Tuesday, 6 November 2012

PIA News Dispatch - Monday, November 5, 2012

President Aquino vows erring government officials, past or present, will be brought to justice
 VIENTIANE, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (via PLDT/Smart) – President Benigno S. Aquino III vowed to bring to justice any government official or employee found violating Philippine rules and laws for personal gain.

 In his speech delivered during his meeting with the Filipino community here, the President said it was his duty as father of the nation to uphold the Constitution and rights of all Filipinos from being trampled upon by the unjust few.

 “…tungkulin nating tiyakin na tuwing papasok tayo sa korte, pantay na katarungan at katotohanan lamang ang iiral miski sino ang kaharap mo. Hindi rin sapat ang basta makasuhan lang ang mga dating opisyal na umabuso sa pwesto. Kailangang dumaan sila sa paglilitis, sa mga kaukulang proseso at imbestigasyon, at kung napatunayang nagkasala, ay managot batay sa nakasaad sa batas,” the President said.

 “Tungkulin nating manindigan para sa isang hudikatura kung saan ang inosente ay lalabas na inosente, at ang lumabag sa batas ay siguradong mapapanagot, simpleng tao man, o dating opisyal ng pamahalaan,” he added.

 He vowed to continue implementing reforms in government to ensure that the benefits from these reforms would redound to all Filipinos.

 These reforms the President said, include increasing the number of Filipinos who can avail of health insurance (Philhealth), proper management at the Department of Public Works and Highways, reaching rice exporter status for the Philippines and achieving peace with our Muslim brothers with the signing of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement.

 He said these reforms have changed the image of the Philippines from one of hopelessness and despair to one that brims with optimism and positivity. And with the support of all Filipinos behind him, what once was deemed impossible is now a reality.

 “Iilan pa lang po ang mga halimbawang ito sa mga tinatamasa nating pagbabago—kapag nagtuloy-tuloy pa po tayo sa pagkwento, baka may mga mag-impake na po sa inyo at sumama na sa amin pauwi ng Pilipinas,” the President said.

 “Hindi na nga po maikakaila: nag-iiba na ang mukha ng ating bansa. At hindi po ito pagbubuhat ng sariling bangko; hindi na natin kailangang gawin ito kung ang nasa likod mo, mga Pilipinong nagbabayanihan—nakikibalikat sa pagsugpo sa katiwalian at kahirapan, nakikipagtulungan sa pag-angat sa kalagayan at kapakanan ng kapwa, at nakikiisa sa paghahatid ng mas maliwanag na kinabukasan para sa ating bayan,” he said. PND (rck)

President Aquino vows classroom shortage will be over next year
 VIENTIANE, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (via PLDT/Smart) – President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Sunday that the country's perennial problem of not having enough classrooms to accommodate the growing number of school children will be over next year.

 The President told members of the Filipino community he met, before attending the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting here from November 5 to 6, that the Department of Education was doubling its efforts to build 66,800 classrooms by 2013.

 According to the President, the 66,800 classroom shortage he inherited will be filled up next year through innovative projects undertaken by the DepEd despite the limited budget of the department which can only accommodate 8000 new classrooms each year.

 “…magaling ho ang ating gabinete, ating kalihim, si Brother Armin Luistro. This year, wala na po tayong shortages sa aklat; next year, tapos na yung shortages natin ng classrooms,” the President said.

 He appealed to the Overseas Filipino community to continue partnering with the government to ensure a bright future for the country and the Filipino people as a whole. PND (rck)

Good Philippine-US relation to continue whoever wins the American presidency, Palace says
 Malacanang said it expects to maintain good relations with the United States whoever wins Tuesday’s (Wednesday in Manila) American presidential election.

 Incumbent US President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney are facing off for the US presidency on Tuesday.

 In a press conference in Malacanang on Monday, Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said that in the history of the US and Philippine relations, both countries continue to have good relationship whoever assumes the presidency after an election.

 “Whoever wins, whether it be Republican or Democrat, we will continue the relationship and we will continue to work with them,” Valte said.

 Obama and Romney barnstormed their way across more than a half-dozen battleground states on Sunday, making closing arguments to a closely divided American electorate before Tuesday’s vote.

 National polls in the US show that the race locked in a virtual dead heat, or tied. The most recent CNN poll showed 49 percent support for Obama, and 49 percent for Romney.

 In a poll conducted by the George Washington University, Obama and Romney are tied at 48 percent; an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll indicates Obama at 48 percent and Romney at 47 percent.

 In the latest ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll puts Obama at 49 percent and Romney at 48 percent.

 President Benigno Aquino III visited the US in early June despite the heated tension with China over contested waters of the West Philippine Sea.
 The two governments discussed ways to enhance the US’s military presence in the Philippines to help train and advise Filipino troops in their efforts to eliminate Islamist terrorists in the southern Philippines.

 The US also sees the Philippines as a key part in its long-term security strategy in Asia and the Pacific. The US plans to station 60 percent of its naval fleet in Asia by 2020, up from about 50 percent it has at present.

 Aside from strengthening military ties, President Aquino’s US visit was also aimed at enhancing the growing trade relationships and stepping up investment in the Philippines. PND (as/2:50pm)

Palace remains hopeful senators will pass the sin tax reform bill
 Malacanang hopes that senators will pass the sin tax reform bill this year considering concerns over national interest and public health.

 “We remain hopeful that the sin tax measures will be given due consideration by our senators. It is obviously in everybody’s national interest to keep looking at the sin tax measure and to see what good it can do for the health sector,” Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a press conference in Malacanang on Monday.

 Senators expects Sen. Franklin Drilon to convene within the week an urgent meeting of the Committee on Ways and Means to quickly adopt a new report endorsing higher sin taxes on cigarettes and alcoholic drinks. Drilon is the current chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

 Valte said the passage of the sin tax reform bill is necessary for the government to fill the budget gap especially for the health sector. She said that under the proposed 2013 national budget, the government allocated P54-billion for health services.

 The money to be collected from sin taxes will be spent in building more health facilities, rural health units, district hospitals, and other facilities.

 It will also be used for premiums for the expanded coverage of PhilHealth, Valte said, noting that the government now covers indigent patients.

 With regards to apprehensions that the law could result to more youth smoking cigarette or consuming alcohol as experienced by other countries, Valte said lawmakers will surely consider the issue once they start their deliberations.

 Some groups also said criminal syndicates may resort to smuggling as a result of higher taxes on cigarette and liquor. However, Valte said the law could adequately address these concerns.

 The Aquino government wants to raise P60 billion a year in fresh revenue from additional taxes on tobacco and alcohol products. PND (as/3:36pm)

Malacanang says Moro National Liberation Front will be part of Transition Commission that will draft Bangsamoro Law
 The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) will be part of the 15-member Transition Commission that will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law, a Palace official said on Monday.

 "From what I understand, there is a seat that is reserved for the MNLF," Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said during the regular press briefing in Malacanang.

 President Benigno S. Aquino III is set to issue an executive order (EO) creating the Transition Commission following the historic signing of the Framework Agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front last October, Valte said.

 "My understanding is that the EO will be released as well as the succeeding appointments to that. But I’m pretty sure that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process can give you a better hand on where the process stands as of the moment. They may have names already. My understanding is that the MILF will also be giving the names to be part of the Transition Commission," Valte said when asked about the composition of the commission.

 Valte said the government and the MILF negotiators are set to meet again in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia this November in efforts to finish the annexes of the recently signed Framework Agreement.

 The GPH-MILF Framework Agreement serves as a roadmap for the creation of a Bangsamoro entity that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and lays down the groundwork to achieve lasting and genuine peace in Mindanao. PND (js)

Aquino administration vows to strengthen efforts to fight human trafficking
 The Aquino administration assured that it will continue to strengthen its effort to fight human trafficking after the United States’ Department of State and other countries have recognized the high level of commitment of the Philippine government to eradicate the crime.

 Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government hopes that the Philippines could get positive review results from the United Nations Special Rapporteur, who is scheduled to arrive in Manila on Monday to assess the country’s fight against human trafficking.

 "We have been making significant strides in fighting human trafficking primarily convictions. There has to be certainty of punishments so meron po tayong mga nahuhuli at meron na pong mga nako-convict when it comes to human trafficking violations," Valte said.

 "And I think positive proof that we have been making significant strides is remember natanggal na tayo sa blacklist. Nag-move up tayo and the significant progress has also been recognized," she said.

 Valte said the country's Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking (IACAT) continues to step up efforts towards a harmonized and concerted global response to fight trafficking in persons.

 The government achieved the significant gains through the implementation of the three-pronged strategy, namely legislation, collaboration between the public and private sectors, and determination to overcome the challenges in the fight against trafficking.

 "But, just the same, of course we will be open to giving the resources, the data that the UN representative may need during her stay here," she said. PND (js)

President Aquino upbeat over positive results of bilateral meetings with Norway, Switzerland, the European Commission and European Council
 VIENTIANE, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (via PLDT/Smart) – President Benigno S. Aquino III is in high spirits after holding successful separate bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Norway, Switzerland, European Commission and European Council at the sidelines of the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM9) being held here from November 5 to 6, Presidential Communication and Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said on Monday.

 Coloma said in a press briefing with the Philippine media delegation at the International Media Center here that the President underscored the importance of these bilateral meetings as an opportunity for the Philippines to further enhance the friendship and partnership between these countries.

 “The President is in a very upbeat and optimistic mood. He is satisfied with the outcome of the bilateral meetings and he feels that this is an important opportunity for the country to enhance its friendship and partnership with the countries of both Europe and Asia,” Coloma said.

 The President met with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg at the Prime Minister’s Villa at the ASEM Villa which houses the Heads of State and Government attending the ASEM9 at 9 a.m. (10 a.m. Manila time).

 In that meeting, Coloma said the discussion centered on improving the working conditions of our migrant Filipino workers, particularly in the healthcare sector.

 “Norway confirmed its assurance for support in our efforts to land better jobs for Filipino migrant workers particularly in the healthcare sector in Norway and the easing or procedural improvements to create better opportunities for qualified Filipino workers,” Coloma said.

 He added that Norway, the European Commission and the European Council had pledged their support for the country’s bid to retain our standing in the International Maritime Organization white list

 “This means that we will be complying with all the requirements of the standards for training and certification watch-keeping of seafarers (STCW 198 Convention),” Coloma said.

 In his meeting with Swiss Confederation President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, the President extended his thanks for the confederation’s assistance in further developing our expertise in disaster risk reduction and management.

 “The President thanked Switzerland for their assistance in heightening our know-how and competence in disaster risk reduction and management,” Coloma said.

 Lastly, President Aquino’s trilateral meeting with European Council President Herman Von Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso centered on improving maritime security within the West Philippine Sea to ensure the safety of goods and people traversing the highly travelled body of water.

 Coloma said all meetings the President had “went very well” with all discussions on "increased opportunities and intensified cooperation.”

 “The three bilateral meetings between the Philippine panel headed by President Benigno S. Aquino III and Norway, Switzerland and the European Commission and European Council; respectively went on very well,” Coloma said.

 “The common thread on all discussions were on increased opportunities and intensified cooperation,” he added.

 He pointed out that the three nations were enthusiastic in congratulating the Philippines for finally achieving peace in Mindanao with the signing of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement.

 “We see this as a genuine opportunity for reaping peace dividends including increased investments into the Philippines and Mindanao in particular,” Coloma said.

 He added that in return, the Philippines expressed its support for the requests of Norway and Switzerland in its bid to become members of ASEM.

 “And in reciprocity, we supported the requests of the various delegation with which we met, for Norway and Switzerland as they are joining the ASEM meetings and would like to become involved in the dialogues with ASEAN as future dialogue partners,” Coloma said. PND (rck)

Norway, Switzerland, European Council and European Commission join Philippine stand to resolve West Philippine Sea issue peacefully
 VIENTIANE, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (via PLDT/Smart) – The European countries of Norway, Switzerland, European Council and European Commission have thrown their support for Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III’s stand to resolve claims on the West Philippine Sea diplomatically and peacefully.

 Presidential Communication and Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. told members of the media delegation covering the President’s attendance of the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting here that during bilateral meetings with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, Swiss Confederation President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, European Council Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Varroso, the four leaders were for the Philippines’ position to resolve disputes in the area peacefully and following international law.

 “We noted the increased importance of maritime security in the West Philippine Sea and there was an agreement that it was a matter of international interest as a significant amount of trade passes by the West Philippine Sea,” Coloma said.

 “In particular, Switzerland and the EU and in part Norway indicated their firm support to our position that conflicts or disputes in that area are to be resolved peacefully and following international law and in particular there is firm support for an ASEAN-centric approach which has always been the position of President Aquino considering four out of the 10 members states of ASEAN have specific stakes in the West Philippine Sea,” he stressed.

 “Therefore the only logical approach to any conflict resolution will have to be multilateral and involving all stakeholders therein,” Coloma said. PND (rck)

Philippines gets support from Norway, Switzerland, European Council and European Commission in its bid to improve its aviation standards
 VIENTIANE, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (via PLDT/Smart) – The Philippines bid to raise its standard of aviation safety in order to conform with requirements set by aviation regulatory bodies got a big boost of support from Norway, Switzerland, the European Council and the European Commission, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said on Monday.

 Coloma said the four European countries expressed their support during separate bilateral meetings President Benigno S. Aquino III had with his counterparts at the sidelines of the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting being held here from November 5 to 6.

 He said the country’s effort to improve airline safety was in line with the government’s advocacy to bring in more tourists and spur economic growth for all.

 “Well, we pointed out that we also have a stake in promoting the raising of standards of aviation safety considering we want to intensify the level of aviation activity from and into the Philippines, and this is in consonance with our efforts to increase the number of tourists that will be visiting our country,” Coloma said.

 Several countries have banned the entry of Philippine carriers into their airspace after the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) cited the government’s alleged failure to comply with minimum international aviation safety standards.

 Aside from ICAO, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ranked the Philippines as a “category 2” market due to safety considerations. This FAA grade bans local airlines from expanding operations in the United States.

 “Definitely the present restrictions on our Philippine carriers would not promote the increase of tourist traffic between Europe and the Philippines and so we would like to see an early resolution of the concerns of the ICAO and similar bodies like the USFAA which was emphasized by the President of the European Commission Juan Miguel Barroso that these are technical issues involving safety standards and not political issues,” Coloma added.

 He pointed out that the aviation sector has taken note of this and are now in the process of “addressing these technical issues and we are moving positively at addressing and resolving all of these concerns.”

 Coloma noted that pending the results of the assessment that were conducted last October, “we were assured that there would be every measure of support in getting the Philippines up to speed in relation to meeting the safety standards of ICAO.” PND (rck)

Philippines and Switzerland agree to fast-track release of compensation to Martial Law victims
 VIENTIANE, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (via PLDT/Smart) – The Philippines and Switzerland have agreed to work closely together to fast-track the immediate release of compensation funds for Martial Law victims, Presidential Communication and Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said on Monday.

 Coloma said the agreement was reached during a bilateral meeting between Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III and Swiss Confederation President Eveline Widmer-Sclumpf at the sidelines of the 9th Asia-Business Meeting being held here from November 5 to 6.

 He said the President “promised to do what is needed to complete the process of getting the compensation paid out eventually to the intended beneficiaries.”

 “So this means clearing whatever administrative or procedural hurdles that still needs to be handled or resolved,” Coloma said.

 “So that was taken up and both parties agree to work toward an early completion of this compensation process,” he added.

 A Hawaii court ordered the Marcos family to pay $776-million in damages to Martial Law victims in September 1992 following a class action suit filed against the former dictator by 9,539 victims.

 Although a total of P35 billion ($833 million) have already been recovered from the Marcos family by past administrations, the victims have not yet been compensated due to many factors; one of which is the need to pass legislation to appropriate part of the sequestered funds from the Marcoses for the victims of Martial Law because the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law provides that all sequestered assets from the Marcos family would be utilized for the implementation of land reform. PND (rck)