Wednesday, 27 April 2011

PIA Dispatch - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Malacañang vows no new taxes

Malacañang assured that there will be no imposition of new taxes saying that the present thrust of the Aquino administration is to generate more revenues through efficient collection rather than adopt new tax measures.

“The commitment is to focus on more efficient revenue collection rather than getting more revenues through new tax measures. Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said in interview over RMN Radio Wednesday.

Coloma underscored the dynamism of governance and economic conditions in the country stressing that some factors may compel the President to revisit possible options that will be economically helpful to the government.

The dynamism of economic forces may create a concrete situation that could make the President reconsider several measures that will help the country, he added.

Coloma noted that the Aquino administration also wants to assure the people that their money is spent wisely and does not unnecessarily go to corruption as presently perceived by taxpayers.

These measures have started to create good results, as data showed that the country’s first quarter actual deficit dropping recently as a result of increased revenue collection, he explained.

The non-imposition of new tax measures was one of President Benigno Aquino III’s campaign pledges in the May 2010 presidential election. He also vowed to fight corruption and alleviate poverty as well as go after the excesses of the Arroyo administration. (PCOO)

Palace allays fears of electricity problem

Malacañang allayed fears of possible problem with electricity due to unrest in the Middle East, saying electric power generation is only nine percent (9%) dependent on fuel.

In an interview over government-run radio station dzRB Radyo ng Bayan on Wednesday, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio B. Coloma Jr. said the volatility of oil prices would not greatly affect electricity which is 91% dependent on geothermal hydroelectric and coal.

“Sa atin pong energy situation kung tutunghayan po natin ay yung electricity o electric power, hindi po tayo masyadong apektado doon sa volatility ng oil prices dahil 9% lang po ng ating electric power generation ang nakasalalay sa fuel,” said Coloma.

While electricity is not greatly affected by the volatility of oil prices, Coloma stressed the implication of global oil price hike due to political turmoil in the Middle East that supplies oil all over the world.

Due to the dependency of private and public utility vehicles on fuel, the Aquino government started undertaking measures to lessen the dependency on oil.

“Kaya una pong action na kailangan nating gawin ay palitan na po iyung oil bilang primary source ng ating transportation movement. At ang una pong program natin diyan ay iyung sa pinakabasic na transportation na ginagamit ng pinakamaraming mamamayan ngayon iyung tricycle,” said Coloma.

The national government recently launched a program to build units of electric tricycles or e-trikes as part of the long-term solutions towards a sustainable, energy-efficient transport model for the country.

The new Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded e-trikes uses lithium ion batteries and it is approximately 40 kilos in weight. While the cost of lithium batteries is almost double that of the lead acid batteries, their operational life is 15 times longer. Currently, e-trikes costs from P185,000 up to P200,000.

Coloma said the government planned to also focus on other forms of public transportation like jeepneys and buses.

He noted that many countries have already changed their system, shifting to liquefied natural gas, compressed natural gas (CNG) and other alternatives as sources of energy to lessen the dependency on fuel.

Coloma also said the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and the Department of Energy are now firming up specific measures for tricycle units and other utility vehicles shifting to other sources of energy other than fuel. (PCOO)

Aquino inaugurates Expressway Extension in Kawit, Cavite

KAWIT, Cavite: President Benigno S. Aquino III Wednesday led the inauguration of the newly-completed 7-kilometer R-1 Expressway Extension, Segment 4 of the Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway Project (MCTEP). That a major road project was designed to further strengthen the commercial link between Metro Manila and the booming province of Cavite.

In his speech, the President said the completion of MCTEP or Cavite Expressway (CAVITEX) will provide commuters a safe, convenient and fast access in and out of Metro Manila going to the northern portion of Cavite.

“Kung dati ay nalulugi ang mga negosyante dahil naiipit ang kanilang produkto sa buhol-buhol na trapik, ngayon ay mabilis nang aarangkada ang mga kalakal mula at patungong Bacoor, Kawit, at Cavite Export Zone. Malinaw po ang punto ko: bukod sa mabilis na paglalakbay, lunsaran ito ng mas maginhawang pamumuhay para sa mga Pilipino: de-kalidad na daanan para sa mga biyahero, at mauunlad na negosyong magdudulot ng mga trabaho,” the President said.

He said the national government supported the R-1 Expressway Extension project as part of the MCTEP because it will connect the existing Coastal Road Expressway in Zapote, Las Pinas going towards Kawit and Noveleta.

According to the President said among the priority projects of his administration is the construction of new roads and the upgrade of existing highways in order to provide safe and convenient transportation of goods and travel of passengers.

“Napakahalaga po ng pagkakaroon ng maayos na kalsada sa ating bansa. Ito ang daan para sa paghahatid ng pangunahing serbisyo sa mga komunidad. Ito ang nag-uugnay sa mga magkakahiwalay na pook para mapabilis ang mga paglalakbay. Nakataya dito kung magiging maaliwalas at madali para sa mga pasahero ang pag-uwi sa kanilang mga pamilya at pagluwas para naman sa paghahanap-buhay,” he added.

Luis Juan Virata, chairman of the UEM-MARA Philippines Corporation said the R-1 Expressway Extension is a dual two-lane (North and South bound), seven kilometer highway traversing Bacoor Bay built over water, and a combination of reclamation and viaduct works (that can stand in 6 magnitude earthquake) stretching from Bacoor up to Kawit. It was built from January 2007 up to April 2011 with a total investment of P5.7 billion.

The Cavite Expressway is the continuation of the existing R-1 Expressway or Coastal Road. It will also help alleviate traffic congestion along Aguinaldo Highway and Tirona Highway

The Toll Regulatory Board said that the toll rates for the R-1 Expressway Extension will be P22 for Class 1 vehicles like jeepneys, pick-up vans and cars; P45 for Class 2 vehicles like buses; and P65 for Class 3 vehicles like cargo trucks and trailers.

On the other hand, Jennifer E. Bote, president and general manager of the United Engineers Malaysia-MARA Philippines Corporation, said the province of Cavite and nearby areas shall derive various social and economic benefits from CAVITEX beside linking Metro Manila and Cavite province. (PCOO)

Extradition of former police officer will put closure to Dacer-Corbito case

The Aquino government is hoping that the impending extradition of a former police officer will shed light and eventually put a closure to the Dacer-Corbito double murder case.

In a media briefing in Malacañang on Wednesday, Presidential Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte said that the impending return to the country of former police officer Michael Ray Aquino, who seemingly has a good grasp of the details of the case, may set things straight and would finally put an end to the said case.

“Michael Ray Aquino seems to be one of those people with a good grasp of what had happened in the Dacer-Corbito case and with his impending extradition we hope that his coming back to the country will shed light on the matter and we hope that it will finally put closure to the case”, Valte said.

In November of 2000, noted publicist Salvador "Bubby" Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito was abducted and murdered by still unidentified suspects in Indang, Cavite.

Also implicated in the case were former police chief inspectors Glenn Dumlao, and Cesar Mancao who all worked at the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) then under the stewardship of Senator Panfilo Lacson. (PCOO)

Aquino appoints Lagman as Comelec commissioner

President Benigno Aquino III appointed Augusto Lagman, a veteran information technology executive, as commissioner of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) filling the slot vacated by former commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer.

Lagman, a certified computing professional, will serve as Comelec commissioner until Feb 2, 2018. The President signed his appointment April 20, 2011.

“He has spoken on many issues related to the automated elections when it came to the commission and we are confident that he can discharge the duties of his office as capably and competently as he was in the past,” Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said as she announced Lagman’s appointment during a news briefing on Wednesday at Malacanang.

Valte also said the President chose Lagman because of his competence.

“As you recall whenever the President was ask about the prospective appointment, the President would always say that he wanted an IT expert given the issues that had faced the commission in the past elections,” she said.

The Palace spokesperson also said that it took quite some time for the President to fill the vacancy at the Comelec because he really wanted to find the right person for the job and he spent time going over the shortlist of nominees.

Lagman completed his primary and secondary educations at San Beda College and earned his mechanical engineering degree from the University of the Philippines.

The incoming Comelec commissioner is likewise a certified computer professional and was awarded by the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals in Des Moines, Illinois, USA.

Prior to his appointment, Lagman was chairman of Vinta Systems Inc., a developer of A1-oriented software products. He also served as director of STI College Recto and Biometrix Technologies Inc., founding chairman of STI College; former director of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA); president of Computer Associates Inc and coordinator of IBM Philippines Inc. (PCOO)

Ochoa: Uphold environmental standards and protection in mining activities

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on Wednesday issued fresh calls for strict adherence to environmental standards and protection in mining activities to avoid disasters similar to the massive landslide in Pantukan, Compostela Valley that have so far left 13 people dead and a number of small-scale miners missing.

“Environmental laws and regulations are there for a reason: to protect both the environment and the lives of those involved in mining operations. When these are violated, we endanger the environment, the lives of miners, as well as people who live in the surrounding areas,” Ochoa said.

According to Ochoa, all stakeholders in the mining industry should comply with environmental laws, including the public who should become allies of the government in seeing to it that protection and safety standards are observed in mining communities.

“The public must remain vigilant and work with the government in the enforcement of environmental laws. While we understand that small-scale mining can be profitable for some communities, our people must keep in mind that mining is regulated because it must be done properly to ensure the safety of miners and to mitigate its impact on the environment,” Ochoa explained.

The Executive Secretary had previously raised concern over the operations of small-scale miners, whose activities are not under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), but the responsibility of local government units (LGUs).

In a report to Malacanang, DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said the landslide took place in Sitio Panganason, Barangay Kingking in Pantukan last April 22 after a slope of a ridge in a small-scale mining site collapsed and buried alive a number of miners, as well as mine tunnels and backyard processing plants.

To date, 13 bodies have been pulled out under the mud and 13 miners have been rescued. The search and retrieval operations are still ongoing to locate the missing as well as the evacuation of residents living near the gold mining site, which has been identified as highly susceptible to landslide as early 2007 by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

Paje reported that small-scale miners had been operating in Pantukan for the past 20 years and that there were close to 1,000 small-scale mining activities in the municipality alone.

Since Friday, the government, through the DENR and the Departments of National Defense and the Interior and Local Government, provincial and municipal governments, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police (PNP), has taken steps to speed up the retrieval and rescue operations.

Authorities have also considered the following actions, among others, to address the issues stemming from small-scale mining:

• Identify and implement a “No habitation zone”;
• Conduct mercury sampling of Kingking River;
• Prepare a 1:10,000 detailed geohazard mapping to identify other danger zones and mining zones;
• Design a DENR safe tunnel guidance for LGUs in issuing small-scale mining permits; and
• Train and equip provincial governments in mining and environmental management. (PCOO)

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

PIA Dispatch - Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Palace returns supervision of SEC to DOF

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. said on Tuesday that the Palace had restored the administrative supervision of the Department of Finance (DoF) over the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in an effort to strengthen the country’s financial system amid the global economic crisis.

At present, the SEC is supervised by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), but Executive Order No. 37, which President Benigno Aquino III signed on April 19, placed the regulatory commission under the wings of the DoF to ensure better coordination and effective implementation of strong and stable financial policies, Ochoa said.

“Given the global economic crisis, the administration intends to attain an effective implementation of policies for a strong and stable financial system that will lead to a financial sector that will be able to further economic growth and development of the country,” the Executive Secretary said.

EO 37 revoked Executive Order No. 800 issued in 2009, which removed the DoF as overseer of the SEC and placed it under the DTI to facilitate the coordination of policies and programs in the field of trade, industry and investment.

SEC was originally supervised by the Office of the President (OP) in accordance with Presidential Decree No. 902-A, or the SEC Reorganization Act, which granted additional powers to and placed the regulatory body under the administrative supervision of Malacañang in 1976.

In the year 2000, however, Executive Order No. 192 transferred the administrative supervision of the SEC from the OP to the DoF.

“In order to achieve our goal, efficient coordination in the financial sector must be ensured, thus, it is necessary and right to reinstate the administrative supervision of SEC to the DoF,” Ochoa explained.

Ochoa said EO 37 shall take effect immediately upon publication in a newspaper of general circulation. (PCOO)

Palace seeks government-wide training in disaster preparedness

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. is pushing for a government-wide demonstration-training in disaster preparedness to ensure officials and employees respond appropriately to natural disasters and emergency situations.

Ochoa underscored the importance of getting people involved in preparing for disasters during a seminar conducted in the Office of the President last week, as he noted that the 9.0 temblor that jolted Japan in March should serve as a wake-up call to earthquake-prone countries like the Philippines.

“This means that we should be even more prepared. I know that in terms of resources and technology we’re still far behind Japan, but we should take steps and prepare. We cannot ignore these anymore,” Ochoa told the Palace staff during the Demonstration-Training on Natural Disaster Preparedness and Response System held at the Mabini Hall.

“The Office of the President aims to set an example for the rest of the bureaucracy that here we are preparing. We’re not taking things for granted,” Ochoa added.

At the same time, Ochoa called for strict and full compliance with building safety standards and regulations by all government offices to preserve lives and prevent any untoward incident.

This is in line with the separate memoranda issued on March 16 by the Executive Secretary following the powerful earthquake and tsunami in Japan to the Departments of Public Works and Highways, Transportation and Communications, the Interior and Local Government directing these agencies to conduct inspections in public buildings and government infrastructure projects, as well as assess the level of preparedness in the local government units in terms of disaster management.

“The window for us within which to act and react to any calamity or any disaster, man-made or natural, is too short,” Ochoa pointed out. “So therefore, we should bear in mind to be always ready. Preparedness for any disaster or situation must become our second nature.”

During the training, Palace officials and personnel were given lectures by experts from the Philippine Coast Guard, Balangay Voyage and Mt. Everest Expedition Teams, Rajah Sulaiman Fire Rescue Team, City Watch Bright Center, Tao Emergency Operation Center, UNTV Rescue, and Search and Rescue Unit Foundation.

He also called on the private sector to partner with the disaster-preparedness program of the government through the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). (PCOO)

Aquino receives American Christian evangelist at Palace

President Benigno S. Aquino III received religious mementos from an American Christian evangelist who also prayed and asked for divine intervention and guidance for the President.

During a courtesy call at the Yellow Room of the Premier Guest House of the Palace on Tuesday, Reverent William Graham IV presented to President Aquino spiritual souvenirs including a digital video disc, an ESV book, and the 56th million copy of the Bible from the Gideons International.

“Well this is my first time that I get to meet the President, he’s a very humble man… we had a good time just talking and got to pray with him and I’ve been very impressed with the man now that he has secured a lot of burns on his shoulders he has to make important decisions each and every day that affects so many people and I just wanted to have a time to pray with him and tell him how much I appreciate it,” Rev. Graham said who is the assistant director of the Billy Graham Training Center.

Accompanying the evangelical leader were Derek Forbes, president celebration director, Rev. Chad Hammond, associate director for Asian affairs and members of the National Advisory Council for the Bicol Celebration of Hope, that include Bishop Jonel Milan, National chairman of the Philippine Ministerial Fellowship Network; Bishop Efraim Tendero, National director of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches; and Jones Tioco, executive director of the Sowers of the World Ministries, Inc.

Also in attendance was Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ramon Carandang.

Rev. Graham arrived in the country to spearhead a four-day celebration of hope in Naga City, Camarines Sur starting on Thursday where he will talk about the Bible and how they can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

The celebration, Rev. Graham said, will also feature wonderful music and discussion on ways on how to have that spiritual intimacy with God that will lead to an experience of peace, happiness and joy in life.

“Not to be religious but talking about how they can have a personal knowledge of God and how they can know Him and walk with Him…” Graham said. (PCOO)

Gov’t hires technical personnel/consultants in a move to take PH aviation industry out of a ratings downgrade

The government has hired qualified technical personnel and consultants in a move to lift the ban on local airlines from expanding operations in the United States and Europe.

In a press conference in Malacanang on Tuesday, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) are on top of the situation with respect to taking the country’s aviation industry out of a ratings downgrade by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) a few years ago.

The FAA downgraded the Philippines to Category 2 from Category 1 in 2008 after a safety audit conducted in November 2007 found that some policies of the local aviation sector to be below international standards. The downgrade prohibits local airlines from expanding flights to the US.

One of the primary issues was the lack of qualified technical personnel who will carry out procedures that ensure the safety of the Philippine air transport sector.

“The DOTC and the CAAP are on top of the situation with respect to taking us out of Category 2 and they have implemented some measures. In fact, the President just recently signed an EO authorizing the CAAP administrator to hire more people,” Lacierda said.

The government has hired more pilots because according to Lacierda the major concern is the lack of qualified personnel who will monitor the country’s airports.

The Palace spokesman also said the CAAP has assured the President that there will be an upgrade to Category 1 by the end of the year or maybe much earlier.

“They [CAAP] are committed that it will be done one year or less,” he stressed.

Lacierda also brushed off reports about the possible sale of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 noting that what the President wants is to make sure that the terminal is functioning properly. (PCOO)

Aquino gov’t starts distributing emergency shelter assistance to landslide victims in Compostela Valley

The Aquino government started distributing emergency shelter assistance (ESA) to the families affected by a landslide in a remote gold mining area in southern Philippines' Compostela Valley.

In a news briefing at Malacanang, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda announced on Tuesday that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) started distributing ESA in the amount of P5,000 each to victims of the landslide that buried shanties last week.

Lacierda said the government started undertaking measures to extend assistance to victims of the landslide by providing them ESA as well as food packs.

“The DSWD will continue to distribute food packs in the coming days,” Lacierda said.

The government, Lacierda stressed, will also implement a self-employment assistance program through the DSWD for the qualified local residents who were affected by the tragedy.

“For a more long-term assistance, the DSWD will assess if those who have been affected by the landslide are eligible for the self-employment assistance program of the DSWD,” he said.

Relocation efforts in the affected areas were intensified with the local government working at the forefront. “With respect to the relocation efforts in these areas, the local government will be taking care of that,” he said.

The landslide caused by heavy rains buried shanties in a mining area at Compostela Valley before dawn on Good Friday, killing several people and leaving scores of residents missing. (PCOO)

Aquino cites DBM employees for selfless public service and dedication

President Benigno S. Aquino III lauded the awardees of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for their 25 years of selfless service and sacrifice.

“Your hard work and dedication were instrumental in the gains we have so far achieved. May you continue the good work you have been doing, more so now that the country is well on its way in realizing the promise of a better life for Filipinos,” the Chief Executive said before the men and women of the DBM during its 75th anniversary of the DBM on Monday at the at the Reception Hall of the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City.

During the program, the President awarded the commemorative rings to 29 DBM employees who have rendered 25 years of service for their “hard work and dedication to duty.”

The President noted that 75 years ago, when the DBM was first established, “our founding fathers were all dreaming of building a Philippines that would be competitive and well-respected in the global milieu.”

The President said the improvements that the country are experiencing are really just a “result of our revival of a long forgotten concept that public funds are not for public officials. They belong to the Filipino people, and must therefore be spent for the Filipino people.”

The President said that “if all government agencies can consistently put this into practice in the next five years and 3 months, then it will become part of the norm rather than the exception, such that the next president, the next batch of elected public servants, and our people will merely continue the good we have already begun.”

The President stressed that the biggest challenge faced by his administration was to start the budgetary process afresh, to do away with outmoded or irrelevant budgetary assumptions. He was referring to the implementation of a zero-based budget which, he said, was “no easy task.”

According to the President, the concept of “zero-based budgeting is simple: using performance-based guidelines, you take the people’s money out of projects that don’t work and put it into projects that do.” He added that this is reflected in the 2011 budget.

He expressed high hopes that the efforts of the DBM to trim the fat from the bureaucracy will be reinforced by the appointments of Grace Tan and Heidi Mendoza at the Commission on Audit (COA).

The President said that under the 2011 national budget, over P21 billion was allocated for the conditional cash transfer program to improve the health, nutrition, and education of extremely poor families.

As of April 22, the Department of Health had already deployed almost 9,950 nurses to provide essential health services to poor communities in the country.

The project, billed RN HEALS or Registered Nurses for Health Enhancement and Local Service, seeks to address the shortage of skilled and experienced nurses in more than 1,200 rural and unserved or underserved communities by training and deploying 10,000 unemployed nurses.

The President likewise said that members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are also reaping the benefits as well after the government was able to allocate resources for the construction of 20,000 housing units for police and military this year and increased their salaries.

The budget for the Witness Protection Program was also increased from P84 million in 2010 to P151 million in 2011, he said.

The President noted that the DBM also signed a memorandum of agreement with four judges associations to provide P108 million to augment the gap in the pay of judges, which will allow their salary levels to catch up with salary increases under the Salary Standardization Law III,“

“In short, the government is finally giving the Filipino people what they deserve—a government that truly serves them and provides them with the services they urgently need,” the President said. (PCOO)

Appointments of new 17 career foreign service ambassadors is for national interest – Palace

President Benigno S. Aquino III’s appointment of 17 new ambassadors who are all career diplomats is intended to serve the national interest well, a Palace spokesman said.

“The promise of President Aquino and the commitment of Secretary Albert del Rosario [Foreign Affairs] is really to use the career foreign service officials,” Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press conference at the Palace on Tuesday.

“So, it is a clear indication the President intends to use the professional career foreign service officials in the foreign service,” he stressed.

Lacierda said that the career officials are the most competent in their field noting that the organization composed of career service officials welcomed the President’s recent appointments.

And while it’s the prerogative of the President to appoint those officials, Lacierda said, the Chief Executive wants the ratio provided by law observed in designating career and political appointees in the foreign services.

Republic Act 7157 or the "Philippine Foreign Service Act of 1991" provides for the President’s appointments of ambassadors and career foreign service officers.

Among President Aquino’s political appointees include former Manila Electric Co. president Manolo Lopez who was named ambassador to Japan, and former Central Bank Gov. Jose L. Cuisia Jr. as ambassador to the United States.

His latest appointees included Jose Eduardo Malaya III, spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs who was designated ambassador to Malaysia.

Other appointees include Belen Anota (Australia), Victoria Bataclan (Belgium), Leslie Gatan (Canada), Wilfredo Maximo (Cuba), Cristina Ortega (France), Ma. Cleofe Natividad (Germany), Menardo Montealegre (Greece), Eleanor Jaucian (Hungary), Generoso Calonge (Israel), George Reyes (Mexico), Lourdes Morales (Netherlands), Virginia Benavidez (New Zealand), Bayani Mercado (Norway), Eduardo Manuel (Poland), Leslie Baja (Switzerland) and Enrique Manalo (United Kingdom). (PCOO)

Government’s public-private partnership initiative to bid out projects

As part of the Aquino government’s public-private partnership (PPP) initiative, the Palace announced that it will bid out projects geared toward the development of the entire country before he delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July 2011.

In a regular news briefing at Malacanang on Tuesday, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said President Aquino issued an order not to limit the development to Luzon but the entire country.

“Ang idea nga ng Presidente is not to limit ourselves to Luzon, as he wants the entire country developed,” Lacierda told reporters.

In PPP projects, the state and the private sector collaborate to build a road, hospital, or airport, with the private company usually given the rights to run it for a certain period.

Meanwhile, the economic managers are now firming up its recommendations to the President to improve the situation of the economy as well as to alleviate poverty.

“It will take us some time to rebuild the house again,” Lacierda said, adding that the Aquino government wants to make sure to rebuild the foundations, especially the governmental institutions that were damaged during the previous administration.

“And then we move forward to make sure the people’s economic situation will be improved. That’s why our slogan is always poverty reduction and the anti-graft crusade... Kung walang kurapt walang mahirap, that’s our position talaga and from there we can extrapolate the measures that we are doing that are all in consonant with those two main thrusts,” he said.

While the government is working on the long-term action plans, Lacierda said, the administration is also implementing programs to immediately unburden the public. (PCOO)

Aquino welcomes international philanthropic groups to Malacañang

President Benigno S. Aquino III welcomed the chairman and executive director of two international philanthropic groups who called on the Chief Executive in Malacañang.

Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of The Nippon Foundation and Carson Harle, Executive Director of the Cambodia Trust visited Malacañang on Tuesday to inform the President about their group’s partnership in addressing physical disabilities by developing affordable but well-made prosthetics.

In an interview, Sasakawa, through the help of his interpreter said they also called on the President to personally extend his and his nation’s profound gratitude “for the sympathies and warm thoughts” the President and the Filipino nation expressed when Japan was struck by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake last March 11.

Sasakawa also informed the President that a school to develop and train specialists in the development of prosthetics has been put up in Manila recently.

Harle said the school, which was put up in cooperation with the University of the East-Ramon Magsaysay (UERM) Memorial Medical Center campus, is now accepting students willing to study their curriculum.

He added that aside from producing “patient management experts,” the school will also mold excellent “bench technicians” who will be trained to develop and construct prosthetics.

“It’s a 10-year plan to develop the school, the students and faculty…in order to leave behind a sustainable Filipino institute with no need for foreign teachers,” Harle said.

Harle noted that the President was very “positive” about their group’s advocacy and pledged support by tasking the Commission on Higher Education to expeditiously work towards granting their school’s accreditation.

“He’s (President Aquino) is very positive about it. He’s been well-briefed and understands the need to raise the level (of prosthetics manufacturing in the Philippines) to a more sustainable service deliverer (through) the strengthened integration of the service into the healthcare system,” Harle said.

The Nippon Foundation, which was established in 1962, is a non-profit philanthropic organization that aims to bolster the domestic development of Japan through the development of the maritime and shipping fields as well as in the areas of education, social welfare and public health, both within Japan and in more than one hundred countries to date.

Cambodia Trust, meanwhile, is a United Kingdom-based charity that works with disadvantaged disabled people to enable them to participate as equals in education, employment and community life.

The Trust aims to reduce poverty and increase self-sufficiency, through rehabilitation, community work, training and advocacy. (PCOO)

‘Building Bridges Leadership Journey’ participants call on President Aquino in Malacañang

President Benigno S. Aquino III welcomed the officials and participants to the Building Bridges Leadership Journey program who called on him in Malacañang Tuesday.

The group was led by Peggy Dulany, founder and chair of The Synergos Institute and Rina Lopez-Bautista, president and founder of the Knowledge Channel Foundation, Incorporated, the main proponents of the BBLJ.

Joining the President in welcoming the guests were Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman and Trade Undersecretary Zenaida Maglaya.

Maglaya said in an interview that aside from paying a courtesy call on the President, the group asked for government support for the leadership program.

The BBLJ brings together youth leaders aged 21-35 from the country’s prominent political and business families in order to deepen their knowledge of society’s needs and inspire them to respond accordingly.

The effort is organized in cooperation with Synergos Senior Fellows in the Philippines, a subsidiary of The Synergos Institute which has brought together a network of philanthropic families called the Global Philanthropists Circle which aimed at addressing global poverty and social injustice by bringing together government, business, civil society and poor and marginalized communities to create sustainable systems change. (PCOO)

Monday, 25 April 2011

PIA Dispatch - Monday, April 25, 2011

Blackouts may hit parts of Mindanao tonight

Malacañang announced the possibility of electric interruptions affecting several parts of Mindanao due to the delay of repairs being undertaken in one of the Pulangi hydro-power plants in Bukidnon.

Energy Secretary Jose Almendras told a news briefing in Malacañang on Monday that the National Power Corporation was working overtime to complete the repair and maintenance works being conducted on Pulangi IV hydro-power plant.

“Some of the repairs and maintenance work that we did in Pulangi is slightly delayed so whether they finish this afternoon or not will determine if there will be brownouts in Mindanao during the peak times of about 5:30 to 8:00 tonight,” Almendras said.

Pulangi IV Plant Manager Rudy P. Brioso explained that the power plant was shut down last week to allow engineers to inspect the unit’s structure for cracks and leaks.

He added that the power plant has not been inspected for the past 25 years since its commissioning, and that “a complete drawdown” or draining of the water is needed so that a thorough inspection of the structure can be conducted.

The Pulangi hydro-power plant, which began operations in 1985, generates and contributes 255 megawatts (MW) to the Mindanao electric grid. (PCOO)

Government to secure exploration contracts off Palawan waters using Malampaya funds

Due to international interests in exploring the sea off Palawan, government has decided to use the Malampaya fund to provide security to multinational companies that will explore the area.

“We are looking at using the Malampaya fund for the security of multinational companies and the President wants the DOE [Department of Energy] to play a role in that,” Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said at a press briefing in Malacanang on Monday.

Almendras said that President Benigno Aquino III’s pronouncement on leveling the playing field for the businesses in the country has generated so much interest on the Philippines, particularly in the energy sector.

“This is one of the achievements of the Aquino administration," said Almendras. "The Aquino administration has shown the world that we, as we said, have leveled the playing field. Because of this, there’s a flood of exploration potentials. So we need to ensure the security of all these new exploration areas."

Some quarters in the energy sector have been complaining about losing people and equipment because of the growing interest in explorations, the energy chief said.

Because of these new interests, Almendras said they have made recommended to augment the security of the service contracts that have been previously awarded, as well as the 15 other service contracts that will be bidded out this coming July.

Right now there is so much international interest in the 15 new service contracts that are going to be bidded out,” he said.

There’s a need to strengthen security because companies exploring the area are bringing in equipment or investing hundreds of dollars or even billions of dollars, continued Almendras.

The Department of National Defense has provided a security plan, he said. The DND will determine the number of radar stations, boats and choppers that will be needed.

In the past, the Malampaya fund has been used for many things, even matters not related to energy or energy-related security although the establishment of the fund does not categorically state that it can only be used for energy-related or energy security related matters.

Almendras said they will wait for the actual issuance of an executive order authorizing the use of the fund for such initiatives. An EO is needed for the release of the Malampaya money so that everything will be documented, he said. (PCOO)

Malacañang bares security features of 'Pantawid Pasada' Smart cards

The Aquino government bared the added security features of the “Smart cards” to be used by beneficiaries under the Public Transport Assistance Program that aims to provide subsidy to a portion of the average consumption of jeepney and tricycle drivers amid escalating fuel costs.

In a media briefing at the New Executive Building in Malacañang on Monday, Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras made it clear that “Smart cards” can only be used three to five days after its issuance as part of its anti-pilferage features. This, he said, will ensure that the cards have already reached its intended recipients.

“Liwanagin po natin, the minute the card is issued hindi po pwedeng dalhin agad sa gas station at gamitin… there is a safety feature that we are going to advice the drivers that they could only use it between 3 to 5 days after getting it”, Almendras said.

“This is because, we want to prevent the pilferage of the card. We will activate the card and load it only when we are sure that it has reached the intended recipient,” he stressed.

Almendras noted that while in transit, the cards are not yet loaded with cash making it impossible for some unscrupulous groups to tamper it.

“So yung sa mga may plano po magnakaw ng card while it is in transit, wala po ng laman yan at wala po kayong makukuha dyan kasi hindi po kakargahan iyan hangga’t di umaabot sa dapat patunguhan,” Almendras said.

It will be recalled that on April 1, President Benigno S. Aquino III signed Executive Order No. 32 instituting the Public Transport Assistance Program, commonly known as “Pantawid Pasada” program.

The Pantawid Pasada fund will be sourced out from the Special Account in the General Fund (SAGF) of the Department of Energy.

Three government agencies, namely the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Department of Finance (DOF), and the DOE, were jointly authorized, as per EO 32, to determine the monthly funding requirement of the 450-million peso program.

A total of 150 million pesos will be allotted to subsidize the fuel consumption of tricycle drivers which will be carried out through the local government units.

Three hundred million pesos will be allocated for the subsidy of the average consumption of jeepneys.

Almendras noted that the “Smart cards” will be assigned to the vehicle using its plate number and type as reference. (PCOO)

DOE asks oil companies to roll back its prices

Oil companies that increased their pump prices last week must roll back this week following a government calculation, according to the Department of Energy.

“Our view is oil prices should rollback depending on how much you increased last week. So, if you increased last week, your rollback should be higher. If you did not increase, then it should be lesser than those that did the increase,” Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras told reporters in a press conference in Malacanang on Monday.

Almendras said that based on their calculations last week, gasoline should have gone up by a maximum 39 centavos noting that an increase of up to 60 cents is too much.

There is an agreement with the oil companies in rounding off calculations and Almendras said the 39 cents maximum must only be translated to 40-centavo increase. But he noted the increase went as high as 60 centavos.

“For diesel, our calculations showed it should have gone up by only 16 centavos. So, you round it off to 20 centavos, but some companies went as high as 25,” he said.

And because the DOJ-DOE Task Force is now in place, Almendras said they want all companies that increased more than what they felt was appropriate to explain in writing and submit it to the task force.

The energy chief said that if the joint task force feels that there is an abuse, a case in court will be filed, and subsequently, the appropriate action will be followed depending on the law.

But he noted: “We have to receive their reply in writing. The task force has to evaluate, has to do the comparatives, has to look at the numbers, and then make an opinion. Based on that opinion will be the decision on how to pursue beyond that point,” (PCOO)

PIA Dispatch - Sunday, April 24, 2011

Aquino confident the country will overcome Calvary of corruption

Malacanang expressed high hopes that the country would overcome various challenges and make it through the darkness and Calvary of corruption with the government and the Filipino people’s concerted efforts towards progress and development.

In a radio interview over government-run radio station dzRB Radyo ng Bayan Presidential Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte delivered President Benigno S. Aquino III’s Easter message depicting the Chief Executive’s optimism on the country’s brighter future.

“I am one with the Filipino nation in celebrating the Lord’s resurrection from the dead as He saved mankind from sins,” the Easter message read which was released Saturday.

The President further expressed in his message that the people should not waver in their faith in God and must continue following His lessons.

“This is the first Easter celebrated by the new administration,” the message read.

“No matter how dark the episode we had been through, the advancement of honest and good governance, along with strong faith and cooperation, would be our foundation to overcome the Calvary that we have to deal with as we came in (government),” it added.

President Aquino also said that the people must intensify charitable works to manifest God’s love and compassion.

“Sa pagwawakas ng semana santa, hindi sana magtapos dito ang ating taimtim na pananalig sa Panginoon…” President Aquino said.

“Ipagpatuloy natin ang pagtupad sa kanyang mga aral at lalo pa natin paigtingin ang ating mga pagkakawanggawa… “ he added.

“Each and every one of us can contribute to the end of corruption to lift our people from poverty and difficulties. It is only through this that the people would feel the real light of change,” the President said.

The President also wished all Filipinos a peaceful and blessed celebration of Easter. (PCOO)

PIA Dispatch - Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Palace moves Earth Day celebration to April 25

Malacanang has moved this year's Earth Day celebration to April 25 from April 22, which falls on Good Friday, Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. announced Wednesday.

According to Ochoa, President Benigno S. Aquino III's Administrative Order No. 12, signed on April 19, directs that all activities for the annual commemoration of the Earth Day be held on the first working day after the Holy Week instead of Friday, a non-working holiday by virtue of Proclamation No. 84 issued by the Chief Executive in December last year.

“Yearly, our country celebrates Earth Day on April 22 by virtue of Proclamation No. 1481 issued on April 10, 2008 in solidarity with countries around the world. But there have been suggestions from different sectors to defer the Earth Day celebration for this year because April 22 is Good Friday and majority of the population will be observing Good Friday,” Ochoa explained.

“The President deems it best to move Earth Day celebrations to April 25 this year to allow more people to participate in the activities and make the occasion more meaningful. The government also wants to take the opportunity to draw the attention of the Filipino people to environmental issues affecting our country and the world,” he added.

The celebration of Earth Day is envisioned to inspire awareness and appreciation, as well as encourage conservation of the environment. It likewise aims to strengthen and sustain the fight for a clean environment amid the challenges posed by climate change.

Earth Day is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network and is celebrated in close to 200 countries every year. (PCOO)

Joint DOE-DOJ task force to evaluate oil price hike

Malacañang on Wednesday announced that the Department of Energy-Department of Justice (DOE-DOJ) joint taskforce was tasked to determine whether there was abuse on the part of some oil companies in imposing oil price hike that was higher than the number calculated by the Energy Department.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the DOE had already asked some oil players to explain in writing why their respective fuel price increase imposed this week was higher than the number set by the DOE based on its calculation.

“The specific task of the DOE-DOJ task force is to evaluate abuse if any,” said Lacierda, adding that while some oil companies increased their prices, Petron and other oil players did not impose the hike.

“Chevron increased the price but it is set to rollback its price,” Lacierda told reporters in a regular news briefing.

Lacierda, however, clarified that the joint task force cannot impose a standard oil price setting because the country’s Oil Deregulation Law allows oil market forces to determine the prices of oil for the industry.

Under the law, a DoJ-DoE task force was created to monitor and ensure that the adjustments are fair and reasonable.

Oil Industry Management Bureau director Zenaida Monsada, of the DOE, earlier said the joint DOE-DOJ Task Force has already received the reports of the oil firms explaining the price adjustments.

Some oil firms implemented Tuesday a fuel price hike of 60 centavos for gasoline and 25 centavos for diesel.

Monsada said the DOE's calculations indicated only a price hike of 39 centavos for premium gas and 16 centavos for diesel.

The government allows oil firms to round off increases to the nearest 10 centavos, she added. This means the government calculations would have allowed price hikes of 40 instead of 60 centavos for gas, and 20 instead of 25 centavos for diesel.

“Our mandate is to determine whether they are within reason, because if they’re not within reason,” said Monsada. (PCOO)

President Aquino makes surprise visit to North Harbor

President Benigno S. Aquino III made a surprise visit to the North Harbor in Tondo, Manila on Wednesday to inspect the preparations being undertaken to ensure the safety of Filipinos traveling to their respective provinces during the Lenten season.

The President visited Pier 2 where the Negros Navigation shipping company, one of the country’s premiere shipping lines, is located.

He was accompanied by several Cabinet secretaries namely: Transportation Secretary Jose De Jesus, Budget Secretary Butch Abad, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ramon Carandang and Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.

Upon his arrival at around 2 p.m., the President made a brief inspection of the shipping company’s ticketing and pre-boarding facilities including its x-ray machines that can both scan passengers and their baggage.

He then proceeded to the passenger pre-boarding area to check on the passenger waiting area which was designed with the passenger's safety, comfort and convenience in mind.

The President took a short break to witness a karaoke singing competition that involved several passengers unfold.

He was then ushered to an adjacent room where a glass case containing a scale model of the Manila North Harbor Modernization Project (MNHMP) was encapsulated.

Richard Barclay, chief executive officer of the Manila North Harbor Port, Inc. gave the President a briefing on the said modernization project.

The MNHMP is a radical plan to change the face of the existing harbor to make it at par with other commercial harbors.

Rehabilitation plans include dredging, upgrading of passenger terminal facilities and the procurement of quay container cranes, among others.

To be built at a cost of P17-billion, the MNHMP will take 25 years to complete. (PCOO)

Aquino inspects International Airport Terminal 3

President Benigno Aquino III reminded the officials of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 to heighten their state of preparedness during the Lenten season even without his instructions.

The President, who toured seaport, airport and bus terminal on Wednesday, arrived at NAIA 3 around 3 p.m. and immediately inspected the operations and security preparations of the airport.

After that, Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Jose Angel Honrado briefed the President on the status of passenger volume and traffic, airport security and assistance measures.

There were around 1,500 passengers, airport personnel and security officials present when the President visited NAIA 3 on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, President Aquino had a briefing with leading government agencies in charge of ensuring safety and security of people traveling this Lenten season.

Top officials of various government agencies led by Executive Director Benito Ramos of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Council (NDRRC) on Tuesday briefed President Aquino on their ongoing preparations for the Lenten Season.

Ramos said the government agency-members are ready to implement their respective tasks and missions to protect Filipinos and tourists as well as to secure churches, places of worships, vital installations, airport, seaports, bus terminals, embassies, tourist spots, malls, commercial establishments and other public places.

Ramos presented to President Aquino the specific tasking, coordinating instructions and structure of each contingency plan of various government agency-members of the NDRRC.

Among the officials and representatives that attended the cluster meeting were from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Department of Health (DOH) and Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP). (PCOO)

Aquino orders Tolentino to improve MMDA public bus terminals system

President Benigno S. Aquino III today ordered Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino to implement the centralized ticketing system and put up designated passenger waiting areas in all bus terminals to avoid chaotic situations during holiday seasons where thousands of commuters flock to the provinces.

The President issued the directives to Tolentino when he visited the Araneta Center bus terminal in Cubao, Quezon City Wednesday where he personally check the security preparations undertaken by concerned authorities to ensure the safety of passengers.

Aquino dropped by here immediately after he made a surprise visit and inspection in Pier 2 North Harbour in Tondo, Manila and Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City.

In an ambush interview, the President admitted that he felt dismayed upon seeing the disorganized flow of passengers in and out of the terminal, and lack of passenger terminals where the people can stay on while waiting for their buses.

“Kung titingnan mo walang centralization ng ticketing, mahirap i-channel yung flow ng mga dumarating na pasahero. Maraming tao, sabay-sabay, kanya-kanya, pero puwede pa nating i-improve ang systems dito,” he said during interview.

He added that he also tasked Tolentino to study the possible construction of a passenger bus terminal dedicated only for north plying buses and another for south direction.

“The idea is that hindi mo na kailangang mag-traverse ng EDSA para makadagdag ng traffic,” he said noting that based on daily monitoring of MMDA some 3,600 up to 7,000 buses ply Metro Manila plus another 5,000 provincial buses who also uses EDSA.

“So pag ginawa itong one terminal for the north and one terminal for the south, at si Francis Tolentino will be the person and tasked to do this, we expect the better control, better security procedures na ma establish natin,” he further explained. (PCOO)

Government speeds up relocation of informal settlers in danger zones

The national government is now at the forefront of the campaign to relocate informal settlers living in danger zones, including the railways and waterways.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said he had discussed with Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) Secretary General Cecilia Alba the progress of the relocation program for informal settlers.

“Our priority now is to focus first on people living in danger areas. This could mean living near waterways. Another danger area includes railways. The North and South Rail already removed the informal settlers from the railways,” he said.

Lacierda also said the government will also address the plight of those affected by the government’s projects.

“The HUCDD is considering all factors determining relocations of informal settlers. The relocation depends on the cause of plans, proximity, facility, and capability of the beneficiaries to pay,” he said.

Lacierda said the government stepped up its slum upgrading program, targeting informal settlers occupying private and government lands. He said the Social Housing Finance Corporation can lend money to beneficiaries for land acquisition.

Recently, several informal settlers lost homes after a fire hit a squatter area in Guadalupe, Makati City. Lacierda said the area is under the jurisdiction of the Makati government and Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Jun-Jun” Binay can extend help to those affected families. (PCOO)

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

PIA Dispatch - Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Aquino confers Order of Lakandula on outgoing PCG Commander Tamayo

President Benigno S. Aquino III conferred the Order of Lakandula with the Rank of Commander on outgoing Philippine Coast Guard Commander Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo in ceremonies held at the PCG headquarters in Manila Tuesday.

The awarding ceremonies were held simultaneous with Tamayo’s retirement and turnover of command of the PCG to his successor Vice Admiral Ramon Liwag.

In his speech keynoting the event, the President hailed Tamayo for his exemplary performance as PCG Commander as well as for his having improved the image of the PCG through his leadership which has developed a whole new dimension to maritime safety administration.

“This ceremonial Change of Command is our way of looking back at the numerous triumphs of the Philippine Coast Guard under the auspices of Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo as we look forward to the PCG’s continuation of its culture of decent and honest service under the administration of Admiral Ramon Liwag,” the President said.

“Wala naman po sigurong magdududa na mataas ang reputasyon at tinitingala ngayon ang imahe ng PCG. Naniniwala akong nagbukal ang ganitong kompiyansa ng publiko sa inyo dahil sa sipag at katapatan ng inyong Commander na si Admiral Willy Tamayo,” he added.

He said he joined the members of the PCG in saluting Tamayo for his dedication in putting the interest of the nation first instead of his own.

“In your three years of being Commander, you not only improved the infrastructure of the PCG but you were also instrumental in raising the morals and confidence of the men and women of the Philippine Coast Guard through stable logistics support which helped provide their much needed equipment to perform their duties,” the President said.

“Humayo ka man at lisanin ang PCG, tiwala akong mananatili ang mga prinsipyo, dangal at paninindigan na iyong pinasimulan,” he added.

The Order of Lakandula is one of the highest honors given by the Republic of the Philippines. It is an order of political and civic merit, awarded in memory of Lakandula’s dedication to the responsibilities of leadership, prudence, fortitude, courage and resolve in the service of one’s people. (PCOO)

Aquino to incoming PCG Commander Liwag: Remain steadfast in the face of temptations

President Benigno S. Aquino III formally installed Vice Admiral Ramon Liwag as the new Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Commander replacing former Commander Wilfredo Tamayo in Change of Command ceremonies held at the PCG headquartes in Manila Tuesday.

In his speech, the President expressed utmost confidence in the new PCG Commander to continue the reforms started by his predecessor but gently reminded him to remain steadfast in the face of temptations.

“Tiwala akong sa karanasan at husay sa serbisyo ni Vice-Admiral RamonLiwag, pamumunuan niya ang PCG nang may katulad na dedikasyon at sakripisyo ni Admiral Tamayo, at maihahatid din niya sa mas maunlad na daungan ang buong PCG,” the President said.

“Ang hamon ko sa iyo, Admiral Liwag -- Huwag kang magpapahila sa tukso ng panlalamang. Naitalaga ka upang maglingkod ng marangal sa iyong mga Boss; huwag mo silang bibiguin,” he added.

Before becoming the PCG’s newest Commander, Liwag was Vice Commandant for Operations of the PCG, the next Officer in Command responsible in handling all operational matters pertaining to the organization.

He is happily married and a loving husband to Maria Fe Liwag nee Genabe of Oriental Mindoro. They are blessed with a lovely daughter Paula Rose. (PCOO)

Ochoa asks DENR to conduct an inventory of the country’s natural resources

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. has asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to conduct an inventory of the country’s available natural resources in order to help the government strike a balance between mining and protecting the environment.

In an interview in Palawan over the weekend, Ochoa said he met recently with DENR Secretary Ramon Paje to discuss the matter in order to determine the value and potential of the natural resources, as well as aid the government in setting out priorities in terms of preserving and rehabilitating these.

“In mining we have to look at the big picture... It is important for the public to be aware of and understand the economic value of the country’s natural resources and their potential so they can also help us to balance mining and environmental protection,” Ochoa explained.

It is in these two areas that the Aquino Administration is striving in order to achieve a balance in the utilization of mineral deposits and preserving the natural resources.

“Mining is a very good industry, but we should also be very careful in order to protect our environment. We need to implement a balance here,” he said.

Ochoa also made a pitch to the public to become allies of the government in seeing the strict and full enforcement of environmental laws in their communities against small-mining activities, which are beyond the jurisdiction of the DENR.

“We should handle the issue of small-scale mining with regard to enforcement of environmental standards and protection,” Ochoa said.

“The public should be more vigilant. It is a matter of law enforcement and all we need to do is enforce strictly and fully the requirements before anyone can go into mining,” he added. (PCOO)

Aquino gov’t is all set to ensure safety and security during Holy Week

The Aquino government is all set to carry-out the contingency plans to ensure the safety of the Filipino people and tourists alike during the Holy Week.

Top officials of various government agencies led by Executive Director Benito Ramos of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Council (NDRRC) on Tuesday briefed President Benigno S. Aquino III on their ongoing preparations for the Lenten Season.

Ramos said the government agency-members are ready to implement their respective tasks and missions to protect Filipinos and tourists as well as to secure churches, places of worships, vital installations, airport, seaports, bus terminals, embassies, tourist spots, malls, commercial establishments and other public places.

Ramos presented to President Aquino the specific tasking, coordinating instructions and structure of each contingency plan of various government agency-members of the NDRRC.

Officials and representatives of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Department of Health (DOH) and Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), attended the cluster meeting at Malacanang and likewise presented their respective security and action plans to the President.

“The Lent may pose potential public safety and order due to accidents,” Ramos told the President, adding that they farmed measures to address such concerns.

The President expressed concern about the matter involving roadworthiness of public and private vehicles after being told that fatal accidents had occurred during the past Holy Weeks. Close to five to six millions of Filipinos are expected to travel by land, air and sea this Lenten season.

“Safety is our primary concern to motoring public as they travel through land, sea or air,” Ramos said.

Ramos further said that “Fire safety and prevention should be part of public awareness all throughout the season and natural disasters may complicate the situation in the event of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or weather disturbances.”

During the meeting, Ramos stressed that the NDRRC activated its operation centers effective April 16 to monitor the various NDRRC member-agencies and manage the events during the Holy Week.

The MMDA has already enforced its contingency plans through its Metro Alalay Semana Santa (M.A.S.S) 2011, according to Ramos, stressing that it aims to attain an accident and hazard free Lenten for the public, especially those going to the provinces.

He said the PNP has also issued a memorandum to its concerned personnel to manage critical areas and choke points and to increase the visibility and overt acts of terrorism.

Ramos said that the AFP acts a supportive role to the PNP, notably in maintaining peace and order “The security coverage includes places of worships, vital installations and tourist spots,” he added.

The PCG has already started implementing its Oplan Mahal Na Araw 2011, established public assistance centers in anticipation of the influx of sea going passengers. (PCOO)

Aquino convenes gov’t agencies to ensure safety and security during Holy Week

The Aquino government has tapped the various concerned agencies to ensure public safety and security in efforts to maintain peace and order as the nation commemorates the Holy Week.

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Tuesday convened various agencies in Malacañang, where he was briefed regarding the government’s preparations in maintaining peace and order in the country during the Lenten Season. Contingency measures were presented by officials of various concerned agencies.

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino for his part presented the agency’s actions that will continue to secure the public especially those traveling to their respective provinces to spend the holiday.

“In Oplan Mass, there is operational convergence in terms of achieving one main mission for all the agencies present here and that is the safety of the general public during the observance of the Lenten season,” Tolentino said.

He said that “Oplan Mass” was implemented last April 15 and will run until the 25th of this month.

Under the security program, the agency will be deploying 1,900 elements of the MMDA which started last Monday. A “No day off, No absent” policy was issued by the MMDA chief especially on Holy Thursday, Black Saturday, Easter Sunday and the Monday after Easter.

Tolentino said that they are anticipating some 180 thousand vehicles traversing the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) starting from noon of Holy Wednesday until lunch time of the following day while 70 thousand vehicles are expected to traverse the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) during the same period.

The MMDA has already lifted the number coding starting Tuesday until Good Friday.

Tolentino said that while the Makati City local government will not be lifting the said traffic management scheme, it will not have an overall effect considering that the number coding in Makati will just apply within the city’s Central Business District (CBD).

“Those utilizing the NLEx, SLEx exit points which are presently manned by MMDA personnel will be utilizing EDSA, C5, as well as Roxas Boulevard and President Osmeña highway… we are also utilizing the newly-constructed C6 for hose going to the province of Rizal”, Tolentino said.

The MMDA will also be conducting an outreach program aimed at assisting the pilgrims during the annual pilgrimage from Ortigas to Antipolo on Holy Thursday. It will also deploy a 20-man team to Tagaytay City to man the major intersection points in the said area.

Starting Wednesday, the MMDA will be implementing the “nose in, nose out” policy for the bus terminals especially those holding stations along the major thoroughfares like Edsa to avert hampering the flow of traffic in the area.

At least 300 MMDA personnel will also be deployed for the annual Black Nazarene procession in Manila on Good Friday as well as the pilgrimage to the Novaliches Grotto.

The MMDA Metrobase will act as the central base of the 17 local government units to facilitate the reports of their respective traffic bureau chiefs concerning certain events that would necessitate immediate response.

Tolentino noted that they have instituted command posts in the NLEx and SLEx starting last Monday. Also, the agency has coordinated with the Department of Public Works and Highways and the two water concessionaires to refrain from conducting re-blocking and digging activities except during the Good Friday, Black Saturday and Easter Sunday.

Also, the MMDA has coordinated with the PNP’s National Capital Regional Office (NCRPO) Command for police visibility especially at the bus terminals.

The MMDA chief assured that they are prepared in anticipation of the influx of people from the provinces on Easter Sunday.

“We expect the volume of returnees coming from the provinces to enter SLEx and NLEx by lunchtime of Sunday and we will be likewise prepared”, Tolentino said.

“We have five teams who will cover the entire Metro Manila on a 24-hour, three-shift basis patrol…we are likewise now deployed near ports as well as the three airports including the domestic terminal”, he said.

The MMDA Road Emergency group will be providing medical and ambulance services to victims of accidents at the major transport instillations.

MMDA data show that last year, around 994 accidents from Holy Monday to Easter Sunday were recorded, seven of which were fatal and 321 non-fatal.

Also in attendance during the security briefing include officials from the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Philippine National Police (PNP). (PCOO)

Aquino cites Philippine Coast Guard services

President Benigno S. Aquino III cited the Philippine Coast Guard on Tuesday for its ever-reliable and time tested commitment to serve the people in times of crisis or otherwise.

In his speech at the Change of Command ceremonies marking the formal turnover of the PCG command from Commander Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo to his Vice Admiral Ramon Liwag, the President noted that aside from securing the country from the unwanted and unknown, the PCG has also been an advocate in promoting a pollution-free environment.

“Kung paglilingkod lang naman po ang pag-uusapan, subok na po ng panahon ang wagas na serbisyo ng PCG. Bukod sa paninigurong walang nakakapasok na masasamang elemento tulad ng droga, piniratang gamit at anumang bagay na banta sa seguridad ng ating bansa, tinitiyak din ng PCG na malinis at ligtas sa polusyon ang ating teritoryong pandagat,” the President said.

That is why, the President added, he has tasked the PCG to undertake and man offshore drilling and oil exploration in the Western portion of the country.

“Katuwang namin kayo sa pagtuklas ng mga potensyal na pagmumulan ng karagdagang enerhiya para sa mga Pilipino,” the President said.

Aside from this, the President lauded the PCG for signing a Memorandum of Agreement between themselves and concerned fishermen to ensure their safety during the conduct of PCG operations within their jurisdictions as well as during calamities.

“Kapuripuri din ang inyong Disaster Management Preparedness System, kung saan nagtalaga kayo ng mga response group mula sa iba’t ibang Coast Guard districts sa bansa. Kapansin-pansin po ang resulta nito, lalo na noong kasagsagan ng bagyong Juan,” the President said.

“Kahit pagkalakas-lakas pa ng hangin at ulan; patuloy man ang pagtaas ng tubig-baha, mabilis pa rin kayong rumesponde upang ilayo ang mga kababayan natin sa tiyak na kapahamakan. Maging ang mga matigas ang ulo na ayaw umalis sa lugar nila, binalik-balikan pa rin ninyo upang hikayating lumayo sa peligrosong lugar,” he added.

He pointed out that the combined efforts of the PCG, the Office of Civil Defense, the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines have brought down the number of casualties during calamities.

This combined effort with the PCG at the helm, the President added, was also instrumental in the seizure of 72.5 bricks of high grade cocaine worth some P360-million in 2010 while its anti-crime program; “Zero Casualty and Zero Maritime Accident” brought down the incidence of transnational crimes due to the presence of Sea Marshals in commercial ship voyages.

“Dahilan ito upang bumaba ang bilang ng mga transnational crimes sa ating bansa,” the President said. (PCOO)

PNP adapts master plan for safety and security during the Lenten season

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has adapted a master plan to carry out its plan for the Lenten season and summer vacation to ensure the safety and security of between five to six million people moving in and out of metro Manila this week.

The PNP told President Benigno Aquino III in a briefing in Malacañang on Tuesday that the police organization, in coordination with local government units, military and civil society organizations, is carrying out its master plan for the Lenten season.

Among the police concerns include traffic conditions, accidents in major thoroughfares, and possible criminal activities as lawless elements are expected to seize the opportunity to take advantage of the situation.

More personnel will be deployed to areas with a large concentration of people. At the same time, the PNP has established help desks and assistance centers at terminals, airports, seaports, churches and tourist destinations in the country.

PNP officials told the President that their major focus will be Baguio City and Sto Tomas, Batangas in Luzon, Cebu and Bacolod in the Visayas.

The police expects a large number of people to go to Baguio City as more tourists visits the place and more resident arrive for annual homecoming. In the south Luzon region however, the PNP is closely monitoring the Sto Tomas area, the crossing to Quezon, Bicol and Batangas.

The sky police will also be deployed starting Thursday to Sunday, according to the PNP. It is also sending bus Marshalls in selected areas in the country although this is not a general policy.

The PNP also told the President that it will intensify intelligence gathering this week to ensure security.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) also reported to the President during the same briefing that it is coordinating with the PNP to boost security in the country during the Lenten season.

The AFP said it supports the PNP in guarding populated areas, providing road security as well as monitoring sea ports, terminals, beach resorts and other public places.

For “target hardening” in Metro Manila, the Armed Forces said the National Capital Regional Command (NCRCOM) has provided personnel augmentation to the police consisting of five officers and 125 enlisted personnel. The military will also intensify its intelligence gathering activities.

Among the major concerns of the military includes possible retaliatory attacks by the Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamiyah after government forces arrested or killed some of its members. It is also watching mass protest by militant organization in preparation for the National Democratic Front (NDF) anniversary and the Labor Day celebration next month.

The Armed forces has also deployed an additional platoon at the Batangas port and Mindoro area, military officials told the President adding more boats will also be deployed to secure El Nido in Palawan, Boracay in Aklan and Panglao beach resorts in Bohol.

The Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) also intensifies security in its jurisdiction by establishing check points and strict monitoring of terminals and the city metropolis.

On the other hand, the Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom), which covers the critical areas of Sulu and Basilan will intensify its security and combat operations to secure Christian villages and churches in Isabela, Lamitan, Sumisip. Security is also being beefed in Zamboanga City. (PCOO)

Aquino orders NDRRC to ensure safety of caretakers near Taal Volcano

President Benigno Aquino III instructed on Tuesday the National Disaster Risk Reduction Council (NDRRC) to ensure that over 1,000 caretakers of fish cages and ducks who remain near the restive Taal Volcano can be safely evacuated in the event that it erupts.

During a cluster meeting at Malacanang, the Chief Executive expressed concern over the safety of over 1,000 caretakers as he asked the NDRRC, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Philippine National Police-Maritime Group (PNP) to brief him of the system, the facility and the available resources on how to proceed with the evacuation of the said people.

While residents have already been evacuated from the place which was already declared as off-limit to residents, NDRRC Executive Director Benito Ramos said there were still some 1,007 caretakers who were left behind.

The President wants that the system and the available facility are in place as the volcano continues to show heightened activity. According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), the volcano is under alert level 2 and there were six volcanic eruptions that were monitored for the past 24 hours.

Ramos assured the readiness of concerned government agencies to respond to the needs of the caretakers who can be evacuated within 30 minutes from eruption.

“There are 5,000 people in the island and majority was already evacuated, only the caretakers were left behind. The evacuation centers are ready and the concerned government agencies’ personnel are on stand-by,” Ramos said, adding that there are a lot of bancas from fish cages’ operators and government agencies that are on stand-by.

“Number one, everybody should be apprised of the expectation here. It must be made very, very clear that there is really imminent danger (of the volcanic eruption),” President Aquino said.

As the seismic activities get stronger, Malacanang earlier urged all residents near Taal Volcano to follow the directives of the Phivolcs for them to evacuate to a safer place. (PCOO)

Monday, 18 April 2011

PIA Dispatch - Monday, April 18, 2011

Aquino receives Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from U.P.

President Benigno S. Aquino III was accorded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of the Philippines during the school’s 100th General Commencement Exercises held at its Diliman, Quezon City Campus on Sunday.

The country’s premiere state university presented the honorary degree, its highest rank and honor, to Aquino “For providing leadership in rallying the people to stamp out corruption, campaigning for institutional reforms, and creating an environment for agencies, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to act with dispatch on malfeasance in government, promote the rule of law, and respect people’s constitutional rights.”

In his speech, the President thanked the University for the Honorary Degree as he cited three of its esteemed alumnus – Supreme Court Justice Meilou Sereno, and newly appointed Commission on Audit Commissioner and Chairperson Heidi Mendoza and Grace Tan, respectively, for being inspirations in his administration’s fight against corruption.

“Nariyan sila (Sereno, Mendoza and Tan) para ituwid ang baluktot, itama ang mali at tumulong upang maabot ang minimithi nating kinabukasan: Isang kinabukasan kung saan kung may pangarap ka, maaari kang magtrabaho tungo sa katuparan nito. Isang lipunan kung saan kapag nagbukas ka ng ilaw, may kuryente; nagbukas ka ng gripo, may aagos na tubig; nagbukas ka ng wallet, may laman itong salapi na pinagpaguran mo nang marangal, at hindi mo kinailangang magsanla ng prinsipyo para makamit,” the President said.

With the degree, President Aquino joins 13 other Filipino presidents who were bestowed Honorary Degrees by the University of the Philippines.

Other former Philippine presidents conferred with the degree were Manuel L. Quezon (March 16, 1929), Sergio S. Osmeña (March 25, 1930), Manuel A. Roxas (April 13, 1948), Elpidio R. Quirino (February 12, 1949), Emilio F. Aguinaldo (June 12, 1953), Ramón D.F. Magsaysay (April 5, 1955), Carlos P. García (April 7, 1959), Diosdado P. Macapagal (May 30, 1965), Ferdinand E. Marcos (May 22, 1966), José P. Laurel Sr. (April 20, 1969), Corazón C. Aquino (April 20, 1986) and Fidel V. Ramos (April 24, 1993). (PCOO)

Aquino vows to see Responsible Parenthood Bill passed into law

President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Sunday that he is committed to seeing the Responsible Parenthood bill passed into law despite the growing number of those opposed to it.

In his speech keynoting the 100th General Commencement Exercises of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. the President said that he is ready to go “door-to-door” to discuss the salient features of the said bill in order to win their support.

“Buo ang loob ko na maisabatas ang prinsipyo ng Responsible Parenthood,” the President said.

“Mulat ako na may mga tutol dito, subalit obligasyon ko bilang pinuno na lumapit sa lahat ng sektor, para kausapin at magpaliwanag sa kanila nang mahinahon—kahit pa ang sabi ng iba’y dapat i-excommunicate na ako,” he added.

He said that as President of the Republic of the Philippines, the final decision that will benefit the majority of Filipinos has to be made.

“Pero sa huli, kailangan kong magdesisyon. Kailangan ko pa ring sundin ang aking kunsensiya. Kailangan kong gawin ang tama,” the President said. (PCOO)

Never forget your obligations to the country, Aquino tells 'Iskolars ng Bayan'

President Benigno S. Aquino III challenged this year’s graduating batch of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City to fulfill their obligations to the Filipino people whom he said had “pitched in” to fund their tuition as “iskolars ng bayan.”

The President, in his speech keynoting the 100th General Commencement Exercises held at the University Amphitheater Sunday, said this will be the student’s contribution to nation building.

“Hiling ko lang po sa inyong mga Isko at Iska: Habang umaaksyon kami at humahakbang sa pagkukumpuni sa pamahalaan, maisabuhay din sana ninyo ang inyong mga obligasyon bilang mga ‘Iskolar ng Bayan.’ Malaki po ang inaasahan mula sa inyo. Masuklian po sana nang husto ang ipinuhunan sa inyo ng taumbayan,” the President said.

He likewise challenged the graduate’s to never forget the fundamentals taught by their teachers and the University itself.

“The question now is: will you still remember the slogans you screamed your hearts out in opposition of when you are in a position of power? If you have a chance to let your fraternity brother or sister or org(anization) mate go scot-free despite his or her being guilty of a crime, would you? Would you still choose to return to the Philippines even if you start earning a lot abroad? Would your heart remain the bastion of integrity and honor and not chose the easy way to achieve your company’s quota requirements?” the President asked.

Remember, like us in government, you are here because of the people and for the people. You owe the Filipino people the honor of studying and graduating from the University of the Philippines,” the President said.

“The day will come when you will be faced with many challenges and temptations. On that day, I hope you remember this challenge from an ageing Atenean. I hope you continue to bring with heads raised high the name of your school: the University of the Philippines,” he added. (PCOO)

Palace welcomes BIR's increased first quarter collection

Malacañang welcomed the news that the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) had exceeded its collection targets for March as well as the first quarter of the year.

In a press briefing at Malacañang on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda expressed hope that the BIR would continue its revenue collection surpassing streak to meet its year-end target of P940-billion.

“So we hope it (BIR’s revenue collection target surpassing streak) will continue but then again it will depend on the business conditions,” Lacierda said.

BIR Commissioner Kim Henares said recently that the bureau had exceeded its March collection target by P3.5-billion or by about 5.13 percent from P68.07-billion last year to P71.56-billion due to an increase in income tax filers as well as enhanced collections efforts.

She said the agency raised a total of P 58.31 billion, an expansion of this year’s actual tax by P13.25 billion for a growth of 22.7 percent.

Because of this, the government was able to raise P199.55 billion in the first quarter, exceeding the goal for the period by P2.51 billion.

This first quarter performance also marks an expansion over the actual collections for the same period last year (2010), at P173.89 billion, by more than P25.65 billion for a growth of 14.75 percent. (PCOO)

Aquino confers Order of Sikatuna on outgoing Japanese envoy

President Benigno S. Aquino III conferred the Order of Sikatuna with the rank of Datu (Gold Distinction) on Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Makoto Katsura in recognition of his significant efforts to cultivate and support a meaningful engagement between the governments of the Philippines and Japan by means of official visits and dialogues on policy to the mutual benefit of both nations for over three and a half years of his tour of duty in the country.

The Chief Executive conferred the award on Monday during Ambassador Katsura’s farewell courtesy call at the Yellow Room of the Premier Guest House in Malacañang.

The Japanese envoy was accompanied by his spouse, Yasuko Katsura; Motohiko Kato, Minister-Deputy Chief of Mission; Shinsuke Shimizu, Minister-Head of Chancery; Hitoshi Ozawa, Minister-Political.

Also present to witness the conferment rites were Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Ambassador Miguel Perez-Rubio, Chief of the Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs.

During his stint in the country, Ambassador Katsura has advocated active and productive economic and development cooperation between the two countries to enhance bilateral trade, Japanese investments and Japanese official development assistance in support of the Philippines’ development priorities and for supporting the conclusion and effective implementation of bilateral economic agreements.

The Japanese envoy has also supported the extension of vital Japanese emergency and reconstruction assistance to the country in the wake of national emergencies prompted by severe natural calamities.

The President also commended Ambassador Katsura for ardently supporting the peace and development initiatives of the government, particularly in Southern Philippines through his advocacy of Japan’s participation in the International Contact Group and International Monitoring Team, as well as of sustained Japanese support for key development projects in Mindanao.

He pursued activities that helped nurture friendship, amity and understanding between the Filipino and Japanese peoples.

It was during Ambassador Katsura’s term as ambassador that the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) was ratified.

The JPEPA is a free-trade agreement and bilateral investment treaty between Japan and the Philippines, and is the first bilateral trade treaty which the Philippines has entered into since the Parity Right Agreement of 1946 with the United States.

The agreement aims primarily to liberalize and facilitate trade in goods and services between Japan and the Philippines. (PCOO)

Palace urges residents to evacuate near Taal Volcano

As the seismic activities getting stronger, Malacanang urges all residents near Taal Volcano to follow the directives of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) for them to evacuate to a safer place.

In a press briefing on Monday at Malacañang, Lacierda said there is a need now for the residents to leave their houses and Taal Volcano premises as the quakes produced by the restive volcano have increased in number and in intensity.

“We are now requesting the residents near Taal Volcano to evacuate the premises and their residences voluntarily. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will provide assistance,” Presidential Spokesperson Atty. Edwin Lacierda said.

In case the people does not follow the government’s request, Lacierda said, concerned authorities through the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) will forcibly evacuate them.

In an advisory issued on Sunday, Phivolcs said it recorded 10 seismic activities in Taal Volcano and on Saturday, it recorded 20 quakes in the past 24 hours. (PCOO)

Aquino declares Black Saturday as special non-working day nationwide

In order for the Filipino people to enjoy a longer lenten break, President Benigno S. Aquino III issued Proclamation No. 150 declaring Saturday, April 23, 2011, as a special (non-working) holiday nationwide.

The Chief Executive issued the proclamation in observance of the Holy Week which he described as one of the Filipino people’s most cherished traditions.

The President said Saturday, April 23, which falls between Good Friday and Easter Sunday has been traditionally declared as special (non-working) day throughout the country.

“Our people must be given the full and uninterrupted opportunity to ponder on the significance of the Holy Week and to properly observe its traditions with religious fervor, without prejudice to public interest,” the proclamation stated. (PCOO)