Sunday, 28 October 2012

PIA News Dispatch - Thursday, October 25, 2012

President Aquino continues to reap praises for historic signing of the Framework Agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
 CANBERRA, Australia: President Benigno S. Aquino III continues to reap praises from state leaders on the recent historic signing of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

In their respective speeches at the state dinner held Wednesday evening here, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Senator George Brandis both commended President Aquino for having reached a deal with the MILF.

“We applaud your leadership, Mr. President, in seeking to bring peace and stability to Mindanao… We congratulate you on reaching a Framework Peace Agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” Gillard said.

“We share your hope that a peace agreement will end this decades-long conflict and we will work with you and the people of Mindanao to ensure the benefits of peace are felt as real progress for all,” she added.

Mindanao is the recipient of around half of Australia’s development assistance to the Philippines, Gillard said adding that their continuing projects there especially in the areas of education and social welfare are very vital.

“The work we are doing together particularly in education, training teachers, building classrooms, developing curriculum for Islamic and indigenous children, training out-of-school youths to give them an alternative to conflict, supporting social protection programs for the poorest families is vital to this end,” she said.

Brandis, for his part, stated that friends of the Philippines have also been encouraged by the peace deal signed earlier this month which they hope will finally bring an end to the long-running rebellionin the southern Philippines.

In a press briefing held earlier with Manila-based reporters, Philippine Ambassador Belen Anota mentioned that the Australian government even said the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement “can be used as a model for other peace processes in the region.”

 “I think that’s a very good sign of Australia’s very strong support for us and a strong affirmation of the accomplishments of the President,” Anota said.

In a joint press statement issued by Prime Minister Gillard and President Aquino following their bilateral meeting, the two leaders agreed that it would now be important for the agreement to be fully implemented, resulting in significant improvements to the security and prosperity of communities across the southern Philippines.

“Prime Minister Gillard congratulated President Aquino on the signing on 15 October 2012 of a Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, an insurgency movement in southern Philippines that entered into negotiations with the government in the late 90s. Both leaders hoped the Agreement would provide a basis for genuine, lasting peace in Mindanao,” the statement read.

Prime Minister Gillard and President Aquino, moreover, announced a development program to contribute to building peace and stability in Mindanao, by improving access to education through the BEAM-ARMM (Basic Education Assistance to Mindanao – Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) that will support the most disadvantaged conflict-affected communities.

“The program will introduce community-based education in remote communities, integrate health and hygiene programs in schools, develop technical and vocational training for out-of-school youth, and increase access to quality early childhood and basic education,” the statement said. PND (hdc)

Government  aggressively investing in people, Aquino says
 President Benigno S. Aquino III said his administration has aggressively invested in people so that Filipinos don’t leave their families to work abroad and instead encourage those who left to return home.

 Leaving overseas should be an option not a necessity for the people, the President said during a business forum in Australia on Thursday.

 To meet its goal, the government increased the budget for education and healthcare since 2011, he said. In the proposed 2013 budget, the public will see substantial increases in terms of spending for education and health, he added.

 The President noted that from 63 percent, the government was able to achieve 85-percent national health insurance program coverage. As the administration increased the number of people covered, it also widened the number of diseases covered by the health plan.

 “We believe our greatest resource is our people therefore the investments have to enable our people to seize the opportunities that would be coming,” the President said.

 “Our mantra is inclusive growth. We also believe that direct intervention to accelerate the process of their being included in the growth of the economy is as important,” he said.

 The Chief Executive also acknowledged the need to shift the focus of the government’s thrust from consumer-driven economy to investment-driven one.

 “We would like to move that from consumer to investment driven and that is the focus of this administration, providing more and more opportunities for our countrymen at home. We are not doing that on a passive basis,” he stressed.

 Currently, the President said there are about 10 million Filipinos scattered around the world that the government has to protect if there are uncertainties.

 According to the President, if overseas Filipino workers opt to go back, there are available reintegration programs being carried out by the government that include financial assistance, loans and livelihood training. PND (as/1:50pm)

Malacanang says Department of Agrarian Reform starts inventory to fast-track land distribution to legitimate farmers of Hacienda Luisita
 The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has started conducting inventory to fast-track the distribution of land to legitimate Hacienda Luisita farmers, a Palace official said on Thursday.

The Aquino government began implementing the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) Law, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during the regular press briefing in Malacanang on Thursday.

"Noon pa po, ilang buwan na nakaraan ay pumunta po ang DAR sa Hacienda Luisita, ini-enbentaryo na po lahat ang beneficiaries. Ang sabi po ng Korte ng Suprema, ang gagawin natin basehan kung sino ang entitled sa lupa sa Hacienda Luisita ay iyong mga farmer-beneficiaries nung 1989," Lacierda said.

President Benigno S. Aquino III vowed to distribute to legitimate farmer beneficiaries all lands covered by the CARPER during his administration.

The Chief Executive remains committed to complete the objectives of the CARPER and attain genuine agricultural development in the country.

Last June, President Aquino met with the farmers' groups and Church officials to reaffirm his commitment to land reform programs. He also reiterated his vigorous support for the development of our countryside.

During the meeting with the farmers, Church officials and other stakeholders last June, President Aquino approved the setting up of a multi-stakeholders mechanism to complete the objectives of the CARPER before it expires in 2014.

The multi-stakeholders mechanism that is composed of representatives from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and other CARP-implementing agencies of the government, the church, non-government organizations, peoples’ organizations, and other farmers' groups and federations, monitors the implementation of the CARP. PND (js)

President Aquino urges Australian businessmen to ‘ride the wave of optimism’ and invest in the Philippines
 SYDNEY, Australia: President Benigno S. Aquino III on Thursday encouraged businessmen here to “ride the wave of optimism” and invest in the Philippines which, he said, has reeled from its previous tag of being the ‘Sick Man of Asia’ to ‘Asia’s Next Tiger.’

Speaking before a roomful of audience at the Philippines-Australia business forum held at the Shangri La Hotel, President Aquino took pride at the positive comments made on the Philippines by several publications and analysts as well as the actions taken by international credit ratings agencies in recent months.

“The Philippine economy has been turned around, and it is continuing to gain speed. And I am here today to invite you all to come along, and to be part of the Philippine story,” President Aquino said.

President Aquino announced several opportunities 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.

“We will be putting up more projects for bidding in our Public-Private Partnership program. Right now, there are around 21 projects in the pipeline, including the water supply project of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System worth 25 billion pesos,” the President said.

“Knowing just how many infrastructure builders and investors are here in Australia, might I invite all of you to study these projects, and, if the shoe fits, to work with us for our mutual benefit,” he added.

Recognizing that the BPO sector in the country has been the “force that has buoyed the Philippine economy” for the past decade or so, the President vowed that his administration will keep working to provide industries the talent they need to continue and even expand their operations.

“Our ambition for our BPO sector is for it to be the world’s number one --not just in Voice BPO, but in other services higher up the value chain as well. I believe our workers have the talent to do it, and I invite your companies to come over and be part of it,” he said.

There are also opportunities in shipbuilding investments in the country especially after the President’s meeting with Austal, an Australian company which already has operations in the Philippines that specializes in the design and construction of aluminum vessels, earlier in the day.

 “Considering our skilled work force and the sheer amount of coastline we have, perhaps it comes as no surprise that we have the fourth largest shipbuilding industry in the world. I know that Austal has already made some investments in Cebu, and we are hoping for even more in the future,” he said.

President Aquino, also reiterated the potential of the mining industry in the Philippines given the estimated untapped mineral wealth amounting to 951 billion dollars. He said the Philippines wishes to take advantage of this wealth in the most equitable and environmentally -friendly manner.

“The issuance of Executive Order 79 earlier this year, which laid out the legal framework under which mining can be practiced in the Philippines, is putting an end to years where mining was often seen as an environmentally harmful and socially unacceptable industry,” the President said.

“Soon, we expect a bill to be passed through Congress that will make sure that the benefits of mining will be experienced, in an equitable manner, by all stakeholders —from the investors, to the government, and to current and future generations of Filipinos,” he said.

According to the President, mining is an industry that is worth looking into, especially for Australian mining companies, who have the size, expertise, and global best practices to take on large, long-term developmental projects in the Philippines.

“Truly, opportunities abound in the Philippines. As President, I encourage all of you to ride the wave of optimism —to get on the next flight to our country, and to discover for yourselves what the Filipino can offer,” the President said.

“The first step can start right here, right now. I look forward to the contacts to be made between yourselves and my economic team. You will find them sensible, sincere, and efficient, and I believe they will do a good job in convincing you that it is not just more fun in the Philippines, but also more profitable,” he concluded. PND (hdc)

Aquino government eyes for an effective organic act in 2015
 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, President Benigno S. Aquino III said in a business forum in Sydney, Australia on Thursday.

 During the forum held at Shangri-La Hotel in Sydney, 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.

 The President also expressed high hopes for Mindanao saying that there are proposals to build infrastructures to connect the region with Luzon using a nautical highway by cutting down the travel time from three days to 15 hours.

 According to the President, the national government is committing between P20 to P21 billion for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) this year.

 The money is allocated to provide for the infrastructure development, livelihood opportunities, and investments in the human resource that translates into education and health services, he stressed.

 The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed last week the Framework Agreement for Mindanao, which sets the parameters for a new autonomous region with the ultimate goal of ending 40 years of Muslim separatism in the south. PND (as/2:37pm)

President Aquino  remains committed to push country’s economic growth with minimal political risk
 President Benigno S. Aquino IIII remains committed to push for the country's economic growth in a solid upward trajectory by minimizing political risks.

 The government has taken significant steps to achieve its goal to further improve the country's business climate, the Chief Executive said during a business forum in Australia on Thursday.

 "We have taken the necessary steps to ensure that the goal of minimizing political risks does happen," President Aquino said.

 "The very first promise I made to our countrymen was to provide jobs. And previously businesses that came into the country were, if you were to use an analogy, they were made to jump through several hoops and a lot of the hoops were very unnecessary," he said.

 To fulfill his promise, the President said that he has to confront the many dimensions of commercial and political risks to entice business entities to come to the Philippines to invest.

 "One of the ways by which we can do this is if needed they can go to MIGA ---which stands for Multilateral Investment Guarantee ---which is a subsidiary of the World Bank," the President said.

 "Now, again, we cannot commit future legislatures to a particular limitation of their powers ---because they are a co-equal branch.We don’t expect, or we do suspect that they will be changing policies, because that is the center point of our guide to improve the business conditions in our country, ---and that is to provide a stable environment for policy, ---clear cut regulations," he said.

 President Aquino also announced several opportunities that 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. PND (js)

Philippines, Australia strengthen economic relationship
 CANBERRA, Australia: Philippines and Australia have strengthened their economic relationship and regional partnership following the recently concluded bilateral meeting between visiting President Benigno S. Aquino III and Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

In a joint statement issued after a meeting at the Parliament House last Wednesday, President Aquino and Prime Minister Gillard shared the objective of increasing two-way trade and investment flows and agreed on the importance of a stable and predictable regulatory environment.

“The leaders 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,” the joint statement said.

Prime Minister Gillard acknowledged President Aquino’s reform agenda to promote good governance, transparency and accountability in government as they agreed to continue working in regional and multilateral forums to advance regional economic integration and resist trade protectionism.

Both leaders have also discussed the potential of the mining sector to the Philippines’ development though there were no significant investment commitments made yet since the Philippines is still under the process of clearing out its mining rules and regulations.

“We haven’t actually quantified yet what kind of investments we expect to get from mining right now. What we told them and what they understand is that we have not put in place the rules (yet),” Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ramon Carandang told a press briefing here.

Prime Minister Gillard described the mining industry’s role in Australia’s economic success, its leadership in environmentally sustainable and socially responsible mining, and the contribution Australian companies could make in the responsible development of the Philippine mining sector, particularly the development of Mindanao.

The Australian leader also welcomed President Aquino’s recent announcement that the Philippines will apply to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. They also noted the development cooperation activities provided by Australia that will support responsible mining in the Philippines.

A recent agreement to extend Australian market access for Philippine mangoes was also announced by Prime Minister Gillard which will be welcomed equally by Australian consumers and mango growers in the Philippines.

Prime Minister Gillard and President Aquino also witnessed the signing of a new Air Services Agreement between Australia and the Philippines which will help lay the groundwork for increased trade and people to people links.

 Both leaders also welcomed the recent entry into force of the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement between Australia and the Philippines as well as the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Combating Transnational Crime and Developing Police Cooperation between the Australian Federal Police and the Philippine National Police.

“The leaders noted the high level of cooperation between Australia and the Philippines on counter-terrorism,” the joint statement said.

Prime Minister Gillard also expressed appreciation for the Philippines’ strong support for Australia’s United Nations Security Council bid. She and President Aquino likewise agreed to increase collaboration in regional and global forums.

The two leaders underlined the importance of a successful East Asia Leaders’ Summit in November 2012, including discussion of political and security issues. Both leaders noted that the Philippines is the country coordinator for ASEAN-Australia dialogue for the next three years.

On the issue of the South China Sea, the Australian government shied away from taking a position on competing territorial claims but vouched for the Philippines’ view to settle the dispute through a rules-based multilateral approach.

“Prime Minister Gillard noted that Australia did not take a position on competing territorial claims, but called on claimant governments to clarify and pursue their territorial claims in accordance with international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” the joint statement said.

“President Aquino stressed that peace and stability in the region is a concern of all states and that central to this is a rules-based approach in addressing issues in accordance with international law. Both leaders recognized the need for governments to exercise restraint and refrain from actions that could further increase tensions. The two leaders encouraged ASEAN countries and China to conclude a regional Code of Conduct in the South China Sea at an early date," continued the statement.

In conclusion, both President Aquino and Prime Minister Gillard expressed satisfaction with the two countries’ strong government to government relations underpinned by their close and growing people-to-people ties.

Filipinos are one of the fastest growing immigrant communities in Australia, with some 225,000 currently living in Australia, making an important contribution to the Australian economy and society. In addition, some 6000 Filipino students are currently enrolled across all sectors of the Australian education system, according to the statement.

The two leaders welcomed their deepening and broadening partnership that would further enhance already strong bilateral, regional and multilateral cooperation on shared strategic interests.

They also welcomed the inaugural bilateral Strategic Dialogue held in October 2012 and agreed to consider ways to further deepen and broaden the political, security, economic, and people-to-people relationship.

Lastly, the two Leaders welcomed recent high-level bilateral engagements and visits, including the visit to the Philippines by Australia’s Governor-General Quentin Bryce AC CVO, and the visits to Australia by a number of Philippine Cabinet Secretaries. PND (hdc)