Monday, 3 February 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Thursday, January 30, 2014

UK foreign minister, party pay courtesy call on President Aquino

UK Foreign Minister William Hague on Thursday met with President Benigno S. Aquino III as part of his visit to the Philippines.

Minister Hague and his party paid a courtesy call on the President in Malacañan Palace's Music Room.

With the minister were:

- UK Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad

- former UK Ambassador Stephen Lillie, now director of the Asia Pacific Directorate of the Foreign Commonwealth Office

- Arminka Helic, special adviser to Minister Hague

- Stephen Lysaght, First Secretary of the UK Embassy in the Philippines

- Katherine Dixon

The Philippine officials at the courtesy call included:

- Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario

- Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo

- DFA Undersecretary Evan Garcia

- Philippine Ambassador to UK Enrique Manalo

- National Treasurer Lea de Leon

Minister Hague earlier assured the Philippines of continued aid from the UK in rehabilitation work for areas affected by super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

He also voiced support for the peace process in Mindanao, where government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front negotiators signed last weekend an annex that would pave the way for a comprehensive peace agreement.

The minister posted on his Twitter account Wednesday he was "delighted to have met the Mindanao peace process negotiators."

"Their achievement is outstanding, for their country now and future generations," he said.

He also noted he is the first UK Foreign Secretary to visit since 1997, and aims to "strengthen a vital relationship in Southeast Asia." PND (jl)

Palace: Evidence, not persecution, basis of forefeiture case vs former CJ Corona

Evidence and not persecution is the basis of criminal and civil charges to be filed by the Ombudsman against former Chief Justice Renato Corona and his wife Cristina, Malacañang said Thursday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Palace believes the Office of the Ombudsman is acting as an independent constitutional body in pursuing the charges against Corona.

"We trust this action was taken by the Ombudsman on the basis of objective gathering of information, and the case was filed based on concrete evidence. It's the independence of the office and the integrity of the Ombudsman herself that is on the line here," he said at a media briefing.

He added the Palace joins the Filipino people in trusting the process will have a beneficial outcome.

Besides, he said the charges constitute a "logical continuation" of Corona's impeachment trial where he was convicted and stripped of his post.

"Kaya siguro dapat natin ikagalak at ikatuwa na nagkaroon ng progreso sa proseso ng paghanap ng katotohanan at katarungan (We should welcome the progress of this process of searching for truth and justice)," he added. PND (jl)

Palace to respect SC decision to reinstated Deputy Ombudsman

Malacañang on Thursday said it will respect the Supreme Court's decision to reinstate Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzales III, who the Office of the President dismissed three years ago.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said the Palace will follow the law and abide by the decision of the court.

"(A)ng aming position sa ganoong bagay ang paggalang sa desisyon ng hukuman. We are abiding by decisions of the court dahil sumusunod tayo sa batas (Our position is to respect the decision of the court. We are abiding by the decision of the court because we follow the rule of law)," Coloma said at a media briefing.

He was referring to reports that the high court affirmed the reinstatement of Gonzales, who was sacked for supposedly mishandling the case of a police officer in the Manila hostage crisis in August 2010.

Earlier reports also said the high court ruled that while the OP has the power to discipline the Office of the Special Prosecutor, it has no such power over the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman. PND (jl)

Aquino government expresses elation over the 2013 economic performance of the Philippines and assures to focus on poverty alleviation

The Aquino government welcomed the report of the National Economic Development Authority showing that the country's gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 7.2 percent in 2013 and assured it remains focused on achieving inclusive growth by reducing poverty and increasing social protection, a Palace official said.

"We are pleased to share with you NEDA’s report this morning that the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country grew remarkably by 7.2 percent in 2013, exceeding the six to seven percent target despite the series of calamities and natural disasters that struck the country last year," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said during the regular press briefing in Malacanang on Thursday.

While GDP growth slowed slightly to 6.5 percent in the fourth quarter, Coloma said the Philippines remains one of the best performing economies in the region, second only to China which grew by 7.7 percent.

The Communications Secretary said the NEDA projects that the country will reach its GDP target of between 6.5 percent to seven percent for 2014.

"We will focus on growing exports, taking advantage of the improving global economy. We will also continue to reduce the cost and improve the ease of doing business to increase foreign direct investments," Coloma stressed.

He said the government will improve linkages between agriculture and industry to boost the growth of these sectors.

"We are pleased to note that with manufacturing at the forefront, the industry sector achieved double-digit growth of 12.3 percent in the fourth quarter, and 10.5 percent for the full-year," he said.

Coloma said the government seeks to promote increased and enhanced employment opportunities to fully harness the vast potential of the country's highly-talented workforce.

He said infrastructure projects will be implemented vigorously, especially in the rehabilitation of calamity areas.

Major infrastructure projects, especially in the transport sector, will also be a significant growth factor, Coloma said.

"Most importantly, government remains focused on achieving inclusive growth by reducing poverty and increasing social protection. The updated Philippine Development Plan emphasizes the spatial or area-specific dimensions of development," he said.

"Hence, government spending is directed at increasing the productivity and reducing the vulnerability of farmers, fisherfolk, and other marginalized sectors of Philippine society," Coloma said. PND (js)

Palace: AFP, PNP following rules of engagement, respecting human rights in operations vs BIFF

Malacañang on Thursday reassured the public the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police follow the rules of engagement and respect human rights as they go after a splinter group of secessionist rebels in Mindanao.

Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said the objective is to help keep the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) from intruding into communities of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MNLF).

"Kailangang unawain natin na ... ang pangunahing responsibilidad ng AFP at PNP ay pangalagaan ang kaligtasan ng ating mamamayan (We have to understand that the top concern of the AFP and PNP is to ensure the safety of our people)," Coloma said in a media briefing.

He said the military and the police are adhering to the accepted rules of engagement, making sure they do not act indiscriminately.

"Nakatitiyak tayo na ang lahat na kilos ng AFP at law enforcement agencies, tumatalima sa batayang prinsipyong yan (We can be sure all the movements of our law enforcement agencies follow those principles)," he said.

Coloma also reassured groups such as the Moro National Liberation Front that there is no discrimination in the operations.

The BIFF is a breakaway group of the MILF, whose negotiators last weekend signed a peace annex with the government.

The annex is expected to pave the way for a comprehensive peace agreement, which in turn is expected to lead to the establishment of a Bangsamoro political entity. PND (jl)

President Aquino receives Malaysian facilitator in Malacanang

President Benigno S. Aquino III received Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed in a courtesy call on Thursday following the signing of the final annex on the framework agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last weekend.

Tengku served as the facilitator of the peace negotiation from 2001 to 2002 and from April 2011 until today.

Also present during the event were Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., government peace panel head Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, peace adviser Teresita Deles, and foreign affairs Undersecretary Jesus Yabes.

After meeting Tenku, the President also met the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

Among those present were: MILF peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, Bangsamoro Transition Commission members Melanio Ulama, Asami Tamang, Said Shiek, Fatmawati Salappudin, Akmad Sakkam, Hussein Munoz, Froilyn Mendoza, Raissa Jajurie, Pedrito Eisma, Abdulla Camlian, Talib Benito, Robert Alonto, and Ibrahim Ali.

Other officials present were Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Secretary Edwin Lacierda, Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo, and Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Rafael Santos.

Government peace panel members Senen Bacani and Yasmin Busran-Lao were also present.

Last week, the President welcomed the signing of the final annex of the peace agreement, the annex on normalization that will pave the way for the crafting of a comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro.

With the signing of the final annex, the government will now focus on crafting the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law that will be submitted to Congress. The measure will then be subjected to a plebiscite. PND (as)

President Aquino greets Filipino Chinese on Lunar New Year

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Thursday sent his greetings to the Filipino Chinese community as they prepare to welcome the Year of the Horse on Friday.

In his message, the President urged Filipino Chinese to deepen their partnerships with Filipinos in forging an "even more equitably progressive Philippines."

"Let your proud heritage energize your already dynamic bloc, that you may deepen your partnerships with our fellowmen in forging an even more equitably progressive Philippines. May today’s festivities reinforce your bond with your families and inspire you to expand the circles of goodwill within and beyond your community," he said.

On Friday, Filipino Chinese in the Philippines are expected to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

The President also said the nation finds strength in diversity, "finding common ground in our citizens’ shared aspirations and heading towards our goals through unity, mutual respect, and positive engagement."

"May we uphold our solidarity, as we clear our people’s path to resurgence and realize the next chapters of our revitalization," he said. PND (jl)