Sunday, 16 February 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Monday, February 10, 2014

President Aquino declares February 11 as a special non-working day in Iriga City, Camarines Sur in celebration of 'Tinagba Festival'

President Benigno S. Aquino III has declared February 11, which falls on a Tuesday, as a special (non-working) day in the city of Iriga in the province of Camarines Sur in celebration of the "Tinagba Festival."

The Chief Executive issued the declaration through Proclamation No. 710 signed by Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on January 23 to give the people of Iriga the full opportunity to celebrate and participate in the occasion.

Iriga City celebrates the "Tinagba Festival," an ancient Bicolano First-Harvest Offering, every 11th of February. The festival coincides with the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

The word Tinagba is derived from the Bicol word "Tagba" which means "to gather the first harvest and offer it to God." PND (js)

President Aquino to employment agencies: Helping, not exploiting OFWs the way to go

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday reminded employment and manning agencies against exploiting Filipinos seeking work abroad, saying overseas Filipinos have already sacrificed so much and deserve their countrymen’s full support.

The President made the call at a ceremony in Malacañan Palace, where the outstanding agency awards of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration were held.

"Alam po natin: May ilan sa ating employment at manning agencies, kung ituring ang ating mga kababayan, parang naglalakad na pitakang puwedeng pagkakitaan, at saka kakalimutan kapag hindi na mapapakinabangan (We know some employment and manning agencies treat OFWs as walking wallets to be exploited, and abandoned when they are no longer profitable)," he said in his speech.

Citing figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the President said there are about 6.3 million Filipinos based abroad.

"Wala man po sila ngayon dito sa Pilipinas, malayo man po ang kanilang kinalalagyan, malinaw na malinaw ang ating paninindigan: Kabilang sila sa ating mga Boss. Kasama sila sa mga nagtitiwala sa atin na pangalagaan ang kanilang mga karapatan; sumaklolo at magbigay-lingap sa oras ng kanilang pangangailangan; at magpalawak ng pagkakataon para sa propesyunal at personal nilang pag-unlad (They may not be in the Philippines, but we still consider them among our bosses. They are among the Filipinos who trusted us to safeguard their rights and welfare, especially when they need help. They also trust us to give them all possible opportunities)," he said.

The President thanked the awardees and other agencies like them who he said undertake programs to help OFWs get to their host countries and do not seek excess fees.

Many agencies even implement programs to make sure OFWs get adequate compensation for their work, he added.

"Wala rin kayong kung anu-anong mga kaltas at hokus-pokus, kaya naman hindi nababaon sa utang ang mga Pilipinong nangingibang-bayan para tuparin ang kanilang mga pangarap. Humahanga rin po ako sa mga inisyatiba ninyo upang mapaunlad ang kakayahan ng mga OFW na masigurong mayroon silang pag-usad sa mga napili nilang karera (You do not impose various fees or make deductions, so OFWs need not be mired in debt. I also salute you for your initiatives to improve the well-being of our OFWs as they pursue their careers)," he said.

The President stressed employment and manning agencies are at the frontline of the government's efforts to help OFWs pursue their dreams abroad.

He said he is confident the government and these manning firms can work together in helping the OFWs.

"Matagal na kayong nagbibigay-serbisyo sa ating mga kapwa Pilipino; umaasa akong lalo pang titibay ang inyong pagiging lingkod-bayan, lalo pa kayong makikiambag, at lalo pa tayong magtutulungan para maabot ang ating kolektibong pangarap. Sa ngalan ng mga natulungan ninyong OFW at ng kanilang mga mahal sa buhay, maraming-maraming salamat sa inyo (You have been serving our fellow Filipinos for so long, I expect our partnership in nation building to grow stronger. On behalf of OFWs and their loved ones, I thank you for the role you play)," he said.

In the meantime, the President said the government continues to work to improve the economy to give more opportunities to Filipinos.

"Basta’t tuloy lang po ang tulungan sa pagitan ng iba’t ibang sektor, basta’t tuloy lang ang ating pagtupad sa dakilang tungkulin ng paglilingkod sa mamamayang Pilipino, nasaan mang panig sila ng mundo—talaga naman pong lalong mapapabilis ang ating kolektibong pag-angat, at lalong magiging abot-kamay ang mas magandang kinabukasan para sa ating mga Boss (We should continue our partnership with various sectors in serving Filipinos, wherever they may be in the world. They are our bosses too)," he said. PND (jl)

DOLE chief reassures Saudi-based OFWs of protection amid 'mega-recruitment' concerns

The Philippine government on Monday reassured overseas Filipino workers based in Saudi Arabia it will take steps to ensure their protection and welfare amid reports of a new mega-recruitment system to be implemented there.

Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz stressed this as she said she will send a technical team to the Kingdom to learn more about the supposed new system.

"We will never negotiate anything that would reduce the level of protection of our workers. So we will see to it that whether they are operating under a 'mega recruitment system' or under a new system, the level of protection that our workers have will continue to be guaranteed," she said.

But for now, she said she will wait for the report of the technical team that will go to the Kingdom and get more details about the said mega-recruitment system.

The technical team also has instructions to negotiate for the implementing protocol on the joint dispute settlement system for Philippine household workers.

Earlier reports said some firms in the recruitment industry voiced fears that overseas Filipino workers deployed to Saudi Arabia will be “for rent” to employers from both government offices and private companies.

Some sectors also voiced fears the salaries of OFWs may be dictated by the said mega agencies. PND (jl)

President Aquino encourages all government agencies to support ‘Kabisig Expo 2014’

President Benigno S. Aquino III encouraged all government agencies and instrumentalities to extend their support and participate in the “KABISIG Philippine Expo and Trade Fair 2014.

The directive was issued by virtue of Memorandum Circular No. 62 signed by Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on Janauary 29.

The KABISIG People’s Movement (KABISIG) Program was created by virtue of Proclamation No. 650 (s. 1990) in order to facilitate, coordinate and monitor the implementation of government programs and projects, as well as to provide linkages between and among the private sector groups and the government agencies.

In pursuit of the mandate, KABISIG is conducting the “KABISIG Philippine Government Expo and Trade Fair 2014 which has for its theme “Matuwid na Daan, Susi sa Tagumpay at Kaunlaran.”

The project aims to bring together in one venue all government agencies and instrumentalities, including Government-owned or Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) and Local Government Units (LGUs), to feature their profiles, service facilities, programs, projects, products, and accomplishments. It is also an opportunity that will allow the government to promote public awareness and participation in national government.

"All heads of departments, agencies and instrumentalities of the national government, including GOCCs and LGUs, are hereby encouraged to extend support and participate in the said expo and trade fair, subject to the availability of funds and usual accounting and auditing rules," the President said.

The Memorandum Circular shall take effect immediately. PND (js)

Palace extends condolences over retired Justice Serafin Cuevas passing

Malacañang on Monday extended condolences over the passing of retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda described Cuevas as an eminent jurist and well-respected member of the legal and academic communities.

"While he has represented interests adverse to the government, we have always shown our respect to each other. We truly mourn the passing of Justice Cuevas," he said.

He was referring to Cuevas' role as lead defense counsel in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.

The Supreme Court on Monday announced Cuevas' passing Sunday night, and is flying the Philippine flag at half-mast.

"The official funeral wake ceremonies will be undertaken by the Supreme Court. We have not been notified of any activity," he said. PND (jl)

Palace: Maguindanao NGCP tower bombing won't derail peace efforts

The bombing of a tower of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines in Maguindanao last weekend should not derail the government's efforts to attain peace in Mindanao, Malacañang maintained Monday.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the military is on top of the situation and will take the necessary actions to protect key installations such as power and communications.

"There will always be people who will try to put down the government, especially now that the Bangsamoro peace agreement will be signed. We are prepared to make sure we can push through with our goal to achieve just and lasting peace in Mindanao," Lacierda said in a media briefing.

Last weekend's bombing came days before President Benigno S. Aquino III is to attend a local government summit on the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in Davao City.

President Aquino is resolved to go to Mindanao and forge ahead with the peace agreement, Lacierda noted.

"The President has gone to (Moro Islamic Liberation Front headquarters in Camp) Darapanan... The President is not averse going to places where he has to be," he said. PND (jl)

Palace underscores President Aquino's busy week

Malacanang said it will be a busy week for President Benigno S. Aquino III as he attends on various events that gear towards advancing the rights of Overseas Filipino Workers, accelerating the growth of Muslim Mindanao, and tapping the enormous potential of the Tourism industry.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during the regular press briefing in Malacanang on Monday that the Chief Executive started the week attending the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration 2013 Agency Performance Awards.

"Wherever in the world we may be, the President and the rest of the government continue to work with all to ensure that the benefits of inclusive growth are enjoyed by each and every Filipino. This was the thrust of his speech this morning at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration 2013 Agency Performance Awards: that instead of pulling each other down by taking advantage of one another, Filipinos should work in solidarity with one another to accelerate our progress along the straight path," Lacierda said.

The President’s message of inclusiveness and justice will be emphasized during his midweek activity, Lacierda said.

Lacierda said President Aquino will be flying to Davao City for the 2nd Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Local Government Units Summit on Governance Development.

The President’s visit will serve to further catalyze the government's efforts to build a just and lasting peace among Lumads, Christians, and Muslims, coming at the heels of the opening of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission Office in Cotabato, which took place over the weekend, Lacierda said.

"The President will then end the week by attending the Philippine Travel Agencies Association Traveltour Expo 2014, joining our country’s tour and travel operators in reminding our countrymen and the whole world of the basic truth that has revitalized our country’s tourism sector: it’s more fun in the Philippines," Lacierda said.

"The coming week signifies the Aquino administration’s progress on the many facets of governance—whether it is advancing the rights of Overseas Filipino Workers, working towards the accelerated growth of Muslim Mindanao, or further tapping the enormous potential of our Tourism industry," he stressed.

"While much has been achieved, we are likewise aware that much remains to be done, and the President—along with those of us in his administration—remains fully committed to the pursuit of inclusive growth and a Philippines where, truly, no one is left behind," Lacierda said. PND (js)

President Aquino calls for meeting of relevant agencies to prevent further bus accidents

A concerned President Benigno S. Aquino III has called for a meeting of relevant government agencies to map out measures to ensure the safety of public transport, including that of public utility buses.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Monday the President is "very concerned" with how the accidents continue to happen despite government enforcement of rules.

"(H)e's very concerned with respect to the situation, with respect to the buses, how things are happening ... He's calling for a meeting of relevant government agencies," Lacierda said at a media briefing.

The latest bus accident occurred last Friday, when a bus fell into a ravine in Mountain Province, killing at least 14 people.

Lacierda said the President will call for a meeting of relevant government agencies "with respect to road safety and respect for public transport."

However, he also reiterated the Palace has no problem with the performance of Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board head Winston Ginez.

Ginez, who had suspended the franchise of the bus firms involved in Friday's tragedy, has been "proactive" in his work to ensure road safety, Lacierda said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment is putting in place improvements in the implementation of a two-tier wage system for bus drivers and conductors, to prevent a repeat of recent deadly bus accidents.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said this includes an online tracking of the validity of certificates of compliance granted to bus companies.

"(W)e are now posting in our website the validity of the certificate that we issued and the expiry date, then we are now conscious on how to monitor it such as ‘pag malapit na iyong expiry date then may notice na sila para i-subject ulit for assessment for purposes of issuing another certificate of compliance (when the expiry date nears, we give them a notice to submit themselves for assessment to renew their certificate of compliance)," she said.

Under the new setup, bus companies are to pay their drivers and conductors a fixed wage, plus incentives based on criteria like discipline of drivers and the cleanliness and roadworthiness of transport vehicles. PND (jl)

President Aquino forms permanent committee to map out guidelines on blood money, other support systems for troubled OFWs

President Benigno S. Aquino III has formed a permanent committee to map out guidelines on how to deal with the cases of Filipinos facing execution abroad - including whether to raise blood money for them.

Vice President and presidential adviser on OFW concerns Jejomar Binay heads a list of ranking officials who will form the body, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said at a media briefing on Monday.

"The President stressed the need for a clear policy for blood money. We know our OFWs have contributed a lot to our country and there are situations where for one reason or another a crime is committed and blood money is required, especially in the Middle East nations," Lacierda said.

He added the President formed the permanent committee to "review each and every case" and to come up with clear guidelines on how government "should deal with cases that involve blood money."

Also, he said the government needs to make sure it is focused not only on the issue of blood money but "also to provide a support system for our overseas contract workers."

Other than Binay, the permanent committee's members include: Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, and Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman.

Once the committee maps out answers to the issue of blood money, President Aquino "will call for another meeting and we will hopefully come up with a clear set of guidelines for blood money," Lacierda said. PND (jl)

Government to provide jobs for Filipinos amids SWS survey showing increase in unemployment rate due to calamities, Palace says

The Aquino government assured that the government is working hard to find all possible means in providing employment opportunities for the Filipinos in the aftermath of super-typhoon "Yolanda" and other calamities, a Palace official said.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda issued the statement during the regular press briefing in Malacanang on Monday following the release of the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey indicating that unemployment rose as 2013 ended.

Results of a December 11-16 survey set the jobless rate at 27.5%, equivalent to an estimated 12.1 million adult Filipinos. This was up some six points from the 21.7% (estimated 9.6 million) recorded three months earlier.

"Based on the three calamities that beset this country—the earthquake, the disrupted economic activity in Bohol, the Zamboanga incident which also disrupted (the economy), as well as the whole swath of territory that was affected by typhoon ‘Yolanda’—the unemployment factor increase was understandable," Lacierda said.

The government, through the Labor Department, is facilitating employment services for the displaced workers in the aftermath of typhoons and other calamities.

"We will continue to find measures that can provide employment for them. For instance, in the areas affected by the typhoon Yolanda, we expect reconstruction and rehabilitation to be moving, and so we will expect employment to be done," Lacierda said.

"For now, we already have our cash-for-work program to make sure that those who have suffered may be able to afford some measure of compensation," Lacierda said. PND (js)