Monday, 3 February 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Saturday, February 1, 2014

President Aquino orders continued updates on 'Basyang,' help for those affected

As he continues to monitor the situation in affected areas, President Benigno Aquino III has ordered concerned agencies to provide him with constant updates on Tropical Cyclone Basyang (Kajiki) and to help those affected, Malacañang said Saturday.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said President Aquino wants regular reports from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.

"The President has asked for continuous reports from the NDRRMC and PAGASA on the status of (Basyang) ... Kagabi kasi humingi ang pangulo ng patuloy na pagpapadala ng update sa kanya ng PAGASA (Since last night, he asked PAGASA to provide him with constant updates)," Valte said on state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

The NDRRMC's Saturday morning update indicated more than 18,000 people had been displaced due to bad weather conditions brought by Basyang.

Valte said the President wants the NDRRMC and other concerned national government agencies to help the local government units of affected areas.

But PAGASA's 11 a.m. advisory indicated Basyang has weakened into a tropical depression, after making landfall several times since Friday night.

PAGASA also expects Basyang to speed away from the Philippine area of responsibility by Sunday morning.

"Ang atas ng Pangulo sa NDRRMC at national government agencies, bigyan ang lahat ng tulong na kakailanganin ng pamahalaang lokal na maaapektuhan ni Basyang (The President's order to the NDRRMC and other national government agencies is to help the LGUs in areas affected by Basyang)," Valte said. PND (jl)

Palace condemns IED attack, use of minors by armed group in Mindanao

Malacañang on Saturday condemned the use of an improvised explosive device and so-called child warriors by armed groups fighting the government in Mindanao.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte also urged the media to coordinate with officials on the ground especially in areas where fighting is likely to take place.

"Hindi maganda ang balitang yan at hindi tayo natutuwa (What happened on Saturday morning was not good and we are not amused)," she said on state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

Initial reports of Saturday's incident showed at least six people were injured in an IED explosion in Maguindanao. Two were reportedly journalists.

The military does not discount the possibility the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, could be behind the attack.

In the meantime, Valte appealed to media agencies to abide by a safety protocol and to cooperate with government representatives, including those of the police and the military, especially in controlled areas.

Meanwhile, Valte said the Palace is quite disturbed by the discovery of the remains of three child soldiers in one of the areas where fighting between the BIFF and government troops took place.

"Kahindik-hindik ang balita na may tatlo sila ginagamit na child soldiers, beyond the fact that it violates so many laws, not just ours but of international laws. We condemn the practice of using child soldiers...Walang lugar ang paggamit ng menor de edad sa ganitong labanan (We are outraged that this group used child soldiers. This violates not just our laws but international laws as well. We condemn the practice of using child soldiers. Minors have no place in the battlefield)," she said.

She said the government can help address the situation thorugh child support services, as well as the commitment of its security forces that they will not use child soldiers or warriors.

But she also appealed to parents to make sure their children are not recruited for such exploitation.

"(S)a magulang, pakiusap natin sana huwag natin payagan ang anak, huwag natin payagang magamit sa ganitong paraan (We appeal to parents not to allow their children to be exploited this way)," she said. PND (jl)

Palace: Philippines keeping lines open with Hong Kong on visa row

The Philippines will maintain open lines of communication with Hong Kong in the wake of visa requirements the Hong Kong government imposed on holders of red and blue (official) Philippine passports, Malacañang said Saturday.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Philippine government is always ready to resolve the issue through dialogue.

"Siguro nakita ninyo sa ating pahayag sa nakaraang araw, we take it as it is. Pinapakita natin na patuloy ang ating pagiging bukas (You have seen in past days that the Philippine government has kept communication lines open)," she said on state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

She also said there have been "consultations" ongoing on the matter.

The Hong Kong government earlier implemented further sanctions against the Philippines by requiring visas for holders of Philippine official and diplomatic passport holders. Such passports are used on official travel.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs had said the Philippine government "regrets" such an act, which it also branded as "unfortunate."

It added the Philippines "remains committed to manifest compassion for the victims and their families and is ready to turn over the additional tokens of solidarity from the Filipino people."

Hong Kong's action stemmed from its repeated demands for an apology from the Philippine government over the death of eight Hong Kong tourists in a hostage crisis in 2010. PND (jl)

Palace: Return of PDAF funds a matter between solons and Commission on Audit

An order to at least four senators to return their Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations is strictly a matter between the lawmakers and the Commission on Audit, Malacañang said Saturday.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Palace cannot compel the four to comply with the COA order since the senators are from a coequal branch of government.

"Kami, wala kaming power of compulsion, knowing the senators belong to a separate and coequal branch of government (The Palace does not have the power to compel the senators to comply, knowing the senators belong to a separate and coequal branch of government)," Valte said on state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

"This is a matter between the COA and the four senators who were issued notices of disallowance," she added.

Earlier reports indicated the senators had been linked to a multibillion-peso pork barrel scam after their PDAF allocations were alleged to have been funneled to bogus non-government organizations. PND (jl)

Optimism high in the Philippines following developments in economy, Mindanao peace process, says official

The recent developments in the economy, the continuing efforts to rebuild the typhoon-devastated areas in the Visayas and the successful peace process in Mindanao are indications of even greater achievements for the country, a Palace official said in a statement.

In a statement, Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the entire country welcomes the good news about the economy growing by 6.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, which puts economic growth for the entire 2013 at 7.2 percent.

This makes Filipinos to be optimistic as the country continues on an upward trajectory even with the devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda affecting the first quarter growth this year.

Also the visit of the Right Honorable William Hague MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, strengthens the country’s confidence as it strives for a better economic growth this year.

In meeting the President, the Vice President, as well as the Foreign Affairs Secretary, Secretary Hague renewed his government’s commitment in the reconstruction program for Yolanda-affected communities.

The UK is one of the countries that extended the most assistance to the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda. Secretary Hague also met with prominent members of the business community to discuss how to further expand partnerships between the Philippines and British companies.

“These events represent even more cause for optimism—even greater strides—as we tread the path towards inclusiveness and prosperity,” Valte said in the statement.

The Palace official also said that with the completion of the final Annex on Normalization and the Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters, attaining long-term peace in Mindanao is now at hand.

Quoting the President in a speech this week, Valte said “’outstanding’ does not refer only to personal excellence. It refers to excellence that harnesses the energies of the vast majority; excellence that recognizes its duty to fellowmen and country; excellence that does everything in its power to leave to future generations a society that is inclusive, prosperous, and teeming with opportunity.” PND (as)