Wednesday, 6 March 2013

PIA News Dispatch - Wednesday, March 6, 2013

ES Ochoa calls for stronger cooperation to thwart chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on Wednesday called for stronger cooperation in the region to boost its capacity to respond to persistent threats of weapons of mass destruction.

Speaking before officials and delegates of the European Union (EU) and United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) in Malacanang, Ochoa emphasized the importance of forging deeper alliance and collaboration to ward off chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats confronting the world today.

“The key word in the midst of all these efforts is cooperation. As our world gets smaller and criminal elements have shown that they will not hesitate to cross borders to inflict harm to our citizens, it becomes imperative for us to work together to improve our capacity to respond to threats of all kinds, particularly CBRN dangers,” Ochoa said.

Ochoa, chairman of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) and the Philippine Center on Transnational Crime (PCTC), delivered the opening remarks during Wednesday’s official opening of the CBRN Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence (CoE) Regional Secretariat for Southeast Asia (SEA) in the Philippines. The office will be housed in the Mabini Hall inside the MalacaƱang complex.

“CBRN threats are not limited to those posed by criminal elements. Countries in our region are also exposed to accidental or natural CBRN threats and the lack of exposure of some nations to these sorts of dangers mean that some countries are better equipped than others to deal with these concerns,” the Executive Secretary said.

According to Ochoa, the establishment of the regional secretariats is envisioned to address issues stemming from the dangers of CBRN while ensuring the high level of cooperation and coordination between partner countries, donors and international organizations in pursuing programs that will prepare partner nations in emergency cases.

He expressed gratitude to international agencies for choosing the Philippines as host to the institution that will take the lead in regional efforts to improve coordination and preparedness in dealing with CBRN threats in SEA.

He pointed out that having the EU-CBRN CoE office in Mabini Hall, where the ATC and PCTC hold offices, will improve coordination and harmonize government efforts in fighting terrorism, transnational crimes and CBRN dangers.

“Having all these related offices under one roof will allow for closer coordination and information sharing between the bodies concerned with tackling CBRN threats," Ochoa said.

President Aquino visits major road projects in General Santos City

GENERAL SANTOS CITY) President Benigno S. Aquino III visited Wednesday the ongoing construction of the General Santos City Circumferential Road project aimed at making the tuna capital city a major hub of commerce in the region.

The P1.1-billion road project is located on the northern and western suburbs of the city with a total length of 27.6 kilometers including five bridges. Currently, 13.6 kilometers of roads were paved and two bridges were completed.

The project is expected to yield 54 percent economic internal rate of return (EIRR) for the city and could initially divert traffic at 4,739 vehicles daily. This figure could grow as much as 11,898 vehicles per day based on the projected traffic data.

According to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the project will result to around 20 percent reduction in traffic volume along the Digos-Makar and Makar-Kiamba Roads.

This will also significantly reduce the travel time by about 42 percent from Makar-Marbel road to General Santos City Airport and Fishport in the city’s western section.

The travel distance along the northern section will be shortened by 25 percent compared to the Digos-Makar road, with about 44 percent reduction in travel time.

The DPWH has allotted a total of P747.02 million for the project from 1998 to 2013. The DPWH said it will fund the remaining P387.8 million from its 2014 budget or from any available funds of the department.

The circumferential road is one of the key projects in South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City (SOCCSKSARGEN) funded under the Philippine Assistance Program (PAP) in the 1990s that has greatly contributed to the development of Region 12.

The project was expected to support the city’s plan to establish a free port for industrial and export processing with General Santos City as the major trade hub of the SOCCSKSARGEN.

Over the span of 14 years, the region’s exports increased to 158 percent from P13.7 billion in 1998 to P35.3 billion in 2011 with an annual growth rate of 9 percent, according to the project briefer.

Among the SOCCSKSARGEN’s major agricultural and fishery products include coconut, tuna, pineapple, palm oil, banana and dried fruits. Its major markets are the US, Japan, Middle East and Europe. These export products are shipped through the General Santos City Makar Wharf, General Santos City Airport and other ports in Mindanao.

Joining the President during his visit here were Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas, General Santos City Mayor Darlene Antonino Custodio and the city’s local leaders. PND (as)

President Aquino says it’s his duty to advance national good, welfare

GENERAL SANTOS CITY: President Benigno S. Aquino III said it is his obligation to pursue the interest of the greater number of Filipinos with regards to the ongoing crisis in Sabah.

At the same time, the Chief Executive reiterated his position for the peaceful resolution of the issue.

“Ako naman po, bilang ama ng ating bansa, obligasyon ko ‘yung kapakanan, kung hindi ng lahat, ay ‘yung talagang nakararami,” the President said during his speech here as he met the residents and leaders of General Santos City.

The President said the rights of the heirs of the Sulu sultanate must be clarified because there were reports in the past saying these rights were relegated to the Philippine government to pursue the Sabah ownership.

President Aquino mentioned in his speech a paper presented by then Sen. Ambrosio Padilla on March 29, 1968 showing a February 1, 1968 document containing a power of attorney allegedly executed by the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu in favor of former president Ferdinand E. Marcos.

The document was said to be recognizing the authority and power of the President to represent them in their settlement of their propriety rights over Sabah.

President Aquino said there is an ongoing propaganda war with regards to the Sabah issue.

The President also defended his position of calling for a peaceful resolution to the issue by persuading the followers of the sultan of Sulu to go back home.

“Kayo po testigo, nagmakailang ulit na po akong nakikiusap na kung pupuwede lumikas doon, bumalik na muna dito at pag-usapan natin ang problema sa mapayapa at mahinahon na pamamaraan,” he said.

“Mali ho ba ang mungkahing ‘yon? Tama ho ba ang sinusugsog ng ilan na dapat suportahan natin ang mga nandoon na may dala-dalang armas, na nagkaroon na ng patayan?”

The ongoing conflict in Sabah may spoil the gains achieved by Malaysia and the Philippines particularly the stability in Mindanao after Malaysia successfully brokered the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Despite Malaysia's previous animosity towards the Philippines, the Philippine-Malaysia relations improved dramatically in the past several decades with the Malaysians aiding the Philippines achieve Mindanao peace, he said.

“Mag-i-invest sila [Malaysia], magtri-training sila, magiging partner natin sila para magkaroon ng tiyak na pamamaraan umasenso ang buhay ng mga kapatid na nag-alsa na rin, at some point in time,” he said.

It is regrettable that the improved relations between the two countries could be shattered by the Sabah instability, he said.

Everyone involved must clarify the issue because at stake is the national interest and welfare, he said.

“Ako’y umaapela sa inyo, dapat maliwanag na maliwanag dito. Itong pangyayaring ito mali. Kung mali bakit natin susuportahan? Dapat suportahan po natin ‘yung tama. ‘Yung tama ang magdadala sa atin sa maaliwalas na kondisyon; ‘yung mali dadalhin tayo sa kapahamakan,” he said.

The Sabah conflict began February 12, when Malaysia’s government said an estimated 100-300 armed Filipinos had landed in a territory claiming sovereignty over it.

After the initial standoff, violence erupted last week with a deadly shootout. On Tuesday Malaysian security forces launched a massive campaign to flush out the armed Filipinos. They said 27 have died in the shootouts and related violence. PND (as)

President Aquino confident Filipino people will choose right leaders for continued reforms

GENERAL SANTOS CITY: President Benigno S. Aquino III expressed confidence that the Filipino people will choose a successor competent and honest enough to continue the reforms he has initiated in government.

In his message during his meeting with local leaders here, the President said some people have been asking him how he’ll ensure that the reforms and anti-corruption initiatives he has started in government will be maintained after his term of office.

“Tinatanong ako, ‘Paano ‘pag baba mo sa 2016?’ Ito ba nagbakasyon lang tayo, 2016, balik na naman sa dating kalakaran? Sabi ko, ‘Buo ang tiwala ko sa mga Boss ko; nahanap nila ako, makakahanap sila ulit nang papalit sa atin na magpapatuloy ng ating ginawa,’” he said.

But in the meantime, he told the people of General Santos City that he needs individuals who will help him in the reform agenda of his administration.

He asked them to support the senatorial slate of the coalition to ensure that reforms continue in the legislature. He also appealed to the people of the city to back local candidates of the administration party.

The President said he’s confident that the people will support the administration candidates because they did it before especially when he ran for the presidency in 2010, the seat that he won in that election.

The anti-corruption fight and bureaucratic reforms are now bearing fruits, he said. For instance the government was able to clean the once-tainted Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), which has been saving huge amounts of money in its recent projects.

The administration was also able to fix anomalies in rice importation in the National Food Authority (NFA).

“Dati tinataya 1.3 million tons of rice every year ang kailangan nating i-import. Ngayon, umaasa tayo malapit na tayong mag-export ng bigas dahil sobra na ang ating kabigasan,” he said.

“Kayo na naman ang dahilan niyan. Lahat ng nagawa ng pamahalaan natin, kayo ang naging susi diyan,” he added acknowledging the support of the general public.

The President was in General Santos City Wednesday to visit a major road project that is expected to boost trade in the city and the entire Region 12. PND (as)