Wednesday, 12 October 2011

PIA News Dispatch - Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mining investors will stay in the country despite NPA attacks, Aquino says

Foreign investors in the mining industry will not withdraw from the Philippines despite the attack of the New Peoples Army (NPA) in Surigao del Norte early this month, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Wednesday.

The Chief Executive, who was interviewed by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) in Makati Wednesday morning, said that he had talked to a group of Japanese investors who made an assurance that they’ll continue to do business in the Philippines despite the attacks.

“I actually met with the officers of the Sumitomo group who called on me Tuesday and they assured us that they have no intentions of pulling out,” the President told Focap.

“But there was that request for beefed up security in their areas of operations to which we have already advised them of the corrective actions that are being undertaken. So if the victim of this whole issue has not indicated a lack of interest or lessening of interest, then perhaps I don’t foresee any other foreign investors undertaking the same,” he added.

Responding to criticisms about the government plan to train members of the special Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) to serve as security for mining industries, the President said their deployment will be strictly monitored by the police and the military to prevent abuses.

“CAFGUs or special CAFGUs will be territorial-based, will be subject to rules and regulations, and will be under the watchful gaze of our Commission on Human Rights chair Etta Rosales. We do not foresee any abuses from them but rather they will augment the abilities of our security forces to preserve peace and order in our country,” the President said.

The President noted that it’s unfair for the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to double their efforts in securing the country’s hot spots considering the huge number of Filipino population so there’s a need to augment their number with militiamen.

“We roughly have 250,000 men in uniform, they are guarding close to a hundred million Filipinos,” he said. “That is the exact same number of forces we had in 1986 when he had 50 million Filipinos. So we’re asking the members, our citizens who are in uniform, to do double the work and I think that would be unfair.”

NPA guerrillas staged coordinated raids on Taganito Mining Corp., Taganito HPAL Nickel Corp. and Platinum Group Metals Corp. operating in Claver, Surigao del Norte, on October 3, killing three security guards.

The rebels burned 10 dump trucks, eight backhoes, two barges and a guest house, the police and the military said. The rebels also seized several guns from private security guards. (PCOO)

Philippine Spratly proposal maintains regional peace

The Philippine proposal for the adoption of the Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and Cooperation (ZoPFF/C) to resolve the Spratly Islands dispute has been an effective way of maintaining peace in the controversial regime of islands, President Benigno Aquino III said on Wednesday.

In an open forum with the members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap) in Makati City, the President said there has been an agreement as far as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is concerned with regards to the Philippine proposal.

“But, again, the fundamental question with regards to China and the nine-dash line and the incompatibility with the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) is still there. And I think the focus should be that we are not escalating tensions to the point that conflict becomes a logical conclusion,” the President said addressing the question about the disputed West Philippine Sea.

“The adherents or all parties concerned to declaring a zone of peace is a very healthy development and refocuses everybody on how best to resolve this without resorting to any untoward violent incidents and that, I think, is an achievement by itself,” he added.

The ASEAN Maritime Legal Experts’ Meeting in Manila, held from September 22 to 23 this year, extensively discussed the Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and Cooperation initiative in the light of relevant international law principles on the regime of islands, maritime zones, and maritime delimitation.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the maritime legal experts affirmed the ASEAN’s commitment to the peaceful and rules-based approach to the resolution of disputes in the West Philippine Sea.

ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting tasked the ASEAN Senior Officials, with the assistance of maritime legal experts, to seriously study the ZoPFF/C proposed by the Philippines during their July meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

With regards to the Code of Conduct in the West Philippine Sea, the President said that things are moving in crafting generally accepted code for all parties.

ASEAN states and the People’s Republic of China agreed in November 2002 for the adoption of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

“Nine years after, at least this thing is moving. And we have committed to ASEAN centrality with regards to handling any multilateral talks. So I think we are on track. There is a need for consensus—we are a very diverse group of 10 countries that have various parochial concerns,” President Aquino said.

Commenting on bringing the West Philippine Sea issue before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas the Chief Executive said there’s a need for China to agree in joining the Philippines whether to bring it before the international body.

Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam all claim at least some part of the West Philippine Sea. The region is believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits and also a major sea lane of the world’s ship-borne trade.

Tensions between China, Vietnam and the Philippines heightened this year over the disputed West Philippine Sea claims. (PCOO)

Aquino approves P72-B stimulus package for infrastructure and reconstruction plans

President Benigno S. Aquino III has approved the P72-billion stimulus package for various infrastructure and reconstruction plans saying it will produce multiplier effect on the Philippine economy.

"The P72-billion will have its own multiplier effect and this pump primes the economy to that extent," President Aquino said during an open forum with the officers and members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) on Wednesday at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Makati City.

In a bid to boost economic growth in the country, Aquino approved the P72-billion stimulus package for various infrastructure and reconstruction plans, including a support fund for local government units (LGUs). The President pointed out that the stimulus package aims to help reach the growth targets for 2011 and 2012.

However, Aquino acknowledged the fact that the country may be affected by the global economic meltdown.

"The global economic situation is changing practically daily. And one is not isolated from the world economy. Therefore, things that we do here domestically would impact on economy positively. But, at the same time, we are not sure exactly what the negative effects of the world’s economic turmoil will have on us since it is still a developing story," the President said.

President Aquino said the LGU support fund amounting to P6.5 billion is part of the stimulus package. He said it will give an additional P10 billion to resettle and relocate informal settlers and families in danger zones.

The President said that of the total amount, the government will be allotting P5.5 billion on various infrastructure projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH); and P4.5 billion will go to the Metro Rail Transit and P1.868 billion will go to the Light Rail Transit (LRT).

The package will be spent on projects that will have high macroeconomic impact, and will help the poor. (PCOO)

Aquino welcomes commitment of Chinese business groups to invest in Phl

President Benigno S. Aquino III welcomes the commitment of the Chinese business groups of venturing their investments in the country in the fields of tourism and energy, among others.

In an interview with the officers and members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) during the Annual Presidential Forum on Wednesday at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Makati City, the President said that there are several fields of investments to be filled in by a number of investors coming in the Philippines.

“With regards to other investment areas — and we did go to China, we agreed that this is but one part of the relationship with them — there is a commitment, for instance, to help us with our tourism industry. There are two major travel agencies — one of which owns its own airline and the other one is actually building two hotels already in the Philippines... so, the commitment to help us in our tourism industry is not just words but they’re actually undertaking it,” the President said.

“There are other ventures — heavy equipment and truck manufacturing are also set to commence with us — there are a whole slew of investors that are coming in apart from energy,” he added.

The Chief Executive added that apart from these businesses, the Chinese group is also extending assistance in other fields that include disaster mitigation and water resources management.

“They would also want to help us in terms of our energy, our water resource management, our disaster risk mitigation and we welcome all of these assistances,” President Aquino said.

It has been five years since a President attended the FOCAP to talk about pressing issues and discuss key policies of the government in efforts to shape the future of the country.

The President acknowledged FOCAP’s efforts to uphold the freedom of the press especially during the time of martial law.

“FOCAP has stood firmly for freedom of the press... they did this at the height of martial law — a time when doing so had severe repercussions — when journalists who were choosing to do the right thing were being thrown in prison or, worse, murdered in cold blood. And yet this organization has weathered plots to gag reporters, or corrupt them,” the President said.

Founded in 1974, the FOCAP is a non-profit organization of international news agencies, publications, radio and television networks. (PCOO)

Aquino government enhances entrepreneurial skills of ofws under P2 billion reintegration program

President Benigno S. Aquino III said his administration is focusing on enhancing the entrepreneurial skills of overseas Filipinos workers (OFWs) as well as their educational abilities to entice them to stay in the country through the government is P2-billion reintegration program.

“The state would have to be really focused on those who have the least in our society. Therefore, there’s heavy emphasis on microfinance to generate entrepreneurial abilities,” President Aquino said during an open forum with the members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap) in Makati City on Wednesday.

“But over and above that, we’re also training, investing in the education sector to be able to provide opportunities for even advanced studies present in the country rather than having the experts go to other countries like America or Europe to further their studies,” he said.

The government is reviewing that particular area so that Filipino researchers get the necessary endowments and research facilities to be able to conduct their studies here rather than going abroad for the benefit of foreigners rather than Filipinos.

To make capital available to Filipino entrepreneurs there are proposals to develop a bank for OFWs, the President said. He also mentioned small-scale business such as dairy production in Nueva Ecija using carabao milk that could be suitable for returning OFWs.

Last September, around 10,172 OFWs registered and expressed interest to avail of loans under the P2-billion national reintegration program of the government, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) reported.

According to OWWA, 17 of these loan applications worth P12,184,000 have already been approved and released by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) for various business undertakings.

Businesses funded under the reintegration program include hog fattening, duck egg production, vegetable growing, internet café, Nuat Thai food and body massage; and dental laboratory.

Under the program, OFWs can avail of loans ranging from P300,000 to P2,000,000. Availing loans is easy for OFWs because there are no conduits, no collateral, and loans have only 7.5 percent interest per annum and have also very liberal repayment period of up to seven years. (PCOO)

Aquino announces state visit of Vietnamese President to Phl

Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang is arriving in the country for a state visit, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Wednesday. The President, however, didn’t mention the specified date of the Vietnamese leader’s arrival.

The President announced the Vietnamese President’s visit to the Philippines during the Presidential forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) in Makati City on Wednesday.

The President said that among the issues that will be tackled during President Truong’s visit include the West Philippine Sea issue, in which Vietnam is reportedly having a bilateral discussion with China to resolve the dispute.

“I understand that the Vietnamese President is scheduled for a state visit rather soon. I think that would be one of the topics that I will discuss with the Vietnamese President,” the President said when asked by FOCAP members about the bilateral agreement between China and Vietnam regarding the Spratly issue.

“We have had previous discussions with the previous Vietnamese President and I think we are aligned as to how to resolve the issue.”

The President clarified that the Philippines is committed to ASEAN centrality on the West Philippine Sea issue noting that he maintains the position that only a multilateral solution is best in resolving the controversy.

Vietnam and the Philippines may also discuss the illegal Vietnamese fishermen entering the Philippine territory during President Truong’s visit to the country, President Aquino said.

The Philippine government made representations with the Vietnamese government adopting leniency although many of these fishermen violated certain laws, the President said noting however that this cannot continue.

And because these Vietnamese fishermen usually venture in the so-called disputed waters between China and Vietnam the President said the Philippines would like to adopt a humanitarian way of trying to resolve the issue but not at the expense of Filipino fishermen or the country’s flora and fauna. (PCOO)

Aquino says his government is diversifying products and markets by strengthening trade with China and other countries

President Benigno S. Aquino III said that the government is diversifying products and markets by strengthening trade with China and other countries to make up for the economic slowdown in the United States (US) and Europe."

The Chief Executive said his administration is embarking on this new economic effort to complement the P72-billion stimulus package for various infrastructure and reconstruction plans in a bid to boost the country's economic growth.

"In addition to this stimulus package, we are also diversifying products and markets by strengthening trade with China and other countries, as well as ASEAN-member countries to make up for the slowdown in both the U.S. and Europe," the President said in his speech at the Presidential forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines on Wednesday at the Mandarin Oriental, Makati City.

Acknowledging the fact that the global economic turmoil is a formidable problem, the President assured that his administration will do its best within the bounds of fiscal prudence to keep the economy growing.

"Many have said before that times of great difficulty also bring about great opportunity. Surely, one would consider at this point in time that the global economic slowdown is a formidable problem. But if history has taught us anything, it is that our capacity to become a great nation once more will be judged by how we confront these difficulties. We will not fold under the weight of these difficulties; and instead we will have opportunities to excel in," the President said in his speech.

"This is not the first time I have faced such difficulty. From the moment I stepped into office, I was faced with similar challenges. I looked at what I had been left with and I said: Where do I start? But true enough, those in our administration kept their focus, worked hard and honestly, took no shortcuts and pocketed no money, and eventually, after many sleepless nights, we found ways to turn challenge into opportunity," he stressed.

While the current global economic climate is not necessarily conducive to growth, the President said, Challenges such as this have not prevented us from progress before, and they will not prevent us from progress in the future. Yes, there are a number of causes for concern with how the global economy is doing, but the Philippine government is not afraid of acting on a problem just because it’s difficult.”

President also took the opportunity to thank FOCAP for what it has done through the years. (PCOO)