President Aquino meets with Prime Minister Singh of India in bilateral meeting
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: President Benigno S. Aquino III met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a bilateral meeting on Sunday at the Sofitel Phnom Penh where both committed for stronger cooperation to address current challenges.
The two leaders acknowledged that the Philippines and India can “learn from each other’s challenges” as they explore opportunities to further boost their economic ties.
During the bilateral meeting, Prime Minister Singh and President Aquino exchanged views on the current global financial situation in light of the European economic crisis, US unemployment, and the economic slowdown in Asia.
The Indian prime minister suggested that both countries contribute to a “pool of wisdom, knowledge and experience” to cope with the economic challenges.
With regards to ensuring peace and stability in the West Philippine Sea, Prime Minister Singh said his country shares the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) concern for ensuring freedom of navigation and maritime security in the contested area.
He said barriers to trade must also be removed to achieve vibrant economic activity.
The Indian leader also congratulated President Aquino for signing the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement noting that both countries can benefit from sharing experiences in the handling of post-conflict rebuilding. India also has a Muslim separatism problem in Kashmir.
President Aquino informed his Indian counterpart that he is sending Vice President Jejomar Binay to represent him in the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit on December 20 to 21 in New Delhi that marks the 20th anniversary of the ASEAN-India dialogue.
Singh said the commemorative summit signifies the full fruition of India’s integration with the ASEAN. PND (as)
President Aquino orders Department of Foreign Affairs to step up efforts in ensuring safety of Filipinos in Gaza Strip and in Israel
President Benigno S. Aquino III directed the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to step up its efforts in ensuring the safety of Filipinos amid the escalating tensions in the Gaza Strip and in Israel, a Palace official said on Monday.
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during the regular press briefing in Malacanang on Monday that the Chief Executive ordered the DFA to update him on developments in the Gaza Strip and in Israel and provide assistance to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and Filipinos residing there.
"Si (DFA Spokesman) Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez nagsalita na po. Magpapadala po ang DFA ng teams po doon to monitor. Inatasan po kami ng Pangulo to update him kahit na nasa Cambodia siya. Noong bago pa po siya umalis, he already asked us to update him on a regular basis kung ano ang nangyayari doon," Lacierda said.
"Ang concern po ni Pangulong Aquino is for the safety of the Filipinos in the Gaza Strip and also in Israel. So, that’s the reason why the DFA is sending teams to monitor the safety of the Filipinos there," he said.
The DFA has not reported any Filipino casualty in the conflict-stricken Gaza Strip.
The Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv is closely monitoring the situation of Filipinos following the resurgence of violence between Israel and militant Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip.
There are about 100 Filipinos in the Gaza Strip while about 41, 000 are working in mainland Israel, the DFA said.
The Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv advised all Filipino communities in Gaza and Israel to remain vigilant and alert. PND (js)
Aquino government steps up campaign against investment scam in Mindanao
The Aquino government is stepping up its campaign against investment scams amid the Aman Futures investment scheme that victimized thousands in Mindanao, a Palace official said on Monday.
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during the regular press briefing in Malacanang that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have already urged the public to report all scams to their respective offices.
Aside from the Aman Futures investment scam, news reports said that there are other companies engaged in pyramid scams that are victimizing several persons in some parts of Mindanao.
"I think, the DTI local offices will be more proactive because ---if you notice, the scams happened in the south," Lacierda said.
The Aquino government appealed to the public to be vigilant against investment companies that offer high interests, Lacierda said.
"If it’s too good to be true, that’s something that you should consider suspicious. Noon pa po iyan, nasabi na po natin na mag-iingat ang ating mga sambayanan sa ganitong mga malalaking offer na napakaganda, mataas ang interes, at in fact, beyond banking rates," he said.
"Pangalawa, we would like to ask the public to let us know kung ano pa ang mga ibang scams po. Nalalaman po natin iyan kapag may mga nagko-complain na and it is unfortunate that a number of our citizens were victimized by the scam," Lacierda said.
Lacierda assured that the Aman Futures and other companies that are engaged in investment fraud are now being investigated by the authorities.
Last week, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II relieved Zamboanga del Sur Provincial PNP Director Senior Superintendent William T. Manzan and Pagadian City Chief of Police Superintendent Kenneth H. Mission in connection with the Aman Futures investment scam.
Roxas ordered the relief of the police officials to avoid chances of whitewash in the ongoing police investigation into the latest “get-rich-quick” scheme.
The DILG chief also said Manzan and Mission were suspended for their supposed negligence in stopping Aman Futures in their operations.
Roxas also said that the DILG has requested the treasurers of local government units in Lanao del Sur and Zamboanga del Sur to submit their respective LGU bank balances for examination to verify reports that public funds may have been used to invest in Aman Futures.
The government is conducting a manhunt for the officials of Aman Futures, including its president, Manuel K. Amalilio and Fernando “Nonoy” R. Luna, head of the Aman operations in Pagadian City.
Aman Futures was able to lure investors, mostly in Pagadian City, by offering a 30-percent to 40-percent return on investment within eight days, and a 50-percent to 80-percent profit for 18 to 20 days.
Aman Futures claimed that the profit would come from a customer agreement with Malaysian brokerage firm Okachi (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd. that in turn engages in futures trading of commodities such as oil, manganese, palm oil and nickel.
At first, the victims could receive cash by just showing their official receipts. But later, investors were issued post-dated checks with a 50-day maturity date in lieu of cash. Investors started to panic when the Aman office in Pagadian closed last September 26. PND (js)
President Aquino urges ASEAN member-countries and South Korea to work together in fight against human trafficking
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia) President Benigno S. Aquino III said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and South Korea must work together to fight human trafficking in order to ensure the welfare of migrant workers.
“I urge ASEAN and the Republic of Korea to enhance efforts to combat trafficking in persons, particularly through enhanced information-sharing among our border and police officials, as well as through capacity-building programs focused on ensuring that the rights of all, especially those of victims, are upheld,” the President said in his intervention during the ASEAN-South Korea Summit here on Monday.
The President pointed out that while many people from ASEAN go to South Korea to pursue academic and job opportunities, ASEAN countries must take a closer look at national and regional mechanisms to protect their rights and welfare, ensuring that they do not fall prey to the illegal activities of human traffickers and smugglers, the President said.
The Chief Executive expressed his gratitude to his South Korean counterpart, President Lee Myung Bak, for assisting and ensuring the welfare of Filipinos living or working in South Korea.
“I wish to thank President Lee Myung Bak in extending every service and help available to my countrymen,” the President said.
“President Lee's leadership has shown the hallmarks of compassion and consensus building that I strive to live by, as I try to lead my country towards the heights that South Korea has been able to achieve,” he added.
The Philippines is likewise supportive of moves for global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation particularly in the Korean Peninsula, the President said adding that the Philippines is one of the signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Although the Philippines recognizes the right of countries to pursue peaceful uses of nuclear technology, President Aquino stressed that he is concerned over the recent developments in the nuclear programs of Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“As a believer in rules, we therefore support calls for Iran and the DPRK to abide by relevant UN resolutions, and allow regular inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),” he said.
The President joined fellow ASEAN leaders in the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Summit at the Peace Palace here. PND (as)
President Aquino clarifies West Philippine Sea issue during ASEAN-Japan Summit
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia) President Benigno S. Aquino III made it clear on Monday that resolving the West Philippine Sea issue doesn’t rely solely in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) route but also with other venues.
In a media briefing at the Landscape Hotel here, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said that the President made a significant intervention when Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was making his concluding statement during the ASEAN-Japan Summit Monday morning.
“There were several views expressed yesterday on ASEAN unity which we did not realize would be translated into an ASEAN consensus. For the record, this was not our understanding. The ASEAN route is not the only route for us. As a sovereign state, it is our right to defend our national interests,” Coloma quoted the President as saying.
The President raised the issue, Coloma stressed, because if the adherence to international law or the UN is omitted and member countries simply refer to ASEAN-China discussions, it would change the whole context.
The chair, Prime Minister Hun Sen, duly acknowledged the President’s statement saying the intervention will be reflected in the record of the meeting.
“We must realize that this is a forum where the countries around the table are sovereign states. It’s not just the individual heads-of-state or heads of government that are representing themselves. They are representing their countries,” Coloma said.
He explained that the President represents the state and the government, which is governed by a Constitution adding that under the Constitution, the President must assert the country’s sovereignty.
“Even as we observed ASEAN centrality, this is an issue that involves the stake of each of the member states of ASEAN concerned that have claims on the disputed territory and that we are affirming our belief that this matter should be resolved peacefully and in accordance with international laws including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said.
ASEAN leaders acknowledged the need to craft a code of conduct in the West Philippine Sea starting from the existing Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea agreed 10 years ago. PND (as)
Philippines gets Japan, Vietnam support in resolving dispute in West Philippine Sea
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia) The Philippines got the support of Japan and Vietnam in pursuing a peaceful resolution to the West Philippine Sea dispute through adherence to international law and continuing dialogue.
During the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Japan Summit on Monday, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda raised the use of the rule of law and the importance of confidence building in resolving the issue, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said in a media briefing at Landscape Hotel here.
Japan has similar concerns in dealing with China like the ASEAN with regards to the West Philippine Sea, and Japan has pursued the path towards peace, Coloma said referring to Noda’s statement.
These concerns have a direct impact on peace and stability in the region, and countries as well as the regional association must clarify the claims, according to Noda.
Claimant countries must adhere to the parameters of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), refrain from taking unilateral action, and push for the early completion of the code of conduct, Coloma said as he cited the message of Noda.
Noda said the Japan-China relation is difficult at present, but the two countries are constantly communicating and are determined to maintain peace and stability. He also raised the issue on the North Korean nuclear threat.
In the same Summit, Vietnam also raised the implementation of the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, the six-point principle, and the early formulation of the code of conduct, Coloma stressed.
He added that Vietnam underscored the importance of ensuring freedom of navigation in the West Philippines Sea and the peaceful resolution of the dispute through the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. PND (as)
South Korea appreciates signing of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement, says Coloma
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: South Korea has expressed its appreciation for the signing of the Framework Agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
South Korea lauded the recent development in Mindanao during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-South Korea Summit here on Monday.
In a media briefing at the Landscape Hotel, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said South Korean President Lee Myung Bak noted the positive changes in Myanmar as well as the signing of the Bangsamoro agreement in the Philippines.
The South Korean leader also mentioned the ASEAN free trade agreement, strategic partnership, and the South Korean center. South Korea is ASEAN’s second largest trading partner and second largest investment destination for the region.
President Lee Myung Bak also noted the importance of reducing the development gap, and promised to enhance South Korea’s support for the Mekong regional development as well as response to climate change, Coloma said.
South Korea likewise pushed for stronger forest protection cooperation as it hosts the green growth technology center. Coloma said the South Korean president also talked about the issue on connectivity in education and the ASEAN-South Korea transportation roadmap.
On Sunday at the Plenary Session of the 21st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits, ASEAN leaders also expressed elation over the signing of the Framework Agreement for the Mindanao peace. They underscored the need to resolve internal conflict and violence in the region as the ASEAN moves towards a single community by 2015. PND (as)
President Aquino attends ASEAN+3 Commemorative Summit
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia) President Benigno S. Aquino III together with the other leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) attended the ASEAN+3 Commemorative Summit where they discussed how the region could cope with future economic challenges.
The ASEAN+3, which is composed of the 10 member-countries of ASEAN including China, Korea and Japan, was formed in the aftermath of the 1997 Asian financial crisis.
China, Korea, and Japan are major Asian economic powers that could support ASEAN countries during times of troubles.
In a media briefing on Monday at the Landscape Hotel here, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio "Sonny" Coloma said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao mentioned the $240-billion Chiang Mai Initiative credit pool that was established in the region.
The Chinese leader also talked about the emergency rice reserve consisting of 800 million tons intended for any crisis.
At the same time, China proposed boosting the capacity of the ASEAN to cope with crisis, the setting up of an ASEAN bond market and considering the establishment of a regional investment bank.
Premier Wen Jiabao also expressed China’s willingness to contribute to a special fund for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership that will be launched later during the 21st ASEAN Summit. He also called for cooperation on Asian connectivity, according to Coloma.
South Korean President Lee Myung Bak, on the other hand, noted that the financial crisis has the most impact in the region and the ASEAN must always prepare for it.
Coloma emphasized that the South Korean leader raised the need to establish social safety nets that will address the potential liquidity problems in the future.
President Lee Myung Bak also supported the initiatives to set up the Asian bond market and the importance of food security as embodied in the ASEAN’s emergency rice reserve.
Coloma said the South Korean leader praised the ASEAN+3 stressing that the group is a role model for regional cooperation. PND (as)
Asian countries must address East Asia maritime disputes through lawful means, says Aquino
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia) President Benigno S. Aquino III raised the issue of addressing maritime disputes in East Asia given its significance in ensuring peace and stability in the region.
“Prevailing tensions in the area stand to impact regional peace and stability. As we are bound by shared aspirations, so too are we bound by shared responsibilities; the challenges that we shirk from today will be the ones that will plague us tomorrow,” the President said in his intervention during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Plus Three Summit held at the Peace Palace here on Monday.
China, Japan and South Korea are ASEAN’s partners in the summit.
“We reiterate our call on all parties concerned to avoid the threat or use of force, and to adhere to universally recognized principles of international law in settling disputes, particularly those under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), because respect for the rule of law remains the great equalizer in the relations among nations,” he added.
Tensions arise when there are no clear rules to be followed by every country, he said, making it difficult for countries to find lasting solution to the problem.
He said he hopes that in the coming years, the ASEAN as a single community could look back on today and see a time when it came together and unlocked its full potential to harness the energies borne of its diversity.
Maritime territorial disputes threaten the peace and stability of East Asia. These disputes involve the South China Sea between China and its neighbors, the East China Sea between China, Taiwan and Japan, and the Sea of Japan between South Korea and Japan.
Access to fisheries and undersea oil and gas deposits, conflicting interpretations of maritime law and conflicting principles for asserting claims, the desire to correct past injuries to national pride and interests, and geopolitics, are considered the root causes of East Asia maritime disagreements. PND (as)