Thursday, 30 October 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Thursday, October 30, 2014

President Aquino approves P167.9-billion rehabilitation plan for Eastern Visayas

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday approved the P167.9-billion Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan (CRRP), which shows the government’s commitment to rebuild areas in Eastern Visayas devastated by Typhoon Yolanda last year.

"Upon the recommendation of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery and the favorable endorsement of the National Economic Development Authority, the President approved yesterday 29 October 2014 the 8,000-page Yolanda Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan, which outlines the National Government’s commitment to implement over 25,000 rehabilitation and recovery specific plans and programs and activities," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

Secretary Coloma said the recovery plan and activities are envisioned to bring forth the recovery of the 171 affected cities and municipalities in 14 provinces and six regions, known as the “Yolanda corridor”, based on the "build-back-better” principle.

The recovery plan focuses on long-term and sustainable efforts to reduce vulnerabilities and strengthen the capacities of communities to cope with future hazard events, he added.

The rebuilding efforts require a total amount of P167.9 billion aimed at restoring infrastructure, settlements and basic community facilities, livelihood, and the resilience of vulnerable communities, Coloma said.

The P167.9 billion is broken down into P35.1 billion for infrastructure; P26.4 billion for social services; P75.7 billion for resettlement; and P30.6 billion for livelihood. PND (as)

Palace defends two Cabinet members linked to alleged overpricing of Iloilo Convention Center

Malacañang said Thursday it believes the two Cabinet secretaries being implicated in the alleged overpricing in the construction of the P700-million Iloilo Convention Center, could defend themselves and do not need to take a leave of absence.

"We don’t see any reason to do that," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said when asked whether it is necessary for Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson and Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez to take a leave of absence.

The two Cabinet secretaries have been named as co-respondents when Manuel Mejorada, Jr. filed criminal and administrative charges against Senate President Franklin Drilon at the Office of the Ombudsman on Wednesday over the alleged overpricing of the Iloilo Convention Center.

"Secretary Babes Singson is very confident that the bidding process undertaken for the Iloilo Convention Center was above board," Lacierda told reporters during a press briefing at the Palace.

He said he did not know why Mejorada had to name Secretary Jimenez as a co-respondent.

"I think this was a personal feud by that person and Senator Frank Drilon. But you know, maybe to carry more media mileage, he decided to sue Secretary Singson and Secretary Jimenez. But Secretary Singson has already said he can easily defend the bidding process," Lacierda said.

He further said that Malacañang will leave it to Senator Drilon to defend himself in court, noting that the legislator has in previous interviews expressed his confidence in hurdling the case against him.
The Iloilo Convention Center, Drilon’s pet project, is being built by Hilmarc’s Construction Corp., the contractor of the allegedly overpriced Makati parking building. PND (as)

Palace thanks Congressmen for passing 2015 national budget

Malacañang has expressed its gratitude to the House of Representatives for approving the P2.6-trillion 2015 national budget, which will now be sent to the Senate for deliberations.

"We’d like to thank the House of Representatives for the speedy resolution and passing of the 2015 budget in their chamber," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during Thursday’s press briefing at the Palace.

"Now, the process of budget approval goes to the Senate, and we also hope that the Senate will look into the budget, and we hope that before the year-end, the budget will be approved," he added.

On criticisms that the administration has railroaded the approval of the 2015 budget, Lacierda said the proposed budget shows where the public funds are going.

“Our budget is designed to ensure the continuation of social services to our countrymen and also to make measures, improve the current infrastructure that we have, to make sure that we will have a better climate for investment, he said.

He further said that the proposed budget was crafted so that the poorest of the poor will not be left behind.

"That’s our main goal, and we will continue to do so, despite all this noise from the Makabayan bloc," Lacierda said.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved the P2.606 trillion budget for 2015 on third and final reading, despite opposition from Party list lawmakers. PND (as)

Government has funds to build new settlements for victims of Typhoon Yolanda, says official

The government has the funds and is ready to build new settlements for victims of Typhoon Yolanda but the challenge is finding the right location to construct those new houses, a Palace official has said.

"The NHA (National Housing Authority) is prepared to do so much housing units. We have the funds for that. Again, the issue here is always on the local government side,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during a press briefing in Malacañang on Thursday.

Secretary Lacierda said local government units have to identify the land on which the permanent housing structures will be built but they have to ensure that the new location is safe from storm surges.

The government, he said, also wants to ensure that the housing structures could withstand typhoons as strong as Yolanda.

Upon the recommendation of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery, President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday approved the P167.9-billion Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan (CRRP) for communities devastated by Typhoon Yolanda.

The 8,000-page rehabilitation plan outlines the government’s commitment to carry out more than 25,000 specific plans, programs and activities, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. has said.

Secretary Coloma said that according to the Office of the Executive Secretary, the Department of Budget and Management has released P51.98 billion since November 2013.

The money came from the national budget, as authorized by the General Appropriations Act. PND (as)

Malacañang bids farewell to former Senator Juan Flavier

Malacanang extended its condolences to the families of former Senator Juan Flavier who died after multiple organ failure and sepsis brought about by pneumonia at around 4 p.m. Thursday.

"We join the Filipino people in mourning the death of former Senator and Health Secretary Juan Flavier. As a public servant, he championed the cause of countryside development and upgrading the quality of public health care," said Presidential Communication Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., in a statement emailed to members of the Malacañang Press Corps.

The former health secretary turned Senator was 79 years old.

In 1992, he was appointed by former President Fidel V. Ramos to head the Department of Health. In 1995, he ran for Senate under the administration ticket.

Flavier was best known for the catchphrase "Let's DOH it," which he used to promote the department's programs.

He was considered the poorest Senator as reflected in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth.

"He served with integrity and endeared himself to the people by dint of his humility, simplicity, jovial character and common touch. Truly, he was an exemplary Filipino leader," Coloma added. PND (ag)

Malacañang confirms Health Secretary Ona's leave of absence

Malacañang confirmed on Thursday that Health Secretary Enrique Ona took a leave of absence due to health reason.

"Si Secretary Ike Ona ay nag-leave muna for health and personal reasons. May mga nagtatanong kung nag-resign siya, hindi. Naka-leave lang siya," said Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Laciera in a press briefing.

He added that Undersecretary Janette Garin is now the Officer-In-Charge of the health department.

When asked if Ona's leave will hamper works in preventing Ebola Virus entering the country, Lacierda said the work on Ebola is a multi-agency task force and will not be crippled with the absence of the head of agency.

"Insofar as the Department of Health is concerned, there are personnel who are handling that issue on the Ebola. So we’ve seen protocols, we’ve seen preparations being done by the Department of Health, even in the—even as Secretary Ike Ona takes a leave of absence," said Lacierda.

Lacierda credited Secretary Ona both for the increase of the PhilHealth coverage and the number of vaccinations.

According to reports, Ona's leave will be from October 23 to November 27. PND (ag)

PIA News Dispatch - Wednesday, October 29, 2014

President Aquino tells soldiers: Contribute to improve the military organization

President Benigno S. Aquino III encouraged the members of the armed forces to help make the military organization a much better and professional fighting force by giving their individual contribution.

In his speech during the 45th AFP Sergeant Major and 19th Non-Commissioned Officers Day in Malacanang Palace Tuesday night, the President told the Armed Forces of the Philippines's Sergeant Majors to do their part by actively playing bridge to old and new military officers.

"Kayong mga Sergeant Major, kayo ang nag-uugnay, kayo ang tagahubog doon sa mga bagong hirang na opisyal. Kayo naman ang tagapasa ng kaalaman doon sa mga mas bata sa inyo," the President said.

Sergeant Majors should share their experiences to younger officers for the benefit of the entire military organization, he added.

"Puwede naman tayong kabahagi ng napagandang institusyon. Iyon ang kailangang pagpilian," he said.

While ordinary soldiers are doing their duties, the government will also do its part, the President said.

For instance, the government has started mass housing projects for soldiers, initiated fixing their pensions, aggressively pushed for the AFP modernization and has provided livelihood to members of the military.

Part of the livelihood program for soldiers were the ones opened in three camps in the country. One in Fort Magsaysay, and camps in Capiz and Bukidnon. The biggest initiative in the livelihood program is palm oil production, he said.

"At ang plano dito ‘yung aktibo at saka ‘yung retirado makkiinabang na. May tulong na rin na nagagamit ng estado itong lupang bakante ngayon pero importante nakatutok doon sa kapakanan ng mga tao ngang malaki-laking bahagi ng buhay nila ang hinandog sa serbisyo ng bansa," the President said.

Different government agencies will work together to help the soldiers such as putting up cooperatives, giving them know-how and skills and start businesses, according to the President.

In terms of modernizing the AFP, the President said that so far, 44 projects were already completed under the AFP Modernization Capability Upgrade Program from July 2010 to September 2014.

The Aquino administration surpassed the number of projects of three previous administrations under its modernization program for the military.

The government has so far spent P41.38 billion for the AFP modernization. The money was spent for acquiring new planes, guns, communications equipment, force protection and many others, he said.

"Meron pa akong natitirang isang taon [at] walong buwan; at marami pa tayong nasa pipeline," he said. PND (as)

President Aquino swears in Supreme Court Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday inducted into office Supreme Court Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza during a ceremony held at the Music Room of Malacañang Palace.

Associate Justice Jardeleza, 65, replaced retired Associate Justice Roberto Abad. He is the 173rd Associate Justice and the fifth appointee of President Aquino in the Supreme Court.

He was also sworn into office by Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno last August 20, the same day he was appointed.

Jardeleza had served as Solicitor General since February 2012, after his stint as Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon from July 2011.

He graduated with honors from the University of the Philippines College of Law in 1974 and placed third in the bar exams the same year. He earned his Masters of Law degree in 1977 from the Harvard School of Law.

In 1997, he was admitted to the New York Sate Bar and the US Eastern and Southern Districts of New York.

Present during the ceremony were his mother Concepcion Jardeleza, wife Maria Carmen Jardeleza, and children Maria Teresa and Francis Albert. PND (ag)

China welcomes Philippines' participation in 2014 APEC Summit in Beijing, says foreign affairs official

Despite their differences, China welcomes the Philippines' participation in the 2014 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Beijing this November, a foreign affairs official said on Wednesday.

“The Chinese government is really looking forward to our participation,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for International Economic Relations Laura del Rosario said in a press briefing in Malacañang.

The Philippines has a very good and strong delegation going to the summit and the Chinese are happy that the Philippines is supportive of their hosting of the APEC summit, del Rosario said.

There is an APEC tradition of carrying over a host economy’s long-term concerns that have yet to be settled into the next summit, she said, explaining that China's senior officials know that any unfinished business in this year’s summit will be carried over into next year’s APEC summit, which the Philippines will host.

"So it’s very nice, what I call ‘partnership’ because, in effect, we will be holding hands to make sure that all the issues that affect us will be handled smoothly from one host economy to another," del Rosario said.

President Aquino leaves for Beijing on November 9 and will proceed to Myanmar on November 11 to attend the ASEAN Summit. PND (as)

President Aquino to discuss trade, governance during 2014 APEC Summit

President Benigno S. Aquino III will be discussing trade, good governance, and disaster resilience when he meets with fellow leaders and businessmen during the 2014 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Beijing, China next month.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for International Economic Relations Laura del Rosario said in a press briefing in Malacañang on Wednesday that the President's schedule includes meetings with business executives and fellow leaders during the APEC Summit.

Del Rosario said that as part of the APEC tradition, the President will have a dialogue with the chief executive officers or with members of the APEC Business Advisory Council.

Prior to the CEO Summit on November 9, the President will give a talk on economic reform for competitive growth, she said.

"This topic is really very appropriate for the President because we are aware of the fact that this administration has done a lot of improvements in its regulations, just so we can become more competitive," she said.

After his meeting with the business leaders, the President will have a dialogue with his fellow leaders on promoting disaster resilience, small, micro- and medium enterprises, financial inclusion, and domestic governance.

According to del Rosario, there will be a discussion on Internet economy, physical connectivity, people-to-people connectivity, as well as APEC scholarships.

She said the Chief Executive is also expected to speak about strengthening the connectivity and structural development of APEC member countries.

"During the Summit itself, the leaders themselves will carry out the discussions and look forward to the future discussions that will be held in future APEC (meetings)," she explained.

For the APEC Leaders’ Meeting, the leaders will discuss advancing regional economic integration, specifically free trade arrangements among Pacific Rim countries.

Del Rosario noted that APEC 2014 is handling issues that are more complex than before, because the Asia Pacific is now becoming increasingly sure of its role as the engine of growth in the whole world.

There are also more pressing matters that need to be addressed, she said, considering the previous experiences that the trade bloc had in 2008, particularly the financial crisis and the expansion of trade in the region.

Countries will be looking more into areas where they can do more improvements, she added.

The President will leave for China on November 9. He will leave Beijing on November 11 to attend the ASEAN Summit in Myanmar. PND (as)

President Aquino to push for stronger ties with Latin American countries during APEC Summit

President Benigno S. Aquino III will look into the possibility of getting investment when he meets with leaders of Latin American countries during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Beijing next month, a foreign affairs official said Wednesday.

The Philippines considers Latin America a new frontier in terms of doing business, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura del Rosario said in a press briefing in Malacañang.

There are growing economies in Latin America such as Argentina, Chile, and Brazil, and building ties with them would benefit the Philippines, del Rosario said, noting that Brazil is not an APEC member.

"If we strengthen our relations, for instance, with Mexico, Peru, and Chile, then somehow we (will) have a foothold there," she said.

It is already evident that Latin American countries are bringing more investment to the Philippines, she said, adding that Mexico has increased its investment in the Philippines through FEMSA Coca-Cola and cement manufacturer CEMEX.

The President leaves for the APEC Summit in Beijing on November 9 and will proceed to the ASEAN Summit in Myanmar on November 11. PND (as)

PIA News Dispatch - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Palace reaffirms stand on Visiting Forces Agreement

The Palace said Tuesday it stands firm in upholding its defense cooperation agreement with the United States, despite the recent death of a transgender Filipino in Olongapo City.

"The President has already stated that the Philippines needsthe Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which forms an integral part of our national defense strategy," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement.

"On the slaying of Jennifer Laude, the government is exerting all efforts to ensure the ends of justice would be served," he said.

In an event in Leyte last week, President Benigno S. Aquino III rejected calls for the abrogation of the VFA following the killing of transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, allegedly by a US Marine in Olongapo City.
The President also said that the government’s priority is to ensure that justice is served to Laude.

The sin of one person should not reflect badly on an entire country, he said, noting that what is important is that whenever a crime is committed, all evidences must be gathered to prove the guilt of the suspect to attain justice.

The President also said that his administration will ensure that the suspect is made available inall judicial processes, as provided for in the treaty. PND (as)

President Aquino: No second term for me

President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Tuesday that he has no intentions of seeking a second term in office.

"There are some quarters that were saying I should try and go for a second term. I don’t think that’s a right solution," President Aquino said during the open forum of the 13th CEO Forum and 118th General Membership Meeting of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc. (SEIPI) at The Peninsula Manila, Makati City.

The President was responding to a question on how he plans to ensure that the country’s economic growth is sustained after his term expires in 2016.

"Now, with regards to how do we sustain this after 2016? Then, perhaps I will vote for the right candidate," he said, adding that voters should discern properly the candidate who is merely extolling populist sentiments with no substance, as opposed to the candidate who not only says the right things but who can be trusted to deliver on promises made.

“There has to be that continuation of people of like mind who will deliver on the promises that are real and not just self-serving or nice, (or) pleasant to hear,” he said.

President Aquino has yet to endorse a candidate for the 2016 presidential election. His administration is consistently saying that they would rather focus on governance than politicking.

Present during the forum were Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Secretary Joel Villanueva, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, SEIPI President Danilo Lachica, and general manager of The Peninsula ManilaSonja Vodusek. PND (ag)

Better business environment attracts more foreign investors, says official

Creating a better business environment is the government’s major thrust in attracting investors to come to the Philippines, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo said on Tuesday.

During the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc.’s (SEIPI) 13th CEO Forum in Makati City, businessmen asked President Benigno S. Aquino III how the Philippines competes with its Asian neighbors in terms of attracting foreign investors.

President Aquino referred the question to Secretary Domingo, whom he described as the main man conducting the roadshows to engage potential investors.

"The primary answer to that is really creating a better business environment for investments to come to the Philippines," Domingo said, noting that the country's foreign direct investments (FDI) have increased in the past four years.

The country’s FDI amounted to about a billion dollars in 2010, and steadily rose to $2 billion in 2011, about $3 billion in 2012, and $3.8 billion in 2013, he said.

"As of the latest figure writing up to August, it’s already $4 billion FDI this year," Domingo added.

"It seems that the President’s good governance agenda has been very well received by foreign businesses, resulting in the credit ratings upgrades," he said.

"So all of this is really reaping dividends; and we continue to work on improving the business environment and continue the discussions with the private sector so we go hand-in-hand, including the development of roadmaps for many of the sectors including the electronics industry," he added.

In his recent trip to the US, President Aquino said he met with businessmen who have shown interest in doing business in the Philippines due to the much improved business conditions in the country.

The Philippines has begun to get into the limelight and businesses have begun to notice the changes in the country, the President said.

He said his administration intends to maximize the Philippines' exposure by showing all investors the edge in putting their money in the country. PND (as)

President Aquino praises achievements of semiconductor and electronics industry

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Tuesday recognized the achievements of the country’s semiconductor and electronics industry, praising its resilience amid global economic uncertainties.

Speaking during the 13th CEO Forum and 118th General Membership Meeting of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc. (SEIPI), held at The Peninsula Manila, Makati City, President Aquino said the industry has been a true partner in the country’s pursuit of inclusive growth, providing direct employment to 331,000 Filipinos and indirect employment to another 2.3 million workers.

The industry is also responsible for a significant portion of the country’s exports, he said.

“Last year, total exports from the industry was recorded at almost $24 billion, which accounts for 42.2 percent of our country’s total exports, with early data giving us reason to be optimistic for an even stronger performance this year,” he said.

In turn, the government will help the industry maintain its momentum by ensuring that it has the manpower it needs, the President said, acknowledging the role of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in training workers employed by the industry.

He further noted that the Department of Science and Technology has set up the Advanced Device and Materials Testing Laboratory, which semiconductor and electronics companies could use to test their products without going abroad.

He said the number of companies that have availed of the laboratory’s services has increased from 16 last year to 41 this year.

President Aquino further said that the government is establishing the Electronics Product Development Center in Bicutan to assist product designers in improving the quality of their designs, and is doing everything to meet the industry’s energy requirements by seeking authority from Congress to contract additional power reserves.

He also said that the Department of Energy has formed Task Force Electricity to harness the ideas of stakeholders, look into the cost components of electricity bills, and ultimately reduce the price of power.

"Rest assured, the government will continue to match your efforts, listen to your concerns, and do everything possible to give you even more reasons to operate here in the Philippines," said the President.

SEIPI is the largest organization of foreign and Filipino semiconductor and electronics companies in the Philippines. Its members include Texas Instruments, HSDT Philippines Corp., Toshiba, Analog Devices, Amkor Technology, ON Semiconductor, Cebu Mitsumi, Fairchild Semiconductor, Cypress, Continental Temic, SunPower, Ionics, Sharp, and Samsung.

Present during the forum were TESDA Secretary Joel Villanueva, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, SEIPI President Danilo Lachica, and general manager of The Peninsula Manila Sonja Vodusek. PND (ag)

President Aquino: Government is investing in its people

The government is investing in people to make the Philippines competitive at the regional level, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Tuesday.

"We believe the greatest single resource of the country is the people; hence all of the investments, not just in education, but also in other social concerns, like health," the President said during the open forum of the 13th CEO Forum and 118th General Membership Meeting of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc. (SEIPI), held at The Peninsula Manila in Makati City.

He was responding to a question on the country’s efforts to prepare for ASEAN integration next year.

In terms of health care, 82 percent of the population is already enrolled in PhilHealth, he said, adding that the government has already expanded health care coverage to include catastrophic illnesses.

The Conditional Cash Transfer program meanwhile has been expanded to include families with children in high school to give them a better chance of landing decent jobs, he said, acknowledging the help of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and other agencies in training manpower for the semiconductor and electronics industry.

The government has also increased the budget for education from P161.41 billion in 2010 to P281.77 billion this year, the President said, adding that TESDA's budget has been adjusted from P2.89 billion in 2010 to P5.12 billion this year. PND (as)

Contracting generating sets, off the table for now, says President Aquino

Congress has not yet granted the Executive Branch emergency powers to address the looming energy shortage next year, thus contracting generating sets is not an option at the moment, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Tuesday.

"Congress has not given us that power as of yet; and of course, the emergency period or the critical period is from March, April, May, June and July next year. So that doesn’t seem to be an option at this point in time," President Aquino said during the open forum of the 13th CEO Forum and 118th General Membership Meeting of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc. (SEIPI), held at The Peninsula Manila in Makati City.

The President was asked by businessmen about the preparations the government is making to deal with the impending energy shortage in 2015.

He said one of the things they have asked Congress was for the administration to be able to rent two or three diesel generators that could produce 300 megawatts.

“Unfortunately, there is a need of six months to install these facilities to include all of the civil works attendant to it—fuel tanks, the ports that will service, etcetera,” the Chief Executive said.

The government, he said, could utilize the Malaya 1 and 2 power plants but not in full capacity.

“If you run them at full capacity of about 300 or so megawatts each, there is a 90 percent probability that they will conk out. Running them at about 230 will give us, again, a 50-50 chance for them conking out. So, we will have about 120 megawatts for each one,” he explained.

The government is also looking at the Millennium power plant in Metro Manila that will start operating in March next year and could produce 110 megawatts of power, he said.

“Congress and some members of the private sector are very, very inclined to just utilize the so-called Interruptible Load Program,” he said, noting however that these are just back-up generators and are not reliable and that's the reason why the government prefers to have base load plants.

He pointed out that the government wants base load plants because they have demonstrated the capability to produce the attendant power, although at a high cost.

Another thrust of the government is to reduce energy consumption, the President said, noting that the government has distributed some 8.6 million high-efficiency bulbs in an effort to reduce power consumption and reduce the demand for electricity.

"So hopefully, all of these steps that are being undertaken,… and hopefully we will have a mild or non-existent El Niño situation next year... will not produce the emergency situation, and that we will all have the necessary power," he said. PND (as)

PIA News Dispatch - Monday, October 27, 2014

President Aquino confers Order of Lakandula on U.N. Resident Coordinator Luiza Carvalho

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday conferred the Order of Lakandula, with the rank of Grand Officer, on United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Philippines Luiza Carvalho.

The President gave the award to Carvalho during her farewell call, held at the Music Room of Malacañang Palace.

Carvalho, who is also the resident representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), was honored for strengthening and deepening the relations between the Philippines and the UN; for her outstanding and dedicated service in the field of humanitarian work, peace and development; and for being an “exceptionally worthy and competent representative” of the UN in the country.

She was also recognized for her “steadfast efforts in promoting partnerships between Philippine private and public institutions, with the end view of providing support to marginalized communities”.

The Chief Executive acknowledged her efforts in mobilizing international support to the Philippines in sectors of crisis intervention and emergency response, disaster risk reduction management, good governance, education, and social welfare and development.

Carvalho was also praised for her contribution and support to the Philippine initiatives in the domestic, regional and multilateral arena, especially in the areas of human rights, empowerment of women and peace building and conflict resolution.

Also present at the awarding ceremony were Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman, and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan.

Carvalho was joined by her spouse and other UN officials. PND (jb)

Philippine Army Dragon Boat Team calls on President Aquino

President Benigno S. Aquino III received the members of the Philippine Army Dragon Boat Team during a courtesy call at the President’s Hall of Malacañang Palace on Monday.

Upon entering the room, President Aquino warmly greeted the Philippine Army paddlers, led by team leader and president Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc.

He shook hands with the team members, who were proudly wearing their gold medals, which they bagged during the 9th International Dragon Boat Federation Club Crew World Championships held in Ravenna, Italy last September.

The team gave honor to the country for setting two world records by winning the competition’s 200- and 500-meter small boat open categories.

The members of the Philippine Army Dragon Boat Team were: steersman Technical Sergeant Franco Tinoco; paddlers Senior Sergeant Joemar Ocquiana, Sergeant Ronald Tan, Private First Class Ramie Llano, Private First Class Gerald Dela Cruz, Private First Class Hardy Pabulayan, Private First Class Cresmark Dayumat, Senior Sergeant Romy John Dionio, Senior Sergeant Usman Anterola, Senior Sergeant Salvador Sumagaysay, Sergeant Rodrigo Tanuan Jr., Private First Class Romel Donesa, Private First Class Rame Llano, and Private First Class Gil Martin Gonzales; and drummer Private First Class Jayson dela Cruz.

Also present during the courtesy call were National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gregorio Pio Catapang, and Army Chief Hernando Iriberri. PND (jb)

Palace acknowledges results of Social Weather Stations survey on self-rated poverty

Malacañang on Monday acknowledged the findings of the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey on self-rated poverty and self-rated food poverty, saying the government is focused on addressing poverty alleviation.

In a statement sent to members of the Malacañang Press Corps, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. however noted that a similar government survey showed a decline in poverty incidence.

“While we take cognizance of the slight rise in the self-rated poverty and self-rated food poverty, the government policies and programs are pursued based on the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) of the Philippine Statistics Authority, which shows that poverty incidence has eased to 24.9 percent for the first semester of 2013, compared to the 27.9 percent in the same period in 2012,” Secretary Coloma said.

He said the same FIES showed a decline in the proportion of extremely poor Filipino individuals who could not afford to meet basic food requirements from 13.4 percent in 2012 to 10.7 percent in 2013.

“Nonetheless, the government shall continue to focus on intensifying programs for poverty reduction and social protection, including increasing the budget and coverage of the Conditional Cash Transfer program,” he said in the statement.

The government, he said, has earmarked the biggest portion of the proposed P2.606-trillion 2015 national budget for social services at P967.9 billion or 37.2 percent.

“The proposed budget also focuses on delivering high-impact projects in 44 provinces with high poverty magnitude where more job opportunities will be created: provinces with high poverty incidence that require adequate social safety nets and those which are vulnerable to natural calamities,” said Coloma.

The SWS survey on self-rated poverty, conducted from September 26 to 29, showed 55 percent of the 1,200 respondents nationwide considered themselves poor.

The survey said the figure, which is equivalent to an estimated 12.1 million families, is unchanged from June and three points above the 52 percent average for the four quarters of 2013. PND (ag)

PIA News Dispatch - Sunday, October 26, 2014

All systems go for All Saints' Day, says Palace

It is all systems go for All Saints' Day, said Presidential Communication Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., on Sunday.

"Batay sa kautusan ng Pangulo (Benigno Aquino III), isinasagawa ng lahat ng mga kinauukulang ahensya ng pamahalaan ang puspusang paghahanda para sa darating na Undas," said Coloma in a radio interview over radio station dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

He noted that the Philippine National Police (PNP) is set to be in full alert status.

"Nakatakdang magtaas ng full alert ang PNP para sa nalalapit na Undas. Sa kasalukuyan ay naka-alerto na po sila habang lumalapit tayo sa araw mismo ng Undas," Coloma said.

"Ayon kay PNP Chief (General) Alan Purisima, naka-alerto na ngayon ang lahat ng pulisya sa bansa para sa mga magsisimula nang umuwi patungong probinsya. Mas mahigpit na rin ang ipinapatupad na seguridad sa mga pantalan, terminal ng bus, at airport terminals," he added.

Coloma also reported that the Land Transportation Office, beginning October 27, will assign watchers to observe bus terminals in Metro Manila in a round-the-clock basis.

"Gayundin ang isasagawa ng Philippine Ports Authority sa lahat ng pantalan, at ng Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines sa lahat ng paliparan sa buong bansa," Coloma added.

The Communication Secretary also said the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board is now accepting special permits for Metro Manila buses that will transport commuters to the provinces. The special permit will last until November 3. PND (ag)

Palace hopeful that 2015 national budget will be passed within the week

Malacañang expressed its optimism that the proposed national budget will be passed by Congress and the Senate before it adjourns its session on October 29.

"Umaasa po tayo na sa suporta ng liderato ng Kongreso ay matutupad po ang ating hinahangad na maipasa sa kabuuan ang pambansang budget ng Camara de Representantes at ng Senado sa loob ng panahong nakatakda," said Presidential Communication Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., in a radio interview over radio station dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

The budget department proposed a P2.606 trillion budget for 2015.

Coloma added that the Palace also hopes that the proposed budget will be passed in time as it did since President Benigno Aquino III took office.

The proposed budget is 15 percent higher than the 2014 national budget.

About 37.2 percent or the bulk of the proposed national budget is dedicated for the social services of the government, which is for the education and health of the citizens. PND (ag)

PIA News Dispatch - Saturday, October 25, 2014

President Aquino commends 'Jesus is Lord' during anniversary, acknowledges contribution to national progress

President Benigno S. Aquino III acknowledged the contribution of the Jesus is Lord (JIL) Church on Friday during the congregation's 36th founding anniversary celebration at the Rizal Park.
In his speech during Friday's event, the President said Jesus Is Lord Church Worldwide, founded evangelist Bro. Eddie Villanueva, became instrumental in fighting poverty and industry during a period when the country was experiencing uncertainty.

"Sinisikap ng inyo pong kongregasyon na gabayan ang inyong mga kasapi sa kanilang mga desisyon sa buhay, at humanap ng maiging paraan upang tugunan ang problema," the President said.

At the same time, the President expressed his gratitude to the leadership of Jesus Is Lord Church for helping his administration fight corruption and uplift the living condition of the Filipino people.

"Makakaasa kayong dodoblehin pa ng inyong gobyerno ang pagsisikap nitong maghatid ng malawakan at pangmatagalang benepisyo sa mas nakakaraming Pilipino," the President said.

"Sa tulong ng inyong lumalagong samahan, nananalig ako sa pagdami pa ng mga Pilipinong magsasabuhay ng dakilang aral ng Panginoon."

The President also acknowledged the contribution of the other members of the Villanueva family such as TESDA Dir. Gen. Joel Villanueva.

He said the agency has improved a lot. Citing data from the Department of Budget and Management, he said that only 28.5 percent of TESDA scholars found jobs from 2006 to 2008.

"Sa matuwid na pamamahala sa ahensya, nagtala ng general average na 68.5 percent employment rate ang mga nagtapos ng Training for Work Scholarship Program ng TESDA noong 2012," he said.

There is an employment rate of 96 percent for those who graduated from tech-voc training under TESDA and Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines starting April until September 2014, he added.

Rep. Sherwin Tugna, Bro Eddie Villanueva's son in law, is also one of the administration's pillars in Congress, a government partner in spearheading accountability in public service, he said.

The theme of JIL's 36th founding anniversary celebration this year is "Pursue Peace and Be Holy, Without Which No One Can See God." PND (as)

Malacanang welcomes Lonely Planet's recognition of Philippine tourism

The Palace welcomed Saturday another recognition for the country's tourism sector after it was named "a must-see destination in 2015" by travel guide publisher Lonely Planet.

"Ikinagagalak natin ‘yan sapagkat talaga namang ikinararangal ng ating bansa ang pagkakaroon ng pinakamagagandang isla at magagandang natural endowments kaya naman dinarayo ito ng mga mamamayan mula sa iba’t ibang panig ng mundo," Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said in a radio interview Saturday.

"At bukod pa riyan, ang likas na pagiging mabait at pagiging hospitable ng ating mga kababayan, na kung saan ay talagang ipinararamdam sa mga bumibisita na parang hindi sila umalis sa kanilang tahanan o bayan. At bukod pa riyan, it’s really ‘more fun in the Philippines,'" he told dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

Lonely Planet, the largest travel book guide publisher, named the Philippines as one of the best countries to visit in 2015.

The travel guide publisher ranked the Philippines eighth in its yearly "Best in Travel - Countries" noting that the country's placement is long overdue.

Lonely Planet praised the country's coral reefs, coastlines, and also noted the Philippines' love of street parades, food festivals, and live musical events, which gave the country a "cabaret atmosphere" almost every night.

Other countries in the Lonely Planet's "Best in Travel" list include Singapore, Namibia, Lithuania, Nicaragua, Ireland, Republic of Congo, Serbia, St. Lucia and Morocco. PND (as)

Government has enough measures to fend off Ebola virus, says official

Philippine health authorities have strengthened the mechanism to fight Ebola virus especially with the expected influx of Filipinos returning to the country for the Christmas season.

It was reported that a health worker in New York tested positive for Ebola virus after working in Africa. New York has a large concentration of Filipinos.

"Pinapalakas pa ng ating pamahalaan ang paglatag ng epektibo at matatag na depensa laban sa Ebola virus," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said regarding the government response on Ebola virus.

"Palagiang binabanggit ng Pangulo na sa dami ng Pilipinong nasa labas ng bansa, ay inaasahan nating marami rin sa kanila ang uuwi sa panahon ng Kapaskuhan, kinakailangang palakasin natin at paigihin pa ang mga sistema para tiyakin na tayo ay hindi maaapektuhan o hindi lalaganap ang deadly virus na ito sa ating bansa," he told dzRB Radyo ng Bayan on Saturday.

He added that all concerned government agencies are doing the necessary preparations and precautions to prevent Ebola from affecting Filipinos.

For instance, the President instructed government agencies to prepare for the possible repatriation of Filipino peacekeepers from Africa, the hotbed of Ebola infections.

The Philippines has a contingent of peacekeepers in Liberia, one of the African countries with highest number of infections.

And for Filipinos coming from other destinations who could be possible carriers of Ebola, they will go through strict screening and quarantine, Coloma said.

"Kung mayroon pong matutunton na mayroong sintomas ng Ebola, ang tawag po dito ay flu-like symptoms, agad po silang dapat na i-isolate at ilagay sa proper facilities na kung saan ay agad na matutunton ‘yung kanilang kondisyon at maihihiwalay po sila para mailayo po sa panganib ang karamihan sa ating mamamayan," he explained.

If there are individuals who will be tested positive, like the country's experience on MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus, the government will carry out extensive contact tracing, he added.

"Kaya sa lahat po ng aspeto, pinalalakas natin, pinatatatag natin ang kahandaan ng ating bansa simula doon sa pinanggagalingan mismo ng Ebola na ang pinaka-hotbed nga ay ‘yung West Africa, at inihahanda na ang mga nararapat na hakbang," Coloma said. PND (as)

President Aquino to inspect bus terminals, airport next week prior to All Saints' Day

All concerned government agencies are already doing the necessary preparations for the influx of people going to the provinces for All Saints’ Day, a Palace official said.

"Siyempre po ay pinaghahanda ang lahat ng mga ahensya na may tuwirang partisipasyon sa pagtulong sa ating mga mamamayan na magkaroon ng ligtas at kombinyenteng pagbiyahe," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma said about the government preparations.

Coloma said that the President will visit bus terminals, airports and seaports like what he customarily does before the All Saints' Day celebration.

He added that he expects that the management of airports, bus terminals and seaports are also doing the preparations for the expected exodus of people before All Saints' Day.

"‘Yun namang mga kompanya ng transportasyon ay iginagayak na rin ang kanilang mga sasakyan, tinitiyak na ang mga ito ay magiging handa para sa inaasahan nating pagkilos at paglakbay ng maraming Pilipino," he said during an interview over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan on Saturday.

"Sa karanasan natin, ito ang panahon ng taon na pinakamaraming Pilipino ang umuuwi sa kanilang mga hometown at pinaparangalan ang kanilang mahal sa buhay na pumanaw."

Coloma also said that the Department of Labor and Employment already declared November 1, All Saints’ Day, a special non-working day in the country.

The labor department also issued a guideline on the grant of holiday pays to employees, Coloma added. PND (as)