Thursday, 13 December 2012

PIA News Dispatch - Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gov’t takes lead in crafting nat’l agenda on human rights

 The government has set the stage for the crafting of a national agenda on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) with the hosting of a multi-sectoral human rights summit in Malacanang on Tuesday.

 The 2nd National Summit on International Humanitarian Law was organized by the Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC), chaired by Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr., to further strengthen the country’s policies in upholding and protecting human rights, particularly during armed conflict.

 In a statement read by Deputy Executive Secretary Teofilo S. Pilando Jr. on his behalf, Ochoa said: “We are honored to host this event because it highlights and places great value on strong and productive discourse between government and human rights defenders to identify and collectively resolve critical issues.”

 “Moreover, it situates human rights and international humanitarian law within the same breadth as the promotion and protection of our people’s overall welfare and well-being, especially in situations of armed conflict,” he added.

 According to Ochoa, the Philippine government’s commitment to the IHL further leapt forward under President Benigno S. Aquino III’s administration, citing several key measures and initiatives that it has taken since coming to office.

 Among these are the ratification of the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court in August 2011 and its adoption months later to boost human rights protection in situations of armed conflict; the implementation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ 2011-2016 Internal Peace and Security Plan: Bayanihan; and the issuance of Administrative Order No. 35, which created an inter-agency committee to probe human rights abuses allegedly committed by state and non-state forces.

 Other initiatives include the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro on October 15, and the signing of the terms of reference that rendered operational the government’s Complaints Monitoring Working Group under the Philippine Government Monitoring Committee to further enhance compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL) between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF).

 Since the first national summit held in August of 2009, the government has likewise put in place Republic Act No. 9851, which defined and penalized war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

 “Significant as they are, these developments should encourage all of us to revisit the other commitments we made at the first IHL summit some three years ago. These are commitments that deeply relate to our institutional mandates as government instrumentalities, as an independent national human rights institution, as civil society, and as parties to the armed conflicts in the land,” Ochoa said.

 “In the end, these commitments – and the challenges that come with them – will be our measure of readiness to craft a National Agenda on International Humanitarian Law that will fuse and further our efforts.”

 Participants in the human rights national summit, the second since August 2009, include representatives from the government, non-government organizations, civil society groups, members of the diplomatic community and other stakeholders.

President Aquino receives British Minister of State Hugo Swire in Malacanang
President Benigno S. Aquino III received at Malacanang the Right Honorable Hugo Swire, Minister of the State at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office as part of the administration’s efforts to boost the bilateral relationship between the Philippines and the United Kingdom (UK).

 The British Minister of State paid a courtesy call on Tuesday at the Music Room of the Malacanang Palace.

 He was accompanied by Stephen Lillie, United Kingdom Ambassador to the Philippines. Also in attendance were Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Elizabeth P. Buensuceso, Assistant Secretary of European Affairs.

 The Chief Executive and the British Minister of State exchanged views on the latest developments in the bilateral ties between two countries.

 The Philippines and the United Kingdom enjoy good relations as longstanding partners and allies, the President said.

 Minister Swire reiterated that the United Kingdom supports the Aquino government’s economic reforms that foster accelerated growth of the Philippines.

 Minister Swire arrived in the country for a two-day visit. His visit is his first official trip to the Philippines, which forms part of a Southeast Asian tour that includes Brunei and Burma.

 Promotion of bilateral trade and investment will be the core strand of the Swire's Southeast Asian tour, with peace and security as other key themes.

 During his visit, Minister Swire met with several high-level officials and business groups in the Philippines. He is expected to also sign the Philippines-United Kingdom Joint Plan of Action (JPA) which provides the framework for overall bilateral cooperation. PND (js)

President Aquino leads ceremonial signing of revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Act in Malacanang
President Beningo S. Aquino III led the ceremonial signing of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Act otherwise known as Republic Act No. 10349 in a bid to further upgrade the AFP’s defense capabilities for the country's protection and security.

 The ceremonial signing was held at the Rizal Hall of the Malacanang Palace on Tuesday.

 RA 10349 amends various provisions of RA No. 7898 otherwise known as the AFP Modernization Act.

 The law provides funds for the Revised AFP Modernization Program, as appropriated by the Congress, in the amount of P75 billion for the first five years to boost the AFP's capability upgrade program as it shifts from internal to external defense capability.

 RA 10349 institutionalizes the Defense System of Management (DSOM) which incorporates a collegial and collaborative process of planning and decision-making by senior leaders of the defense and military establishments in the determination of the major defense equipment needed by the major services of the AFP to enable them to perform their mandate.

 The DSOM negates the possibility of arbitrariness and favoritism in the decision-making process for the procurement of major defense equipment.

 Under the law, the DSOM is a strategy-driven, capability-based multi-year planning and execution process, which provides for a more scientific, logical and holistic approach to the assessment of the security needs of the country. It provides additional safeguards to ensure the procurement of the optimal and most strategic major defense equipment of the AFP.

 The law grants "additional funding sources from public-private partnership entered into by the Department of National Defense or the AFP, as may be authorized by the President; and proceeds from the lease or joint development of military reservations, as may be authorized by the President, which previously needed the authority of Congress."

 RA 10349 allows multi-year contracts, while payments for outstanding multi-year contract obligations may extend beyond the fifteen (15) year period of implementation.

 The law exempts from the value-added tax and customs duties the sale of weapons, equipment and ammunitions to the AFP, which are directly and exclusively used for its projects, undertakings, activities and programs under the Revised AFP Modernization Act, as well as the importation of weapons, equipment and ammunitions by the AFP.

 RA 10349 incorporates new provisions on the congressional oversight committee to monitor the implementation of the Act, and on the "sunset review" of its accomplishments and impact of the Act. PND (js)

President Aquino underscores importance of AFP Modernization Act in upholding the sovereignty and defending the territorial integrity of the country
President Benigno S. Aquino III underscored the importance of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Act to equip the armed forces to perform its mandate of upholding the sovereignty and defending the territorial integrity of the country at all times.

 In his speech at the ceremonial signing of the new AFP Modernization Act otherwise known as Republic Act No.10349 at the Rizal Hall of the Malacanang Palace on Tuesday, the Chief Executive emphasized the importance of modernizing the armed forces to accelerate the transformation of the Philippines into a truly democratic, stable and progressive nation.

 RA 10349 amends various provisions of RA No. 7898 otherwise known as the AFP Modernization Act.

 "Taong 1995 nang maisabatas ang Republic Act 7898 o mas kilala sa tawag na AFP Modernization Act. Layon nitong tiyakin na habang umuusad tayo sa mas modernong panahon, hindi napag-iiwanan sa uri ng gamit at armas, at nakakasabay sa antas ng kasanayan ang ating Sandatahang Lakas," the President said.

 "Subalit makalipas ang labimpitong taon, hindi maikakaila ang malawak na agwat sa pagitan ng mga antigo at pupugak-pugak na kagamitan ng ating kasundaluhan, at sa mga mas makabago’t high-tech na armas ng ibang mga nasyon," he added.

 "Nagbago na rin ang mga bantang panseguridad ng ating bansa: Kung dati, labis na nakatutok ang pamahalaan sa pagpigil sa mga rebelde, ngayon, kailangang pagtuunan ng higit na pansin ang kaliwa’t kanang tangka ng mga terorista. Habang bumababa ang bilang ng mga umaanib sa mga grupong komunista, at matapos tayong makapagpanday ng kasunduang pangkapayapaan sa MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), may iba pa ring mga pagsubok na kailangan nating paghandaan, gaya na lamang ng usaping teritoryal na kinakasangkutan rin ng ibang mas malalaking bansa sa rehiyon," the President said.

 With the signing of the RA 10349, the AFP can effectively and fully perform its constitutional mandate to uphold the sovereignty and preserve the patrimony of the Republic of the Philippines. The law strengthens the AFP's capability to protect the country's exclusive economic zone from illegal intrusion and exploitation of its resource and secure border areas from smuggling, piracy, drug trafficking, poaching, and other illegal activities.

 The RA 10349, likewise, strengthens the AFP's capability to help protect the country's natural resources and environment and assist in search and rescue operations during disasters and calamities.

 "Kaya naman, napapanahon at makabuluhan ang paglalagda natin ng new AFP Modernization Act. Hudyat ito sa pagbubukas ng mas moderno, mas matatag, at mas mapapagkatiwalaang kabanata sa kasaysayan ng Hukbong Sandatahan ng Pilipinas," the President said.

 "Humahakbang tayo pasulong tungo sa isang pambansang tanggulan na may tunay na kakayahan na protektahan ang sambayanan laban sa anumang banta sa ating soberenya’t kaligtasan. Patunay din ito sa dedikasyon ng pamahalaan na itaguyod ang kapakanan ng bawat Pilipinong bumubuo ng Sandatahang Lakas," he said.

 The new law is a manifestation of the government's unwavering commitment to the AFP.

 "Kung kayo man ay nagsasaayos ng santambak na papeles sa Camp Aguinaldo; nasa kalagitnaan man kayo ng relief operations sa Compostela Valley; o nakadestino man kayo sa isang liblib na kampo sa Luzon, para sa inyong mga kawal na Pilipino ang new AFP Modernization Act," he said.

 "Gaya nang binanggit natin sa huling SONA (State of the Nation Address), pitumpu’t limang bilyong piso po ang nakalaang pondo para sa new AFP Modernization Act, na gagamitin para sa susunod na limang taon," he said.

 The President urged the Filipinos to remain on the straight and righteous path towards a progressive future.

 "Samakatuwid, sa paglalagda natin sa new AFP Modernization Act, muli na naman tayong nabibigyan ng dahilan upang ipagdiwang ang pasya ng taumbayan na tahakin ang tuwid na daan at humakbang tungo sa mas makabuluhang kinabukasan," he said.

 President Aquino lauded the Department of National Defense led by Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and the House of Representative and the Senate for their contributions for the passage of the new law.

 "Tiwala po akong sa mga susunod na buwan, magsisimula nang makita ng sambayanan ang mga kongkretong bunga ng ating mga pagsusumikap, gayundin ang pagtaas ng dangal at moral ng ating buong kasundaluhan," he said.

 Also present during the ceremonial signing were Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Senator Panfilo Lacson; Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Senator Edgardo Angara, 2nd District Paranaque Representative Roilo Golez, Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr., Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, AFP Chief Staff General Jesse Dellosa, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Secretary Manuel Mamba, and Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio "Sonny" Coloma, among others. PND (js)

President Aquino underscores need to lower  electricity rates
President Benigno S. Aquino III underscored the importance of lowering the country’s electricity rates in order to ease the burden of having to pay the high cost of the service and ultimately give our less fortunate countrymen a chance to “lift themselves out of poverty.”

 In his speech at the International Conference on Retail Markets (ICORM) held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Mandaluyong City on Tuesday, the President cited the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) as a long term solution to this predicament hounding the Filipino citizenry.

 He said the WESM as well as other government-led programs such as extending lifeline electricity rates which pegs lower charges to customers who consume less than 100-kilowatt hour per month are programs “we need to undertake…to make our people less vulnerable to sudden increases in the prices of commodities.”

 “So that, ultimately, they are given a legitimate chance to lift themselves out of poverty. Over the long term, we also want to promote a system that will naturally keep power prices reasonable if not preferably low, and this is the rationale for the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market,” the President said.

 “WESM will not magically lower electricity prices overnight, but it is a sensible long term solution. It encourages competition and saves consumers from being at the mercy of a single company with monopoly power; it allows them to select the retailers who offer the most benefit,” he added.

 “While it won’t happen immediately, an efficient Wholesale Electricity Spot Market will increase competitive pressures, and will play a large part in lowering the cost of electricity in this country and increasing our competitiveness. As long as we are able to ensure a level playing field, then the market will do its work. The upcoming implementation of the retail competition and open access can only help. We can look forward to more players in the market, which will move us even closer to more reliable and fairly priced energy for both people and businesses,” the President said.

 The International Conference on Retail Markets 2012 is a conference, organized by the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation - the governance arm of the WESM, that focuses on the critical convergence of wholesale and retail markets. With the imminent opening of the retail electricity market in the Philippines, the challenge will come from the degree of preparedness and responsiveness of the government, regulators, consumers, suppliers, and default service providers in order to achieve a certain level of success in an ever growing and liberalizing electric power industry. PND (rck)

President Aquino agrees to have APECO Law reviewed
In a bid to end discussions questioning its economic viability and appease the close to 3,000 families from Casiguran, Aurora calling for its repeal, President Benigno S. Aquino III agreed to have the APECO (Aurora Pacific Ecozone and Freeport Authority) Law reviewed by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

 In a dialogue held at the San Jose Seminary gym at the Ateneo De Manila campus in Quezon City on Tuesday, the President invited some 120 farmers, fisher folks, indigenous peoples, and other residents of said province to provide any evidence against the APECO Law and assured swift action on it.

 “Ibigay niyo sa amin ang ebidensiya at hahanapin namin ang lahat na dapat humarap,” the President said.

 The farmers, fisher folk, indigenous peoples, and other residents of the province had marched to Manila to ask the President to repeal the APECO Law which was created under Republic Act 9490 in 2007 and amended in 2010 through RA 10083.

 They claim that the law violates existing laws and policies, including the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, the Local Government Code and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, as the law covers more than 12,000 hectares of ancestral lands of the Agta Dumagat.

 The President said he hopes to hear initial findings on the APECO Law in one week’s time. He pointed out that while he agreed to have the APECO Law reviewed, he still wants to see the development of the Philippines' pacific side to prosper.

 He appealed to all concerned to have an "open mind" in order for discussions on the APECO Law and parties concerned to finally reach an understanding to the controversial measure.

 "Pasensiya na po kayo, alam naman po ninyo na marami tayong problemang saklaw at kung makiki-dialogo ako sa inyo pero sarado na ang isip niyo, para na rin tayo nagsayang ng oras," the President said.

 “Yung lahat po ng pinangako ko sa inyo ay mangyayari at nangyayari na sa kasalukuyan at babalikan ko po kayo ‘pag natapos na ‘yung mga pag-aaral na ipinangako ko sa inyo para malaman lahat. Kung meron man tayong pending na kailangan ng desisyon, hindi pa napagde-desisyunan,” the President said.

 “Ngayon, ang mga imbestigasyon ho, nandito ang mga kaukulang miyembro ng Gabinete...kung ‘yung consultation o concurrence hindi nangyari—ay talagang ipipilit po nating mangyari... at tatapusin lahat ng imbestigasyon sa lalong madaling panahon,” he added. PND (rck)

Aquino cites importance of technology in education for country’s sustainable growth
President Benigno S. Aquino III cited the importance of science, technology, and education as potent tools for the country’s sustainable growth.

 In his message during the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Center for Educational Innovation and Technology (SEAMEO-INNOTECH) 13th International Conference at Edsa-Shangrila Hotel on Tuesday in Mandaluyong City, the President said technology has been bridging distance, filling gaps in language and culture, and becoming a vehicle for direct action.

 The President said that both the public and the private sectors are increasingly taking advantage of all that technology offers towards mutual benefit.

 The Chief Executive said that the use of modern technology is also becoming an important part in the government’s agenda of open and good governance, as he noted the role of technology in instantaneous interaction between the government and the people.

 This, he added, has produced concrete results, as evidenced by the quick action and hundreds of lives saved during the devastation of Typhoon Pablo in Mindanao.

 “The Philippine experience with the use of technology in mitigating the effects of natural disasters has made it clear: Today, it is all the more important for us to use technology in responsible ways, to empower people, facilitate the spread of knowledge, and advance causes that redound to the benefit of all,” he said.

 The President has extended his gratitude to SEAMEO-INNOTECH for advancing the state of education in the Philippines for the past 36 years.

 “Your initiatives have benefited thousands of our schools and even more students: from your assistance in improving the basic education of Filipino Muslims to computerized management and operations support tools to facilitate the administration of schools and student monitoring,” he stressed.

 The Philippine is doing its strides too, the President said, adding that last April, it officially launched the K to12 basic education program that is aimed at raising the quality of the country’s education system to make it globally competitive.

 Part of this measure is achieving a 1:1 textbook-to-student ratio, and filling the country’s lack of classrooms and school seats shortage, the President said.

 SEAMEO-INNOTECH International Conference is organized every two years, attracting educators, policymakers and researchers from private and public organizations, non-government organizations and international funding agencies.

 The participants seek meaningful exchange of ideas and experiences in critical education issues. “Educating for the Future We Want: A Green Southeast Asia” is the biennial conference’s theme.

 Joining the President during Tuesday’s event were Education Secretary Armin Luistro, CHED chairperson Patricia Licuanan, TESDA Director General Joel Villanueva, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. and SEAMEO INNOTECH Center Director Ramon Bacani. PND (as)