Thursday, 16 January 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Thursday, January 16, 2014

Coloma keynotes opening of this year’s ‘Salubungan’ workshop in Malacanang

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. keynoted Thursday in Malacanang the opening of the second Salubungan Workshop being spearheaded by the EDSA People Power Commission (EPPC).

“Sa susunod na buwan ay ika-28 taon na ng paggunita natin sa diwa ng EDSA. Kaya’t mahalaga ang Salubungan. Ang EDSA 1986 ay salubungan ng maraming personalidad, puwersa at pangayayari,” Coloma said in his keynote message. “Yun ay salubungan sa pagitan ng diktadurya at demokrasya.”

Coloma said the real challenge to everyone today is how to create a better Philippines for the next generation of Filipinos.

The Salubungan Workshop is being held so that participants could exchange views on important issues and plan on how to relive the spirit of the EDSA People Power revolt, he said.

Coloma told the participants to make their experiences and personal views to become their guide during the discussions in the workshop and craft things that they would want to contribute for general welfare.

“Importante po dito yung nararamdaman po ninyo, yung saloobin ninyo, yung matibay ninyong paniniwala na ‘yun ang dapat na maganap,” he said, noting that the workshop is not an academic exercise.

The discussions will be more meaningful if the participants could feel that they were able to contribute in making the country a better place, he said.

“Magiging makabuluhan po itong ginagawa natin ngayon kung ang bawat isa sa inyo, pagkatapos nitong Salubungan, nararamdaman ninyo na naipahayag ninyo ang inyong saloobin, nararamdaman ninyo na naibahagi ninyo ang inyong paniniwala. At nararamdaman ninyo na kayo ay nakapag-ambag, that you have made a personal contribution in shaping a better future for our country,” he said.

The Salubungan Workshop, an annual three-day event, is a venue for groups from different parts of the country to come together and celebrate the Filipino spirit of volunteerism and love for country.

Participants in the workshop are expected to gain skills in funding and marketing their advocacies from experts in the field in the formal workshop to be held in La Consolacion College Manila.

Among the participants in the discussions will be EPPC commissioners, leaders and achievers in advertising, media, community development, and business sector. Members of the EDSA People Power Network will also be in attendance in the workshop.

The event is also supported by the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education, the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

The workshop has for its theme: “Tatak EPPN Ako, Ito ang Taya Ko”. PND (as)

President Aquino commends DSWD staff who survived chopper crash during typhoon Yolanda

President Benigno Aquino III commended the two employees of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) who survived a helicopter crash last year while undertaking a relief operation for Yolanda victims.

The DSWD awarded special citation to Danny Franco Bitara and Noemi Mongaya, employees from Region V and VIII, respectively, during the celebration of the agency’s 63rd Founding Anniversary at the DSWD Central Office in Quezon City on Thursday.

“Hayaan ninyong espesyal kong banggitin sina Ginoo Danny Franco Bitara at Bb. Noemi Mongaya, na nalagay sa bingit ng kamatayan habang isinasabuhay ang misyon at layunin ng Department of Social Welfare and Development. Kayo ang ehemplo ng mga tunay na tagapaglingkod ng mamamayang Pilipino,” the President said in his speech.

Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman said the special citation is the “best way to express our gratitude to these dedicated workers who risked their lives in service of others.”

Mongaya and Bitara sustained multiple injuries when the Huey helicopter they were riding in, together with two pilots, crashed last December 6 while on their way to a relief work for Yolanda victims in La Paz, Leyte.

The victims were rescued by concerned citizens and were given first aid treatment by volunteer-doctors from Spain.

Bitara underwent stomach surgery due to the incident.

The DSWD provided financial and medical assistance to their employees.

Aside from the two, the DSWD also recognized several outstanding and loyal employees of the department in time for their anniversary celebration.

Employees who excelled in their respective fields were awarded through the Program on Awards and Incentives for Service Excellence (PRAISE) while those who have rendered 10 to 35 years of service to the department received the Loyalty Award. PND (jb)

Malacanang extends invite to Filipinos to join National Day of Prayer

Malacanang extended the invitation on Thursday to all Filipinos to join President Benigno S. Aquino III as he leads the nation in the National Day of Prayer and Solidarity to “remember the lives lost to the tragic incidents of 2013, to thank the Almighty for the nation’s strength and resilience, and to seek divine guidance as the country moves forward to rebuild the affected communities.”

The invite was extended by Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. in a press briefing in Malacanang.

“We call on all citizens to pause and join “One Nation in Prayer” in their respective homes, communities, places of work and worship on Monday, January 20. We thank the members of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) for their coverage of this event that will enable more Filipinos to participate and join ‘One Nation in Prayer,’ Coloma said.

He said those expected to join the President on Monday will be “representatives of the affected communities of the Zamboanga standoff, the Bohol earthquake, and typhoon ‘Yolanda’, and representatives of various faiths: Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Police Superintendent Imam Ebra Moxsir of the Imam Council of the Philippines, Commissioner Zenaida Pawid of the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples, Isaias Samson of Iglesia ni Cristo, and a representative of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches.”

“Also invited to join the prayer at the Malacañang Palace grounds are leaders and members of Congress, government officials, and representatives of civil society and various faith groups,” Coloma added. PND (rck)

Survey results show government determination to eradicate corruption, says Palace official

Recent survey findings manifest the government’s effective efforts to carry out reform in the country’s bureaucracy and eliminate corruption, a Palace official said.

In the SWS Survey of Enterprises on Corruption conducted from July to November 2013, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said perception on corruption in the public sector remains low among those surveyed.

One of the findings of the survey is that there is an increase in the number of respondents who see “a lot” of corruption in the public sector, from the record low of 43 percent in 2012 to 56 percent in 2013. SWS notes that the 56 percent is the second lowest since 2000, Coloma said in a statement he read during the Thursday press briefing in Malacanang.

Coloma also noted that according to the same survey, those saying that the administration’s steps in eradicating corruption are “somewhat/very effective” fell slightly to 73 percent in 2013 from 78 percent a year ago.
It is evident that the perception on seeing a lot of corruption is balanced by the perception that the government is taking steps to eradicate corruption, he said.

The Palace official also pointed out that the Philippines’ ranking in the International Finance Corporation’s “Doing Business 2014” report jumped 25 places to 108 from 133 in 2013, citing marked improvements in areas such as getting credit, dealing with construction permits, paying taxes and resolving insolvency.

The Transparency International also reported in 2013 that the Philippines’ ranking improved significantly to number 94 from 105 the previous year.

These findings are recognition of the government’s determination to carry out reforms that will promote good governance pursuant to its commitment to implement the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) through the 21-point agenda announced by the President last December.

The initiative was also supported by the leaders of both Houses of Congress, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the Ombudsman. PND (as)

Palace says government agencies working to stop human trafficking

The government expressed its determination to fight human trafficking and has instructed concerned agencies to intensify their efforts in addressing it.

“I would like to emphasize that our government is determined to stop human trafficking in all its forms and manifestations through concerted action by all concerned government agencies in cooperation with other countries,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a press briefing on Thursday in Malacanang.

Reports said Australia, the US, and the UK are investigating child sex abuse cases in the Philippines.

Asked if the Palace will instruct the NBI and the PNP to look further into the child sex abuse issue, Coloma said that even before the publication of the report, the government has been working to address it.

“Let me point out that even before the publication of this report, the government has already committed itself to doing everything that needs to be done through an inter-agency effort, through legislation, and through other administrative measures to stop this trafficking,” Coloma said noting that the matter is a top priority for the government.

The government is also addressing cyber crimes happening in the country, he said.

One of the major initiatives is the crafting of the Cyber Crime Prevention Law which has been brought to the attention of the Supreme Court for clarifications. PND (as)

Palace: Local professionals need not worry about losing their jobs

Malacanang allayed the fears of local professionals who worry about the entry of foreign workers in the country as the labor department announced the hiring of foreigners to fill some domestic jobs.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a press briefing on Thursday in Malacanang that the government continues to prioritize job creation to reduce unemployment by working closely with the local industry.

Coloma said that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is presently working with the private sector in reviewing the Philippines skewed occupational shortage list, as recommend by various industries, based on their request.

“Hindi ito unilateral action ng DOLE; at hindi po nanggaling sa DOLE,” he said. “Ang request po ay nanggaling sa industriya.”

The industry recommended that DOLE consider the feasibility of opening 15 categories of highly-skilled occupations to possible foreign employment because of the shortage in the local supply.

This is evidenced by the lack of applicants for such job openings and a survey done by the Bureau of Labor and Employment statistics of DOLE, he said.

The move could also serve as a signal to Filipino professionals working abroad to return to the country to fill this gap and for schools to realign courses offered to match the demand for highly-skilled workers in the country, the Palace official said.

The industry and the labor department continue their consultations on this issue to validate the need raised by the industry, Coloma added. PND (as)

President Aquino lauds DSWD’s response to recent calamities

President Benigno Aquino III extolled the dedication and commitment of the employees of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in attending to recent disasters during the 63rd anniversary of the agency held in Quezon City on Thursday.

In his speech, President Aquino lauded the steadfastness and resilience of DSWD employees who remained focused on their duties despite criticisms in light of the successive calamities that hit the country last year.

“Hindi naman po kalabisang sabihin na kung minsan, kulang sa konsuwelo ang trabaho ninyo, sana ho kung minsan lang. Madalas, mas marami ang batikos kaysa pasasalamat, mas mahaba ang listahan ng reklamo kaysa papuri. Sa kabila nito, natutuwa ako, nabibilib ako, na wala akong nababalitaang isa man sa inyo na nagwagayway ng puting bandila para sabihing ‘sumusuko na kami’,” he said.

“Marami kayong hinarap na trahedya at pasakit pero nananatili kayong tagapagsulong ng pagbangon ng mga kapwa ninyo Pilipino. Dahil diyan, personal kong pinasasalamatan ngayon ang bawat isa sa inyo sa tapang at dedikasyong ipinakita ninyo habang ginagampanan ang inyong tungkulin,” he added.

President Aquino specifically cited the Zamboanga crisis, earthquake in the Central Visayas and the devastation of Super Typhoon Yolanda in the Eastern Visayas as among the calamities and problems addressed by the DSWD last year.

President Aquino likewise commended the dedication and hard work showed by Secretary Dinky Soliman at the height of the calamities.

“Pati ho ang ating butihing kalihim, kung minsan nagme-meeting po kami nakapikit na siya. Pero tumatango naman at sumasagot naman sa tamang oras. Minsan lang ho nagpa-pause ako at hinihintay ko lang hong dumilat naman po,” he recalled.

Aside from the efforts of the agency in promoting social welfare, the President also stressed the department’s mandate in advancing development in the country.

He underscored the nearly 4 million households that have been assisted by DSWD through the Pantawid Pamilya Program. He also cited the 334,158 households that have been part the Sustainable Livelihood Program; the P1.53-billion pension for senior citizens; P2.85-billion spent for the Supplemental Feeding Program to feed 1.45 million children; and the 3,541 household beneficiaries of the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan – Comprehensive Integrated Delivery of Social Services or KALAHI-CIDSS.

He noted that the government is targeting about 841,000 households that will benefit from the KALAHI-CIDSS, which aims to empower ordinary citizens to actively participate in community projects that will reduce poverty.

“Sana po huwag kayong magsawa na makipagtulungan sa akin upang maibalik ang pagtitiwalang ipinagkaloob ng mamamayang Pilipino. Sa husay ng trabaho ninyo dito, nararamdaman kong magiging mas malawak, mas mabilis, mas pangmatagalan pa ang magagawa nating pagkalinga at pagpapaunlad sa kalagayan ng ating mga kababayan—ang ating mga boss—kahit na gaano pa ito kahirap,” the President said. PND (jb)

PIA News Dispatch - Wednesday, January 15, 2014

President Aquino says Cashless Purchase Card program addresses corruption

President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Wednesday that the newly-launched administration’s Cashless Purchase Card (CPC) program will address the alleged misuses of funds in the government.

"Our goal is to institutionalize reforms that make it very difficult for unscrupulous individuals to steal from the people—regardless of who sits in office. This is where the introduction of cashless transactions comes in," the Chief Executive said in his speech during the Good Governance Summit held at the Philippine International Convention Center, CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City.

President Aquino led the ceremonial turnover of the Cashless Purchase Card during the 3-day summit which has for its theme "Good Governance through Open Government and Sustainable Procurement."

The program, which is a joint effort between the Aquino administration and Citibank, enables the government agencies to make financial transactions entirely through electronic means instead of cash or checks.

"A recent study identified that one of the major financial risks remaining is the high volume of cash advances in agencies. The risks of this kind of system are obvious: the presence of large sums of cash in offices can pose a temptation to even the most honest employee—not to mention those who would willingly take advantage of such a situation," President Aquino said.

"It is only appropriate that we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Procurement Reform Act by introducing a mechanism that modernizes government procurement: the launch of the Cashless Purchase Card or CPC Program. Cashless purchase cards will be issued to agencies, for low-value payments of a restricted number and type of goods and services," the President said.

The turnover ceremony signaled the launch of the pilot phase of the Cashless Purchase Card system, which will be implemented in the three agencies, namely the Department of Budget and Management, the Department of National Defense, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

"We are far from being a cashless society: 98 percent of all retail financial transactions in our country are still made in cash. The government seems to be ahead of the market, with 54 percent of its financial transactions already done through a cashless system. And, for the sake of accountability and efficiency, we are pushing the envelope further," the President stressed.

The President said the cashless card will resemble ordinary credit cards, but will have additional restrictions more suited to the needs of government.

Through the Cashless Purchase Cards and other similar reforms, the President said the government financial transactions should be 100 percent checkless and 80 percent cashless before the end of this year.

"The cashless purchase cards will allow them to procure the necessary materials immediately—and, given that accounting for transactions is automatically done, suspicious use of the card can be tracked easily. On top of that, this system also allows us to capture and collate the correct data, which redounds to real benefits," he said. PND (js)

President Aquino says Open Data portal will be available to public starting tomorrow

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday announced the government to launch “Open Data Philippines,” a website that will serve as a portal for national government data made accessible to the public.

During his speech at the Good Governance Summit held in Pasay City, President Aquino said the Open Data Philippines is one of the latest reforms being implemented by his administration in instituting good governance.

The website, which can be accessed through, will be made available to the public starting Thursday (January 16).

“We will be unveiling a platform that will collate all relevant government data, not only for use in governance, but also for the information and use of the wider public: Open Data Philippines, will be accessible through beginning tomorrow,” he said.

“Open Data Philippines is a website for publicly available, up-to-date national data—from the total enrollment in public secondary schools over a certain period of time, to the aforementioned budget and procurement data and everything in between,” he added.

President Aquino said the national open data website will not only serve as a repository for national government data made accessible to the public, it will also use reader-friendly visualizations to make statistics understandable, he noted.

“None of us should make the mistake of thinking that Open Data Philippines stops at being a repository of data. Its very name says otherwise. Opening data is about making statistics understandable, through the use of reader-friendly visualizations,” he said.

“The more technologically savvy among our countrymen can also make use of available data to participate and create their own visualizations and applications for the use of others,” he added.

The President cited some of the applications included in the website, such as a tool that will help residents of Metro Manila plan their daily commutes, as well as other applications to make government expenditures more accessible.

“Ultimately, opening data is more than just making columns and rows of figures available for viewing; it is about empowering the people through information,” the President said during the summit.

President Aquino said the website will also help government further improve its programs and policies.

“Open Data is a step towards having all information at our fingertips—which we can use to better assess, improve, and even develop programs and policies,” he said.

President Aquino addressed Wednesday morning the Good Governance Summit held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City. It had for its theme “Good Governance through Open Government and Sustainable Procurement.”

The three-day event, organized by the Department of Budget and Management in partnership with the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, was a gathering of the country’s key stakeholders in good governance and transformational leadership, including development partners, Open Data experts and public procurement practitioners.

Some of the highlights in the summit included the presentation of Good Governance Initiatives for 2013-2016; the official launch of Open Data Philippines; and a celebration of procurement reform in the Philippines. PND (co)

Palace elated over Sandiganbayan’s forfeiture of Marcoses jewel collection in favor of government

Malacanang said it was happy about the recent decision by the Sandiganbayan declaring the Malacanang jewel collection of the Marcoses as ill-gotten but added that it’s too early to decide whether to auction the precious items.

“We are happy that the Supreme Court issued that decision but as to whether what further actions we will take will now depend on the Right of Appeal of the Marcos family,” Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing in Malacanang on Wednesday.

“It is not final and executory. Until such time that it becomes final and executory in favor of the Republic, that’s the only time that we will make a decision,” he added.

The decision is still subject to appeal and the government does not know at this time if the Marcos family is going to appeal it, he said.

The Sandiganbayan has forfeited in favor of the government the jewelry collections called the Malacanang Collection, one of the three gem collections of Imelda Marcos.

The jewelries were recovered in Malacanang shortly after the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos fled to Hawaii in 1986.

The Malacanang Collection is the smallest collection compared to the Roumeliotes and Hawaii Collections of the Marcoses. The pieces of jewelries were estimated to be worth $110,055 and $153,089 based in a 1991 appraisal.

The Roumeliotes Collection is composed of several pieces of extravagant jewelry and gemstones.

The Hawaii Collection, on the other hand, is a set of jewelries confiscated by American authorities from the Marcoses when they arrived in Honolulu after fleeing the country at the height of the EDSA People Power Revolution. PND (as)

Malacanang congratulates Rose Fostanes for winning the first 'X-Factor Israel'

The Aquino government extended its congratulation to Filipina immigrant worker Rose “Osang” Fostanes who won the first “X Factor Israel” talent show, a Palace official said.

“The Filipino has an innate talent … has an innate advantage when it comes to the arts, not only singing,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during the regular press briefing in Malacanang on Wednesday.

The 47-year-old Fostanes performed Frank Sinatra’s classic “My Way” with an orchestra. The audience and the judges gave her a standing ovation during the performance.

Her mentor Shiri Maimon was so happy when Fostanes was declared as winner.

The X Factor Israel grand finals was held 9PM on Tuesday (January 14, Israel) at the Nokia Arena Tel Aviv in Israel.

“We are very, very proud that she has again given the Philippines pride in showcasing her talent; and now, not only the world knows that we are good, not only in the States, but everywhere that you ask a Filipino to perform” Lacierda said.

“And we would like to congratulate Rose for her victory. It's also a victory for the Filipino people,” he said. PND (js)

PIA News Dispatch - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Country's improved ranking in Heritage Foundations' 2014 index of Economic Freedom strengthens the government's resolve to continue reforms

The Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Index of Economic Freedom ranking the Philippines as the 89th freest in the world strengthens the Aquino administration’s resolve to continue implementing reforms, a Palace official said.

"The Heritage Foundation’s recently released 2014 Index of Economic Freedom is yet another affirmation of the gains that our country is reaping along the straight path," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement on Tuesday.

Continuing its upward trend in the Index, Lacierda said the Philippines has jumped eight more notches, from 97th in 2013, to 89th this 2014.

"This jump reflects the significant improvements that our country has made in seven of the ten economic freedoms, including significant gains in investment freedom, business freedom, monetary freedom, and the control of government spending," Lacierda said.

The Heritage Foundation also cited the “high degree of resilience of the economy” as well as the legislative reforms that have been laid down “to enhance the investment environment and incentivize broader-based private-sector job growth.”

The said factors were also cited in the 2013 report, displaying the government’s consistency in its reform agenda.

The Index of Economic Freedom rates 186 countries in 10 categories of economic performance which include rule of law, regulatory efficiency, limited government, and open markets. The Index promotes individual empowerment, free and open competition, government transparency, and equal opportunity for all.

"It is worth noting that the data used in the 2014 Index were based mostly on 2012 statistics. We believe that there have been significant improvements since then despite the challenges we had to overcome as one nation," the Presidential spokesperson said.

"The positive results of this evaluation only strengthen our administration’s resolve to continue implementing reforms founded on good governance and true public service, which are necessary prerequisites to fostering lasting and inclusive growth in the Philippines," he concluded. PND (js)

Aquino leads groundbreaking rites of First Gen power generation facility in Batangas City

BATANGAS CITY: President Benigno S. Aquino III led the groundbreaking Tuesday of First Gen Corp.’s San Gabriel Power Plant Project saying the project will ensure sufficient supply of power in the country as well as attract more investors.

The $600-million project has three phases and the first unit to be built by First Gen will be producing 414 mega-watts to supply the Luzon grid.

“This plant also bodes well for our country’s continued growth. Our economy hinges on having adequate power. After all, it is growing at a rapid pace—and we want to sustain this. Businesses are continually seeing the Philippines as an ideal investment destination,” the President said in his message during the groundbreaking rites.

“And we must continue doing our utmost to be able to tell investors: If you decide to set up shop in the Philippines, an adequate energy supply for your factories and facilities will be as low as possible on your list of things to worry about.”

By 2016, he said the government expects the Luzon grid to experience more energy demand rising to 11,000 megawatts from today’s 10,294 megawatts.

From this year to 2016, the government sees various companies to build new plants in Luzon, redounding to a total of 2,412 megawatts in generation capacity, he said.

The 414 megawatts to be produced by San Gabriel’s Phase 2 will augment that generation capacity, he added.

The goal of the government is not simply to meet demand, but to surpass it, the President said.

“We intend to have a safe surplus of generating capacity. The effect of Typhoon Yolanda on our generation capacity in the Visayas should serve as a lesson. Yolanda most prominently impaired major geothermal power plants in Leyte,” he said.

The combined generation capacity of the plants went from 482 megawatts to zero, he said resulting to a power deficit in the region.

Lack of power hampered recovery efforts, affected the communication systems and government basic services as well as the productivity of the people, he noted.

The situation also calls on the government to reassess the country’s energy sources and their effects on the environment, the President said adding that in the coming years the country will focus on producing more efficient forms of energy especially with the use of natural gas.

“Natural gas plants emit only half as much carbon compared to coal-powered power plants. This means cleaner energy; it means that despite our status as a less-industrialized nation, we are doing our part to not exacerbate the risks posed by climate change,” President Aquino said.

The government expects that from now to 2030, the share of the use of natural gas in the total primary energy supply will go from 8 percent to 14 percent, a major step in fulfilling the country’s obligation of limiting the risk of climate change.

The new energy project will ensure enough supply of power in the country and thus attract business, he said. In turn this will result to more jobs to be created that eventually strengthens the people’s purchasing power.

“Having adequate energy infrastructure makes it easier for businesses here to stay and expand—and for new businesses to decide to invest heavily in the Philippines,” he said.

First Gen has 15 power plants that are contracted for sale under long-term power purchase agreements or other energy sales agreements.

First Gen already has the 1,000 megawatt Sta Rita gas-fired power plant and the 500-MW San Lorenzo plant in Batangas. In addition to the first unit launched on Tuesday, First Gen will be building two more power generation units to be completed few years from now. PND(as)

President Aquino: Government serious in reforming Bureau of Customs

BATANGAS CITY: President Benigno S. Aquino III said that the government continues to address the concerns in the Bureau of Customs by appointing competent officials and shuffling personnel in different offices.

The Federation of Philippine Industries reported that from 2002 to 2011 P1.3 trillion was lost to smuggling.

“We are addressing it,” President Aquino said in an interview during the groundbreaking rites of First Gen’s new power facility here. “Yung movement of people in Customs, we moved them… those that we feel are not contributing to the effort were moved to the Department of Finance, their mother unit.”

Corruption and abuse were tolerated for the longest time in the Bureau of Customs, with people joining the bureau assigning themselves to ports or units they wanted, he said.

“How do you have efficiency there or how do you have accountability? One of the simple things that the bureau did was to tell everybody they had applied for this position existing in a particular port, they have been ordered to go back to their legitimate assignments,” he said.

Part of the reform is the designation of key officials in the bureau such as the appointment of John Philip Sevilla as Customs chief and General Jessie Dellosa as head of intelligence, he said.

The President said they also convinced those who do not want to work in the Bureau of Customs that they will not lose their seniority from other government agencies if they served in the bureau.

For several administrations, the government just carried out stop-gap measures and not an overhaul of the system at the bureau which is why corruption had remained, he said.

The President also said that he got reports that luxury car importers now paid appropriate taxes, resulting to higher revenues for the government.
“I understand it is really having an effect. Certain people who used to take short cuts, napansin ko rin na medyo conforming at wala na talagang leeway to not conform,” the President said.

“Of course, it’s not perfect. They have been there just a few months, but we do expect results, that’s why we put in these particular people,” he added. PND (as)

Government committed to carrying out long-term anti-poverty interventions, says President Aquino

(BATANGAS CITY) The government focuses on long-term interventions to address poverty in the country particularly through the conditional cash-transfer program (CCT), President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Tuesday.

In an interview following the groundbreaking rites of First Gen’s new power facility here, the President was asked about the recent survey showing an increase in Filipino families saying they were poor.

“Pero palagay ko dapat nating pagtuunan ng pansin lahat ng mga intervention natin ditto ay hindi naman ‘yung panandaliang kalutasan, kundi pang-matagalan,” he said during the interview.

“Ano ba ‘yung pang-matagalan? Syempre, ‘yung CCT. Tulungan natin ang bawat pamilya na makapagpatapos ng kanilang mga anak, dati grade school, this year mag-uumpisa ‘yung pati high school,” he said.

Helping the youth graduate from high school is a long-term anti-poverty intervention, the President said.

Citing a study made by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), the President said young people graduating from high school would get jobs that eventually raises the family income.

“Dadagdag ng 40 percent, hindi makukuha ng survey ngayon ‘yan. Pero ‘yun ang, palagay naming ay pang-matagalan. Dadagdag nang dadagdag ‘yung kakayahan ng bawat Pilipino para makasama doon sa pag-angat ng ating ekonomiya para lalo talagang maging inclusive. Bigyan mo ng skills para maka-participate sa growth ng ating ekonomiya,” he added.

The President also said that the survey may have focused on asking respondents in the Visayas and Mindanao regions devastated by recent calamities, thus negatively affecting their views on their conditions. PND (as)

Pulse Asia survey says 3 out 4 Filipinos continue to support and trust President Aquino, Coloma says

Three out of four Filipinos continue to support and trust President Benigno S. Aquino III, as indicated in the latest Pulse Asia survey, President Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said on Tuesday.

Coloma said the Chief Executive continues to enjoy high approval rating at 73% in the Pulse Asia survey which was conducted between December 8 to 15, 2013, with a sample of 1,200 individuals.

On the other hand, in the Social Weather Stations (SWS) for the fourth quarter of 2013, the President's rating remained high at 69%, the Communications Secretary said.

In the SWS survey for December 2013, 69% expressed satisfaction with the President's performance.

"Considering the major challenges that were faced and hurdled by the administration during the period October to December 2013, we believe that the outcome of both the Pulse Asia and the SWS surveys are essentially positive and favorable for the President and the administration," Coloma said.

The President received significantly higher ratings from respondents belonging to class E in both survey.

The President received significantly higher ratings from respondents in the rural areas. In the Pulse Asia survey, the approval rating among rural respondents was 79 % as compared to 67% in the urban areas.

In the SWS survey, the satisfaction rating among rural respondents was 75% as compared to 65% in urban areas.

Among the major issues at the time of the Pulse Asia survey were the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda and the rehabilitation efforts in its aftermath, the designation of former senator Panfilo Lacson as the rehabilitation czar, the resignation of Bureau of Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, the investigation on fake SAROs, the word war between Manny Pacquiao and BIR Commissioner Kim Henares, and the Meralco rate hike. PND (as/js)

PIA News Dispatch - Monday, January 13, 2014

Aquino to lead groundbreaking of First Gen’s Power Plant in Batangas

President Benigno S. Aquino III will lead the groundbreaking Tuesday morning of First Gen Corp.’s San Gabriel Power Plant in Sta. Rita, Batangas. The 414-megawatt San Gabriel gas-fired project was expected to begin construction last year. Proponents eye to complete the project in the 2014/2015 timeframe.

The Lopez-owned First Gen Corp. was incorporated in December 1998 as the primary holding company for the power generation and energy-related businesses of the Lopez Group through First Philippine Holdings Corporation (FPH).

Last year, First Gen had 15 power generation plants that were predominantly contracted for sale under long-term power purchase agreements or other energy sales agreements. First Gen’s power generation portfolio utilizes indigenous fuel such as natural gas, water and geothermal steam.

The company accounts for 17 percent of the country’s total installed power generation capacity. It ranked 33rd in gross revenues and 34th in net income among BusinessWorld’s Top 1,000 Corporations in the Philippines in 2012.

First Gen’s Management System complies with standards set by the International Organization Standards (ISO) of Geneva.

Among those who are expected to join the President Tuesday will be Energy Sec. Jericho Petilla, First Gen Executive Vice Presidents Richard Tantoco and Ernesto Pantrangco, Siemens Philippines president and CEO Jacky Chan, Siemens Energy Solutions Ltd president and CEO Rochus Bergmann and Siemens AG Energy Solutions CEO Rainer Hauenschild. PND (as)

Coloma underscores significance of switching from analog to digital broadcasting

President Benigno S. Aquino III has emphasized that the adoption of the Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting - Terrestrial (ISDB-T) system is aligned with the government’s objective of preventing casualty in times of calamities and disasters, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said on Monday.

Coloma said during the meeting with Japanese Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Yoshitaka Shindo at the Edsa Shangri-la Hotel in Mandaluyong City that the Chief Executive has already given the go-signal to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to begin the groundwork for the adoption of ISDB-T system.

The adoption of ISDB-T was part of the agenda during President Aquino's meeting with members of his Cabinet on Monday, Coloma said. The new system is the most advanced international standard on digital terrestrial television broadcasting format originally developed in Japan.

The ISDB-T started in Japan in December 2003 and in Brazil in December 2007. The number of the country which has adopted its standard is gradually increasing with the recognition of its technological advantage.

Coloma said the presidential directive will pave the way for the phase out of analogue transmission in approximately two to three years to deliver better TV signals to every household across the country.

"The introduction of ISDB-T is timely for the disaster-resilient Philippines. The country experiences more than 20 typhoons every year," the Communications Secretary said.

"The breakdown of the communications system during the aftermath of super-typhoon Yolanda caused a bit of delay in responding to the needs of the people," Coloma said.

Coloma said the Philippines is joining other Asean member countries in switching over from analog to digital broadcasting.

"The evolution of TV broadcasting is one of the significant aspects of connectivity for the Asean Economic Community regional integration that is envisioned to be fully attained by 2015," he said.

Coloma said the NTC ascertained the compatibility of the ISDB-T system with mobile devices since there are approximately 90 million mobile phonesubscribers.

Shindo, for his part, expressed his government's heartfelt gratitude to the Philippines for adopting the ISDB-T which would suit the country’s requirements and would be most beneficial for the majority of the population.

He said ISDB-T has built-in early warning system to enable people with TV sets, mobile phones and other hand-held gadgets with TV receivers to receive early warning announcements and advisories from the National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council and Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services.

It also has a built-in mobile transmission that can send early warnings to mobile phone users in the country at the shortest possible time, Coloma said.

These features are very much applicable to the Philippines since it has the same situation as Japan in terms of natural calamities.

Shindo said ISDB-T also brings new business opportunity for broadcasting companies.

Joining Shindo during the meeting were Japanese Vice Minister for Policy Coordination (International Affairs) Masahiro Yoshizaki, Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Toshinao Urabe, and Japanese Telecommunications and Broadcasting companies officials.

Also in attendance were NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordova, Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary George Sylianco, Assistant Secretary Jess Yu and Radio-Television Malacanang Director Lito Nadal. PND (js)

PIA News Dispatch - Sunday, January 12, 2014

President Aquino to lead National Day of Prayer on Jan, 20

President Benigno S. Aquino III will lead the country in commemorating a National Day of Prayer that will be held on January 20 in Malacanang, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma, Jr. said on Sunday.

In a radio interview aired over government run radio station dzRB Radyo ng Bayan, Coloma said the National Day of Prayer and Solidarity will bring together government and religious leaders and members of civil society to a day of prayer for the Filipino people’s recognition of the guidance of divine providence towards a more progressive future.

“On Monday, January 20, President Aquino will lead the nation in prayer in a simple program to be held in Malacañang. The National Day of Prayer and Solidarity with the theme ‘One Nation in Prayer’ is going to be held in accordance with the Filipino people’s recognition of the guidance of Divine Providence in our forward movement towards a more progressive future,” Coloma said.

Coloma added that this was behind the Filipino people’s resilience when facing challenges---their deep belief in Divine Providence. The Communications Secretary said it was the gist of the President’s message in the New Year Vin D’Honneur that was held last Friday where he said: “Some of you have marveled at the resilience of our nation, a people whose faith, though challenged, remained constant and only deepened. Our unbreakable spirit and ability to recover find root in our firm belief in a benevolent God who has the perfect plan for all of us. These tragedies tell us that, despite all our efforts, we are indeed powerless without God.”

“Ito ay bunga ng matibay na pananampalataya ng mga Pilipino na pinalalalim at lalo pang nagiging matatag sa harap ng mga pagsubok. Hindi natitinag ang ating determinasyon at kakayahang bumangon at magbagong-tatag dahil nauugat ito sa ating paniniwala sa kabutihan at kapangyarihan ng Diyos,” Coloma said. PND (rck)

Palace: Foreign tourists' arrivals show quake-hit Bohol's swift recovery

The arrival this year in Bohol of foreign tourists is a sign of the continuing recovery of the province from last October's devastating magnitude-7.2 quake, Malacañang said Sunday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said the people should welcome this development as it shows the strength of Bohol's residents.

"Dapat ikalugod ng bansa ang mabilis na pagbangon at pagbabagong-tatag ng lalawigang Bohol mula sa malakas na lindol na gumimbal dito noong nakaraang Oktubre (The nation welcomes the swift recovery of Bohol from last October's quake)," Coloma said on state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

Last Oct. 15, a magnitude-7.2 quake devastated Central Visayas, heavily damaging many of Bohol's churches that are considered heritage sites.

Coloma cited information from Governor Edgar Chatto showing foreign vacationers recently arrived in Bohol aboard the MS Europa II from Hong Kong.

"Ayon kay Gobernador Chatto, ilang cruise ship pa ang nakatakdang bumisita sa lalawigan bilang bahagi ng patuloy na pagsigla ng turismo doon. Kaya tinatanghal po natin ang mabilis na pagbangon at pagbabagong-tatag ng mga komunidad na nasalanta noong mga nakaraang kalamidad (Chatto said more cruise ships bearing foreign tourists are coming, and this is a sign of the continuing recovery of tourism in the province. We hail the swift recovery of the communities affected by the quake)," he said.

Meanwhile, Coloma said the Palace lauds the bayanihan spirit in a village in Dulag town in Leyte, where residents are rebuilding in the wake of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

He said the efforts led by Dr. Marie Ann Corsino have helped 79 families rebuild their homes, along with similar rehabilitation work, had earned Filipinos the respect of the United Nations Development Programme.

Coloma said UNDP senior recovery coordinator Yuri Afanasiev had marveled at the speed of the recovery efforts.

"Ayon kay Ginoong Afanasiev, sa ibang bansa ay umaabot hanggang apat na buwan bago makapag-umpisa sa early recovery o rehabilitasyon. ‘Yan daw ang naging karanasan sa Banda Aceh, Indonesia pagkatapos ng tsunami na nagdulot ng kalamidad hanggang sa bansang Thailand at Sri Lanka noong 2004. Ngunit batay sa obserbasyon sa mga lalawigan ng Leyte at Samar, nagsimula na ang rehabilitasyon sa mga lugar na ito bago pa umabot sa ikalawang buwan mula nang naganap ang bagyo (Afanasiev said other countries needed four months before they can start the early recovery phase. But in the Philippines, this started after barely one month following the incident)," Coloma said. PND (jl)

Palace: Concrete measures, not emergency powers in dealing with power rate hike's impact

Concrete measures to minimize the impact of power rate hikes - and not emergency powers - are the priority for the government in addressing concerns surrounding power costs, Malacañang said Sunday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said President Benigno Aquino III’s orders were still on finding concrete solutions to minimize the effects of the price hikes on people.

“Hindi pa po tinatalakay ng Pangulo ang bagay na yan sa mga miyembro ng Gabinete. Sa kasalukuyan, ang kautusan ng Pangulo ay hinggil sa patuloy na pag-aaral at paghahanap ng mga kongkretong paraan kung paano maiibsan o mababawasan ang pasanin ng mga mamamayan sanhi ng malaking pagtaas sa halaga ng kuryente noong nakaraang buwan na pansamantalang pinigil ng Korte Suprema (The President has not discussed emergency powers with his Cabinet. His orders are still to find concrete solutions to minimize the impact of power rate hikes on the people, though the Supreme Court had temporarily stopped such an adjustment),” Coloma said on state-run Radyo ng Bayan.

He said the Department of Energy had already met with representatives from power producers and power distributor Manila Electric Co. on the matter.

Coloma said it is important to hold meetings with such firms as they are engaged in businesses imbued with public interest.

“It is important for the players in the power industry to act in a manner consistent with the public welfare as their business is imbued with public interest,” he said.

In the meantime, Coloma said the government will continue to closely monitor developments on the issue to protect the people’s interests. PND (jl)

Palace: More safeguards being eyed for Conditional Cash Transfer program

Malacañang on Sunday assured the public more safeguards are being built into the government's Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program for poor families.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said this includes adopting a biometric system for the CCT to make sure the aid goes to intended recipients.

"Tumutungo na rin po tayo doon sa biometrics para tiyakin po na may integridad yung pagtanggap nila ng mga benepisyo (We are moving toward biometrics to make sure the aid reaches the intended beneficiaries)," Coloma said on state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

"Kaya po pinapahusay pa ang pagpapatupad ng batas na ito. Dapat po nating maunawaan na sumasakop ito sa mahigit na apat na milyong pamilya, at ang mga pamilyang ito ay masusing pinag-aralan ang kanilang katayuan, meron tayong identity system (We continue to fine-tune our implementation of the law. We must understand this program benefits more than four million families)," he added.

In the meantime, he said it is up to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to address issues raised by the Commission on Audit.

The DSWD had said it has already accounted for the 7,782 household beneficiaries allegedly missing from the list of beneficiaries cited in the Commission on Audit 2012 report on Official Development Assistance Programs and Projects.

"Patuloy naman po ang pagpapatupad nitong conditional cash transfer program na bahagi ng Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program na isa sa mahalagang programa ng Aquino administration dahil nga po pangunahing prayoridad ng ating pamahalaan na nasasalamin sa pinamalaking porsyentong inukol sa ating pambansang budget ang pangangalaga sa kapakanan ng mga pinaka-nangangailangan (We will continue to implement the CCT, which is part of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program that seeks to benefit the most number of families)," Coloma said.

For its part, the DSWD said it has put in place a replication mechanism of the database where all households encoded are automatically copied in another file.

DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman added sanctions will be taken against officials or employees found to be negligent in allowing the unauthorized inclusion of household-beneficiaries. PND (jl)

Palace reminds public servants: Observe due process

Malacañang on Sunday reminded public servants to observe due process in dealing with violators of the law, including rice smuggling.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Aquino administration follows the principle of being a government of laws and not of men.

"Kailangan naman po ang lahat ng mga opisyal ng pamahalaan, sila man ay nasa pambansa o sa lokal na pamahalaan, ay kilalanin ang mga proseso ng batas dahil tayo po ay government of laws, not of men (Government officials, whether they are with the national or local government, should observe the processes of the law because we are a government of laws and not of men)," Coloma said on state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

He was referring to reports that Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte had threatened rice smugglers with death, in a bid to protect the interests of farmers.

Coloma said the Palace is confident Duterte is aware of his responsibilities as a public official.

"At paalala lang sa lahat ng mga lingkod-bayan na tayo po ang dapat na magpairal ng rule of law (For our part, what we want is for public servants to observe the rule of law)," he said. PND (jl)

Palace to respect US travel warning

Malacañang on Sunday said it will respect the latest travel warning of the United States ldiscouraging Americans from going to parts of Mindanao, including Sulu.

But Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said the travel warning applies only to US nationals and not to Filipinos.

"Yan naman pong travel advisory ay hindi para sa atin, para yan sa kanilang mga mamamayan, at nasa karapatan din po ng anumang bansa na mag-issue ng advisory sa kanilang mga mamamayan na sila lang po ang nakakaunawa kung bakit po nila ginagawa ‘yon at kinikilala din naman natin na ang kanilang mga advisory ay para sa kapakanan ng kanilang mga mamamayan (That travel advisory is not for us but for US nationals. It is the right of every country to issue advisories to their citizens for their protection. We respect this right of governments to protect their respective citizens)," Coloma said on state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

During the weekend, the US State Department warned US citizens against traveling to some parts of Mindanao, including Sulu.

It cited continuing threats due to "terrorist and insurgent activities," and asked US citizens to defer non-essential travel to Sulu.

Coloma said the Philippine government does not need to comment further on the issue since the advisory is for US citizens.

"Yung kanila pong advisory ay para sa kanilang mga mamamayan (The US' advisory is for its own nationals)," he said. PND (jl)