Wednesday, 21 November 2012

PIA News Dispatch - Tuesday, November 20, 2012

President Aquino elated over moves by ASEAN member-countries calling for the formal drafting of the code of conduct in the West Philippine Sea
 PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: President Benigno S. Aquino III expressed elation over the recent developments in the 21st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit as more member-countries called for the formal drafting of the code of conduct (COC) in the West Philippine Sea to resolve the dispute.

 In an interview with the Philippine media at Sofitel Hotel here, the President said he is happy that efforts to start the formal discussion for the crafting of the code of conduct is now gaining momentum among the ASEAN member-countries.

ASEAN countries as well as China agreed 10 years ago on the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and now more ASEAN members are calling for formal talks to draft the COC, the President said.

Even non-claimant country like Singapore has supported efforts to start the formal discussion in drafting the COC, he said.

According to the President, other leaders said that the DOC, in its natural progression, would produce the COC.

“Ito ‘yung framework (DOC), susunod detalye (COC). Pagdating ng detalye 10 years later hindi umusad. Ngayon, umuusad. Masaya na ako doon na at least medyo umaabante na,” the President stressed.

The President said that among his expectations when he attended the summit was for the country’s voice to be heard adding that he’s grateful that the current summit chair, Cambodia, has given him leeway in airing his view particularly with the West Philippine Sea issue.

The West Philippine Sea is being claimed by ASEAN countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. China and Taiwan also have claims over the chain of islands.

The West Philippines Sea, believed to be rich in gas and mineral deposits, is also a major sea lane for global trade and commerce. PND (as)

United States President Obama reiterates America's position on West Philippine Sea issue, Aquino says
 PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Newly re-elected United States President Barack Obama reiterated America’s position with regards to the competing claims in the West Philippine saying that the US would not take sides on the issue but would want to ensure freedom of navigation, freedom of communication, as well as stability in the region

President Benigno S. Aquino III reiterated America's stand on the issue as he reported the details following his attendance at the 4th ASEAN- US Leaders’ Meeting at the Peace Palace here Monday evening.

“Inulit naman ng Amerika kanina ...they won’t take sides with regards to the disputes but they do have an interest in freedom of navigation, freedom of communication, stability in the region,” the President told the members of the Philippine media in an interview at Sofitel Hotel.

President Obama arrived in Cambodia Monday afternoon to attend the 4th ASEAN-US Leaders' Meeting and the 7th East Asia Summit. He flew to Phnom Penh after visiting Thailand and Myanmar in a three Asian nation trip from November 17 to 20 expressing America’s renewed interest in the Southeast Asian region.

Many ASEAN member-countries including the Philippines proposed for the formalization of a dialogue to draft the code of conduct in the South China Sea, a guideline that will implement the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) agreed by the ASEAN and China in 2002, President Aquino said.

The Chief Executive also expressed elation over the recent developments in the discussion on the West Philippine Sea saying the momentum is already building up for the drafting of a COC that will set concrete rules among claimant countries. PND (as)

President Aquino says  Malaysia to assist Philippines capture the brains behind Aman Futures scam
 PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Malaysian authorities vowed to cooperate with the Philippine authorities in capturing the members of a syndicate behind the Aman Futures scam that victimized thousands of people including local government officials in the Visayas and Mindanao, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Monday.

“There is already a commitment if I’m not mistaken, the Ambassador of Malaysia to the Philippines said they will assist us. We don’t have issues with Malaysia as far as helping us catching the criminals,” the President said during an interview with Philippine media at the Sofitel Hotel here.

With regards to reports that many LGUs were victimized by the scam, the President said, he’s awaiting for the result of the investigation of the Department of Justice.

The President said that government issued sufficient warnings to the public prior to the discovery of the scam recently as he cited the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that also issued a warning in its website in July and the Department of Trade and Industry that did the same in August.

The justice department, which is already conducting an investigation, had difficulty in prosecuting due to the absence of complainants and evidence.

Asked how the government could protect the public from such scams, the President said, his administration will continue to educate and warn the people about the risk of investing on something that offers huge and immediate returns.

“Hindi tayo titigil sa pag-e-educate... May mag-aalok sa’yo 30 percent per week. Hindi ka ba dapat mag-isip: Ano ‘yung negosyo niya na kikita siya ng more than 30 percent in a week para mabayaran ka ng interes mo at may kita siya?," the President said.

The National Bureau of Investigation said the Malaysian police are now looking for Manuel Amalilio, the alleged brains behind the Aman Futures investment scam who has been reported to be hiding in Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia.

The Philippine Embassy in Malaysia said it will work with the Malaysian authorities to bring Amalilio back to the Philippines through international cooperation mechanisms.

The multibillion-peso scam duped some 15,000 investors of around P12 billion in the Visayas and Mindanao. PND (as)

United states has important role in ASEAN development, stability, says Aquino
 PHNOM PENH, Cambodia) President Benigno S. Aquino III underscored the importance of the US participation in the dialogue with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) considering the size of its economy and global influence.

“It is especially vital to have the world’s largest national economy involved in the discussions considering the interconnectedness of our current milieu. Each one of our nations has a stake in the stability of Southeast Asia,” the President said in his intervention during the 4th ASEAN-US Leaders’ Meeting at the Peace Palace here.

The US understands its role and position and for this reason, has chosen to work with the ASEAN to ensure continued peace and advancement of the region, he said.

The ASEAN, as a region, is very diverse, the President said adding that its harmony can easily be disrupted by political, military, or economic might. He stressed that its imbalance may lead to instability.

The President also mentioned US interests in the ASEAN as he noted the superpower won’t take sides in disputes in the West Philippine Sea and is only after ensuring the freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce, and the maintenance of peace and stability in the contested area.

“In this regard, the Philippines firmly believes that territorial and maritime disputes should be settled peacefully and in accordance with the rule of law,” he said.

“We continue to support the further inclusion of economies active in the region in these discussions. They serve to expand our capacities as an organization and they will certainly accelerate our progress in the pursuit of shared prosperity for the region,” he added. PND (as)

President Aquino keeps an eye on government’s monitoring, relief efforts to ensure safety of Filipinos in Israel and Gaza
 PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – President Benigno S. Aquino III is personally keeping an eye on the government’s monitoring and relief efforts toward ensuring the safety of Filipinos trapped in the crossfire between Israel and the Gaza strip.

In an interview with the Philippine media delegation here Monday night, President Aquino said he has been informed that while Filipinos in Gaza are scared of the ongoing situation, they have unanimously decided to remain there for the time being.

According to a report which President Aquino received from the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv, there is only one Filipino working in Gaza while the rest are married to Palestinians residing in the strife-torn strip.

The President, meanwhile, said he has been assured by the Philippine embassy that the 41,000 Filipinos who are living and working throughout Israel—most of them caregivers—will have access to bomb shelters.

President Aquino through Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma, Jr. stated that the Department of Foreign Affairs has already sent rapid response teams to assess and address the situation.

“We have sent a rapid reaction team. The only delay that happened was when they were securing visas to enter Israel, if I’m not mistaken. But I think they left today (Monday) for Israel,” the President said.

Philippine diplomatic posts in Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and other neighboring countries have also been alerted to prepare for contingencies in case these Filipinos eventually decide to leave and return home, President Aquino said.

The President noted that entering Gaza is already 'risky' and repatriating our countrymen would be extra difficult since the internal conflicts experienced in the other Middle Eastern countries have not yet been totally abated.

“Kasama na rin ako sa nagmimiron. Tiningnan ko na rin. Ang katabi ng Israel is Egypt, Syria, Jordan. E nakikita naman ninyo ang nangyayari sa Jordan at sa Syria; sa Egypt medyo nag-stabilize pa lang,” he said.

In this connection, the President said he asked Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to get in touch with Cyprus and seek possible assistance from its government in the event the repatriation of these 41,000 Filipinos becomes necessary.

 “We don’t think that we will have to evacuate 41,000. But we just want to be prepared so we’ve touch-based with the Cypriot government in case we will bring our people there as temporary staging area for repatriation in case it gets worse,” the President said.

 The President categorically stated, that so far, none of the Filipinos living in either Gaza or Israel agreed to be repatriated and the government still has no plans to impose a forced evacuation given some limitations that they have to observe.

“Most of the information that they keep telling me is they will all have access to bomb shelters and, therefore, they have a capacity to be safe. We’d rather bring all of the 41,000 home but they will have, ‘di ba, disrupted jobs, may right to travel, etcetera. May limits din kung kailan natin pwede i-forced evacuation,” he said. PND (hdc)

President Aquino underscores need for ASEAN member-countries and China to continue working together to fulfill common aspirations
 PHNOM PENH, Cambodia) President Benigno S. Aquino III said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China should continue to explore opportunities for cooperation and tie-ups to fulfill their shared aspirations.

During the ASEAN-China Summit held here Monday, the President acknowledged China’s robust and accelerated economic growth that made it a dominant economic and military power in the region and has earned the admiration of many countries.

As a country that has only recently taken its first steps towards progress, the Philippines can look for China to set the example of wise and peace-seeking leadership, the Chief Executive said in his intervention during the ASEAN-China Summit.

He also mentioned the importance of China as a regional economic leader, noting that its generosity towards its smaller neighbors to enhance regional stability allow ASEAN nations to sustain economic growth despite global uncertainties.

The President pointed out that ASEAN and China must continue their dialogue particularly in areas of cooperation that include marine environment protection, sea piracy, seafarers’ training, the promotion of eco-tourism and fishery, and the upgrading of infrastructure and equipment.

The Philippines hosted the first expanded ASEAN maritime forum last month which was participated by many countries.

“The forum saw an offer of the United States to launch an expanded ASEAN seafarers’ training or EAST program that will strengthen vessel security and build the capacity of seafarers against acts of piracy. This is especially relevant to the Philippines since my people compose a full quarter of the entire world seafaring population,” he said.

The President joined his ASEAN counterparts in meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao Monday at the Peace Palace here. PND (as)

Aquino welcomes progress made by Senate on sin tax reform bill; hopes passage of the measure soon
 PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – President Benigno S. Aquino III welcomed the gradual progress that the sin tax reform bill is making at the upper legislative chamber as senators finally agreed to the P40-billion target revenue being sought by the administration.

President Aquino thanked members of the Senate for its deliberations on the measure, which led to a consensus on the P40-billion aggregate revenue, as he expressed hope that the sin tax reform bill be passed at the soonest possible time.

“Tayo’y nagpapasalamat na tinatalakay na nila at sana mapasa nga sa lalong madaling panahon,” President Aquino told members of the Philippine media delegation in an interview at the Sofitel Hotel here Monday night.

President Aquino, however, stressed that the revenue aspect of the measure is just "secondary" since the primary reason his administration is advocating the bill is to reduce the number of people who are excessively purchasing sin products given its impact on public health.

“Para sa akin, more importantly, baka ‘yung mga mag-uumpisa pa lang ay hindi na magtuloy na maging abusive doon sa sin products, e ‘di makikinabang ang buong lipunan—‘yung estado,” the President said.

The government, through the Department of Finance, initially targeted P60-billion additional revenue from the planned increased of excise tax to be imposed on sin products but it was reduced to P40-billion by the Senate given some contentions raised by other legislators.

Malacañang, together with the Department of Health, stated that proceeds from the sin tax reform bill once it is passed into law shall be used to increase funding for the universal health care program of the administration.

President Aquino also responded to criticisms that having such measure would greatly affect the livelihood of tobacco farmers, saying that the sin tax reform bill would even help level the playing field in the industry.

“So ‘nung nag-level ka ng playing field, nawala ‘yung advantages ng mga nandito na, nagkaroon ng competition. Parang bakit hindi makakatulong doon sa farmer ‘yon na mas marami ang pwede niyang pagbentahan?” he pointed out.

The President said there are answers to every question propounded by the critics of the bill that their so called "scare tactics" do not even work. PND (hdc)

Malacanang says government ready to assist, evacuate Filipinos in conflict-stricken Gaza Strip
 The Aquino government is ready to assist Filipinos and their respective foreign spouses including their children in evacuating them from the conflict-stricken Gaza Strip if violence continues to escalate, a Palace official said on Tuesday.

 Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said during the regular press briefing in Malacanang that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had already sent two Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) to Cairo, Egypt and Tel Aviv, Israel to assist Filipinos in Gaza Strip.

 The Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) will be on standby to help in the evacuation of 100 Filipinos and their families, if it becomes necessary, Valte said.

 "Marami po sa kanila ay nakapag-asawa na rin ng mga nationals doon. Hindi naman po pwede na iyong mga Filipino lang ang tutulungan natin, of course kung gusto na po nila lumikas isasama na rin po ang mga pamilya ng ating kababayan kung papayag po sila," Valte said.

 Valte stressed that the government will also assist Filipinos in Israel if they want to be repatriated or be brought to other countries.

 The two rapid response teams were deployed to do an assessment of the situation in Gaza Strip as well as to prepare for possible evacuation of the Filipino nationals and their families.

 Although there has been no reported casualty among Filipinos in the escalation of violence between the Israeli military and the Palestinian extremist group Hamas based in Gaza, the government prepared contingency plans for their possible evacuation along with their families.

 The Philippine embassies in Egypt and Israel—which border the Gaza Strip—have already identified possible exit points in coordination with authorities in the areas.

 The Cairo RRT is headed by Foreign Affairs Executive Director for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Ricardo Endaya while the Tel Aviv RRT is headed by Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Middle East and African Affairs Petronila Garcia.

 President Benigno S. Aquino III earlier directed the DFA to step up its efforts in ensuring the safety of Filipinos amid the escalating tensions in the Gaza Strip and in Israel. PND (js)

President Aquino  appoints new judges to lower courts
 President Benigno S. Aquino III has appointed new judges to the lower courts, a Palace official said.

 Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte announced the appointments during the regular press briefing in Malacanang on Tuesday.

 The Chief Executive signed the appointment letter of Judge Neljoe A. Cortes as presiding judge of the Aparri, Cagayan Regional Trial Court, Branch 6.

 He, likewise, appointed Judge Manolito Y. Gumarang as presiding judge of the Cavite City Regional Trial Court, Branch 17.

 The other presidential appointees include Judge Ma. Arabella G. Eusebio-Rodolfo as presiding judge of the Clark Field, Pampanga Municipal Trial Court; Judge Rosalie Digao Platil as presiding judge of the Mainit, Surigao del Norte Municipal Trial Court; Judge Araceli R. Soñas-Crisostomo as presiding judge of the Apalit-San Simon, Pampanga Municipal Circuit Trial Court; Judge Jane T. Yap-Evangelista as presiding judge of the Victoria-La Paz, Tarlac Municipal Circuit Trial Court; Judge Ferdinand R. Villanueva as presiding judge of the Compostela-New Bataan, Compostela Valley 1st Municipal Circuit Trial Court, and Judge Alona Tabanas Labtic as presiding judge of the Lupon-Banay-Banay, Davao Oriental 4th Municipal Circuit Trial Court. PND (js)

West Philippine Sea claimant countries must respect sovereignty of other states, says Aquino
 PHNOM PENH, Cambodia) All claimant countries to the West Philippines must respect the territorial integrity of every coastal state, regardless of their size or naval power, President Benigno S. Aquino III said Tuesday during the 7th East Asia Summit held at the Peace Palace here.

 The President said this is in accordance with the established rules of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

 At the same time, the President stressed that “this is also in compliance with the provisions of the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).”

 Quoting paragraph five of the DOC, the chief executive said claimant countries should “exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability, including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.”

 He also called on all claimant states to come together and clarify their maritime claims, and to resolve the maritime disputes in accordance with international law, especially through the UNCLOS.

 “At no time in the contemporary history of the South China Sea has clarification and delimitation of maritime areas become more urgent and imperative than they are now,” he said.

 All parties claiming the disputed territory must proposed the code of conduct (COC) in the South China Sea and give their full commitment once it is finalized.

 “As we in ASEAN embark on negotiating a Code of Conduct, we must make sure that its provisions are not only stronger, binding, and credible, but that all parties to the code of conduct must be fully committed to its implementation,” the President said. PND (as)

Aquino calls a 'major success' the growing number of nations joining country's stand on Code of Conduct
 President Benigno S. Aquino III called the increasing number of nations agreeing on the importance of beginning formal talks that would eventually draft the Code of Conduct to resolve the issues concerning the West Philippine Sea as a “major success” in the quest for a peaceful resolution to the long-standing territorial dispute surrounding the said body of water.

The President said in a speech delivered upon his arrival in Manila late Tuesday night after attending the 21st Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit held in Phnom Penh in Cambodia, that he was able to impart to the various Heads of State and Government who attended the Summit of the country’s stand on the West Philippines Sea, believed to be rich in gas and mineral deposits, and is also a major sea lane for global trade and commerce.

He pointed out that no less than five countries have already thrown their support for the Philippines’ call for discussions on the Code of Conduct to begin in order to prevent tensions surrounding the disputed Sea from further escalating.

“Naiparating po natin sa lahat ng panig ang ating mga paninindigan nang may hinahon, dangal, at katuwiran. Sa huli, hindi lang pagpapahayag ang nagawa po natin -- napasang-ayon pa natin ang hindi bababa sa limang bansa sa ating mga paninindigan,” the President said.

“Dati, dadalawa lamang ang tumatalakay sa kahalagahan ng Code of Conduct; ngayon, dumami na ang mga tinig na nagsasabing kailangan nang simulan ang pormal na usapan ukol sa Code of Conduct upang maiwasan ang tensyon sa kinabukasan. Nakikiisa sila sa ating mga paniniwala --- kailangan ng kapanatagan, katahimikan, at malayang paglalakbay at kalakalan sa mga dagat ng rehiyon. Walang mabuting idudulot ang banta ng karahasan,” he added.

“Malaking tagumpay pong maituturing ito, lalo pa't nasa kabilang panig ng di-pagkakaunawaan ang pinakamalaking puwersang ekonomiko at militar sa rehiyon. Isang mistulang David and Goliath po talaga ang harapan, ngunit nanindigan tayo -- dahil kung hindi tayo maninindigan, sino pa nga ba ang ating aasahan? Alam na nila ngayon --- ang Pilipino, walang aatrasan basta't nasa tama. Mahusay makisama ang Pilipino, pero hindi tayo magpapaapi,” the President said.

He vowed to continue pushing for the start of the formal discussions for the crafting of the Code of Conduct either in ASEAN or the world stage.

“Sa pakikipag-ugnayan natin sa ibang bansa, itinatawid natin ang mga prinsipyong nagdala sa atin sa mabuting kinalalagyan ng ating bansa ngayon --- sa mata ng batas, patas ang lahat -- walang malaki o maliit, walang mahirap o mayaman, walang malakas o mahina,” the President said.

The West Philippine Sea is being claimed by ASEAN countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. Non-ASEAN member countries China and Taiwan also have claims over the disputed area. PND (rck)