Sunday, 16 February 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Friday, February 14, 2014

President Aquino challenges tourism stakeholders: Go extra mile, cement Phl position as tourism hotspot

Even as he stressed his administration's support for tourism, President Benigno Aquino III on Friday challenged stakeholders in the industry to go the extra mile to ensure the Philippines cements its position as a tourism hotspot.

Speaking at the Philippine Travel Agencies Association's 21st TravelTour Expo 2014 at the SMX Asia, the President said Filipinos cannot be satisfied with what they have achieved so far.

"Of course, we cannot be satisfied with what we have achieved so far. The goal now is not merely to maintain our growth, but to cement our position as one of the world’s vacation hot spots," he said.

He said his administration has been working hard to ensure visitors find their travels smooth and worry-free.

So far, he said the government has implemented reforms in civil aviation, by liberalizing airspace through the Pocket Open Skies Policy, and by rationalizing taxes on foreign carriers.

With added opportunities for both local and foreign airlines to expand operations in and out of the Philippines, he said consumers now have more options when planning their trips.

Government also continues to make massive investments in infrastructure—from construction and rehabilitation of roads leading to tourism clusters, to upgrading airports and ports in key areas, he added.

However, the President also threw a challenge to stakeholders in the industry "to go beyond what you have already done."

"It is not just about sustaining the appeal of already favored destinations; it is also about discovering and marketing hidden destinations. It is not just about getting tourists to visit the Philippines once, but getting them to return. The possibilities ahead are limitless now that the world knows that it is indeed more fun in the Philippines!—and each one of us is asked to do his part to realize these possibilities," he said.

"Thus, I pose a question to all of you today: have we, as a nation, gone the extra mile to make our tourists the happiest visitors to the Philippines—the most fun place on earth?" he added.

He reminded them as well that the success of any business balances profit with customer satisfaction, and that the collective goal goes beyond making sales and booking trips.

"What we want is for both domestic and international tourists to become advocates of the Philippines—visitors who will return again and again to explore every corner, every peak, every shoreline of our archipelago, and encourage their friends and family to do the same. To achieve this, we need all of you to become advocates of our country—first, to go above and beyond your normal responsibilities, to do everything you can towards the resounding success of each and every trip, even as we in government continue to do our part," he said.

The President also said the administration remains on track for meeting and even exceeding its targets.

He said it has already surpassed its initial target of 35.5 million domestic travelers five years ahead of schedule, with 37.5 million travelers in 2011 alone.

"Now, Secretary Mon Jimenez has the fun task of meeting, or better yet, surpassing our new 2016 target of just 56.1 million domestic travelers," he said.

The President added that in 2012, the country reached another milestone by surpassing the four-million international arrival mark.

In 2013, despite the calamities that befell the country, the figure still grew by 10 percent to 4.7 million international arrivals.

"The good news is that, while the growth of international arrivals was affected last year, we found that international tourists have been spending more money on their visits here—with average daily expenditures among them increasing by 8.7 percent," he added. PND (jl)

President Aquino: Phl-US framework pact still being worked out to adhere to Phl, US laws

Work is still ongoing for a prospective Philippine-US framework agreement that would allow increased rotational presence of US troops in the Philippines, President Benigno Aquino III said Friday.

The President, in an interview with media in Pasay City, said both sides want to make sure the pact does not violate Philippine and US laws.

"Mula naman noong simulan ang usapan na ito talagang ang focus ay mapamadali, na magkaayos na tayo't magkasundo dito. Iyong principles that we want to uphold... dapat klaro ang details. Sabi nga nila, the devil is in the details. Iyong details ang medyo kailangan pang plantsahin (Since the negotiations started, the goal was to reach an agreement soonest. But we must make sure the result does not violate the rules of both countries. We still have to iron out the details)," he said.

The President made the clarification amid speculations that the pact is being readied for signing in time for US President Barack Obama's visit to the Philippines in April.

But for now, President Aquino said there are still meetings being held to iron out the details of the pact that would allow a US rotational presence that will meet both the needs of the Philippines and the US.

The added presence of US forces is seen to boost the Philippines' position in its territorial row with China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). PND (jl)

President Aquino: Complaint vs ERC chief now being studied

President Benigno Aquino III on Friday assured the public a MalacaƱang office is now studying a complaint against Energy Regulatory Commission head Zenaida Ducut.

The President, in an interview with media in Pasay City, said the complaint is being studied and scrutinized by Deputy Executive Secretary Michael Aguinaldo.

"Nandoon ngayon kay Deputy Executive Secretary Michael Aguinaldo, kung saan pinag-aaralan at sinisiyasat 'yung reklamo (The complaint is now with Deputy Executive Secretary Michael Aguinaldo where it is now being studied and scrutinized)," he said.

Earlier this month, Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said the complaint is being handled by a newly created division.

Coloma said this was the Investigative and Adjudicatory Division of the Office of the Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs.

He said the new office replaces the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission.

Earlier, a party list group had asked the Palace to investigate Ducut for supposedly abandoning her duty to protect consumers from a power rate hike. PND (jl)

President Aquino declares February 26 as a special non-working day in the City of Zamboanga in celebration of 77th Charter Day

President Benigno S. Aquino III has declared February 26, which falls on a Wednesday, as a special (non-working) day in the city of Zamboanga, in celebration of its 77th Charter Day.

The Chief Executive issued the declaration through Proclamation No. 717 signed by Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on February 7 to give the people of Zamboanga City the full opportunity to celebrate and participate in the occasion with appropriate ceremonies.

Zamboanga City became a chartered city in 1937 by virtue of Commonwealth Act. No. 39, when the Philippines was still ruled by a Commonwealth Government under then President Manuel L. Quezon. PND (js)

President Aquino hopes Tuason testimony on pork mess to result in safeguards vs abuse

President Benigno Aquino III on Friday voiced hopes the testimony before the Senate by Ruby Tuason will lead to safeguards against the abuse of the country's finances.

In an interview with media, the President said information provided by such witnesses can help lawmakers refine or amend laws to protect public funds.

"Ang buong paksa ay natutukoy sa pang-aabuso ng sistema. Natural, maganda ngang malaman nila kung paano naabuso itong sistemang ito para mailagay 'yung kaukulang safeguards nang hindi na maabuso sa darating na panahon (What we are looking into is the abuse of the system. It is good to see in detail how the system is being exploited, so proper safeguards can be put up to prevent further abuse)," he said.

On Thursday, Tuason appeared before a hearing of the Senate and provided details of how some lawmakers allegedly profited from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

The President said he managed to occasionally catch parts of the televised hearing Thursday.

Meanwhile, the President said it will be premature to consider Janet Napoles, the suspected mastermind behind the PDAF mess, as a potential state witness at this time.

He said Napoles has so far kept quiet on the case, and has not shown any sign she should be considered "not the most guilty."

"So until magsasalita siya, siguro, premature na sabihing puwede siyang maging state witness (So until she talks, it would be premature to say she can be considered a state witness)," he said. PND (jl)

President Aquino to spend Valentine's Day with friends

President Benigno Aquino III on Friday said he plans to spend Valentine's Day with some friends.

"Mamaya naman ay magtitipon kami ng mga kaibigan ko at may kaunting salu-salo, hanggang doon na lang 'yon (Later today, I will get together with some friends. That's it)," he said in an interview with media in Pasay City.

Earlier Friday, the President addressed the opening of the 21st TravelTour Expo 2014 of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association.

During his speech, he exhorted the stakeholders in the tourism industry to go the extra mile to cement the Philippines' stature as one of the world's vacation hotspots.

On the other hand, the President also thanked Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara for reminding him that Feb. 14 also happens to be his youngest sister Kristina Bernadette's birthday.

"So kung hindi dahil sa kanya baka nakaligtaan kong mabati ang aking kapatid (If it were not for Sen. Angara, I might have forgotten to greet her)," he said. PND (jl)