Sunday, 28 October 2012

PIA News Dispatch - Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Aquino underscores need for enhanced tourism cooperation between the Philippines and New Zealand
(AUCKLAND, New Zealand) The Philippines and New Zealand could enhance further tourism cooperation for the benefit of both countries, President Benigno S. Aquino III said.

 “The relations between our two countries can only grow stronger if our peoples gain a better understanding of our cultures, our history, and the unique experiences we can offer,” President Aquino said in his speech during the Philippine-New Zealand Business Forum held at the Convention Center of SkyCity Grand Hotel here on Tuesday.

 The number of New Zealander tourists who have visited the Philippines has grown by almost 13 percent, to more than 12,700 tourists in 2011, noted the Chief Executive.

 This development is an encouraging sign, and the two countries can do more to enhance cooperation in this sector.

 The existing Working Holiday Scheme between the Philippines and New Zealand can do much so that both countries can strengthen people-to-people relations and their shared agenda on tourism.

 Under the scheme, New Zealand citizens can spend up to a year in the Philippines, and vice versa, he said, noting that this means great things for both New Zealanders and the Filipinos.

 Through the working holiday, New Zealanders can experience Filipino culture and hospitality as well as gather and share stories about the Philippines.

 “I want to take advantage of this opportunity to extend an invitation to all of you to visit our country—whether you want to try cave-diving, relax on our beautiful beaches, or just simply go shopping, you can be sure that Filipinos will welcome you with open arms, and make your vacation well worth it,” he said.

 The Philippine government eyes to increase the annual tourist arrivals in the country to 10 million by 2016. The local tourism industry targets to achieve 4.6 million tourist arrivals in the country by the end of this year.

 This year, the Department of Tourism launched the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” tourism campaign slogan to achieve its tourist arrival targets.

 At the same time, the President encouraged New Zealand businessmen to talk with Filipino economic managers if they are interested in putting up their investments in the Philippines.

 With the reforms being carried out by the present administration, the President said, today is the most exciting time to invest in the Philippines. PND (as/6:28pm)
Aquino invites New Zealanders to visit the Philippines and see for themselves what the country can offer
 President Benigno S. Aquino III has invited the New Zealanders to visit the Philippines, saying that this is the best time to invest in the country because of the genuine reforms initiated by his administration to reduce the opportunities for corruption.

 In his speech before the Philippines-New Zealand Business Forum in Auckland, New Zealand on Tuesday, President Aquino announced to the businessmen leaders of New Zealand that the Philippines is now open for business.

 The President, who is in New Zealand for a two-day State Visit, shared the many other opportunities present in the country. He cited the geothermal energy and the Business Process Outsourcing Industry as some of the sectors in which investors may be interested in.

 “One of the areas of mutual interest to our countries is geothermal energy. We have already collaborated in the past, and this provides a solid foundation as we continue to work together through measures like the Geothermal Energy Cooperation Arrangement, which will allow us to share best practices and knowledge, and facilitate private-sector activity,” he stressed.

 “I understand that we still have somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 megawatts of untapped geothermal resources, and we can maximize these available opportunities together,” the President said.

 He noted that the Department of Energy has an investment promotion program entitled the Open and Competitive Selection Process, in which geothermal energy prospects are offered to private investors for bidding.

 “Another area that should hold great interest is our Business Process Outsourcing Industry, which has as its backbone the capable, easily-trained, and customer-oriented Filipino people. It is because of them that the Philippines is currently the world leader in voice BPO services, posting 7.38-billion U.S. dollars in revenue for 2011,” the President said.

 “I am proud to say, however, that we are diversifying, and moving up the value chain in BPO services, offering more complex services such as healthcare information management outsourcing, backroom engineering design, and animation and game development among others,” he said.

 President Aquino said that more than 700 companies have already bet on the Philippines and, “with rapid increases in employment and revenue for the BPO industry, our country has not disappointed,” he added.

 The President also assured the participants attending the business forum of a level playing field for business adding that investors will win contracts based on their ability to deliver projects not on backroom deals and political favors.

 “What we are bringing to the table today—that we believe administrations in the recent past have not been able to offer—is a business climate characterized by fairness and integrity --- where rules are clear-cut, where all are given the opportunity to profit, and where your success is determined by your strengths, adaptability, and ability to innovate,” he explained.

 After his two-day state visit to New Zealand, President Aquino and his official delegation flew to Canberra on Tuesday for a state visit to Australia. PND (co)

New Zealand Prime Minister congratulates President Aquino for the historic signing of the  Framework Agreement
 WELLINGTON, New Zealand: The fruits of President Benigno S. Aquino III’s labor in terms of fighting corruption and resolving the decades-old conflict in Mindanao did not go unnoticed in the eyes of New Zealand’s most powerful man.

In a statement delivered before fielding questions from the media in a joint press conference following their bilateral meeting last Tuesday, Prime Minister John Key personally congratulated President Aquino for the work that he’s been doing when it comes to fighting corruption.

“It takes a brave and courageous leader to undertake those steps of the President so we congratulate him for the work he’s doing there and also for his commitment to peace and security and we congratulate him for the work in signing the peace agreement in Mindanao,” Key said.

The recent historic signing of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was among the topics of interest raised by President Aquino in his separate meetings with Key and Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae.

When asked whether New Zealand has plans to put some of its investments in Mindanao given this latest positive development, Key said “that’s possible” as part of their overall investment profile.

Key, meanwhile, announced that New Zealand will be putting around NZ$5,000,000 worth of investments to the Philippines over the course of five years to help in the development of its local dairy industry.

“The Philippines is New Zealand’s fourth largest dairy export market and consumption is growing and we’ll be working with the Filipino community with the Philippines government to help us establish their own dairy industry which I know is very small at home,” Key said.

This move was apparently in answer to the very lopsided trade relations pointed out by President Aquino between the Philippines and New Zealand given the two countries’ sizeable gap in terms of population.

“The investment of NZ$5-million over five years aims to expand our, well, to impart knowledge and capability for the Philippines so that you can develop your own dairy industry. As I understand it, 99 percent of your dairy consumption is imported so you’re a very small domestic producer,” Key said.

“So we think that New Zealand can play a role in two parts: one is in helping solve the state demand as it grows but also, secondly, in building your local capability and your ability to service your own domestic market,” he added. PND (hdc)

President Aquino declares October 2012 as ‘Mechanical Engineering Month’
 President Benigno S. Aquino III has declared the month of October 2012 as “Mechanical Engineering Month” to focus public attention on the important role of mechanical engineers in the development of the country and nation building.

 The Chief Executive issued the declaration by virtue of Proclamation No. 480 signed by Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on October 1.

 President Aquino noted that the Philippine Society of Mechanical Engineers, Inc. (PSME) is an organization composed of more than 12,000 registered mechanical engineer-members in 81 chapters and some 2,500 mechanical engineering student-members in 102 universities and colleges throughout the country.

 The PSME will celebrate the “Mechanical Engineering Month” in conjunction with their 60th Diamond Anniversary and 60th Annual National Convention on October 23-26, 2012 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

 The President called on all mechanical engineers and students to give their full support to the observance of the “Mechanical Engineering Month”. PND (js)

President Aquino begins Australian leg of his trip
 CANBERRA, Australia: President Benigno S. Aquino III arrived a little over past midnight here Wednesday to begin the Australian leg of his trip which will be as busy as his recently concluded state visit to New Zealand.

 President Aquino started his official day at the Lakeside Lawn of the Government House where ceremonial welcome was prepared in his honor by Governor General Quentin Bryce complete with a 21 gun salute.

 President Aquino is said to be the second head of state to be welcomed at the Government House. The first had been Chilean President Sebastian Piñera.

 A discussion between the two leaders was held shortly followed by a state luncheon hosted by Governor General Bryce and her husband, Michael Bryce, at the dining room where a ceremonial toast was proposed.

 From there, President Aquino proceeded to the Parliament House for a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Julia Gillard at her office before meeting with other Australian ministers.

 Later in the afternoon, President Aquino laid a wreath at the Australian War Memorial and toured selected galleries.

 The President then granted an interview with Ms. Kathy Novak, a senior correspondent of the Special Broadcasting Service, before driving back to the Parliament House for the official dinner hosted by Prime Minister Gillard.

 President Aquino wrapped up his first day of activities here with a brief attendance to the state dinner hosted by Prime Minister Gillard at the private dining room of the Parliament House.

 The President apologized to his host as he had to leave the dinner early after delivering a speech because he was not feeling well.

 “I have wished I had been in more perfect health. The speech that was prepared for this evening seems so wholly inadequate. Unfortunately, this is a question of the spirit wanting and the body not cooperating at this point in time,” he remarked then went on to read the remainder of his speech.

 Prime Minister Gillard, however, still thanked President Aquino’s presence in the occasion and wished for his speedy recovery.

 “Thank you for gracing us with your presence this evening. We are very, very disappointed that you had become unwell but we wish you a very speedy recovery and a goodnight’s rest here in Australia,” she said.

 The next two days of President Aquino’s state visit here will be spent with meetings with various company executives and other leaders including the Premier of New South Wales Barry O’Farrell in Sydney.

 The President will deliver a keynote address at the Philippines-Australia Business Forum and meet with top CEOs in a roundtable setting.

 He will then address The Asia Society of Australia and the Australia Philippine Business Council before proceeding to Campbelltown to unveil a statue of Dr. Jose Rizal.

 The President will also grace a Filipino Community gathering where he is expected to encourage them to help raise the profile of the Philippines by being knowledgeable and competent sources of information on their home country, be it on history and culture, business, and tourism, among others.

 President Aquino traveled for more than three hours from Wellington, New Zealand on his way here via a chartered Philippine Airlines flight PR001.

 During the flight, the President managed to engage his fellow passengers in a brief and candid conversation about his experiences in New Zealand particularly the traditional Maori welcome or ‘powhiri’ which he seemed to have enjoyed and found most memorable. PND (hdc)

New Zealand, Philippines  ink agreements in tourism, defense and energy
 WELLINGTON, New Zealand: Three bilateral agreements in the areas of tourism, defense, and energy were signed Tuesday between the governments of the Philippines and New Zealand designed to enhance bilateral relations between the two countries.

President Benigno S. Aquino III and Prime Minister John Key witnessed the signing of agreements in a ceremony here.

An arrangement on working holiday scheme between the Philippines and New Zealand was signed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and his counterpart Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully.

This reciprocal arrangement is the first working holiday arrangement negotiated by the Philippines. It complements the strong people-to-people links that it has with New Zealand thereby providing a way for young people to experience each other’s culture.

The working holiday scheme will provide 100 temporary entry (12 month) visas to citizens between 18 to 30 years of age in each direction to New Zealand and Philippines. Once qualified, participants are limited to a maximum of three months’ work with one employer and may enroll in training or study courses within the same period.

“The endpoint is to increase the body of knowledge available with the endpoint of going back home to be able to share this expertise with the rest of our countrymen,” President Aquino said of the agreement at a joint press conference held in the Parliament Building.

The implementation of the said agreement will occur after some final process issues are worked out. It is expected that the issuance of the first visas under the scheme will start next year.

A memorandum of agreement on defense cooperation was also signed to provide a formal framework for dialogue and cooperation on defense issues reflecting New Zealand’s existing defense activities with the Philippines.

The agreement which was signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Minister McCully includes meetings between senior and military representatives, education and capacity building, training activities and exercises, information exchanges and multilateral cooperation.

 When asked whether this particular agreement had something to do with the ongoing territorial disputes that the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries have with China over the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), President Aquino responded: “Defense cooperation should not be seen as offensive to anybody, I think… Defense is just that, (it) increases our capabilities to defend ourselves against not necessarily superpower threats but even terrorist threats.”

The President stated that this agreement only “formalizes that which has already been existing” so that both countries can exchange experiences and best practices toward improving their respective forces in the arena of shared threats especially in terms of terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking, among others.

“There is need for exchange of information and abilities or enhancing each one’s abilities,” he stressed.

Key, for his part, underscored that “peace and stability in the South China Sea is critical because Asia is the fastest growing partner of the world” and they want to see its growth continued.

“Anything that disrupts its growth will have implications for the New Zealand economy. So we think peace and stability is extremely important,” Key said.

Key added, however, that New Zealand doesn’t wish to take sides on territorial disputes but does encourage dialogue and discourse towards a peaceful finding of solution to these issues which President Aquino appreciated.

“A system where (there is) peaceful resolution of disputes should be to everybody’s interest to foster and to make a reality and, towards that end, we thank countries like New Zealand amongst others that have joined in the voice to having a rules-based approach in settling all of these disputes,” the President said.

The third agreement signed between the Philippines and New Zealand was on geothermal energy cooperation which intends to provide a formal government-to-government framework to support commercial geothermal development between the two countries.

Earlier, a business deal between the Energy Development Corporation of the Philippines and New Zealand’s GNS Science was forged during a business event held in Auckland which President Aquino also witnessed.

This arrangement which was signed by Secretary Del Rosario and Minister McCully on behalf of their respective countries will help highlight geothermal connections between New Zealand and the Philippines.

“We’re second largest in terms of exploiting geothermal resources in the world and I had to be educated that our geothermal energy actually started from the New Zealand expertise… You’re still in the forefront wherein you can make our existing facilities, our methods that much more efficient, that much more longer-lasting,” President Aquino said. PND (hdc)

President Aquino vows to accelerate the transformation of the Philippines as a land of opportunity and hope for all Filipinos
 President Benigno S. Aquino III has vowed to “accelerate” the implementation of reforms in government in order to transform the Philippines as a land brimming with opportunities and hope in which all Filipinos may partake of to build their dreams and achieve their ambitions without having to look towards greener pastures.

 The President gave this promise during his speech at the state dinner held in his honor by Their Excellencies Lieutenant General The Right Honourable Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Janine Mateparae at the Government House in Wellington, New Zealand on Tuesday.

 He said his two-day State Visit to New Zealand from October 22 to 23, where he met with the Filipino community there, has made him fully understand why many Filipinos, despite being familial in nature, choose to uproot themselves and their families to work and eventually live in another country.

 “It takes substantial courage and emotional fortitude to uproot oneself -- to move away from kin, and start anew in an unfamiliar land…But in my two days here, I am somehow made to understand the reason for their leavetaking. I have witnessed the better life that my countrymen are enjoying here, borne of opportunities they would no doubt have been deprived of, had they chosen to stay in the Philippines of the past,” the President said.

 “This understanding propels me to further accelerate the transformation we are now experiencing in our country,” he added.

 He said that among the reforms he plans to implement is to provide opportunities for all Filipinos to live stable and prosperous lives.

 “Time and again, I have witnessed the decent, dignified lives of my countrymen who live abroad and that is why I have refocused government to what truly matters: Opening doors of opportunity for my people, working towards stability and prosperity, and ensuring that the growth we are experiencing is just and equitable and all inclusive,” the President said.

 “This, I know, is a goal I shared with our friends in the community of nations -- a goal whose fulfillment comes within closer reach as we expand the already fertile common ground between our nations, and lift each other to even greater heights. I look forward to a future of even deeper, even more meaningful, and even more positive engagement between our two respective countries,” he added. PND (rck)

President Aquino  cites strong relations between the Philippines and New Zealand
 President Benigno S. Aquino III cited on Tuesday the strong relations between the Philippines and New Zealand which he said has gone beyond time and history.

In his speech at the State Dinner hosted in his honor by Their Excellencies Lieutenant General The Right Honourable Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Janine Mateparae at the Government House in Wellington, New Zealand on Tuesday, the President said “the cooperation between our two countries extends farther than the 46 years that we have had diplomatic relations.”

“We remember that during World War II, Filipinos and New Zealanders fought side by side for democracy, and from there, we have continued to work shoulder to shoulder in valuing and promoting the democratic way of life,” the President said.

“Back in 1986, as earlier mentioned by the Governor General, right after my country's EDSA revolution, then Prime Minister David Lange of New Zealand was among the first to visit and offer his support to my mother, who had been recently elected after a long struggle against dictatorship. That support helped accelerate our nation's return to democracy,” he added.

The President noted the two countries’ willingness to help each other as seen during the spate of calamities that struck in the past years has further deepened our relationship and strengthened our bonds with each other.

“During the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake, Filipinos the world over stood in solidarity not only with our patriots but with you as you mourned and pledged to rebuild. And when the powerful typhoons caused flooding and destruction in Mindanao earlier this year, so, too, did New Zealanders demonstrate their solidarity by extending a helping hand,” the President stressed.

In this connection, the President extended his appreciation for New Zealand’s “generous contributions to the Philippine Red Cross and UNICEF that helped the Philippines from the typhoons and contributed to the rehabilitation of affected areas especially in the Southern Philippines.” PND(rck)