Sunday, 28 October 2012

PIA News Dispatch - Friday, October 26, 2012

President Aquino joins Muslim community in the observance of Eid'l Adha Friday


 President Benigno S. Aquino III joined the entire Muslim community in the observance and celebration of the Eid’l Adha or Eidul Adha on Friday.

 "I join our Muslim brothers and sisters in observing this important celebration. Let this be an affirmation of our solidarity in pursuing the causes of peace and development for the greater good. May your reflections lead you to an even deeper engagement in our efforts towards creating a united and equitably progressive Philippines," the Chief Executive said in his message on the observance of Eid’l Adha.

 The President said the Eid’l Adha or the Festival of Sacrifice retells and commemorates the beautiful story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his beloved son to demonstrate his trust and devotion to Allah.

 "His readiness to carry out the command of God despite the specter of personal loss and his fortitude against temptation makes him an exemplar of obedience for us all. May his example inspire us to be righteous and courageous in our undertakings, that we may follow God’s will for the betterment of ourselves and our world," he said.

 President Aquino has declared October 26 as a regular holiday throughout the country in observance of Eid’l Adha.

 The President issued Proclamation No. 488 on October 9, 2012 based on Republic Act. No. 9849, which provides that Eidul Adha shall be celebrated as a regular holiday.

 "Eidul Adha is one of the two greatest feasts of Islam. The date of the festival is based on the declaration made by Saudi Arabia's highest religious body," the President said in the proclamation.

 The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) recommended that the observance of Eidul Adha be on Oct. 26 and the Eidul Adha prayer be performed on the final declaration of the Saudi Government.

 The feast is observed after the Hajj -- the annual pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca) in Saudi Arabia.

 A duty of each Muslim, as described in the Five Pillars of Islam, is to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during their lifetime, unless they are prevented by finances or ill health.

 It is the second of the two major Muslim holy days. The other is Eid-ul-Fitr which follows Ramadan ---a lunar month of partial fasting. PND (js)

Creation of Bangsamoro would not entail amendments to the 1987 Constitution, says Aquino government


 The Aquino administration reiterated its position that the creation of the Bangsamoro would not entail amendments to the 1987 Constitution, a Palace official said on Friday.

 Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda issued the statement in a phone-patch interview in Malacanang on Friday following reports that various personalities stated the need to amend the Constitution to create the Bangsamoro and to implement the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

 "I think what is very clear was the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement was signed within the flexibility of the Constitution. Ang paniniwala po natin that the Organic Act that will be drafted ay dadaan po sa Kongreso. Ang pananaw po ng ating pamahalaan ay kaya po natin gawin ang lahat ng ito within the framework of the 1987 Constitution," he said.

 "If you look at the time table that was presented by Dean Marvic Leonen and the infographics that was provided by the PCDSPO (Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office), you will see that all these things will be done before 2016. So by 2016, election will be held na po," he said

 Lacierda said that according to government chief negotiator Leonen the law that woud create Bangsamoro would not entail amendments to the Constitution contrary to the claims of some people.

 "These are cleary how we envisioned the framework agreement and the annexes will be discussed next month," Lacierda said.

 President Benigno S. Aquino III said the government is looking at an organic act by 2015 that will create a new autonomous region in Mindanao to achieve a lasting peace in the region.

 During the forum held at Shangri-La Hotel in Sydney in Australia, the President said his administration has set a very tight deadline to realize the new autonomous entity in Mindanao.

 The organic act must be enacted into law by 2015, the President said, noting that the draft will come from the Bangsamoro. This has to pass Congress and approved by the people in a plebiscite.

 The Chief Executive said he hopes to install the new government with a mandate after the 2016 elections. He also foresees an interim authority governing from 2015 to 2016.

 To achieve lasting regional peace, the President acknowledged the need for a thorough political reform in Mindanao particularly in the autonomous area.

 There are proposals for the inclusion in the new organic act of the designation of a chief minister who will be responsible to a committee composed of several stakeholders in the region. This will serve as an automatic check and balance to prevent abuse of power of the governing officials, the President said. PND (js)

Aquino optimistic about economic recovery of Europe and the United States


 President Benigno S. Aquino III expressed optimism that Europe and the United States can soon recover from the economic slowdown that they are encountering by relying on the abilities and faith of their people.

 “I tend to be optimistic as far as the human spirit is concerned,” President Aquino said during the Business Forum hosted by the Asia Society in Sydney, Australia. The President was asked during the forum about his views on how long the current crisis sweeping Europe and the US would last.

 “I think what we have managed to do in the Philippines will happen in varying degrees elsewhere. I can’t tell you that we are about to crest the hill but I think we are approaching that crest. All it takes is a little bit of faith and optimism in our fellowmen. Otherwise, we will accelerate the process of suffering for everybody,” he added.

 There are pressures on everybody to become pessimistic particularly on every leader, the President said noting that the present European and US situations were the main topics during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, this year.

 During a meeting with Christine Lagarde, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) chief, there was a proposal to enhance domestic liquidity. What comes to mind is the situation heading towards the same scenario before the Great Depression in the 1930s when everybody was dragged into a deepened recession, the President said.

 The President however, said that everyone should hope that man has a capacity to improve and he can learn from history to correct the present mistakes and effectively address future challenges.

 “If things will get worse it will be self-fulfilling and it also can be self-fulfilling in the reverse. So the governments especially Europe are being asked to finally address the situation that used to be the proverbial can that got kicked down,” he said.

 “I’m sure that very reasonable men and women are talking and that we will come into solutions that demonstrate our collective capacity to improve as species,” the President added.

 The slowdown in Europe was the result of the 2008 global financial crisis. The European situation already resulted to social unrest with the majority of Europeans venting their sentiments over harsh budget cuts and other austerity measures aimed at rescuing failing economies such as Greece and Spain.

 Among the badly hit European nations include Greece, Portugal, Spain, and Italy. PND (as/2:16pm)

Aquino cites infrastructure, tourism and agriculture as topmost priorities of government


 President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Thursday that infrastructure, tourism and agriculture are the topmost priorities of government to help support economic growth.

 "There are three particular aspects of the economy that we are very keen on. First, of course, is to meet the infrastructure need; second, the low-lying fruit that we have identified is tourism; the third, obviously is agriculture," the Chief Executive said during the Business Forum hosted by the Asia Society on Thursday at the Shangri La Hotel, Sydney in Australia.

 While the Philippines has sufficient liquidity, a stable exchange rate and a “manageable” inflation outlook along with “fiscal space” to help support economic growth, President Aquino stressed the need to strenghten the country's tourism which is another major economic contributor to the Philippine economy.

 "In terms of tourism, we are very happy to note that our target by 2016 when I step down will be from a base of about three million tourists annually, we will now have a base of 10 million," he said.

 "So more or less a year into office of our new Secretary of Tourism, we’re already on target to meet 4.6 million tourists by the end of this year. So we’re almost halfway there. We’re just slightly about a third of our term into office," the President noted.

 Likewise, the Aquino government remains optimistic that it will achieve its goal of rice self-sufficiency by 2013, the President stressed.

 "Previously, we were conditioned to believe that we had to import a minimum of 1.3 million tons of rice and, if weather cooperates, I am told that we might be exporting the higher varieties of rice, which will make my visits to the countries that we used to import from, much more pleasant because they always told me that they studied in the Philippines; they learned the lessons so well that now the masters have to eat from the toil of the students," he said.

 According to the President, he intends to implement more infrastructure projects aimed at providing reliable, safe, and affordable public transportation system nationwide.

 "We’re trying in support of the tourism venture, and also for connectivity, we’re improving a lot of our airports. There’s a new proposal for a new nautical highway to link Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao that will cut down travel time from three days to 15 hours which is presently being studied. This is a collection of roll-on, roll-off ports and highways that will connect the same," he said.

 "Light rail systems also. Manila is a very old city. Urban planning probably was not yet invented as a concept when it was started out and, unfortunately, when it started existing, too many—too few people rather, paid attention to it," he said, adding that he would not want to be the one to kick the can to the next president who will try and solve issues like flooding; how to move 14 million residents in the national capital region more efficiently and more productively," he concluded. PND (js)

Aquino welcomes elevation of Manila Archbishop Antonio Tagle to Cardinal of Catholic Church

 SYDNEY, Australia: President Benigno S. Aquino III welcomed the recent elevation of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle as the new Cardinal of the Catholic Church in the Philippines by Pope Benedict XVI from the Vatican.

 “Archbishop Tagle is somebody I really admire from way back, and it’s really a credit to what he has done for the church and for its followers to be recognized and given this singular honor. And we applaud the decision of the Vatican in naming him as Cardinal,” President Aquino said in an interview by the Philippine media delegation Thursday evening here.

 Tagle, 55, succeeded Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales to become the 32nd Archbishop of Manila. He is widely known for his conservatism and charismatic nature, highlighting many social issues in the country with emphasis on helping the poor and the needy.

 He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Pre-Divinity from Ateneo and later, a Bachelor of Arts in Theology degree at the Loyola School of Theology before completing a Doctorate in Sacred Theology at the Catholic University of America from 1987 to 1991, Summa cum Laude.

 Apart from Tagle, Pope Benedict XVI also named five other new cardinals who would be elevated at a consistory on November 24, including Monsignor James Harvey, the American prefect of the pope's household; Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan; Archbishop of Bogota, Colombia Ruben Salazar Gomez; Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites in Lebanon, Bechara Boutros Rai; and the major Archbishop of the Trivandrum of the Siro-Malankaresi in India, Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal.

 Tagle’s selection as cardinal by the Vatican adds to the euphoria that thousands of Filipinos still have following the recent canonization of the second Filipino saint, San Pedro Calungsod, last Sunday. PND (hdc)

President Aquino leads unveiling of statue of Jose Rizal in Australia


 CAMPBELLTOWN CITY, New South Wales: President Benigno S. Aquino III led the unveiling ceremony of  the statue of Philippine national hero Dr. Jose Rizal at a park dedicated in his honor on Friday here.

 In his brief remarks, President Aquino said the Rizal statue “shows how not only the economic contributions of Filipinos, but also their history and culture, are increasingly being recognized in Australia.”

 “This monument, in this park, pays homage to his ideals and will be an enduring pledge that those ideals will continue to guide us, and that Australians will be there, as true friends, in our collective quest for even better lives for our peoples,” he added.

 Among those who witnessed the occasion were the Honorable Barry O’Farrell, Premier of the New South Wales; Campbelltown Mayor Sue Dobson; Most Reverend Peter Ingham, Bishop of Wollongong; and Enrique Reyes, great grandson of Rizal’s eldest sister, Saturnina, who now lives in Mudgee, New South Wales.

 New South Wales has five Rizal landmarks in Australia including the Rizal Park in Blacktown City, the bust of Rizal at the Plaza Ibero-Americana near the Sydney Central Station, the Rizal Statue in Ashfield Park, the Rizal Park and the Rizal Street in Campbelltown.

 President Aquino conveyed his sincerest and deepest appreciation to the Australian Federal Government, the Government of New South Wales under the leadership of Premier O’Farrell, and the Campbelltown City Council for their generous support to this endeavor.

 “Not only is this an affirmation of the importance of Filipinos to your national life, it is also a celebration of Australian inclusiveness and diversity,” the President said.

 Premier O’Farrell, in his own remarks, said he couldn’t help but see some similarities between the Philippine president and the national hero as he read their respective biographies.

 The Premier said President Aquino and Rizal are like "two men driven by social issues facing their countrymen who are determined through peaceful means to deliver change to their country and who understood the power of words."

 It was also the New South Wales chief who called President Aquino a “phenomenon” when they first met at the state luncheon hosted by the former in honor of the visiting Philippine leader last Thursday.

 “I’ve never before met a phenomenon. And I know, Mr. President, that the Noynoy phenomenon was (an) incredible force, an incredible force for good in a country where democracy has never been able to be taken for granted in a way that we in this country take democracy for granted,” O’Farrell was quoted as saying.

 President Aquino, meanwhile, commended as well the “civic spirit” displayed by the members of the Rizal Park Movement of Campbelltown who were the ones behind the realization of this project.

 “I commend all of you for your efforts, and I wish you success on your future plans to further enhance the facilities of the park. Your civic spirit has sparked, in turn, generosity on the part of Filipinos at home,” President Aquino said.

 The Rizal statue was donated by world-renowned Filipino sculptor and artist Eduardo Castrillo. It portrays Rizal during his colorful stay in Europe holding a copy of  Noli Me Tangere, the first book he penned and published, dressed in a European suit, with his left hand raised in readiness to the approaching storm. PND (hdc)

Aquino rallies support from Filipinos in Australia for government's continuing reforms

 President Benigno S. Aquino III asked the Filipino community in Australia to support his administration to realize its goal of bringing better life to every Filipino.

 In his speech during his meeting with the Filipinos in New South Wales, Australia, the President said his administration has started the momentum of reforming the country and laying the groundwork for it to become globally competitive.

 The President said he’ll do everything to improve the lives of Filipinos adding that when he steps down in 2016, he will proudly report to the people that he was able to reverse the country’s worse condition.

 He pointed out that Filipinos staying in Australia could go home in a better and more peaceful Philippines.

 “Naninindigan ako sa patuloy ninyong pakikiisa, dahil hindi pa tapos ang ating laban. Samahan po ninyo ako: Isang bansa nating tahakin ang tuwid na landas, at isang bansa nating abutin ang katuparan ng atin mga pangarap,” the President said. “Ulitin ko po, sa inyo nagmula ang susi ng pagbabago. Ipagpatuloy natin itong pagbabagong ito.”

 The President stressed that the  government has achieved many successes such as providing better education, healthcare, infrastructure and assisting the poor through pro-poor programs.

 In education for instance, the President  said, the government targets to eliminate 40,000 classroom backlogs before the end of this year. And for 2013, the government could fill the 68,000 classroom shortage in the country.

 In terms of assisting the poor, the President said, 3.1 million Filipino families are currently benefiting from the Conditional Cash Transfer program of the government, the President said adding that it  also achieved 85 percent coverage for the universal healthcare program of the administration.

 The Chief Executive  also reported successes in food security, noting that the agriculture department is eyeing to  make the country rice self sufficient. It will also target to export the staple if good weather permits bountiful harvests, he said.

 Graft and corruption was eliminated in the public works and highways department, the President said noting the department successfully started building major infrastructure projects for the welfare of the people. These include roads, bridges, airports, seaports and many others that will help boost trade and tourism, he said.

 Overall, while other countries struggle to gain footing because of the ongoing global economic crisis, the President emphasized that  the Philippines was able to post 6.1 percent gross domestic product growth in the first semester of the year.

 “Ibang-iba na ang mukha ng Pilipinas. Tunay nga pong ang sarap maging Pilipino ngayon. Taas-noo tayong nakakaharap sa buong mundo; kaya nating sabihing, oo, kaya naming magkamit ng pagbabago,” the President said.

 President Aquino, who embarked on a week-long trip to New Zealand and Australia, will be arriving in Manila Friday evening.   PND (as)

President Aquino to issue an executive order creating Office of Secretary to the Cabinet, Malacanang says

 President Benigno S. Aquino III is set to issue an executive order (EO) creating the Office of the Secretary to the Cabinet after the Chief Executive has tapped Jose Rene Almendras to the new cabinet post.

 The President announced in Australia last Thursday that Leyte Governor Jericho Petilla will assume his post as the new Energy Secretary  replacing Almendras, who will become the Secretary to the Cabinet.

 "We will come up with an executive order creating the Office of the Secretary to the Cabinet and also delineating the jobs, responsibilities of the Secretary to the Cabinet.  In fact, ’yung EO po is being reviewed right now. Nakasaad doon ang mga responsibilities ng Secretary to the Cabinet," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during a phone-patch interview in Malacanang on Friday

 "As always, there will be no overlapping of duties para at least klaro kung ano ang responsibilidad ng Cabinet to the Secretary," Lacierda said.

 "The movement, by the way, is a lateral movement. It’s not because he is not pleased with Secretary Almendras, in fact, he is now going to work closer with the President on a day to day basis. We, the senior staff in the Palace, are privileged to work with the President on a daily basis," Lacierda said.

 President Aquino, who is on a state visit to Australia, announced the minor revamp in his two-year-old Cabinet.

 The President said he has chosen Petilla because they have the same views and that his experience in the private sector would help him in running the energy department.

 Petilla’s private sector experience will eliminate the possibility of regulatory capture once he assumes as energy secretary, the President said. The President also said that Petilla is a problem-solver as he noted the Leyte governor’s style of handling and running the provincial government of Leyte.

 Petilla, 49, is a close ally of the President. He chose not to run for any elective post in the May 13, 2013, elections, contrary to rumors that he would seek a congressional seat in Leyte.

 Petilla, who is on his third and last term as governor, acknowledged the sensitivity of the position since the present energy policies would affect the country’s energy situation several years from now.

 This is the first time President Aquino designated a secretary to the Cabinet since he assumed office in 2010. PND (js)

President Aquino flies home from successful State Visits to New Zealand and Australia

 SYDNEY, Australia: President Benigno S. Aquino III successfully concluded his three-day state visit here with his ‘favorite part’ of the trip, that of meeting members of the Filipino community at the John Therry Catholic School in Rosemeadow, Campbelltown City.

  President Aquino began his week-long foreign trip with a Filipino community event in Auckland, New Zealand last Monday where  he said he is happy to end it with another group of countrymen this time in Sydney, Australia.

  “Kayo po ang huli kong speaking engagement sa biyaheng ito. Talaga pong magiging maligaya ako sa paglipad pauwi dahil napagitna ang ating official visit sa paborito kong bahagi ng pagbiyahe: ang makausap at makahalubilo ang ating mga Filipino community sa labas ng bansa,” the President said  in his speech.

 President Aquino presented a transformed Philippines with an economy that has been turned around and is continuing to gain speed in most, if not all, of the speaking engagements he had during the course of his five-day working trip.

  “Ibang-iba na ang mukha ng Pilipinas. Tunay nga pong ang sarap maging Pilipino ngayon. Taas-noo tayong nakakaharap sa buong mundo; kaya nating sabihing, oo, kaya naming magkamit ng pagbabago. Paano po nangyari ito? Dahil sa inyo; kayo ang gumawa nito. Ginusto ninyo ang pagbabago; kumilos kayo tungo sa pagbabago, at sa tulong ninyo, ipagpapapatuloy natin ang pagbabago,” the President told Filipinos here.

  President Aquino’s two-day state visit in New Zealand earned the country a NZ$5-million investment commitment to help develop the Philippine local dairy industry within a five-year period. This was announced by no less than his counterpart Prime Minister John Key.

  Three bilateral agreements including the working holiday scheme, an arrangement on defense cooperation, and an arrangement on geothermal energy cooperation were also signed between the governments of the Philippines and New Zealand.

 Buoyed by the 6.1 percent gross domestic product growth in the first semester of 2012 as well as the positive comments made by international publications, President Aquino encouraged the international business community to “ride the wave of optimism” and do business in the country.

 He announced several opportunities in the Philippines which investors can take advantage of including infrastructure projects via the public-private partnership program and other ventures in the fields of business process outsourcing (BPO), shipbuilding, and mining, among others.

 In an interview with the Philippine media delegation last Thursday evening, President Aquino said Australia’s MacQuarie partnered with the Government Service Insurance System to set up an infrastructure fund amounting to US$600-million to assist the country’s infrastructure drive.

  The Philippines and Australia have also strengthened their economic relationship and regional partnership as President Aquino and Prime Minister Julia Gillard witnessed the signing of a new Air Services Agreement! that will help lay the groundwork for increased trade and people-to-people links between the two countries.

 Both leaders also agreed that the economic relationship between Australia and the Philippines holds great promise, building on the strong foundation provided by the Agreement Establishing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area.

 Prior to boarding a chartered Philippine Airlines flight PR001 bound for Manila, President Aquino witnessed a counter terrorism demonstration at the 2nd Commando Regiment, Special Forces Training Facility.

  President Aquino and his delegation left Sydney at around 1:30 p.m. (AU time) and they are expected to be in Manila at 6:10 p.m. (Manila time). PND (hdc)

President Aquino's state visits to New Zealand, Australia yield significant investments, job opportunities for Filipinos

 President Benigno S. Aquino III said his six-day visit to New Zealand and Australia yielded new investments and job opportunities for Filipinos for the benefit of the country's economy as a whole.

 In his arrival message,  President Aquino said he talked to New Zealand’s GNS Science, which is tieing up with the Philippines’s Energy Development Corp. to enhance the country’s capability in harnessing geothermal energy.

 The President said he  and the members of his delegation also assisted the Philippine company Alliance Select in talking to Akaroa Salmon, a New Zealand company. Alliance Select bought 80 percent of Akaroa Salmon.

 In Australia, the Atlantic Gulf & Pacific, located in Batangas talked with its client, the consortium composed of Japan Gas Corp., Kellogg Brown and Root and JKC.

 They have discussed a $200 million natural gas project, in which the Australians expressed their confidence that Filipinos can do the critical aspects of their operations in a timely manner, the President said.

 The contract between AG&P and JKC will create additional 1,500 new jobs at AG&P’s facility in Batangas, he added.

 Macquarie bank based in Australia also had a discussion with his delegation, the President said. Macquarie is working with the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to create the Pinai fund worth $625 million.

 According to the President, the  fund will be used to bid for infrastructure projects in the Philippines noting that  Macquarie already bidded in the LRT project in the past. Now it is expressing interest in the NAIA expressway project.

 The President also said that the Australian shipbuilder, Austal also plans to expand its shipbuilding operations in Cebu, which will create 1,000 new jobs.

 Already having 10,000 employees in the Philippines, Telstra, another Australian company, is planning to expand operations in the country,  If the project pushes through, the expansion will result to additional 2,000 to 4,000 new jobs in the Philippines, the President stressed.

 The President said he also talked with the leaders of  New Zealand and Australia, where he met with  New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and the head of New Zealand opposition parliament member, David Shearer and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and parliament member Tony Abbott, the head of Australia’s opposition.

 “Sa mga usapan nilinaw natin sa kanila ang pangangailangan ng istabilidad sa rehiyon upang magpatuloy ang pag-arangkada ng ating mga ekonomiya. Kinausap din natin sila ukol sa ugnayan sa kalakalan at sa masiglang pakikihalubilo ng mga mamamayan,” he said.

 The President said the Australian officials congratulated the Philippine government for signing a peace deal with the Muslim separatists in Mindanao. In turn,  he also thanked  the Australian government for its continuing assistance for Mindanao’s development.

 The President also said that  Australia and the Philippines signed an air services agreement that will help enhance the commercial airline services in the Philippines.

 He noted that The Philippines and New Zealand likewise sealed several agreements that will strengthen their ties particularly in energy and defense cooperation.

 In concluding his message, the President expressed his gratitude to the members of his Cabinet as well as the country’s business delegation who joined him in the successful New Zealand and Australia visits.  PND (as/8:58pm)