Wednesday, 19 February 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Tuesday, February 18, 2014

President Aquino invites investors to take larger role in helping Filipinos

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Tuesday invited investors to play a larger role in efforts to make the country and the economy greater than ever before.

Speaking at the Euromoney Philippines Investment Forum at the Solaire Resort and Casino in Pasay City, the President said opportunities abound along the path to shared prosperity.

"As our people continue to rewrite the story of the Philippines—from the apathy of the past to the dynamism of the present, from our previous fumbles to the firm resolve that is propelling us towards a more promising future—I invite all of you to take a larger role here—to be present as our people pursue the permanence of our prosperity, on the road to becoming an economy and a country greater than ever before," he said.

He also said the Philippines' days as the so-called Sick Man of Asia are "becoming a distant memory."

Now, he said the Philippines is seeing so many international organizations and publications referring to it as “Asia’s Bright Spot,” or as the “New Asian Tiger.”

Also, he said that despite last year's successive tragedies, Filipinos have shown their resiliency, with the government extending the needed assistance.

"We want to empower them to take hold of their destinies once more; and to do that, we must give them the opportunity to work for their personal advancement, and for the advancement of their families and communities. This is how we approach the task of relief and recovery. It is not simply about distributing goods or putting up shelter; it involves coming up with strategies to revitalize the economies in the local communities, to create jobs, and to encourage productivity in the areas in the soonest possible time," he said.

"The road ahead promises many challenges, but we are convinced that with the backing of our people, and with the right partners in the private sector, we will prevail. We will complete the rehabilitation and improvement of the affected communities sooner rather than later; and all of you will see those areas brimming with more opportunity than ever before," he added.

The President also cited the Philippines' progress in a report card of sorts, where Fitch Ratings Agency gave the Philippines its first investment grade rating from a major credit rating agency in its history.

Standard & Poor’s followed suit, and so did Moody’s.

"Despite the disasters that befell our country in 2013, the Philippines still posted one of the fastest growth rates in Asia at 7.2 percent," he added.

The President also said the Philippines continued to defy expectations on several measures of competitiveness, climibing up the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Rankings, reaching 59th place.

Also, the Philippines recorded a marked improvement in the World Bank and International Finance Corporation’s Ease of Doing Business Report, moving up 30 places in just one year.

He added the Heritage Foundation also bumped the Philippines up in its 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, placing us 89th out of 178 countries—an eight-notch improvement from the previous year.

On top of this, after a 2013 survey of companies in Asia and Oceania, the Japan External Trade Organization said that the Philippines is the second most profitable among ASEAN-5 countries, trailing only Thailand.

For now, the President said the Philippines is fully intent on keeping up the pace of its progress.

He also said now is crucial as population projections by the United Nations show the Philippines will hit a “demographic sweet spot” starting in 2015.

This means a large portion of the population will hit working age.

"On average, hitting such a sweet spot has led to a ten-year period of 7.3 percent yearly growth. So one can only imagine the possibilities for us, considering our workers are renowned for their resilience, creativity, and loyalty," he said.

Meanwhile, the President said the Philippines remains committed to making a run at its 2016 target of 10 million international tourists.

It is also seeking to improve the performance of the agriculture sector, which grew only 1.1 percent last year.

On the other hand, the President said the self-esteem and morale of Filipinos are high after getting the feeling of having a government that actually works for them — "a government that does not break past promises, and in fact, underpromises, and over-delivers."

"Perhaps this is the single greatest guarantee that our reforms will outlast our term in office, and perhaps our lifetimes. The Filipino people have grown empowered. They have rediscovered how valuable they are to the country. They take pride in their work; and they have regained the capacity to demand excellence from their government. This is the lasting legacy we want to leave, and this is the legacy we will continue working for: A Filipino people revitalized—who will never again tolerate mediocrity—who will never again allow any leader to lead them away from the straight path," he said.

"As we continue showing them the profound, tangible impact of a government that embodies the spirit of public service, we know that we are building a more capable country—one that is always motivated and empowered to propel itself to greater heights," he added. PND (jl)

President Aquino declares March 7 as a special non-working day in the City of Tagum, province of Davao del Norte

President Benigno S. Aquino III has declared March 7, which falls on a Friday, as a special (non-working) day in the city of Tagum in the province of Davao del Norte in celebration of its "16th Araw ng Tagum."

The Chief Executive issued the declaration through Proclamation No. 719 signed by Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on February 7 to give the people of Tagum City the full opportunity to celebrate and participate in the occasion with appropriate ceremonies.

On January 30, 1998, Republic Act No. 8472 converting the municipality of Tagum into a city was signed by then President Fidel V. Ramos. The cityhood was ratified through a plebiscite on March 7, 1998. PND (js)

Palace encourages voluntary remedial measures in dealing with traffic due to infrastructure work

MalacaƱang on Tuesday encouraged citizens to adopt voluntary remedial measures in coping with heavy traffic due to major infrastructure projects in Metro Manila, including the Skyway 3 and NAIA Expressway projects.

Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said these could include carpooling, company flexi-time and home office arrangements.

"Voluntary remedial measures such as community carpooling and company initiated flexi-time and home office arrangements for affected employees can contribute in easing traffic congestion," Coloma said at a media briefing.

"We would rather focus for now on the voluntary measures dahil mas epektibo ito, ano, kung gusto mismo ng mga naaapektuhan na gawin ‘yang mga aksyon na ‘yan (We would rather focus for now on the voluntary measures because these are more effective and involve what the concerned parties want to do)," he added.

In the meantime, he renewed his call to people to share in the burden of sacrifice, and bear with the short-term inconvenience, "so we can reap the benefits of faster travel and higher productivity."

Coloma said the government had long considered several remedial measures based on advance information reaching the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

They relay these suggestions to affected local governments, and they in turn draw up rerouting plans.

"Continuing process ito na isinasagawa ng ating pamahalaan through the MMDA and the local governments and DPWH (This is a continuing process undertaken by the government through the MMDA, local governments and DPWH)," he said.

Meanwhile, Coloma said the government is getting enough support from stakeholders.

"I think we should also recognize that many of our people are willing to do the necessary sacrifice that is needed and they are willing to bear with the inconvenience. Hindi naman ito ang unang pagkakataon na magkakaroon ng mga major projects na ganito. Nakita na rin natin (ito) noong nakaraan (This is not the first time we had issues involving major projects like this)," he said. PND (jl)

Government committed to fighting graft, says Palace

The Aquino administration vowed unwavering commitment to fight graft and corruption in the country as part of its campaign pledge during the 2010 presidential election.

There were fears from some quarters saying that the administration’s dedication to fight graft may waver over time.

But Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., during the regular press briefing with Palace reporters said the public must remember that the Aquino government was elected on anti-graft and corruption platform.

“Tandaan natin na ang administrasyong ito ay nahalal dahil sa panawagang ‘kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap,’ kaya batayan ng administrasyon ang prinsipyo na kinakailangan ang mabuting pamamahala. Good governance is essential to attaining the political and economic development objectives of this administration,” he told reporters.

And with regards to the continuing Senate and DOJ’s investigation on the P10 billion pork barrel fund scam, Coloma said the government will pursue all the leads in the inquiry and prosecute people who committed wrongdoings.

As the Senate and the DOJ tighten its focus on Janet Lim-Napoles and several lawmakers in connection with the scam, there were reports about some lawmakers who maintained their own NGOs intended to be used for the diversion of their pork barrel allocations.

“Lahat ng mga umano’y katiwalian hinggil sa paggamit ng pondo ng bayan ay dapat siyasatin, alamin, at mabigyan ng tamang proseso para matunton kung merong mga lumabag sa batas,” he said.

As the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) investigates Napoles-related NGOs and their connection to alleged pork barrel irregularities, Coloma said the government carried out other measures to speed up its inquiry.

These include setting up an inter-agency anti-graft commission composed of the Department of Justice, Commission on Audit, and the Office of the Ombudsman. This inter-agency commission will work continuously to find out all those involve in the scam.

So far, among the major lawmakers implicated in the controversy were Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada. PND (as)

Palace: There's no stopping government officials from taking public transport

Government officials are free to take public transport in response to the call from advocates for clean air, MalacaƱang said Tuesday.

But Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said this must not come at the expense of the officials failing to fulfill their official duties.

"Wala naman sigurong pumipigil sa akin o kahit sino mang government official na isagawa ang bagay na ‘yan. Kailangan lang sigurong unawain na meron din namang mga kinakailangang gampanan na tungkulin (There is nothing stopping me or any government official from taking public transport. But we must understand government officials have many duties to fulfill)," Coloma said at a media briefing.

He was referring to a petition by clean air advocates before the Supreme Court to order government officials and employees to cut fuel consumption in half, and to take public transport.

Coloma said taking public transport should not have a negative impact on the quality of public service the government officials concerned will provide.

"Baka naman sa literal na translasyon ‘yang panukalang ‘yan, maantala din naman ‘yung paghahatid ng serbisyo publiko. Baka naman po unawain din na ‘yung nagsisilbi sa pamahalaan ay mayroon na rin pong mga sakripisyong isinasagawa (If we take the petition literally, it may diminish the quality of public service. We should understand that public servants are already making many sacrifices)," he said. PND (jl)

Country on track to achieving economic targets despite series of disasters, Balisacan says

The country remains on track with respect to its economic targets as laid out in the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 despite series of calamities, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said.

"Despite the series of natural disasters that hit the country in the latter part of the year, the Philippine economy still expanded by 7.2 percent, improving from the 6.8 % achieved in 2012," the Socioeconomic Planning Secretary said during the regular press briefing in Malacanang on Monday.

"This creditable performance was supported by strong macroeconomic fundamentals marked by low and stable inflation, favorable interest rates, sustainable fiscal and external positions and a stable financial sector," he said.

He noted that the country is one of the best performers among Asian economies during the said period.

In fact, Balisacan said the Philippine's credit rating has been upgraded to investment grade for the first time in the country's history.

The upgrade is an affirmation of the confidence of the international business community in the Philippines, he said.

"This has been reinforced by improvements in the Philippines’ ranking in several global competitiveness indices such as the IFC Ease of Doing Business (from rank 140 in 2009 to 108 in 2013) and the Global Competitiveness Report (from 75 in 2011 to 59 in 2013)," Balisacan said.

"In terms of the composition of growth, it is worthy to note the increasing contribution of fixed capital formation from 2 ppts in 2012 to 2.4 ppts in 2013 on the demand side. Equally notable on the supply side is the acceleration of the manufacturing subsector in 2013 as it provided more than three-fourths of the industry’s growth. Both these developments augur well for the growth of quality employment going forward," he said.

Balisacan presented to the media the Philippine Development Plan Midterm Update that spells out the government’s roadmap for inclusive growth.

"I am here today to discuss about the economy, its progress and challenges, and what the government is doing to ensure that economic growth materially improves the lives of the greatest number of our people," he said.

"Although our investment to GDP ratio of 21.1% in 2013 is not too far from our PDP goal of 22% by 2016, this is still way below what our ASEAN neighbors have achieved. Although our unemployment rate has been kept within the targeted range of 6.8-7.2%, a bigger challenge is reducing the underemployment rate, which is still close to 20%. An even bigger challenge is bringing down the poverty rate to 16.6% by 2016 from its 25.2% level in 2012," he said.

"In taking stock of the first three years of the PDP implementation, the lessons became clear. First, good governance is an effective platform upon which strategies should be implemented. Second, macroeconomic and political stability fuels positive expectations that lead to growth," he said.

"Third, economic growth is necessary but not sufficient for poverty reduction. Fourth, development strategies need to have spatial and sectoral dimensions to ensure inclusive growth. Lastly, disasters can negate the gains and even push back development," Balisacan said. PND (js)