Tuesday, 30 August 2011

PIA Dispatch - Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Aquino to promote Philippines to investors in five-day China trip

Aside from forging better relations with China, President Benigno Aquino III said his state visit to China will showcase the Philippines as an investment haven to businessmen there following major reform measures he initiated in the government.

“Bilang pangatlong pinakamalaking katuwang sa pakikipagkalakal ng Pilipinas, hindi po natin palalampasin ang pagkakataon na makipagpulong sa mga negosyante sa Tsina upang hikayatin pa silang mamuhunan sa ating bansa,” the President said in his departure speech at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Centennial Terminal 2 on Tuesday evening.

“Bibigyang-diin natin sa kanila na bukas at maaliwalas nang muli ang ating bayan sa patas na pagnenegosyo,” he added.

The chief executive said he will invite Chinese investors to come to the Philippines noting that under his leadership the country’s business climate changed tremendously and the country has become a dynamic player in the Asian region.

The government has carried out major reforms to bring back the confidence of foreign investors to put their investments in the country, the President said.

“Asahan po ninyong sa patuloy at puspusan nating pagtatrabaho para sa pag-asenso ng nakakaraming Pilipino, marami pa tayong maipapasalubong sa inyong good news,” he said.

“Bumabangon na po ang Pilipinas, buhay na buhay na ang kumpiyansa ng ating ekonomiya at mga mamamayan tungo sa tuloy-tuloy nating pag-asenso at pag-abot ng ating mga pangarap,” he added.

Aside from promoting the Philippines to Chinese investors, President Aquino said the controversial West Philippine Sea issue will be discussed with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The President said, he and President Hu Jintao will witness the signing of several agreements that will boost cooperation between the Philippine sand China in trade, infrastructure, mass media and culture.

While in China, the President said he will also visit Filipino communities there to express his gratitude to them for their continuous sacrifice for the welfare of their families and the country as a whole.

The President’s five-day visit to China will include stops in Beijing, Shanghai, and Xiamen. The President returns to the country on Saturday, September 3, 2011.(PCOO)

Aquino arrives in Beijing

President Benigno S. Aquino III arrived here Tuesday evening on board a Philippine Airlines Special Commercial Flight PR 001 on the first leg of his five-day state visit, three city swing to the People's Republic of China.

Aside from Beijing, the President is also scheduled to visit the cities of Shanghai and Xiamen.

The Chief Executive, accompanied by some Cabinet members led by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and a large delegation of businessmen, about 270, arrived at exactly 10:30 pm at the Beijing Capital Airport here.

Other Cabinet members who joined the President include Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Trade and industry Secretary Gregorio Domingo, Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, Transportation and Communication Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda, and Presidential Adviser on International Relations Domingo Lee.
Among the top businessmen accompanying the President include -- John Gokongwei, Jr., founder and chairman emeritus of JG Summit Holdings, Inc; Washington Sysip, founding chairman of SGV and Co.; Jose Pardo, chairman of the PCCI Council of Business Leaders; Tony Tan Caktiong, chairman and chief executive officer of the Jollibee Foods Corporation; Antonio Cojuangco, chairman of the Nabasan Subic Development Corp.;George Ty, Group chairman of Metrobank; Teresita Sy Coson, co-chairperson of SM Investments Corporation; Carlos Chan, chairman of the Liwayway Holdings; Ramon Ang, president and chief executive officer of San Miguel Corporation; Manuel Pangilinan, chairman of the PLDT Co.; Lucio Tan, founder, group chairman of Lucio Tan Group of Companies; Andrew Tan, chairman of Allied group Inc. (Megaworld); Erramon Aboitiz, president and chief executive officer of Aboitiz Equity Ventures; Alfredo Yao, chairman Zesto Corporation; Tan Ching, Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry; and Francis Chua, president of PCUU and PCBC.

He was welcomed by Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Liu Jianchao, Deputy Diector General of Protocol of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Die Bohua and Philippine Embassy officials led by Charge d'Affaires ad interim Alex Chua, Minister and Consul Maria Teresa Almojuela, and First Secretary and Consul Noel Novicio.

From the airport, the President and his official delegation were whisked to the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse where he is billeted.

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China on June 9, 1975, the bilateral partnership between the two countries has reached unprecedented levels in terms of political/security and regional cooperation, trade, investment, agriculture, tourism, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, which have benefited the two countries and peoples.

The Philippines-China economic and trade cooperation continues to serve as the engine that drives Philippine-China relations to greater heights. China is the third largest trading partner of the Philippines, and the fastest growing source of tourists.(PCOO)

Aquino's visit to China to generate about $2-$7 billion worth of investments

BEIJING, China — President Benigno S. Aquino III’s first state visit to the People’s Republic of China is expected to generate about $2-billion to $7-billion worth of investments from various Chinese companies in support of the public-private partnership (PPP) projects of the administration.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Cristino Panlilio gave this ‘ballpark figure’ in an interview he granted with the members of the media at the Traders Hotel here, early Tuesday evening, hours before President Aquino arrived.

Panlilio was firm and positive about the ‘serious investments’ the government would get from various Chinese companies which would likely go to mining, infrastructure, energy, ship building, and the agri-business sectors.

Panlilio said there are Chinese mining firms that have expressed interests in joint ventures with Filipino companies given the country’s richness in major minerals such as gold deposits, copper, nickel, and chromite.

Panlilio also cited significant improvements made by the Aquino administration towards preventing corruption in the government based on the latest assessment made by the World Bank which could increase the level of confidence investors have in the country.

The DTI executive pointed out that President Aquino’s state visit to China has become so significant given the ‘historic high’ number of business delegation (250) that decided to get involved in this presidential trip.

“We’ve never had a business delegation as big as this in the history of presidential trips abroad and what is significant about this trip is that there was so much interest—and, of course, this is KKB (kanya-kanyang bayad). Nobody is in for a free ride here. All [members] of the business delegation are putting good money to be here in support of the President’s drive, you know, for business and trade promotion. So ang ganda ng feeling, ang ganda ng atmosphere,” Panlilio said. (PCOO)

Filipinos in Shanghai eagerly await arrival of President Aquino

Filipinos living and working here eagerly await the arrival of President Benigno S. Aquino III who is scheduled to meet them as part of his five-day visit to the People’s Republic of China from August 30 to September 3.

Philippine Consul General Charles Jose underscored the timeliness of the President’s visit saying trade and bilateral relations between the two countries would further be strengthened.

“Of course lahat ng Filipino rito ay very proud to be able to see our President holding his own talks with the Chinese counterparts,” Jose said in an interview.

“I think the State Visit is very timely and very significant. We expect the visit to be able to further strengthen the friendly ties that exist between the Philippines and China. And we also expect the visit will promote cooperation between the two countries in many different areas including trade and investments, tourism promotion, culture and education exchanges and people-to-people contacts,” he added.

According to Jose, there are 4,000 Filipinos working in Shangai and nearby areas categorized as 1) professionals, executives and senior managers; 2) middle management, medical personnel, and teachers; 3) service staff, Filipinos working in restaurants and bars; and 4) overseas performing artists and entertainers.

“I would say Filipinos here are enjoying very good conditions, especially the professionals here in Shanghai. They are provided housing by their employers, and are even allowed to bring their families to join them here,” Jose said.

Jose also said that the President’s visit would spur economic growth for both countries as he expects the Chief Executive to pitch the Philippines as an alternative investment site.

As part of his visit here, the President will keynote the Philippines and Eastern China Business Forum where he will invite Chinese businessmen to invest in the Philippines, according to Jose.(PCOO)

Malacañang says repatriation of Filipinos in Libya continues

The Aquino government’s Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) will remain in Libya and Syria to help officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in providing assistance to overseas Filipinos workers and Filipino citizens who want to be repatriated.

During a regular news briefing in Malacanang on Wednesday, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government’s teams are still in the crisis-affected countries to address the plights of the Filipinos there.

She said repatriation and evacuation efforts will carry on. “We continue to keep a close eye on the situation and we are hoping na wala namang masasaktan na kababayan natin,” she said.

Valte confirmed that the DFA has ordered the recall of Philippine Ambassador to Syria Wilfredo Cuyugan in Damascus.

Executive Director Eric Endaya of the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affair, an expert in repatriation, will replace Cuyugan this September.
“Ang sabi po ni DFA Sec. Albert del Rosario he felt the presence of a more experienced operative in repatriation was required in Syria kaya ni-recall si Ambassador Cuyugan,” Valte told reporters.

Valte also said the Philippine government has already issued a statement recognizing the National Transitional Council as the legitimate representative of the people during this period of transition in Libya.

In a statement posted at the Official Gazette, the Philippines expressed hope that the Council will lead Libya towards peace and stability.

“The Philippines and Libya share a history of excellent relations based on friendship, understanding, and mutual respect. The Philippines looks forward to working with the Libyan people in sustaining and enhancing this relationship,” the Aquino government said.

The Philippines hopes to be able to contribute to the rebuilding of the new Libya in the form of Filipino professionals in the construction, energy, and medical fields.

The Philippine government reiterates its thanks and appreciation to the Libyan people for keeping Filipinos in Libya safe throughout the conflict.

Palace assures public of close monitoring of bird flu resurgence to prevent entry of virus

Malacanang assured the public that the Aquino government is closely monitoring the influx of agricultural produce from neighboring countries amid reports of a possible resurgence of the dreaded bird flu virus as reported by the United Nations - Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO).

In a press briefing at the Palace on Wednesday, Presidential Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte said that concerned government officials led by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala are keeping an eye on the situation to prevent the possible entry of the bird flu virus in the country.

The UN-FAO issued the warning saying the migration of wild birds could have brought back the virus H5N1 to previously virus-free countries and that a mutant strain was spreading in Asia.

The mutant strain of H5N1, which can apparently sidestep defenses of existing vaccines, is spreading in China and Vietnam, the UN-FAO said in a statement as it urged greater surveillance to ensure that any outbreaks are contained.

Recent reports of the World Health Organization indicated that on August 14, a six-year old girl from Cambodia died due to bird flu. She was the eighth victim succumbing to the dreaded disease in that country.

Elsewhere, FAO says bird migrations over the past two years have brought H5N1 to countries that had been virus-free for several years, including Israel, the Palestinian territories, Bulgaria, Romania, Nepal and Mongolia.

The World Health Organization says globally there have been 331 human deaths from 565 confirmed bird flu cases since 2003 when it was first detected.

The virus was eliminated from most of the 63countries infected at its peak in 2006, but it remained endemic in six countries: Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The FAO further said that the number of outbreaks in poultry and wild bird populations shrank from a high of 4000 to302 in mid-2008, but outbreaks have risen progressively since, with almost 800 cases reported in 2010-2011.(PCOO)

President Aquino joins Muslim community in celebration of Eid ul-Fitr

President Benigno S. Aquino III greeted on Wednesday the Philippine Islamic community in the celebration of the Eid ul-Fitr.

“I join the Muslim Filipino community in the celebration of the Eid ul-Fitr. Faith and patience being among the important virtues in Islam, they are reflected in Ramadan and further celebrated in Eid ul-Fitr. Thus, your festivity serves as a recompense for the sacrifices which you have willingly endured during your spiritual struggle in the past month,” the President said in a statement posted at the Official Gazette on Wednesday.

“But more than just a culmination of your abstinence,” President Aquino said, “Eid ul- Fitr should be taken as an occasion to strengthen your consistency in observing the principles of your religion, including the lessons of humility and discipline. I urge you to remain firm in your resolve to help us enliven the daylight of renewal in our nation.

“I commend your resilience in surpassing the test of your devotion to the Almighty. May this event signify another year of meaningful and peaceful relations in your community and among all Filipinos,” he said.

Ramadhan is the month when Muslims observe a strict fast for a period of 12 hours daily, from sunrise to sunset. This year 2011, the holy month of Ramadhan started on August 1.

The ending of Ramadhan is marked by the holiday of Eid ul-Fitr.(PCOO)

Palace vows to continue working hard for more economic growth

The administration of President Benigno Aquino III will continue to work hard to achieve even more economic growth as well as to improve the quality of life of the Filipino people, Malacanang assured Wednesday.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda issued the statement after the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) announced that the Philippine economy grew by 3.4 percent in the second quarter of 2011.

Lacierda said that the Aquino administration is aware of the necessary steps that it must take to further improve the Philippine economy.

“Despite the gains we have made over the past year, we remain aware of the necessary steps we must take to achieve even more growth. We have been accelerating spending to provide added stimulus to the economy,” he said.

“July 2011, which will be included in the 3rd Quarter GDP Growth assessment, saw us spend P133.45 million—the highest monthly national government spending figure so far this year,” he added.

Lacierda said the Aquino administration is also working to bring in more foreign direct investments as evidenced by President Aquino’s five-day state visit to the People’s Republic of China from August 30 to September 3.

NEDA announced on Wednesday that the Philippine Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew 3.4 percent in the second quarter of this year.

The GDP growth is below NEDA’s forecast of 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent, and private analysts’ average projection of 4.9 percent, and some international organizations’ average outlook of 5.0 percent in the second quarter.

“We also note that several external factors, such as economic uncertainties in America and Europe, unrest in the Middle East, and natural disasters in Japan have all had an impact on our domestic economy,” Lacierda said.

“And while we recognize the importance of improving our GDP, we also bear in mind that is not completely reflective of how the Filipino people are living,” the Palace spokesman noted.

Lacierda said that the Agriculture grew by 7.1 percent in the second quarter, which, he said, “implies that the growth, while lower, has been equitable.”

“We are making a conscious effort to not merely spend enough, but to spend wisely—in a way that will bring the most benefit to each Juan and Juana de la Cruz,” he added.

He said that while the administration is working toward increasing the economic growth, “we keep in mind that we are working, ultimately, so that more Filipino people can say that they are no longer hungry, that they finally have decent health care, and that they have the opportunity to improve their lot in life—areas in which we have been successful.”

“Rest assured that our administration will continue its hard work toward the true and lasting growth this nation has, for so long, deserved,” he said. (PCOO)

PIA Dispatch - Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ochoa: Gov't sets aside P25-M for PNoy's state visit to China

The government is spending some P25 million for President Benigno Aquino III’s five-day state visit to China that will be dominated by discussions on expanding trade and investments with one of the world’s biggest economies, Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. said on Tuesday.

The President left Tuesday night via a special commercial flight to China, along with a delegation led by Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, and Energy Secretary Rene Almendras.

A group of over 200 Philippine business representatives is also accompanying the presidential delegation in the hope of clinching major investment deals.

The Chief Executive’s state visit from Aug. 30 to Sept. 3 at the invitation of President Hu Jintao will take him to Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen, where he will meet top Chinese officials and key business leaders.

“The primary objective of the President’s visit is to further strengthen bilateral ties between the Philippines and China, especially in the aspect of trade and commerce,” Ochoa said.

“President Aquino will be meeting Chinese businessmen and economic policy-makers, and given the potential of both our economies, we hope to close investment deals that will be beneficial for all those involved," Ochoa added.

The P25-million budget covers expenses for the special commercial flight, hotel accommodations, food, transportation, telecommunications and equipment requirements, among others, during the three-leg state visit.

The Chief Executive’s first stop is Beijing, where he is scheduled to meet President Hu in a bilateral meeting, followed by the signing of economic agreements and a state banquet.

President Aquino will also be meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao and legislators, including Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, as well as members of the Filipino community in the Chinese capital.

In Shanghai, the President will meet with local officials and major business groups and sign agreements aimed to boost trade ties. He will also hold a meeting with the Filipinos based in this premier economic hub.

President Aquino’s last stop is Xiamen, which visit includes a trip to Hongjian Village in Fujian province where he will view the araucaria tree planted in 1988 by his mother, former President Corazon C. Aquino. The President will then plant his own tree in the village and interact with the members of the Xu (Co) clan, where his late mother traced her ancestral roots more than two decades ago.(PCOO)

President Aquino to meet Filipino community in Beijing

BEIJING, China: President Benigno S. Aquino III will meet with the Filipino community here to personally check their conditions and to bring to them the good news about the positive developments in the Philippines under his administration.

The President, who will be here on Tuesday evening (August 30) for a five-day state visit, will meet with the Filipino community at the sidelines of his five-day state visit to the People's Republic of China in a get-together at the China World Hotel on Wednesday (August 31).

In a short program prepared for the occasion, the President will be welcomed by the Filipino community represented by Jimmy Flor Cruz upon his arrival at the hotel.

Before the President's speech, Alex Chua, Charge d'Affaires ad interim of the Philippine Embassy and Cruz will deliver their respective brief remarks.

Based on records from the Department of Foreign Affairs, there is an estimated 12,254 overseas Filipinos in the mainland China broken down as follows: Beijing - 2,492; Chongging -164; Guangzhou - 4,564; Shanghai - 4,264; and Xiamen - 7707.

Most of the Filipinos here are working in various fields and professions -- musicians, household service employees, hotel and restaurant managers, doctors, engineers, teachers, manufacturing and property investors, media, multinational corporations and architects among others.

In an interview, Charge d'Affaires ad interim Alex Chua of the Philippine Embassy said that the Filipino community is eagerly awaiting President Aquino's visit to the People's Republic of China.

Chua stressed that Filipinos in Beijing are proud of President Aquino’s visit "as it is a clear and strong indication that despite some issues between the Philippines and their host country, the relationship is on a good track and both governments are highly committed to strengthen the friendship and cooperation.(PCOO)

Monday, 29 August 2011

PIA Dispatch - Monday, August 29, 2011

Aquino leads observance of National Heroes Day

President Benigno S. Aquino III cited cooperation, heroism and sense of volunteerism as some of the positive traits that are innate among Filipinos as he challenged them to use such skills in working with the government in bringing the nation to sustainable progress and development.

In his speech during the observance of the National Heroes Day at the Libigingan ng mga Bayani, Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City, Monday, President Aquino expressed confidence that the Filipino people can lead the way in effecting change towards the nation’s progress adding that everyone can make a difference by helping others.

“Nananalaytay sa ating dugo ang kabayanihan ng ating mga ninuno, tiwala po ako sa kakayahan ng bawat Pilipino na makatulong sa pag-asenso ng ating bansa. Hindi na natin kailangan pa na magbuwis ng buhay o magpadanak ng dugo para lamang maging bayani, ang kailangan lang natin ay ang wagas at bukal na pag-tulong sa kapwa Pilipino,” the President said.

“Ang simpleng pagsunod sa mga batas at pagtulong sa mga nangangailangan ay maituturing na ring kabayanihan, ang bawat butil ng sakripisyo, ang bawat patak na kawanggawa at ang bawat sandali ng pagmamalasakit sa maliit na paraan ay labis na tumitingkad kapag ginawa ng mahigit siyamnapung Pilipino,” President Aquino added.

The Chief Executive also called on the people to support the efforts of the government in addressing the various problems of the society such as poverty and corruption.

“Nabigyan tayo ngayon ng pagkakataon para gawin muli ang tama tulad ng ginawa at ipinaglaban ng ating mga bayani…handa po akong unang magsakripisyo, subalit tulad ng lagi kong bukambibig… hindi ko po kayang pasanin ng mag-isa ang kalbaryong dinatnan natin…hindi po kailangan ng bansa ang isang ‘superman’ para ma-resolba ang lahat ng problema natin. Ang kailangan po natin ay bayanihan nina Juan at Juana dela Cruz, kailangan natin ng mga nakikilahok sa solusyon sa mga problema,” the President noted.
“Sa ganitong mga pagkakataon isinisilang ang mga tunay na bayani… mga bayaning hindi humihingi ng pagkilala ng kasaysayan at naninindigan kahit walang nakaaalam,” he added.

The event highlights the important contributions of great Filipinos in regaining and preserving the freedom and democracy being enjoyed by the present generation.

This year’s theme: “Bayani ng Bayan: Gabay ni Juan sa Matuwid na Daan,” underscores the President’s commitment in pursuing reforms in the bureaucracy which is part of his agenda towards good governance, inclusive growth and equal opportunity for all that is part of the overall thrusts of the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016.

Other officials present during the event include Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Metro Manila Development Authority Secretary Francis Tolentino, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Eduardo Oban Jr., Philippine National Police Chief Director General Raul Bacalzo, Taguig Mayor Maria Laarni Cayetano, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, and other members of the Diplomatic Corps, major service commanders and the officers and members of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines, among others.(PCOO)

Aquino to visit Great Wall of China and Forbidden City

BEIJING, China: President Benigno S. Aquino III will visit two of Beijing's most visited historical landmarks -- the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City during his five-day state visit to the People's Republic of China from August 30 to September 3, 2011.

The theme of the President's visit is "people-centered partnership" highlighting the centuries-old friendship between the Philippines and China. It also hopes to push for more trade, investment, media, culture, education and tourism exchanges between the two countries. Aside from Beijing, the President will also visit the cities of Shanghai and Xiamen as part of his itinerary.

Upon his arrival at the Great Wall, President Aquino will be received by Deputy Director of the Badaling Special Administrative Center Rong Xinfeng.

The President will be escorted by Xinfeng to the south tower of the Badaling section where he will write a short message and sign the Guest Book.

During his visit, the President will be presented the following as souvenirs, namely, a framed night photo of the Great Wall, a book containing more than 400 photos of state leaders who visited the Great Wall since the 1950's, and a framed certificate showing that President Aquino had climbed the Great Wall.

The Chinese government has recommended that the President visit the Badaling section of the Great Wall because it is the best preserved and most popular among all sections of the Great Wall. It is more than 1,000 meters (or 3,281 feet) above sea level and commands a strategic position for transportation and defense in ancient times.

Badaling, which literally means "reach eight directions," got its name because the maze of its ridges stretches in all directions. It is also easily accessible and has easy walking conditions.

Based on records, some 400 state leaders and notable personalities have climbed Badaling to admire the magnificence and beauty of its panoramic scenery.

On February 24, 1972, this site was visited by then United States President Richard Nixon and his wife during his historic journey to China. The U.S. First Couple was accompanied by Vice Premier Li Xiannian in touring the site. President Barack Obama also visited Badaling on his visit here on November 18, 2009, calling the structure "spectacular."

After his visit to Badaling, President Aquino will proceed to the Forbidden City which is most commonly known in Chinese as Gugong, meaning the "Former Palace."

In this site, the President will visit the three main halls where national treasures are displayed. An interpreter will be on hand to brief the President on the features of the Forbidden City.

Before he leaves the Forbidden City, the President will be requested to write a message about his visit.

The Forbidden City was the Chinese Imperial Palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum.

For almost five hundred years, it served as the home of emperors and their households, as well as the ceremonial and political center of the Chinese government. Built in 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 buildings with 8,707 bays of rooms and covers 7,800,000 feet.

Since 1925, the Forbidden City has been under the charge of the Palace Museum whose extensive collection of artworks and artifacts were built for the imperial collections of the Ming and Qing dynasties.(PCOO)

Filipinos in Beijing welcome President Aquino's visit

BEIJING, China: More than 2,000 Filipino overseas workers comprising the Filipino community in Beijing welcome President Benigno S. Aquino III's state visit to the People's Republic of China saying it is an "affirmation of the excellent state of relations between the two countries."

"They are very proud of this visit, as it is a clear and strong indication that despite some issues between the Philippines and their host country, the relationship is on a good track and both governments are highly committed to strengthen this friendship and cooperation," Charge d'Affaires ad interim Alex Chua of the Philippine Embassy said in an interview.

The President is scheduled to pay a visit to the People's Republic of China (PROC) from August 30 to September 3, 2011 upon the invitation of Chinese President Hu Jintao. The theme of the President's visit is "people-centered partnership" highlighting the centuries old friendship between the Philippines and China and to promote more exchanges and better understanding between the two countries.

The President's visit to PROC is his first since he assumed office in June 2010. Aside from Beijing, the Chief Executive is also set to visit Shanghai and Xiamen as part of his itinerary.

During his visit, President Aquino will meet with the Filipino community in Beijing at the China World Hotel where he will personally check on their conditions and will inform them of the positive developments in the Philippines under his administration.

Chua cited the popularity of President Aquino especially among the Filipino community in Beijing as evidenced by the positive results of the overseas absentee voting (OAV) during the elections in May last year.

"The President is quite popular in Beijing and he topped the elections in this OAV precinct," he said.

Chua said that based on the Philippine Embassy's record, there are 2,492 Filipinos residing or working in Beijing and its neighboring cities and provinces adding that the actual number of Filipinos in this Chinese capital could be more.

According to Chua, Filipinos in Beijing work in various fields -- international journalists, global executives, musicians, household service employees, doctors, engineers, teachers, and hotel and restaurant managers among others

Asked whether the Philippine Embassy is implementing programs to help and assist Filipino workers in Beijing, Chua pointed out that the Embassy has been seriously looking after the welfare of Filipino nationals.

"We have a 24-hour hotline that receives calls ranging from questions on visas, passports and consular services as well as requests for various forms of consular assistance," he said.

The Embassy also informs the Filipino community of updates on information from the Philippines and China that are relevant to them. "We also send them advisories related to public health such as the flu epidemic here at winter time and the local radiation levels observed by authorities in the aftermath of the earthquake in Japan," Chua added.(PCOO)

Busy schedule awaits President Aquino in Beijing

BEIJING, China: President Benigno S. Aquino III expects a busy schedule upon his arrival here on Tuesday on the first leg of his five-day state visit to the People's Republic of China (PROC) from August 30 to September 3, 2011.

Included in the President's visit to PROC are the cities of Shanghai and Xiamen.

The Chief Executive's visit, his first, is aimed at further strengthening the over three decades of "friendly and mutually beneficial relations between the Philippines and China."

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the President's visit likewise hopes to "promote a people-centered partnership that will push for more trade, investments, media, culture, education, and tourism exchange between the two countries."

Accompanied by some members of his Cabinet and a large Philippine business delegation (about 270), the President will arrive at the Beijing Capital Airport on board a Philippine Airlines Special Commercial Flight PR001 from Manila.

He will be welcomed by Chinese Embassy officials led by Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines His Excellency Liu Jianchao, Deputy Director-General of Protocol Department Xie Bohua of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and officials of the Philippine Embassy in Beijing headed by Charge d'Affaires ad interim Alex Chua, Minister and Consul General Maria Teresa Almojuela and First Secretary and Consul Noel Novicio.

From the airport, the President and his delegation will motor to the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse where he will stay for the duration of his visit here.

The President will start his activity on Wednesday morning (August 31) by meeting separately with Chinese businessmen at the China World Hotel. These are the officials of the Energy World, the State Grid of China Corporation/National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, China Trend/China Investment Corporation/China Petroleum, and DPWH-led Chinese Contractors.

He will also have a brief meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan.

This will be followed by his attendance at the Philippines-China Economic and Trade Forum where he will deliver his keynote speech.

At the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, the President will be interviewed by Yang Rui and Yang Lan of CCTV Dialogue.

The President will be officially welcomed at the Great Hall of the People here by Chinese President Hu Jintao, in fitting ceremonies accorded a visiting head of state.

Immediately after his first summit meeting with the Chinese leader, the two heads of state will hold a bilateral meeting.

President Aquino and President Hu Jintao are also expected to witness the signing of agreements in the fields of trade, economic and technical cooperation, media, sports, culture and information among others that will further boost the relationship between the two countries.

In the evening, the President will attend a State Banquet at the Great Hall of the People which will be hosted in his honor by the Chinese President.

He will also meet with the Filipino community of Beijing to personally check on their condition and to inform them of the positive developments of the Philippines under his administration.

There are some 2,492 Filipinos in Beijing and its neighboring cities and provinces who are working as doctors, engineers, teachers, and hotel and restaurant managers, including musicians among others.

Prior to the Coffee with the Philippine media, the President will drop by at a dinner hosted by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines for the 270 business delegation.

President Aquino will also take time out from his busy schedules here to visit Beijing's two most visited historical sites -- the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City.

The Chinese government has recommended that President Aquino will visit the Badaling section of the Great Wall, which is approximately 80 kilometers northwest from the center of Beijing.
The Badaling section of the Great Wall, which is the best preserved and most popular among all its sections, is more than 1,000 meters (or 3,281 feet) above sea level, and said to command a strategic position for transportation and defense in ancient times.

The famous Great Wall of China, aside from the Forbidden City, is the most frequented site by both local visitors and tourists all over the world.

The Forbidden City is most commonly known in Chinese as Gugong which means the "Former Palace." It was the Chinese Imperial Palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum.

In efforts to enjoin more investors to infuse their capital in the Philippines, President Aquino will likewise meet separately with officials of other Chinese business groups namely, the Lee World, China ASEAN Fund, Dong Feng, Shandong Sanli Tires, and Dungfeng.

Before leaving for Shanghai, the President will meet with Chairman Wu Bangguo of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and Premier Wen Jiabao.

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China on June 9, 1975, the bilateral partnership between the two countries has reached unprecedented levels in terms of political/security and regional cooperation, trade, investment, agriculture, tourism, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, which have benefited the two countries and peoples.

The Philippines-China economic and trade cooperation continues to serve as the engine that drives Philippine-China relations to greater heights. China is the Philippines' third largest trading partner and the fastest growing source of tourists.(PCOO)

Sunday, 28 August 2011

PIA Dispatch - Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ochoa: OFWs in US facilities in Afghanistan, Iraq not covered by deployment ban

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. said on Sunday that the deployment ban to Afghanistan and Iraq stays, but Filipinos currently employed in military bases and facilities of the United States (US) are excluded and will be allowed to continue working in these countries.

“After making an assessment of the conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq based on input from Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), we have recommended that Filipino workers who are already employed in US military bases and installations in these countries be allowed to remain there to continue their employment,” Ochoa said.

Ochoa, who chairs the Overseas Preparedness Response Team, however stressed that for security reasons, the deployment ban covering Afghanistan and Iraq stays and no new workers will be allowed to travel to these countries for work.

According to Ochoa, President Benigno Aquino III approved the recommendations last Friday.

Concerns were raised when the US military ordered all contractors last year not to hire third country nationals, whose domestic laws prohibit their citizens from traveling and working in Iraq and Afghanistan. Washington had warned that contractors caught violating the order would no longer be allowed to bid in US projects in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The DFA estimates that the combined number of Filipinos working in Iraq and Afghanistan could reach 7,000.

Ochoa reiterated that the government would continue to closely monitor the situation on the ground to ensure the safety of Filipino workers who choose to remain in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Ensuring the safety and security of our OFWs who work in Afghanistan and Iraq is our primary concern. Just as their livelihoods are important to them, their lives are important to us. We will take whatever precautions necessary so that nothing untoward happens to Filipinos who work in these countries,” Ochoa said.(PCOO)

Saturday, 27 August 2011

PIA Dispatch - Saturday, August 27, 2011

Palace says Phl-China energy exploration agreement should serve interests of both nations

Malacanang said that any agreement between China and the Philippines particularly on energy exploration should serve the interests of both nations.

It was reported that the Philippine government is working with China for an oil exploration agreement. President Benigno Aquino III leaves for China Tuesday for a five-day state visit there.

“It’s still in the exploratory stage. We don’t know yet kung ano na ang details of the agreement. But certainly what we'll be taking into consideration the interests of the parties. Mahalaga ay dapat talagang patas yung agreement to all concerned,” Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a radio interview over state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan on Saturday.

While the discussions are still exploratory Lacierda said it is a good sign because it shows that both sides have interests for continued dialogue notwithstanding some disagreements between the two countries.

“Multifaceted po ang relasyon natin with China and it shows that one of the facets of our relationship is the trade aspect. When you go to china, it will show our trade, our culture, our business and our ties with China. It’s a good sign,” he said.

Aside from energy cooperation between China and the Philippines, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Liu Jianchao said this week that Chinese businessmen are also interested in investing in the Philippines particularly through the public-private partnership (PPP) being spearheaded by the Aquino administration.

Chinese businessmen are following closely the initiative of the PPP and they want to be involved in these projects, Liu said adding they are waiting for detailed announcement.

President Aquino’s state visit to China could also open up a lot of opportunities for the Philippines, Liu said. China can provide the Philippines both concessional and commercial loans as the Asian giant economy expands its investments in the region. (PCOO)

Malacanang says Phl-Japan relation remains stable

Malacanang assured on Saturday that the Philippine’s relations with Japan remain very stable following the resignation of Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

In an interview over government-run dzRB Radyo Ng Bayan, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said “Our relations with Japan is very stable, we have a very competent and able ambassador there at tuloy-tuloy naman po ang ating relations with Japan.”

The Aquino government, through Philippine Ambassador to Japan Manuel M. Lopez, reassures the Japanese government that the multifaceted cooperative relationship between the two countries will continue.

“We will just wait for their next Prime Minister. But apart from the resignation of their Prime Minister, the work continues, the relationship continues and we see no difference or we see no change in the relations between Japan and the Philippines.” Lacierda said over the radio.

Japanese Prime Minister Kan announced on Friday his resignation as party leader during a meeting with members of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan.

The party will elect next week a new leader who will take over as prime minister.

Last Friday, the parliament approved two bills. Kan said he believes the two bills -- the deficit-financing bond bill and the new energy promotion bill -- will push forward his reconstruction policies.

Last March 11, Japan was hit by devastating earthquake and tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis.

The disaster triggered the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, as cores overheated and spewed radioactive material into surrounding areas.(PCOO)

Malacanang urges public to heed PAGASA warning

Malacanang on Saturday urged the public to follow the instructions and not to ignore the warnings issued by the local government officials to avoid possible tragedy as Typhoon Mina continues to batter northern Luzon.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda issued the statement after Typhoon Mina made a landfall over Gonzaga in Cagayan province on Saturday. Public storm warnings have been hoisted over several areas in northern Luzon.

“Ang aming hinihiling sa publiko sana makinig po tayo sa mga warnings po at sa instructions ng NDRRMC at saka ng kani-kanilang mga Disaster Risk and Rehabilitation Offices po, officials po,” Lacierda said.

“Let’s not ignore the warnings of the local government officials. Mahalaga na sundin natin ang kanilang mga babala at kanilang mga instruksiyon,” the spokesman said over government-run radio station, dzRB.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said as of 10 a.m. Saturday, Typhoon Mina was located 90 km northeast of Tuguegarao City with maximum sustained winds of 195 kilometer per hour near the center.

Typhoon Mina continues to move northwest at 7 kilometer per hour and expected to be 80 km north of Aparri, Cagayan on Sunday morning.

According to Pagasa, Storm Signal number 4 remains hoisted over northern Cagayan including Calayan and the Babuyan Group of Islands, while areas under Signal Number 3 are Isabela, Apayao, the rest of Cagayan and Batanes Group of Islands.

Under Signal Number 2 are northern Aurora, Quirino, Ifugao, Mountain Province, Kalinga, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, Benguet, and La Union, while Signal Number 1 is up over the rest of Aurora, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Tarlac and Zambales.

Residents in low-lying and mountainous areas under public storm warning signals, southern Luzon and Visayas are alerted for possible flashfloods and landslides, and those living in coastal areas are alerted against big waves or storm surges generated by Typhoon Mina.(PCOO)

PIA Dispatch - Friday, August 26, 2011

Palace elated over improved business confidence as indicated by latest survey of Bangko Sentral

Malacanang welcomed on Friday the latest results of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) survey showing improved business confidence index despite the recent US credit rating downgrade and the ongoing debt concerns in Europe.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said, “We are encouraged by the results of the third quarter Business Expectation Survey of the BSP showing a 34.1 percent increase in business confidence in the current quarter and a 53.9 percent increase in the next quarter.”

“The increased optimism displayed by businesses is a sign of confidence in the Aquino administration and in the renewed vitality of the Philippine economy, which puts us on the path of surmounting the challenges posed by recent events that indicate economic instability in Europe and in the US,” he said.
Laicerda said, “The results of the BSP survey show that the vigor of an economy is as much dependent on the optimism displayed by businesses, as it is on fundamentals and sound economic policies.”

“We want to build on this optimism; and in the next few years, our administration will continue to expand the reforms we have already instituted and the firm foundations we have put in place to realize the administration’s vision of sustainable and equitable economic growth,” he said.

The higher business optimism is based on expectations that the domestic economy will remain resilient despite the recent US credit rating downgrade and the ongoing debt concerns in Europe, according to the BSP.

President Aquino receives winners of the 2011 Magsaysay awards

President Benigno S. Aquino III received this year’s winners of a prestigious award-giving body that recognizes personalities and groups whose lives and work paint a portrait of remarkable change and achievement, addressing issues of human development in Asia with courage and creativity and transforming their societies for the better.

The winners, composed of five individuals from Cambodia, India, Indonesia and a group from the Philippines, paid a courtesy call to President Aquino at the President’s Hall of Malacanang Palace, Friday. They were gladly congratulated by the Chief Executive along with Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.

The 2011 Ramon Magsaysay awardees include a Filipino group, the Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation, Inc. (AIDFI) that was given recognition for their collective vision, technological innovations and partnership practices to make appropriate technologies improve the lives and livelihood of the rural poor in the country’s upland communities and elsewhere in Asia.

Harish Hande from India was given recognition for his passionate and pragmatic efforts to put solar power technology in the hands of the poor through a social enterprise that brings customized, affordable, and sustainable electricity to India’s vast rural populace, encouraging the poor to become asset creators.

The holistic, community-based approach to pesantren of Hasanin Juaini of Indonesia creatively promoted values of gender equality, religious harmony, environmental preservation, individual achievement and civic engagement among young students and their communities.

Koul Panha from Cambodia was honored for his determined and courageous leadership in a sustained campaign to build an enlightened, organized and vigilant citizenry who will ensure fair and free elections – as well as demand accountable governance from elected officials – in the country’s nascent democracy.

Nileema Mishra from India, was recognized for her purpose-driven zeal to work tirelessly with villagers in Maharashtra, India organizing them to successfully address both their aspirations and adversities with collective action and heightened confidence in their potential to improve their own lives.

The efforts of Tri Mumpuni from Indonesia was honored for her determination to promote micro hydropower technology, catalyze needed policy changes and ensure full community participation in bringing electricity, as well as the fruits of development to the rural areas of her country.

Established in 1957, the Ramon Magsaysay Award is Asia’s highest honor and is widely regarded as the region’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. It celebrates the memory and leadership example of the third Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay and is given annually to individuals or organizations in Asia who manifest the same sense of selfless service that ruled the life of the late and beloved Filipino leader.

The winners, dubbed as Asia’s living heroes, join 284 other laureates who have received the region’s highest honor to date. Each of them receives a certificate, a medallion bearing the likeness of the late President Ramon Magsaysay and cash prize.

The awardees will be formally conferred the Magsaysay Award during the Presentation Ceremonies to be held on August 31, Wednesday at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Aquino honors outstanding teachers, soldiers, policemen of 2011 Metrobank Foundation

President Benigno S. Aquino III led the conferment of awards for the awardees of the Metrobank Foundation Inc.’s outstanding teachers, soldiers and policemen for this year.

In his speech during the awarding ceremony on Friday in Malacanang, the President said teachers, soldiers, and policemen are unsung heroes that contribute greatly to nation building and peace and security.

“Tiwala ako na ang pagkilalang ito ay lalo pang magtutulak sa bawat isa sa inyo na magsikap upang higitan pa ang mga narating na ninyo at magpatuloy sa pagiging ispirasyon sa kapwa Pilipino,” the President said in thanking this year’s awardees.

The President said his administration is focusing in three areas to make these public servants more effective in their fields of expertise.

First, the government is giving them equipment and necessary support particularly soldiers, the chief executive said. This includes modernization of equipment and training, he said citing the arrival of the Hamilton Class cutter recently for the use of the Philippine Navy.

Second, the government boosts the confidence of the soldiers, teachers and policemen by providing them decent shelter and other supports, the President continued.

And third, the promotion of transparency in the government institutions, ensuring that every peso is spent wisely for the benefit of the people, he added.

This year’s awardees for the Search for Outstanding Teachers (SOT) elementary category
were Marcela Jingco of Angeles Elementary School (Angeles City); Lora Anar of Bukidnon State University (Malaybalay City); Dr. Teodora Conde of Andres Bonifacio Elementary School (Sta. Cruz, Manila); and Djhoane Aguilar of Panabo Central Elementary School (Panabo City).

For secondary category the winners were Dr. Chelo Tangan of Cagayan National High School (Tuguegarao City); Buenaventure Luces of Lusacan National High School (Tiaong, Quezon); Vilma Ambat of Baguio City National High School (Baguio City); and Maricel Franco of Nueva Vizcaya General Comprehensive High School (Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya).

Dr. Jericho Thaddeus Luna of the University of the Philippines-Manila (UPM) and Dr. Allan de Guzman of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) were the awardees for the higher education category.

The soldiers from the Philippine Navy, Army, and Air Force who were named 2011 awardees in The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (TOPS) were Col. Daniel A. Lucero, MSgt. Sixto P. Navarrosa, Chief MSgt. Billy C. Benebile all from the Philippine Army; Col. Alexander F. Balutan, TSgt. Rommel Carbon, Data Processor 3 Jairus M. Cenabre all from the Philippine Navy; Col. Raul del Rosario, MSgt. Maria Teresa M. Bitong, MSgt. Nelson S. Mercado all from the Philippine Air Force, and Col. Alexis Tamondong from the Technical Services.

For the Country’s outstanding Policemen in the Nation’s Service (COPS) the winners were PO3 Rodel Alcano, SPO2 Helen dela Cruz, Chief Insp. Delia Ingalla, SPO4 Emmanuel Isiang, PSupt. Steve Ludan, SPO1 Manuel Padlan, PO2 Rina Salaya, and PSupt. Samuel Turla.

The awards were given by the Metrobank Foundation Inc, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Makati Metro.

The Metrobank Foundation, the corporate social responsibility arm of the Metrobank Group, was established by its chairman Dr. George S.K. Ty in 1979.

The foundation has promoted a culture of excellence among Filipinos through its programs such as the COPS, SOT, TOPS, the Metrobank Math Challenge (MMC) and College Scholarship Program (CSP) and the Metrobank Foundation Professional Chair Lectures in partnership with the Supreme Court and Philippine Judicial Academy.

The Foundation also has a grants program that assists non-government organizations (NGOs) and government in the fields of education, healthcare and the arts.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

PIA Dispatch - Thursday, August 25, 2011

Malacanang announces deadline of applications or nomination forms for OIC positions in ARMM

Malacanang reminded the public that the deadline for submission of nominations for the officers-in-charge (OIC) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is only until Friday, August 26.

In a press briefing at the Palace on Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda urged those who are interested for the OIC position in ARMM to submit their respective applications and nominations for the available position in the region.

He added that the OIC position vacancies include the regional governor, vice governor and several slots for the regional legislative assembly.

“Tomorrow, 26th of August is the deadline of submission of the applications and nominations for the ARMM OICs, just to let you know we are looking for nominees, applications for the following positions one OIC regional governor, one position of OIC regional vice governor, 24 positions of OIC regional legislative assembly, three for each legislative district of ARMM which is Basilan, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur,Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, “Lacierda said.

“We just like to remind the public and also all the residents of ARMM, if you’re interested please submit your applications, the last day will be tomorrow,” he stressed.

When asked on the selection process for the said OIC positions, Lacierda noted that upon acceptance of the applications and nominations, these will be forwarded to the Presidential Management Staff for profiling and clearance, then to the screening committee.

He also said that the public will be informed of developments in every stage of the screening process.

It will be recalled that the Office of the President has opened the nominations for the OIC positions for the ARMM who will assume the post until the 2013 mid-elections.

On top of the qualifications required in the Constitution, applicants must have proven competence, integrity, reliability, and moral soundness to lead the region.

Apart from these, applicants must not be facing any administrative or criminal complaint, and must not be a fugitive from justice.

Applicants must submit all requirements that include duly accomplished application form, certification of residency, certification of voter’s registration, clearances from the National Bureau of Investigation, and sworn statement attesting that no administrative, criminal or civil charges has been filed against him or her.

The screening committee shall give due preference to prospective applicants and nominees who will have no intention to run for any elective position in the next ARMM Election.

Nomination forms are available for download at the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) website at www.dilg.gov.ph.(PCOO)

Palace prepared to extend assistance to Libya

Malacanang announced that it is ready to extend help in Libya’s reconstruction, a Palace official said on Thursday.

In a regular press briefing in Malacanang held on Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said, “If there will be a request [for assistance] in the reconstruction, we will respond with whatever help we can provide.”

The Philippine government is willing to work with the international community in rebuilding Libya.

Lacierda also stressed that the welfare of the Filipinos in Libya remains the primary concern of the Philippine government.

“Right now, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is monitoring the situation in Libya. Our primary concern is the protection of our own Filipino workers and nationals there,” he said.

He said the Aquino administration welcomes the imminent resolution of the conflict in Libya.

“The Philippines supports a peaceful transition in Libya in order for normalcy to return to the country, and looks forward to working with the Libyan people in pursuing peace and stability,” Lacierda quoting the statement of the DFA.

The DFA said, “The Philippine government thanks the Libyan people for keeping Filipinos and their families in Libya safe and for the hospitality extended to them throughout the conflict including the Filipino medical workers who chose to remain in order to continue providing emergency humanitarian assistance to all parties in the conflict.”(PCOO)

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

PIA Dispatch - Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Aquino receives International Olympiad winners in Malacañang

President Benigno S. Aquino III received a new breed of Filipino achievers who bagged their respective awards from different prestigious international competitions.

Bronze medalists Henry Jefferson Morco and Miguel Arnold Reyes won a medal each from the 2011 International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) and the 2011 International Physics Olympiad, respectively.

Accompanying the group during the call held at the President’s Hall in Malacanang Palace was Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo.

Morco, from Chiang Kai Shek College, won the bronze with two other Filipino team members that earned the highest medal haul of the country ever since it joined the IMO in 1988.

Because of the Philippine team's successful performance in the Math Olympiad this year, the country's standing in the contest went up to 54 from 74 in 2010 out of 101 countries.

The equally-brilliant Reyes of the Philippine Science High School / UP Diliman was also awarded the 2nd Grand Award - 2011 Intel International Science & Engineering Fair.

Based on the official ranking, Reyes with another Filipino teammate got scores higher than 60% of the entire participants. A total of 393 students from 84 countries joined the Olympiad.

Another winner, Angeli Joyce Dy of Capiz National High School also won the 4th Grand Award from the 2011 Intel International Science & Engineering Fair.

Other members of the entourage were Julius Magalona Basilla, Roland Christopher Caballar and Jose Perico Esguerra from UP Diliman; Filma Brawner - Director, Science Education Institute & OIC, Philippine Science High School System; Ricky Banaag and Arlita Narag of INTEL Philippines; Mark Ivan Roblas - Science Education Institute (SEI-DOST) and Glen Mackenzie Ong - Mathematical Society of the Philippines.(PCOO)

President Aquino meets former British Prime Minister Tony Blair

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who arrived in Manila for the signing of religious literacy program, met President Benigno Aquino III in Malacanang Tuesday night.

Blair paid a courtesy call on the President at Malacanang’s Music Room which was followed by a dinner hosted in his honor by the President at the State dining room.

Blair on Wednesday signed an agreement with Philippine education officials for the adoption of his foundation’s religious literacy program aimed at teaching school children inter-faith and intercultural dialogue.

The program, which integrates lessons on peace-building in schools with the history of religious conflict, is part of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation initiative.

The program called “Face to Faith,” teaches young people key skills for the conduct of effective dialogue and engagement particularly on different faith and cultural traditions.

Blair’s arrival in Manila is his second visit in the country, the first was in March 2009 for a speaking engagement at the Ateneo de Manila University during the celebration of its 150th anniversary.

Blair served as prime minister of the United Kingdom from March 1997 to June 2007. He is currently the quartet representative to the Middle East, representing the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia.(PCOO)

President Aquino to visit People’s Republic of China

President Benigno S. Aquino III will visit the People’s Republic of China from August 30 to September 3, 2011 to further enhance relations between the two countries, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced on Wednesday.

In a press briefing in Malacañang, Assistant Secretary for Asia and Pacific Affairs Cristina Ortega said the President’s state visit to the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen highlights “the centuries-old friendship between the Philippines and China, and our desire to promote more exchanges and better understanding between our peoples.”

“The State Visit will further strengthen the 36 years of friendship and mutually beneficial relations between the Philippines and China,” Ortega said.

“The visit hopes to push for more trade, investment, media, culture, education and tourism exchanges between both sides. It will also showcase the Philippines as an attractive and profitable business destination,” she added.

Ortega pointed out that among the activities the President will undertake during the visit include meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Premiere Wen Jiabao and Chairman Wu Bangguo of the National People’s Congress.

The President will also keynote three important fora: the Philippine-Chinese Economic and Trade Forum in Beijing, High Level Forum with Yangtze River Delta Government Officials and Business Enterprises in Shanghai, and the Philippine-Fujian Business Conference in Xiamen.

Aside from these, the President will hold one-on-one meetings with selected Chinese businessmen to promote the government’s Public Private Partnership (PPP) program.

He will also join the Filipino community in each of said cities to personally get an overview of their situation.

Ortega said that there are 12,700 Filipinos living and working in various cities in the PROC.

Diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China were established on June 9, 1975 and since then, China has been the Philippines’ third largest trading partner and fourth largest source of tourists as well as the fourth largest source of development assistance. (PCOO)

6 agreements to be signed during President Aquino’s state visit to PROC – DFA

The Department of Foreign Affairs announced on Wednesday that at least six agreements will be signed during President Benigno S. Aquino III’s five-day State Visit to the People’s Republic of China from August 30 to September 3, 2011.

Assistant Secretary of the DFA’s Office Asia and Pacific Affairs Cristina Ortega said that these agreements will be signed during the business fora and meetings the President will be having with Chinese business leaders in the different cities he will be visiting.

The three cities the President will visit are Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen.

Ortega said the agreements include the Joint Statement (PH-PROC) on the West Philippine Sea, the Philippines-China Five-Year Development Program for Trade and Economic Cooperation, an MoU between the PCOO and State Council Information Office on Friendly Exchanges, an MoU on Sports Cooperation, Implementing Program on the MoU on Tourism and Exchange of Letters on the Executive Program of the Philippines-China Cultural Agreement.

On the Joint Statement on the West Philippine Sea, Ortega said that the document will be released but only after the State Visit.

“We will have a Joint Statement of the Philippines and China (on the West Philippine Sea)…that will be crafted during and right after the State Visit to China so hindi pa natin alam yan. I don’t think we can preempt the Joint Statement but I would assume that there would be a line or two on the West Philippine Sea,” Ortega said.

On the Philippine-China Five-Year Development Program for Trade and Economic Cooperation, Ortega said the targeted sectors of this program are in infrastructure, mining, energy, information and tourism.(PCOO)

Malacanang condemns killing of Negros Occidental broadcaster

Malacanang on Wednesday condemned the murder of 42-year-old former broadcaster Neil Aranga Jimena of Negros Occidental.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda assured the family of the slain journalist that the full force of the law is being applied to immediately identify and apprehend the perpetrators of the crime.

The Palace also extends its deepest sympathies to the family of Jimena, who was shot dead on Monday by unidentified assailants in E.B. Magalona town, northern Negros Occidental.

“The full force of the law is being applied to swiftly identify and apprehend the killers of Neil Aranga Jimena. We have tasked the PNP to constantly update us on the progress of their investigation,” he said.

“We condemn his murder and call on those who may have information concerning the case to swiftly contact the authorities. To his loved ones, we extend our deepest sympathies and we will work to ensure justice is done,” he added.(PCOO)

Ochoa: Rapid response teams ready in Libya and Syria

The Rapid Response Teams (RRTs), trained and prepared to address developments in crisis-affected countries with significant OFW populations, have been activated and are closely monitoring developments in Libya and Syria, Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. said on Wednesday.

"RRTs were deployed to Syria and Libya on August 13, and the team in Syria has already reported that they have validated the contingency plans for OFWs based in Syria," Ochoa said.

"The RRT assigned to Libya, on the other hand, is at the Libya-Tunisia border. It is closely monitoring developments in the area and is ready to assist OFWS that leave Libya via that route," added Ochoa, who also chairs the Overseas Preparedness and Response Team (OPRT).

Ochoa said one of the priority programs of the OPRT when it was formed by President Benigno Aquino III was the formation of several RRTs, with each team assigned to review and assess the contingency plans prepared by Philippine diplomatic posts in the Middle East.

"We did not want to wait for the next crisis to occur before acting so we formed and trained the RRTs in anticipation of these developments in the Middle East. These teams were trained last May and have been ready for deployment to crisis-affected countries in the Middle East since June of this year," Ochoa said.

The RRTs are tasked to verify and validate the contingency plans in crisis-affected areas, familiarize themselves with actual conditions on the ground and augment efforts and personnel of the Department of Foreign Affairs in countries where there are political upheavals.

The RRTs, which are composed of select personnel from the DFA, Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), Department of National Defense (DND), and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) report directly to the OPRT and work in tandem with the foreign affairs office.

The OPRT was established through Executive Order 34 signed by the President on April 6, 2011. It replaced the Presidential Middle East Preparedness Committee (PMEPC), which was created under Executive Order No. 159 in 2002, to deal with the evacuation of thousands of Filipino workers in the Middle East at the height of the Iraq crisis.

Under EO 34, the OPRT is composed of the Executive Secretary as chairperson and the presidential adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers’ Concerns and secretaries of the DFA, DoLE, DND, and, the Departments of Justice (DoJ), Interior and Local Government (DILG), and Budget and Management (DBM), as members.

The high-level crisis team is tasked to draw up strategies and programs and formulate policies to appropriately respond to crisis situations affecting Filipinos abroad. It is also tasked to develop and adopt interactive operating arrangements among agencies to ensure maximum coordination.

Malacanang welcomes Senate move approving resolution concurring ratification of Rome Statute

Malacanang welcomed on Wednesday the move of the Senate to approve a resolution concurring with the ratification of the Rome Statute that paved the way for the Philippines to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).

With the approval on third and final reading of its resolution concurring in the ratification of the Rome Statute, the Senate has paved the way for the Philippines to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), with a vote of 17-1, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

Lacierda said President Benigno S. Aquino III had endorsed the Rome Statute on May 6, 2011.

Lacierda said the Department of Foreign Affairs will deposit the instrument of ratification this week in New York.

“This is a concrete demonstration of the administration’s commitment to human rights and accountability within and among nations,” Lacierda stressed.

According to the statement released by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) the Philippines, through then Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York Enrique Manalo, signed the Rome Statute on December 28, 2000.

Under the Philippine Constitution, the DFA noted that treaties ratified by the President need the concurrence of the Senate before these can enter into force and effect.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chairperson of the Senate Subcommittee on the ICC, delivered the sponsorship speech on the treaty last August 16. Senator Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, likewise delivered a co-sponsorship address.

President Aquino received in Malacañang last March ICC President Sang Hyun-Song.

The DFA has been an ardent advocate of Philippine ratification of the Rome Statute through the years.

Under Secretary Teofisto Guingona, the DFA recommended its ratification to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2002 and under Secretary Blas F. Ople resubmitted the same to the President in 2003.

The Rome Statute was concluded in 1998 by the United Nations (UN) Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an ICC that was participated in by some 140 States, including the Philippines. The Statute entered into force on July 1, 2002, after 60 States had become Parties.

The ICC, which is headquartered in The Hague, The Netherlands, has jurisdiction over the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, namely genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and aggression.

To date, there are 116 states that have either ratified or acceded to the Rome Statute, 15 of which are from Asia and the Pacific, including Cambodia, East Timor, Korea, Australia, and Japan.(PCOO)

Aquino appoints Acosta presidential adviser for environmental protection

President Benigno Aquino III has appointed former Rep. Juan Romeo Nereus “Neric” Acosta of Bukidnon province as presidential adviser for environmental protection.

Acosta, a member of the Liberal Party, took his oath of office as presidential adviser for environmental protection before President Aquino in Malacanan Palace on Wednesday.

Acosta, who served as representative for the first district of Bukidnon, is the principal author of the Clean Air Act. He also sponsored major environmental legislation on clean water, solid waste management and biodiversity protection.

He also served as the House of Representative’s chairman of the Committee on Ecology and vice chairman of the Committees on Science and Technology, Human Rights, and Foreign Relations.

Acosta ran but lost in senatorial race in May 2010 national elections.(PCOO)

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

PIA Dispatch - Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Press Statement of Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on the Arrival of BRP Gregorio Del Pilar

The acquisition of BRP Gregorio Del Pilar represents a significant step forward in our efforts to improve our Navy’s capacity to patrol and secure our waters. As the President said in his State of the Nation Address, the resources within our territory belong to Filipinos, and the modernization of our armed forces is part of measures to ensure that our people are protected, our security is augmented and our sovereignty is respected.

As shown by the young general after whom our new ship is named, the patriotism, selflessness and bravery of the Filipino soldier is second to none. However, due to our country's limited resources, our armed forces have had to fight for the security of our country with inadequate weapons and equipment.

The Cabinet Cluster on Security, which I chair, is currently spearheading reforms in our armed forces that seek to address this concern. Under the stewardship of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, the Department of National Defense will ensure that the financial resources allotted for the military will be used wisely and judiciously and will go where they are intended to go: better weapons and modern equipment for our men and women in uniform.(PCOO)

Aquino cites need for PTV-4 to give Filipinos a public service network

President Benigno S. Aquino III wants the new People’s Television Network 4 (PTV-4) to offer distinct and unique programs aimed at improving the lives of the Filipinos, a Palace official said on Monday.

In an ambush interview in Malacanang, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio B. Coloma Jr. said on Monday that President Aquino wants to give the people “a public service network.”

“He wants to know how we can offer distinct and unique programs that are different from what are being offered now. Because if we will just copy or we’ll just mimic what the commercial networks are offering, then that would not serve the objective of a government public service network,” Coloma said.

The President met with Coloma and other officials who presented “the reformatted PTV 4 news and non-news program flow” in Malacanang.

Coloma said the President made several suggestions for the revitalization of the PTV-4 during the said meeting. “He has very concrete suggestions on what we can present differently and better so that the network can have its own unique identity,” he said.
“For the reformatted PTV-4, we would like to make it a good public service network that will be a source for reliable, timely information that is useful to the people. In other words, the concept of communication being a channel for development and for improving the lives of our people,” he added.

“We have to be able to offer unique value. We have to be able to address certain niches that the private networks may not be addressing directly,” Coloma said.

“The channel could conduct teacher trading through educational programs and supplement the learning that children in school get by offering good educational programs. And, of course, we can also promote Filipino culture, like we can promote indie music and indie movies,” he said.

Coloma also said the President expressed his readiness to appear in the programs of the PTV- 4.

Coloma acknowledged that one of the biggest challenges is how to generate revenues. “Our biggest challenge is to be able to offer value-laden programs that people will be willing to invest in. So that is what we’re working on. Our concept is we would not want it to be dependent on government appropriation that’s why, the challenge is for the network to be able to generate revenues and we can only generate revenues if we have programs that have a credible value proposition.”

Coloma likewise underscored the need to improve the technical capability of the station adding that it’s also part of the entire revitalization concept.

According to Coloma, the President’s instructions to the group which included Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Presidential Communications and Operations Office officials led by Coloma, Undersecretary George Syliangco, and Assistant Secretary Lesley Cordero was to develop concrete proposals to ensure “that we deliver effective programming that centers on disseminating government information and services to the public.”

The President also instructed the group to prepare the proposed amendments to the PTV law for submission to the Legislative and Executive Development Council (LEDAC).

“The purpose of the bill is really to recapitalize because the original capital of one billion pesos was already depleted. And number two, to amend the provision that limited the ability of the network to generate commercial revenues which was only for the first 10 years of its existence. So only from 1992 to 2001 and because of that, and the fact that the network is not getting any official government appropriation—it’s not included in the General Appropriations Act—the network had great difficulty getting enough resources for programming,” Coloma concluded.(PCOO)

Aquino says acquisition of new patrol ship depicts the government’s concern for defense capability

President Benigno S. Aquino III underscored the conscientious efforts of the government to ensure the delivery of services to the Filipino people as he cited the newest addition to the Philippine Navy fleet as a symbol of hope, reform and complete change.

In his speech during the arrival ceremony of the BRP Gregorio del Pilar Pacific Fleet (PF) 15 at Pier 13, South Harbor in Manila on Tuesday, the President said the newest patrol ship depicts the Aquino administration’s sincere concern in defense capability and compensates the hard work and dedication of the Filipino men in uniform.

“Ang barkong ito ay bunga ng ating pagsusumikap na ibigay, hindi lamang sa Sandatahang Lakas, kundi sa mamamayang Pilipino ang uri ng serbisyo na inaasahan nila sa pamahalaan: tapat, may malasakit at nakatuon para sa kanilang kapakanan,” the President said.

“Sagisag ang modernong barkong ito ng kahandaan nating pangalagaan, bantayan, at kung kinakailangan, ipagtanggol ang interes at kapakanan ng ating bayan. Higit sa lahat, sumasalamin ang barkong ito sa mithiin nating magdulot ng tunay na reporma't pagbabago, at bigyang-halaga ang hirap at sakripisyo ng ating mga kawal sa pamamagitan ng modernisasyon ng kanilang mga sasakyan, armas at iba pa nilang pangangailangan,” the President said adding that the BRP Gregorio del Pilar increases the capabilities of the Navy in securing the coastal areas.

“Ngayong may BRP Gregorio del Pilar nang magagamit ang ating Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM), naitataas din natin ang antas ng kanilang kakayahang magpatrolya at magbantay sa ating kapuluan,” the President noted.

The Chief Executive also noted the important role of the citizenry in pursuing more developments that will eventually lead to progress and development.

“Simula pa lang po ito. Sa responsable nating pamamahala, at sa pakikiisa ng taumbayan sa tinatahak nating tuwid na daan, mas marami pa tayong magagawa; mas marami pang mabubuting balita ang darating sa atin,” the President stressed.

“Hindi tayo titigil sa mga barko; hindi tayo makukuntento sa mga helicopter. Mga modernong sandata, mas mabibilis na mga patrol craft, at mas epektibong mga kagamitan pa ang maihahandog natin sa ating mga kawal at pulis nang walang nasasayang na pera mula sa kaban ng bayan,” he added.

In the United States, the BRP Gregodrio del Pilar is classified as a Hamilton Class US Coast Guard Cutter specifically designated as a Weather High Endurance Cutter (WHEC-715).

In the Philippines, the newest ship is classified as a Surface Combatant Ship with a “Type Code” of “P” for Patrol and is further powered by combined diesel engines and gas turbines, equipped with a helicopter flight deck, a retractable hangar and facilities to support helicopter operations.

The 378-foot vessel with a crew capacity of 180 is also equipped with armament and weapons system, propulsion plant, electrical generation, among others.

It will be deployed to carry out the mission for drug prohibition, law enforcement, search and rescue operations, defense readiness and migrant interdiction. It will also perform tasks in protecting the country’s natural gas and oil exploration projects off Palawan amid reported incursions in the West Philippine Sea. (PCOO)

Aquino says PHL should not be blamed for the misdeed of one man in last year’s hostage-tragedy in Manila

President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday said that the entire country need not be blamed for the action of one man in last year’s Manila hostage tragedy that left eight Hong Kong tourists and their hostage-taker dead.

“This was the act of one man. In the same token that some of our citizens have been affected elsewhere in the world, we do not blame the entire population,” the President said during a chance interview at the arrival ceremony of BRP Gregorio Del Pilar at Pier 13, South Harbor in Manila.

“We know that there are criminal elements; there are mentally deranged individuals (who) pose a threat to anybody regardless of race or country of origin,” the he added.

President Aquino said that his administration deeply regrets what has transpired on August 23, 2010, as he emphasized that the country has been improving from then on to ensure the safety of its citizens and its visitors.

“We sympathized and we continue to sympathize with them. We really wish it did not happen. We hope we had performed better at that point in time. But in the same token that in Norway there was this tragedy could have been prevented because of a lone solitary deranged gunman,” he said.

“Again, we deeply regret what has transpired. Yung apology connotes that the State did them grievous harm. I don’t think that is correct,” the President stressed.

The country marked on Tuesday the first year of the hostage-taking incident that left eight Hong Kong tourists and their hostage-taker, former police officer Rolando Mendoza, dead on August 23, 2010 at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.

The relatives of the victims and the survivors of the tragedy arrived in the country on Sunday, and they are demanding a formal apology from the Philippine government, reasonable compensation, and justice for the slain hostage victims.

“We understand they’re hurt but hopefully they understand also that we could have improved and we have been improving from then to now but, at the same time, even at our levels right now if you have a deranged individual who suddenly changes his disposition, practically in a whim, there are very serious limitations that one person or any country can do,” President Aquino said.

The President also said that his government has tried to assist the survivors and the families of the victims to overcome the August 23, 2010 tragedy.

“We have tried to assist them to overcome this tragedy. I think they are aware of the fact that both public and private concerns of this country have really tried to assist them in their moving on,” he said. (PCOO)

Aquino says gov’t will acquire more equipment to improve defense capability of military

The Philippine government will acquire more military equipment as part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP‘s) modernization program, President Benigno S. Aquino III said.

President Aquino made this statement during an ambush interview after he led the arrival ceremony of BRP (Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas) Gregorio Del Pilar at Pier 13, South Harbor in Manila City, on Tuesday.

The President said that his administration plans to acquire more equipment, such as lead-in jet trainers, surface attack crafts, air defense radars, among others, to further improve the capability of the military.

For the Air Force, the Aquino administration will acquire Surface Attack Aircrafts, Air Defense Radars, Long Range Patrol Aircrafts, and Close-Air Support Aircrafts, the President noted.

“For the Navy, Strategic Sealift Vessels with Amphibious Vessels, Offshore Patrol Vessels, Naval Helicopters—there is at least three of them—Coast Watch Stations, then ‘yung mga katulad nitong Weather Heavy Endurance Cutter,” he added.

For the Army, Aquino said, new assault rifles, armor assets, tanks, armored-personnel carriers, force protection--helmets, bullet-proof vests--and night fighting equipment.

The President also said that the Philippine Navy is studying whether there is a need to purchase a submarine. (PCOO)

Aquino announces proposal for creation of ‘super body’ to ensure delivery of safe and potable water

President Benigno S. Aquino III bared the proposed creation of a “super body” whose main task is to ensure the delivery of safe and potable water to every Filipino household and come up with a comprehensive plan for the country’s water resources.

In an ambush interview following his attendance at the arrival ceremony of BRP Gregorio del Pilar 15 at Pier 13, South Harbor in Manila on Tuesday, the President said the proposal came after his meetings with the economic managers pointing out the need of creating an agency that will focus on ensuring a sufficient and safe water supply for the Filipino people.

“We will be proposing a super body, it can be a committee, it can be just one agency, who will come up with a water plan -- how do we conserve water, how do we utilize water, and how do we treat water afterwards,” President Aquino said.

The Chief Executive noted the existence of several agencies of government that were tasked to work on various programs on water complicates and affects their efficiency.

“There are so many agencies involved with water, you have Nawasa or MWSS, you have the DA [Department of Agriculture] with their National Irrigation Administration, you have the DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] managing iyong water shed... bottom line ay napakaraming departamento, ahensiya ng gobyerno in-charge sa tubig... sa dami nila, parang wala na talagang in-charge,” the President said as he stressed the importance of water and its supply sustainability and management for the consumption of the people.

“Water is a very important resource, if it is not managed properly, there can be shortages,” the President stressed.

He added that part of the responsibilities of the proposed “super body” is the formulation of a more comprehensive and coordinated plan on water supply and the management of its sources.(PCOO)

Umbra Kato no longer covered by government-MILF agreements, peace negotiator says

The Philippine government now considers Ameril Umbra Kato no longer part of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the country’s legal mechanism applies to him, government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen said.

“To this date therefore, government is considering Kato as not within the MILF and that, of course, because he is no longer covered by the ceasefire arrangements then, therefore, the usual legal mechanisms will apply in his steed. They are also informed that this is also the pulsation of some of the leaders of the MILF,” Leonen said in his opening statement during Tuesday’s teleconference with Malacanang reporters. Leonen is in Malaysia for a two-day peace discussions with the MILF.

The Philippine government demanded a confirmation on the status of Kato and his group with the MILF during the discussions in Malaysia, Leonen said.

Mohagher Iqbal, MILF peace panel chair, in his opening statement said that Kato remains to be a “challenge for the MILF.” In a resolution filed by the MILF Central Committee, Kato has been declared as a bougat or one who defies an order.

The government cannot accept that Kato is still part of the MILF noting the atrocities he committed as well as his recruitment of child soldiers, Leonen said. Kato organized the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The MILF formally asked the government to give them 10 days after Eid’l Fitr to resolve the Kato issue.

Another issue is rido or clan war in Mindanao that affects peace and security of communities. Leonen said he asked the MILF to address the rido among its base commands.

A total of 17 rido related incidents involving at least a commander of the MILF base command has been recorded, Leonen said.

Conflict between some members of the 105th base command against some members of the 104th base command displaced a total of 1,596 families or 7,980 persons from six barangays in Palembang, Sultan Kudarat, the government chief negotiator said.

Meanwhile, 695 families have also been displaced in Datu Piang, Maguindanao due to the fighting between the 106th base command and Kato’s group. Fourteen people from each side of the warring faction have already died.

The government and the MILF had a two-day peace talks in Malaysia following a meeting between President Benigno Aquino III and the MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo, Japan, early this month.(PCOO)