impact of continuing increase in petroleum prices.

“Magkakaroon tayo ng fuel subsidy para sa lahat ng may prangkisang pampublikong transport,” the President told reporters in a press briefing after the load out ceremony of the Atlantic Gulf and Pacific Co. of Manila in Bauan, Batangas on Thursday.

“Ang naisip ho kasi imbes na sa ibang paraan natin dadaanin ang pagtulong sa ating mga kababayan, diretsuhan na ang pagbawas dun sa presyo ng gasoline sa mga gumagamit ng pampublikong transportasyon,” he added.

The release of the subsidy for the public transport sector was approved by the Cabinet last Monday, he said. The fund will come from the savings of the government as well as from increased revenues.

The President said the government came up with a “smart card,” in which the government will release around P500 million to assist the transport sector particularly the operators of jeepneys and tricycles.

After one month, the government will assess the project implementation and determine whether it is effective and then decide if the project should get more funding or be discontinued. The President added however that the project implementation depends on the volatility of fuel prices abroad.

The President also explained that they are already in the last stages of work with Land Bank and another bank that will be providing the Smart cards for the government, noting that these banks have systems in place to carry out the program.

At the same time, President Aquino said they are about to conclude the inventory of jeepney and tricycle franchises.

The President was in Bauan, Batangas on Thursday morning for the ceremony of AG&P for the British Petroleum (BP) Modularization project.

AG&P was awarded the British Petroleum Whiting Refinery Modularization project consisting of nine modules intended for its refineries. The modules will be shipped to Lake Michigan in the US. (PCOO)

Aquino issues Proclamation 138 confering 'National Scientist' award to Perla Dizon Santos-Ocampo in the field of pediatrics

President Benigno S. Aquino III signed on Wednesday Proclamation No. 138 on March 30 (Wednesday) conferring the title of “National Scientist" on Perla Dizon Santos-Ocampo, MD, in the field of pediatrics.

The government, through Proclamation No. 138, recognizes Dr. Santos-Ocampo’s outstanding contribution as “scientist in the field of pediatrics, as medical educator, leader and mentor, institution-builder and advocate for better health of the Filipino people, particularly, the children.

She made substantial contributions to the research in diarrheal disease that resulted in the development of a super oral rehydration solution, and provided the basis for diarrhea-related policies of the Department of Health.

The research on malnutrition effects on the growth and development of children led to the rational management of nutritional problems among Filipino children. These studies are published in more than 100 articles in peer-reviewed local and international journals.

At the University of the Philippines in Manila where she later became Chancellor, Dr. Santos-Ocampo developed academic programs to enhance the quality and number of medical experts, trainors and child care specialists. She led the establishment of the National Institutes of Health, the National Graduate School of the Health Sciences, and the National Telehealth Center.

A recipient of various local and international awards, Dr. Santos-Ocampo also served as president in several international pediatric and medical societies.

Signed on March 30, 2011, Proclamation No. 138 is entitled “Amending Proclamation No. 2099 dated June 23, 2010 and According to Perla Dizon Santos Ocampo, MD, the Rank and Title of National Scientist”.

President Aquino issued the proclamation to rectify the previously released Proclamation No. 2099 which was inadvertently titled “According to Perla Dizon Santos Ocampo, MD, the Rank and Title of National Artist”. Instead of the title National Artist, the Presidential Proclamation was intended to confer the title of National Scientist to Dr. Santos-Ocampo.

Since its creation in 1976, the National Scientist Award has been given annually by the President. The highest national recognition conferred upon Filipino scientists, only 38 or so have been recognized.

The prestigious recognition entitles its recipients the status reserved only for heroes. It also gives them financial gratuity, medical and hospitalization benefits, and a place of honor at all state functions. They are also entitled, upon death, to a state funeral, the same recognition given to National Artists. (PCOO)

Aquino lauds AG & P for job generation in PHL

President Benigno S. Aquino III thanked the Atlantic Gulf & Pacific Company for its continuous job generation in the country hoping that the company also absorbs professionals displaced by the recent turmoil abroad.

The President was at AG&P’s dockyard in Bauan, Batangas on Thursday morning for the company’s load out ceremony for its British Petroleum (BP) Modularization project.

The refinery modularization project, which consists of several modules intended for its refineries were to be shipped out to Lake Michigan in the US.

While commending AG&P for its contribution to the Philippine economy, the President said his administration is doing everything it can to build an environment where business can thrive and prosper and employ people.

“It is important that we do this, especially at this point in time, when many of our countrymen have been repatriated because of the conflict in the Middle East. Many of them are currently looking for jobs, and we want to make sure that they can put their skills to good use in successful companies such as AG&P,” he said.

“I hope that you can join in this initiative and extend your assistance further, particularly to Filipino engineers displaced by the turmoil in Libya. Let us have our workers ply their trade back here, where they can help Filipino companies with their talents,” he added.

In an effort to create a more attractive business environment, the President also announced several projects that might interest AG&P.

He said his government is planning the establishment of three natural gas pipeline projects within the next three years, primarily in Luzon, or the “BatMan 1,” (Batangas to Manila), “BatMan 2,” (Bataan to Manila), and finally “BatCave,” which is Bataan to Cavite.

The government will also continue to support the exploration, development, and utilization of natural gas, the President noted.

AG&P, the most experienced steel fabrication and engineering firm in the Philippines has been in operation in the country for more than 100 years.

The company has been recognized abroad for its excellence and expertise and only recently, awarded an initial $130 million contract by US engineering firm Bechtel to create modules for a liquefied natural gas facility in Australia.

The company also played a significant role locally, specifically in the Malampaya Offshore Gas Field project, which is the largest source of natural gas in the Philippines. Natural gas contributes to least 34 percent generating capacity nationwide. (PCOO)

Aquino to switch-on new coal-fired plant in La Paz, Iloilo City

President Benigno S. Aquino III will lead the switch-on ceremonies of the new coal-fired plant of the Panay Energy Development Corporation in La Paz, Iloilo City, his first visit to the province since he assumed the Presidency in June last year.

Key local government officials are expected to welcome the President and his party as they arrive at the provincial airport on Friday to jumpstart his one-day visit. The reception party include Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr., Congressman Art Defensor, Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, Congressman Jerry Trenas, Francisco Sebastian, chairman of the Global Business Power Corporation and George Ty, chairman of the Metrobank Group of Companies.

Shortly after his arrival, the Chief Executive will inaugurate the 264-MW coal-fired power plant of Panay Energy Development Corporation in Brgy. Ingore.

The power plant utilizes the latest circulating fluidized bed (CFB) boiler technology which ensures practically negligible levels of emissions (95% and higher efficiency in removing sulfur dioxide and practically zero nitrogen oxide) and capture of total solid particles at 99.9% efficiency.

PEDC’s power plant is in line with the Global Power’s campaign for cleaner transitional technology to effectively address electric power shortfall in the Visayas and the Island’s need for power reliability, stability and reasonably priced power while renewable energy sources are being strengthened and identified.

Incorporated on February 27, 2009, the PEDC is a unit of Global Business Power Corporation (GBPC) through its subsidiary Claredon Towers Holdings, Inc. It managed the construction and operation of a 2 x 82-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Iloilo City.

PEDC is a milestone endeavor which intends to supply reliable baseload power to key off-takers in the island of Panay. Off-takers include seven (7) electric cooperatives under the Panay-Guimaras Power Supply Consortium (PGPSC) which signed a Memorandum Agreement with PEDC on October 19, 2009. The seven cooperatives are: the Iloilo Electric Cooperatives (ILECO 1, 2 and 3), the Guimaras Electric Cooperative (GUIMELCO), the Capiz Electric Cooperative (CAPELCO), the Antique Electric Cooperative (ANTECO) and the Aklan Electric Cooperative (AKELCO).

Also part of the President’s activities is the distribution of 4P’s Cash Grant and awarding of Philhealth cards at the Provincial Capitol in efforts of the government to deliver the basic services to the people especially those in the countryside. (PCOO)

Aquino assures education and livelihood grants to the children of three Filipinos executed in China

President Benigno S. Aquino III assured families of the three Filipinos executed in China for drug trafficking that their children will be provided assistance for their education and livelihood.

In a statement issued at Malacañang on Wednesday the President tasked Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman to keep in touch with the families of Ramon Credo, Sally Ordinario, and Elizabeth Batain.

“The DSWD has been providing grief counseling to the families of Mr. Credo, Ms. Ordinario and Ms. Batain. They will also be provided assistance for their education and livelihood,” the President said.

The President expressed his deepest sympathies to the families of Credo, Ordinario and Batain, whom he considered victims of unscrupulous recruiters and drug traffickers.

He explained that consistent with the laws and values of the country, the national government did their very best to convince the Chinese government to commute their death sentences to life imprisonment.

“Unfortunately, the Chinese government did not agree, and we must respect their legal processes,” he said even as he urged the public not to allow the situation to affect historic friendship of the Philippines with the Chinese people.

He noted that in the case of Sally Ordinario, the law enforcers have already identified her recruiter and they have filed criminal charges before the Department of Justice.

“Operations are still ongoing to capture the rest of these drug traffickers,” he added.

To prevent the same fate suffered by the three executed Filipinos in China, the President asked the Filipino people to remain steadfast as his administration is now focused to create an ambiance where fellow Filipinos are not pressured to resort to deal with drug traffickers in exchange of employment opportunities.

“Let us remain steadfast and focused on this goal, for it is the ultimate means to bringing a better life for all,” he said.

The President stressed that aside from eradicating graft and corruption, the campaign against drug syndicates was also strengthened since he assumed the presidency in July 2010.

In the first quarter of 2011, he said, the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) has seized 1.4 billion pesos worth of shabu, shut down two shabu laboratories, and arrested 23 foreign nationals involved in the drug trade. (PCOO)

PIA Dispatch - Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Aquino welcomes US-ASEAN Business Council

President Benigno S. Aquino III welcomed members of the US-ASEAN Business Council who called on the Chief Executive in Malacañang on Wednesday to express the group’s renewed interest to expand its business interests in the country.

The President, who was joined by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, welcomed the US-ABC delegation led by its president Alex Feldman to the Heroes Hall of Malacañang Palace at around 10 a.m.

In his opening remarks, Feldman expressed confidence that the group’s meeting with the President represented the beginning of a “partnership” between the Philippines and the US-ABC to expand trade and investment and improve the competitiveness of the Philippines.

“We believe that the success of this mission will be a source of continued positive first impressions and the start, hopefully, of more aggressive efforts to re-brand the Philippines as “open for business and under new management” and expand trade and investment and improve the competitiveness of the Philippines and hence the investment environment,” Feldman said.

“The reform process tackling corruption and attracting strategic investors as you’ve outlined will be critical to achieving your vision of unlocking the full potential of the Filipino people and Philippine society and creating new jobs, increasing healthcare and supporting new infrastructure development,” he added.

In response, Finance Sec. Purisima said the Aquino administration remains committed at implementing government reforms that will allow the Philippines to finally take off, noting that the country has taken a turn for the better since President Aquino assumed office in June last year.

"The national debt level has considerably gone down by almost half from 105 percent of GDP in 1988 to 57 percent now while growth has been pegged at 7.3 percent, the highest since 1976," Purisima said.

He added that the country’s heavily favored industries such as business process outsourcing, semiconductor, mining and ship building have been posting steady growth numbers owing to renewed investor confidence in the Aquino administration.

He pointed out that the government is keen at addressing obstacles that have held back the country, namely the infrastructure gap, graft, corruption and poverty.

The Finance secretary called on the US-ABC to partner with government in addressing these stumbling blocks in order to help the country grow and prosper.

“We look forward to working with you in a public-private partnership so that we can create a better Philippines,” Purisima said.

The US-ASEAN Business Council, which was founded in 1984, represents American-based businesses in Southeast Asia and has offices in five countries in the region.

These businesses include those in: information communication technology, customs, corporate citizenship, defense, energy, financial services, health and life sciences, and food and agriculture. (PCOO)

Malacañang says gov't to break illegal activities of drug pushers

Malacañang assured to break the illegal activities of drug pushers, which entrap people that eventually destroy lives in pursuit of their unscrupulous illegal trade.

In an official statement released on Wednesday from the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on the execution of three Filipinos Ramon Credo, Sally Ordinario-Villanueva and Elizabeth Batain in China, the Palace said the government is resolved to ensure that the chain of victimization will be broken condemning the destruction of lives in pursuit of the illegal drug business.

“We are resolved to ensure that the chain of victimization, as pushers entrap and destroy lives in pursuit of their trade, will be broken. Those who traffic in illegal drugs respect no laws, no boundaries, and have no scruples about destroying lives.” the statement read.

“Our response must be relentless, with government and the citizenry working together to ensure vigilance and mutual support to prevent our countrymen from being used by drug pushers as sacrificial pawns, whether at home or abroad”, it added.

The Aquino administration expressed sympathies with the families of the condemned, sharing their sense of looming loss. The government said that the deaths of the three Filipinos are a vivid lesson in the tragic toll the drug trade takes on the entire families.

The three Filipinos, Credo, 42; Batain, 38; and Villanueva, 32 were convicted of drug trafficking in China. They were originally scheduled to be executed last February 20 and 21. The executions stayed following the humanitarian visit to Beijing of Vice President Jejomar Binay upon orders of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

Binay is also the concurrent Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers’ Concerns.

In the statement, Lacierda said the Philippine government took every available opportunity to appeal to the authorities of China for clemency in the cases of the three. "In the end, however, the sentence was imposed," he said.

Ordinario-Villanueva was convicted for smuggling 4,110 grams of heroin on Dec. 24, 2008 into Xiamen, while Credo was convicted for smuggling 4,113 grams of heroin on Dec. 28, 2008 in the same city.

Batain, meanwhile, was convicted for smuggling 6,800 grams of heroin on May 24, 2008, in Shenzhen.

Under the Chinese criminal code, smuggling of 50 grams of heroin or any narcotic drug into China is punishable by death. (PCOO)

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

PIA Dispatch - Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lady Legislators call on Aquino in Malacañang

The Association of Lady Legislators (ALL) of the House of Representatives called on President Benigno S. Aquino III in Malacañang on Tuesday to personally express their group’s support for the plans and programs of the administration.

Twenty-seven out of the 65 ALL members, led by its president and Pangasinan 4th District Rep. Georgina de Venecia, held the open forum type meeting-cum-working lunch with the President at the Premier Guest House.

In her opening remarks, De Venecia told the President that the ALL are willing to partner with his administration’s advocacy protecting the rights of women and children, the environment, and in improving the lives of Filipinos by stamping out corruption and poverty.

“Kami ay narito upang ipahayag ang aming pag-supporta sa mga magandang layunin ng ating pamahalaan para sa bayan,” De Venecia said.

In response, the President thanked the ALL for their support saying, their presence was highly appreciated.

He noted that Congress was in recess and that it “was a big thing to sacrifice time you should be spending with your constituents to be here.”

“So your presence here today is doubly appreciated,” the President said.

The ALL members who were present were: Reps De Venecia, Linabelle Villarica (4th Dist., Bulacan), Mercedes Alvarez (6th Dist., Negros Occidental), Bai Sandra Serma (1st Dist., Maguindanao), Imelda Calixto-Rubiano (Lone Dist., Pasay City), Bernadette Herrera-Dy (Bagong Henerasyon Party-List);

Ma. Amelita Villarosa (Lone Dist., Occidental Mindoro), Herminia Roman (1st Dist., Bataan), Daryl Grace Abayon (Aangat Tayo Party-List), Marlyn Primicias-Agabas (6th Dist., Pangasinan), Emmeline Aglipay (Democratic Independent Workers’ Association Party-List), Thelma Almario (2nd Dist., Davao Oriental);

Ma. Victoria Sy-Alvarado (2nd Dist., Bulacan), Rachel Arenas (3rd Dist., Pangasinan), Catalina Bagasina (Association of Laborers and Employment Party-List), Eleonor Bulut-Begtang (Lone Dist., Apayao), Anna York Bondoc (4th Dist., Pampanga), Jane Castro (2nd Dist., Capiz);

Julieta Cortuna (A Teacher Party-List), Ma. Theresa Bonoan-David (4th Dist., Manila), Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo (1st Dist., Lanao del Norte), Abigail Faye Ferriol (Kalinga Party-List), Ana Cristina Go (2nd Dist., Isabela), Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales (CIBAC Party-List), Catalina Leonen-Pizzaro (ABS Party-List) and Lani Mercado-Revilla (2nd Dist., Cavite). (PCOO)

MTRCB refers ‘Willing Willie’ child abuse case to its Adjudication Committee

Acting on numerous complaints, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board has referred the child abuse case currently hounding Willie Revillame, actor and host of the game-show “Willing Willie” to the Hearing and Adjudication Committee “for appropriate disposition.”

The complaint stemmed from the March 12, 2011 episode of the show aired over TV5 “where a six-year old boy contestant was shown to be gyrating and impersonating the body movements of a macho dancer.”

In its website (, MTRCB chair Grace Poe Llamanzares said this new case leveled at Revillame is in “accordance with the Board’s duty to enforce the Constitutional mandate that the State shall defend the rights of children from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation, and other conditions prejudicial to their development.”

She reminded other networks who employ children to take extra steps to ensure that their rights are fully protected against any form of abuse.

“The Board further emphasizes that whenever children are featured in television programs, producers are mandated to observe legal standards stipulated in R.A. 7610 to avoid “psychological abuse xxx cruelty, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment” and “any act by deeds and words which debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of the child.” Llamanzares said. (PCOO)

Aquino orders Cabinet members to submit accomplishment reports—Malacanang

President Benigno Aquino III instructed the members of his Cabinet to submit their accomplishment reports for the first quarter of the year to inform the public about their accomplishments.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma said in an interview over the state-run radio station dzRB Radyo ng Bayan on Tuesday morning that the President’s instruction is in light of recent Social Weather Station (SWS) survey.

Coloma said the President discussed the latest ratings of both SWS and Pulse Asia surveys that assessed the performance of his administration.

“The President has asked the members of his Cabinet to submit their accomplishment reports for the first quarter of the year to inform the people about the programs and initiatives these government agencies have been doing,” Coloma said.

“This is to fulfill the President’s pledge about important points in his program for the Filipino people. The administration wants the people to know that all of the initiatives that this government has been doing is a response to their needs.”

Meanwhile, the Palace downplayed the slight dip in the satisfaction ratings of the President in the Pulse Asia survey noting that the drop wasn’t significant.

Coloma said they compared Pulse Asia and SWS surveys adding that the systems used by the two survey agencies are entirely different.

“It’s not an apple to apple comparison. To make the comparison fair, the figure to be analyzed is the approval rating itself,” he said referring to the Pulse Asia survey.

“For the SWS, the approval rating dropped to 69 from 64. So it’s the same, if we compare it with Pulse Asia, it dropped by only five percent.”

The SWS survey found that while most Filipinos approve of Aquino, his net satisfaction rating is down 13 points to +51 (69 percent satisfied minus the 18 percent dissatisfied) from last November’s +64 (74 percent satisfied, 10 percent dissatisfied).

The survey was conducted March 4 to 7. (PCOO)

Aquino gov’t assures PHL to remain investor-friendly destination for business

The Aquino government assured on Tuesday that the Philippines will strive to remain an investor-friendly destination by continuously improving its policies to attract more businesses.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press conference in Malacanang, that the economic managers have been carrying out the policy direction set by the President to make sure that the playing field for businesses is fair for all the stakeholders.

“Rules will not be changed in midstream and that’s the greatest concern of business investors,” Lacierda said.

“The economic managers have been addressing the concerns of the business community in making sure that the rules that we have right now are rationalized and are consistent with one another,” he added.

Lacierda was reacting to a question about a survey done by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-ABAC) in the second half of 2010, which found that the ASEAN region is an attractive place for trade and investment in a post-global crisis world economy.

The survey, conducted by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, collated 355 usable responses from a diverse mix of businesses across firm-size categories and nationalities of ownership based in ASEAN countries.

The survey found that 85 percent of the respondents indicated that their firms have plans for investment or investment expansion in at least one ASEAN country.

About half of the respondents identify an ASEAN country as the most attractive in the country for their firms’ offshore direct investments between 2010 and 2011.

The leading investment destinations include Vietnam, followed by Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. The Philippines ranked second lowest with Brunei. (PCOO)

Aquino tells DOJ, VP to look into cases of OFW drug trafficking

President Benigno S. Aquino has ordered Vice President Jejomar Binay and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to look into cases of overseas Filipino workers involved in drug trafficking and find out how and why they managed to leave the country undetected by airport scanners and other technologies.

The President issued the order in the wake of the inevitable execution by lethal injection on Wednesday of three Filipino drug mules in China.

In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said while the scheduled execution seemed inevitable, the government remains hopeful that China will reconsider. But then, “we recognize and respect the laws of China on such cases,” Lacierda said.

The Chinese embassy said on Monday night that there is still no final word from Beijing regarding the Philippine government’s petition for the stay of the execution, according to Lacierda.

He said the thrust right now is to have greater coordination between China and the Philippines to make sure that there will be no similar incidents, where one inmate claims to have been duped by another Filipino into carrying a baggage that he/she did not know contained illegal drugs.

“My understanding is that the 70 plus Filipinos in China who are in the death row have had commutation of sentence. In other words, within two years of good behavior they will no longer be executed. This was discussed between the President, Vice President Binay and me after the Cabinet meeting last Monday,” Lacierda said.

The President met Vice President Binay and Secretary de Lima Monday and asked them to study the drug trafficking problem and identify the recruiters who use OFWs as drug mules.

Lacierda said deployment agencies like the Philippine Overseas Employment Authority and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration must make sure that OFWs deployed abroad are protected from being turned into drug carriers by private individuals or recruitment agencies.

Lacierda said the Aquino administration is issuing a stern warning against those using OFWs in their drug trafficking and human trafficking activities. He said the government will go after these individuals and recruitment agencies and make sure they get punished. (PCOO)

Monday, 28 March 2011

PIA Dispatch - Monday, March 28, 2011

Aquino greets PCOO Secretary Coloma 'Happy Birthday'

President Benigno S. Aquino III led the singing of the “Happy Birthday” song to formally greet Presidential Communications and Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma, Jr. on his natal day before presiding over a Cabinet meeting in Malacañang on Monday.

Following the opening prayer led by Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo, the President, who arrived at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room at around 1 p.m., was about to call the National Economic Development Administration Board Meeting to order when he reminded those present about Coloma’s birthday.

As the President began singing “Happy birthday to you,” members of the Malacañang in-house affairs office brought out a large square-shaped caramel cake and brought it to Coloma who was seated at the far end of the table near the projection screen.

Cabinet members as well as employees and members of the in-house staff who covered the event joined the President in singing the Happy Birthday song.

Coloma was all smiles as he blew out the lone candle that stood in the middle of his birthday cake.

Coloma, who hails from Quezon City, is married to the former Nennette Parreno with whom he has a daughter, Anna Francesca. (PCOO)

Aquino orders BOC to suspend employees and brokers tagged in smuggling activities

President Benigno S. Aquino III ordered on Monday Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez to put under preventive suspension all Bureau of Customs (BOC) employees who have been named respondents in smuggling and other criminal complaints.

The Chief Executive made the directives to ensure that employees tag in technical smuggling would not be able to influence the outcome of the investigation against them and to correct misconceptions that the BOC was not serious in the government’s anti-smuggling campaign.

The President wants all customs personnel who played a role in the release of smuggled products be identified, investigated and, if evidence warrants, charged both criminally and administratively.

He also tasked the agency’s Run After the Smugglers (RATS) Group to file administrative charges against customs brokers who have been accused of involvement in technical smuggling and other violations of the Customs and Tariff Code.

Alvarez had informed the President that a memorandum was already issued to Customs Deputy Commissioner and RATS executive director Gregorio Chavez.

He also assured the President that the broker’s accreditation privilege of brokers named in the smuggling activities would be suspended immediately once the complaint or charge is found by the BOC’s Legal Service to be serious and with prima facie evidence.

In a report submitted to Malacanang, Chavez revealed that “a total of 12 customs employees, among them customs operations officers, examiners and document processors, activities have either been charged or recommended for inclusion in the smuggling and corruption cases that the agency has filed against errant importers.

The BOC also reported that from July 2010 up to mid- March 2011, the agency had filed 30 criminal cases before the Department of Justice. Among those who were charged were importers and brokers of firearms, illegal drugs, high-end cars, heavy equipment, rice, sugar, onions as well as steel and oil products. (PCOO)

Sunday, 27 March 2011

PIA Dispatch - Saturday, March 26, 2011

OP upholds DOLE decision on PAL labor row

The Office of the President (OP) has affirmed the decision of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on the labor dispute between management and workers of the Philippines Airlines (PAL), but modified a component of the transition benefits package that will be given to employees who will be affected by the flag-carrier’s plan to outsource services.

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. said on Saturday that the OP empathized with the concerns of the PAL Employees Association (PALEA) and addressed the apprehensions of its members being employed by an entity other than the airline company and the remuneration they would receive.

The OP endorsed the separation pay equivalent to 125 percent of the employee’s monthly salary per year of service, or an improvement from the one-fourth the amount of the employee’s one month salary provided for in the original decision.

It likewise affirmed certain compensation to PAL employees, such as 100 percent cash payment of vacation and sick leave balance regardless of years of service, one year extension of medical and hospitalization package, and continued trip pass benefits depending on the years of service rendered.

The OP, however, increased the additional gratuity pay to affected workers to P100,000 from P50,000.

Ochoa said the OP decision on the petition of PALEA for presidential intervention upheld the labor department’s ruling that service providers shall absorb the affected workers. PAL shall be bound and be held liable by way of guaranteeing the payment of their salaries for a period of one year from the time of their retrenchment.

In the decision, the OP said it agreed with the DOLE position that PAL can contract out services, the severance of employment of rank-and-file employees to be affected by the outsourcing of services was valid, and that PAL could not be held liable for unfair labor practice for pursuing a legitimate exercise of management prerogative.

PALEA’s decision to seek presidential intervention to settle the dispute with PAL stemmed from management’s plan to outsource its in-flight catering, air services and call center reservation operations, a move that will lead to the retrenchment of some 2,600 employees.

The country’s flag-carrier said outsourcing these services would help reduce its accumulated net losses and deficit brought about by surging fuel prices, the ban of its entry into 27 European Union member-states and the suspension of its remittance facilities by the International Transport Association.

Ochoa explained that the OP had made efforts to get the two parties come up with a “mutually agreeable settlement” in a dialogue held in Malacañang on February 11, but “both PAL and PALEA maintained their respective positions on the issues involved.”

“In light of this development, we are issuing a ruling which takes into consideration the welfare of the workers involved in accordance with labor laws and regulations,” he said. (PCOO)

Aquino expresses gratitude for continued faith and confidence of Asian Development Bank

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Friday night cited top honchos of Asian Development Bank (ADB) for their enduring faith and rising confidence to the Philippines, particularly to his administration’s “no corrupt, no poor” stand.

In his speech at the reception hosted by ADB at their headquarters in Ortigas Center in Mandaluyong City, the President emphasized that the partnership between the Philippines and the Asian Development Bank “is proof of our shared dedication to improve the quality of life of the Filipino people.”

“It has been four decades since you chose our country as your headquarters. Your trust is proof of the enduring faith and rising confidence placed by key institutions around the world in the strengths and capabilities of the Filipino people,” he said.

He also thanked ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda for recognizing his administration’s reform agenda especially his strong stand to alleviate the lives of the Filipino people and rid it of graft and corruption in the government agencies.

“Now, through our reform agenda, our nation has finally re-awakened to a new dawn. We are committed to bringing daylight into people’s lives, by serving with integrity, transparency, and optimism,” he assured Kuroda and other foreign dignitaries at the reception gala.

“We are fulfilling our mandate, and we will not fail those who count on us to stick to the straight path,” he added.

The President also informed ADB officials that his “administration will be on the frontline of every battle against forces that desire to have the Philippines stagnate rather than progress.”

“My only request is that we remain bound by the singular vision of this administration for our country: A vision of freedom from poverty; of equitable progress; of a democracy that leaves no one behind,” he further emphasized.

For over forty years, the ADB have provided loans amounting to over $10 billion to the Philippines, in the form of budgetary support to the national government to finance infrastructure projects such as roads, airports, power plants, and water and sanitation facilities.

Aside from loans and technical assistance, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) informed the President that ADB also had a program of almost $30 million to support the administration’s development projects between 2010 and 2012.

Likewise, the ADB is currently financing the Philippine Energy Efficiency Project that is expected to reduce the cost of power generation, by means of the efficient lighting of households and government office buildings, and establishment of an energy service company that caters to other public utilities such as schools and hospitals.

Prior to his speech, the President led the launching of the National Electric Vehicle Strategy, another ambitious project funded by the ADB through the introduction of electronic tricycles as alternative public transport that are really friendlier to the environment.

“What does this mean to our people? It means that these tricycles will no longer need gas, and will be a greener alternative to what we currently have, as they will lessen carbon dioxide emissions. It also means cheaper fares for our commuters while increasing margins for our tricycle drivers,” the President said.

During the project briefing where the President viewed the prototype of e-trike at the courtyard, Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras and ADB vice president for operations in the Philippines Lawrence Greenwood informed the President that the first 21 e-tricycles will soon be demonstrated in Mandaluyong.

In partnership with the ADB, Almendras said the Department of Energy is set to introduce 20,000 electric tricycles to lessen carbon dioxide emission as part of the Philippine Energy Efficiency Project (PEEP).

Almendras estimated that under the project, the government will save roughly about 100,000 liters of the country’s daily imported oil consumption and would generate annual savings of $36.5 million. (PCOO)

Palace bares new appointments

Malacañang announced on Saturday the new appointments to the executive offices, including Undersecretary Richard Tiu, topnotcher in the 1985 bar, at the Department of Budget and Management and Fernando Manalo as Acting Undersecretary of the Department of National Defense.

Also appointed were Leslie Jean Cordero, representing the Presidential Communications Operations Office in the Movie and Television Review and Censors Board; Amelia P. Guevarra as Acting Executive Director of the Philippine Council on Industry, Energy Resource Research Development and Jose Cabanayan Jr. as Deputy Administrator of the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Named to the National Museum board were: Ramon del Rosario Jr., chairman and board members Benito Vergara, a scientist replacing Fidel Malig Sarmiento; Rene Avellana, a historian, replacing Fr. Ben Nebres and Marinella Fabella, repracing Ced Lapuz, all with terms expiring March 24, 2014; Felicity Sta. Maria replacing Maria Eloisa Nolasco Fernan; Corazon Alvina, replacing Mariano Santiago and Ma. Isabel G. Ongpin, replacing Betina Aboitiz, and their terms expire on March 24, 2012.

Named to the DENR were Datu Miketai Elsawai, replacing Marcelino Gezmundo and Reynaldo Ganaden, replacing Fernando Lu.

Appointed to the Civil Aeronautics Authority of the Philippines were Agnes Bondoc and Atty. Rodrigo Artuz, as assistant director general.

Newly appointed police chief superintendents were; Clarence Villanueva Guinto, Benjamin Banez Magalong, Fausto Villegas Marina, police chief superintendent and Adelio Benjamin Garcia Castillo, police senior superintendent. (PCOO)

Aquino urges new graduates of police academy to join in reform of government

President Benigno S. Aquino III asked this year’s graduates of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) to join him in reforming the government to further serve the people.

“Sana ay maging kakampi kayo ng tuwid at tapat na pamamahala. Sagipin natin ang taumbayan sa mga ganid sa lipunan,” the President said in his address at the 32nd commencement exercise of the PNPA on Saturday.

The cadets, who were also inducted to join major services of the interior department, will face challenges more than the hurdles encountered at the academe, the President said.

Aside from the education that they get from the PNPA, President Aquino said the graduating cadets will need determination and wisdom to defeat corruption as well as poverty in the country.

The new officers could expect offers of bribes and power to buy their allegiance and destroy their determination. But the President advised to reject those offers and instead think of the country and the plight of the poor.

The President also mentioned that in the past decade, the public doubted the sincerity and competence of the police force because of the massive corruption during the past administration.

But he said he believes that there are still good policemen serving the people well. For instance, because of the reforms in the police that the present administration has carried out, carnapping incidents has dropped significantly last year.

The police was also able to immediately solve the murder of a broadcaster in Malabon City including three other media killings: the murders of Gerardo Ortega, Jose Daguio and Miguel Belen. The PNP should be commended for its good performance, the President said

At the same time, the President vowed to help the police and other services so that they get the necessary training and equipment. He added that his administration will be helping the police and their families to have their own dwellings as well as education for their children.

For this year, the government will construct not less than 20,000 housing units for policemen at affordable prices so that they can have their own homes.

The administration also launched an educational system for the children of policemen, and the President said the children of Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) personnel will soon be included.

The target he said, is to give scholarship to at least one member of the family of PNP, BJMP, and BFP personnel.

And to protect public money from corruption, the President said they have initiated reforms in the bureaucracy and were now going after corrupt officials in the institution.

The government has fixed the bureaucracy to make the modernization program successful, he said adding it’s a way of improving the system of the institutions that protect the safety of the public. (PCOO)

PIA Dispatch - Friday, March 25, 2011

Aquino lauds PEZA’s performance in bringing dignity in governance and uplifting condition of Filipinos

President Benigno Aquino III lauded the performance of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) saying the government agency is an ally in bringing back dignity in governance and uplifting the condition of the people.

Speaking at the 16th foundation anniversary of PEZA on Thursday night, Chief Executive cited PEZA as a partner, together with investors, in achieving progress in the country.

“To all our partners, this administration is eager to rebuild this nation. We are committed to fast track the presentation of the approval and implementation of your projects,” the President told the PEZA officials and investors who attended the occasion.

“We are eager to show the world what the Filipino can do. We are eager to restore our national dignity. The world is beginning to see what we are capable of, he said.

The President said that from day one of his administration, he has acknowledged the importance of private capital in addressing the present concerns of the country.

“We are striving to create an environment where businesses will flourish. So the government can focus its resources on much needed social services such as the improvement of our health and education as well as reducing hunger and poverty,” he said.

The President noted that since 1995 the administration of PEZA Director General Lilia de Lima has been characterized by clean governance and zero red tape pampering investors fully, who show interest in putting their money in the Philippines.

Since 1995, PEZA generated a total of P1.71 trillion worth of investments in the Philippines, the President said. In 2010 alone, total investment in PEZA reached almost P205 billion more than 17 percent higher than 2009 record.

Also in 2010, employment in PEZA increased by more than 20 percent from around 610,000 jobs in 2009 to more than 735,000 jobs. The phenomenal rise in business process outsourcing (BPO) recently surpassed India in total revenue with call center operations in the Philippines gaining profits of over $5.7 million, the President said.

According to the President, income has been credited to PEZA’s high level of commitment to proving quality products and services to investors. He said. The President also boasted the 38-million strong labor force as the main asset of the country.

“With PEZA capitalizing on the advantages, I’m confident that in 2011 we will not only reach our 10 percent growth target but we will also likely surpass it,” the President stressed.

As a government agency that consistently remits dividends to the national government, President Aquino said PEZA exemplified what good and responsible governance is all about.

The President noted that the government agency remitted a total of P12.67 billion from 1995 to 2010. With this contribution, he added, will allow him to frontload expenditures and the implement its anti-poverty programs.

PEZA is the Philippine government agency tasked to promote investments, extend assistance, register, and grant incentives to investors.

It also facilitate the business operations of investors in export-oriented manufacturing and service facilities inside selected areas throughout the country proclaimed as PEZA Special Economic Zones. (PCOO)

Aquino urges graduates of Ateneo to meet challenge of reaching out to the poor

President Benigno Aquino III challenged this year’s graduates of Ateneo de Manila University to reach out to their poor fellow Filipinos so that they can contribute to the Philippines’ quest for progress.

Addressing the graduates of the University, the President advised them to take the right path and get involved.

“Madalas tayong maharap sa sangang daan at sa sangang daang ito ang pinakamahalaga kong payo ay huwag kayong matakot na gawin ang tama,” he said.

“Ang tanong ko sa mga Atenista hanggang saan ang pagiging man for others ninyo? Gaano kalayo ang down from the hill? Half way down the hill lang ba kung kayo na ang nasa tuktok ng mga korporasyon?” he asked.

The answer, according to the President is: It’s for everyone not becoming burdens of their fellow Filipinos and not to remain at the sidelines if they see other people suffering. He added that it is not right to disregard the needs of their poor neighbors.

The President noted that even small things made by people in positions can affect the lives of ordinary Filipinos. If there are people suffering, it’s everyone’s obligation to help them and fight corruption if they see any.

Quoting his father, the late senator Benigno Aquino Jr, President Aquino said: “The ball is now in your hands. Tumawid na kayo mula sa mga nag-aabang tungo sa mga pumapasan ng mga tungkulin. Tungkulin ng bagong henerasyon na ipagpatuloy ang mga nasimulan ng mga nauna sa kanila.”

He also told the graduates that his administration is working very hard so that next generations of Filipinos do not inherit the current problems of the country, hoping that they will not pass these kinds of problems to succeeding generations.

The President, who has been at the helm of the government in less than nine months, said that investors’ confidence in the government remains high and Filipinos must seize this opportunity.

This can be seen in the country’s business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, as more and more businessmen come in to put up operations in the Philippines, he said.

“Sa dami ng mga nagtatayo ng mga BPO lalampasan na natin ang India na dating number one sa larangan ng call centers. Kung dati walang mahanap na trabaho ay bagong problema tayo ngayon. Ngayon ang problema natin ay kung paano pupunuan ang mga nag-aabang na mga posisyon dito sa BPO,” the President said.

He noted that this year alone, there are 80,000 to 100,000 jobs that will be created soon in the sector. (PCOO)

Palace strongly condemns Sumera killing

Malacanang on Friday strongly condemns the killing of Marlina Flores-Sumera and ordered the Philippine National Police not to stop until the mastermind behind the hired killers who took her life are brought to justice.

President Aquino expressed his confidence that with the help and cooperation of the witnesses the police authorities would be able to arrest the suspects and put them behind bars.

“With the cooperation of the witnesses I am confident that we would bring the perpetrators to justice,” the President told reporters in an ambush interview during the 28th Biennial Convention of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce Industry Inc. at the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

The President ordered Philippine National Police Chief Dir. Gen. Raul Bacalzo to provide him regular updates on the ongoing investigation.

The police formed Task Force Sumera to look at all possible angles and theories that would lead to the motive and identification of the assassins particularly the mastermind behind the brutal killing of the radio broadcaster.

Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma reported that appropriate cases have been filed in court against suspects in the previous killing of journalists Gerardo Ortega in Palawan (February 2011), Jose Daguio in Kalinga (July 2010), and Miguel Belen in Nabua, Camarines Sur (July 2010).

Citing a report to the President by PNP Chief Director General Raul Bacalzo, Coloma said that five suspects in the Ortega killing are now in police custody, with two masterminds including former high-ranking Palawan provincial officials already identified.

In the Daguio case which has also been filed in court, one suspect is under custody while another suspect was found dead. In the Belen case, one suspect has already been arrested and is already facing criminal charges in court.

“The Aquino administration believes in the right to free expression of broadcasters and journalists,” Coloma said, even as he pointed out that police investigators’ findings tend to show that the killing of Sumera may not have been politically motivated.

Sumera, 45, an anchorwoman of radio station DZME’s Arangkada 1530 was shot dead Thursday morning near her home on Silonian Street at Barangay Maysilo in Malabon City.

Sumera is also the overall president of the Silonian, Sitio Rosal, Interior Tongco and the Saloma Neighborhood Association and was up against a rival community organization in a land dispute court case involving a road widening project in Malabon City. She reportedly appeared in a court hearing on the case last Monday, March 21. (PCOO)

ES Ochoa pushes for expanded Earth Hour

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on Friday urged all government agencies, including government-controlled corporations and financial institutions and local government units, to take part in this year’s observance of the Earth Hour and step up the campaign for energy-efficient practices and lifestyles.

In a memorandum, all heads of government agencies and offices nationwide are directed to participate in the annual switching off of lights for one hour, from 8:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m., and in the main switch-off event at the Mall of Asia tomorrow (March 26).

Ochoa noted the important role of government agencies and LGUs in expanding the reach of the campaign to address global warming and in taking action to ensure a sustainable future.

“They are encouraged to organize their own respective Earth Hour event in their homes, communities or localities; to undertake their own sets of activities in support of the objectives of the Earth Hour to widen the reach of this campaign for the benefit of all, especially the future generations,” Ochoa said.

“They are also directed to utilize various communication channels to promote Earth Hour 2011, including official websites, community newsletters, and blogs. Everybody is urged to make this campaign a success, as we intend to make this campaign advance beyond the mere switching off of lights,” the Executive Secretary added.

Now in its fourth year in the Philippines, Earth Hour is an hour-long event which started in Australia in 2007. It was designed to take a stand against climate change, which has been considered the “greatest threat” the planet has ever faced, and uses the simple action of turning off lights for an hour to deliver a powerful message on the need for climate change solutions. (PCOO)

Thursday, 24 March 2011

PIA Dispatch - Thursday, March 24, 2011

Malacanang says gov’t to embark on nationwide information campaign on drug trafficking

The Philippine Government is embarking on a nationwide information campaign on international drug syndicates luring Filipinos to be drug couriers in exchange for a large sum of money.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma, in an interview over government-run Radyo ng Bayan on Thursday, said that information dissemination is one of the preventive measures the government is implementing to avoid Filipinos from getting involved in drug trafficking.

Coloma said the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) in coordination with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is now going around the regions conducting a massive information campaign on the modus operandi of international drug syndicates in a move to avoid more Filipinos from being duped.

“The lack of information allows them to be victims of these drug syndicates,” Coloma said.

He added that the PDEA and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) are also coordinating with their counterparts in other countries in the fight against transnational crimes such as drug trafficking.

Earlier, Coloma said the PDEA and NBI were successful in destroying the West African syndicate that employed Filipinos as drug mules.

As of Aug. 2010, 626 Filipinos had been arrested for drug trafficking offenses in other countries."

Coloma noted that there is also a need to strengthen the judicial system because there have been a slow progress in drug cases and very low conviction rates for drug crimes.

The Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) has reported that eight percent of drug cases are dismissed before going into trial, seven percent result in conviction, eight percent result in acquittal, while 76 percent remain unresolved.

The DDB further said that drug cases are often dismissed due to technicalities, such as irregularity or illegality of arrest, non-appearance of witnesses, inconsistent testimonies of witnesses, mishandling of evidence, and unreliable police laboratories.

Coloma further stressed that President Aquino has ordered concerned authorities to tighten their watch against drug smugglers in the country’s airports and ports.

“Our government is fully committed to protect the legal rights of our citizens wherever they are but we have to respect the legal system of China,” Coloma said when asked what further actions will the government take after China has sentenced three Filipinos to death row on March 30.

Coloma however said that the government is “not giving up.” (PCOO)

President Aquino leads Grand Hyatt Hotel construction launch

President Benigno S. Aquino III led the ceremonial launch for the start of official construction of the Grand Hyatt Hotel on Thursday at the Fort Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City.

The President unveiled the scale model of the 66-storey premium-category hotel that will be erected on 1.5-hetare prime lot in the former military base.

Joining the President were Dr. George S.K. Ty, General Chairman of the Metrobank Group of Companies; Alberto Lim, Secretary of Tourism; and Alfred Ty, president of Federal Land and developer of the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Liu Jinhao was also present as a special guest of honor.

In his speech, President Aquino lauded the project as a manifestation of renewed investor confidence in the country and called it “a fitting representation of the progress that awaits our people in the near future.”

“…it also represents your belief in your potential for success—in filling up the rooms of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and in continuing your profitable operations here for many years in the future,” the President said.

“In this sense, today’s unveiling is a manifestation of the rising investor confidence in this country, not in mere statements or pledges, but in actual pesos and cents,” he said. (PCOO)

Aquino sees rise in tourist arrivals this year

President Benigno S. Aquino III said he expects tourist arrivals to increase this year due to rising investor confidence in the country under his administration.

In his speech at the unveiling ceremonies launching the formal start of construction of the Grand Hyatt Hotel at Fort Bonifacio Global City in Taguig on Thursday, the President said the increase in tourists this year would surpass the numbers posted in 2009.

“Tourists, both domestic and foreign, have increased in number in the recent years. In 2010, we had more than 3.5 million of them in the country, a 16 percent increase from the 3 million we had in 2009. Our visitor receipts have also risen by about 250 million dollars from 2009 to 2010,” the President said.

“Under this administration, it seems as if this boost in tourism is going to continue further, as the second half of 2010 yielded a 21.2 percent increase in tourist arrivals, much higher than the 12% increase in the first half,” he added.

To accommodate this expected increase in tourists, the President said his government is implementing several measures including liberalizing air travel in the country and addressing issues pertaining to our category 2 status in the USA, and the banning of Philippine aviation in Europe.

“We will be allowing foreign carriers to come here (and) I have already given the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines a year to resolve these issues (pertaining to our category 2 status in the USA, and the banning of Philippine aviation in Europe),” the President stressed.

“Once we do all of this, we will be clearing some of the serious bottlenecks that have prevented more visitors from coming into this country,” he added.

To make the Philippines more attractive to potential investors, President Aquino said, his government is offering investors certain “perks” specified in the Omnibus Investments Code as “a way of reciprocating the confidence you have in us.”

“These incentives include income tax holidays, tax-free importation of capital equipment, among other things, offered by the Omnibus Investments Code,” the President said.

“We have likewise launched five Public-Private Partnerships for bidding just two weeks ago, which is further proof of the growing mutual confidence between private corporations and the Philippine government,” he added.

He stressed that “despite these breakthroughs, we remain hard at work, thinking of even more ways to encourage investment in the Philippines. “

He called on all Filipinos to take an active part in “our state rebuilding project…because our success in restoring our national dignity is ultimately hinged on our shared efforts.”

“The bottom line is this: each of us has something to contribute to the rebuilding of this nation. The things we do, no matter how small or large, have a great effect on our country. The same way someone has to repaint the walls, redesign the rooms, replace the tiles, fix the plumbing, and clean the windows in the process of renovating a building—everyone has a job to do in the challenging task of nation building,” the President concluded. (PCOO)

Government to assess country’s quake preparedness

Malacañang said there is a need to assess the quake readiness of the country to prepare the people responding to such an event and to know the structural integrity of major structures.

“We need to assess the situation in Metro Manila or the entire Philippines. There are certain areas we have been told, that are more prone to earthquakes,” Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing on Thursday.

“Those things, we have to map out. And in fact, there’s a geo hazard mapping that the government has been doing together with DOST [Department of Science and Technology] and DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Resources]”

And as soon as the government determines how to better handle the situation, it will ask certain government agencies to prepare the people, particularly employees and students through earthquake drills.

At the same time, Lacierda also said that major structures in the country are strong enough to withstand earthquakes because of a very good building code being adopted in the Philippines.

“We’ve asked reputable persons and authorities on structures and they were one in saying that our new building code is very good. It has engineering solutions to the problems. So, our building code is very good. It’s well-crafted,” he said.

Asked about the structural integrity of the Palace and the President’s official residence, Lacierda said they already asked the Public works department to inspect Malacanang, Bahay Pangarap and buildings nearby to assess whether they are safe or not.

“We asked Secretary [Rogelio] Singson to also check our building. Maybe, I will mention it to Secretary Singson the assessment of Ms. Punongbayan about Bahay Pangarap. And certainly, we will take a look into the safety or the sturdiness of the structures that she mentioned,” he said.

Jane Punongbayan, a Philvocs research specialist said that even the President is not safe in the Palace or even in Bahay Pangarap because it’s near Pasig River and those structures stand on soft ground. (PCOO)