Sunday, 16 February 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

President Aquino: Spirit of bayanihan resides in Filipinos worldwide

President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday hailed the spirit of bayanihan among Filipinos worldwide, as he welcomed in Malacañan Palace a group of US-based Filipino professionals who conducted medical missions in areas hit by super Typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan).
In his remarks at the courtesy call of the Philippine Medical Association of Chicago, the President said it is this spirit of solidarity that has helped Filipinos overcome the challenges in the country's history.

"The message we sent as one people was clear. The spirit of bayanihan continues to reside within all of us, wherever we may be in the world. It is this spirit that has helped us overcome so many challenges in our history," he said.

He added this same spirit will help the government continue its efforts to "build back better."

The President recalled the PMA of Chicago had for more than a generation come back every year to promote the well-being of Filipinos through medical missions.

"This is a reminder to all of us that as was the case during Martial Law and during our family's time in exile, Filipino professionals abroad remain some of the most committed to the advancement of our people and our nation," the President said.

But he said the group's visit this year is particularly timely as the country welcomes all the extra help it can get to help communities affected by Yolanda recover.

"In one of our country's darkest hours, there is unity, there is resilience, there is compassion," he said.

The President updated the delegation on the good news for the country in the last part of 2013, including an economic growth of 6.5 percent near the end of last year, to push the Gross Domestic Product growth to 7.2 percent for the entire 2013.

He said this made the Philippines one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, second only to China.

Also, he said his administration, with the support of the people, streamlined government spending and held erring public officials accountable.

It also fostered a business environment that rewards ingenuity and hard work over a willingness to bend the rules.

Also, the President said his administration focused on social inclusiveness, and boosted the budgets of the concerned agencies.
Because of this, he said about 3.9 million families now receive cash grants on condition that school-age children attend classes, pregnant mothers get regular health checkups, and children are immunized from diseases.

More Filipinos - nearly 77 million - are enrolled in the PhilHealth health insurance program, such that they can walk into hospitals, show their PhilHealth cards and get treatment for free.

"Make no mistake, your association had a significant part in this. Each peso and dollar you gave from your own pocket, each patient you treated in a medical mission, each small effort that you made is part of the accumulation of positivity and inclusiveness that has made our country's turnaround possible," the President said.

He also assured the PMA in Chicago that while there will be more challenges in the future, his administration with the backing of the Filipino people will continue its work. PND (jl)

Philippine Medical Association in Chicago thanks President Aquino for support in medical mission

Filipino medical professionals based in the United States on Tuesday paid a call on President Benigno Aquino III in Malacañan Palace to thank him for his support in its latest medical mission.
The Philippine Medical Association of Chicago also gave the President an award and a memento for supporting its medical mission in areas including those hit by super Typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan).

Members of the association also hoped to continue visiting the Philippines to help Filipinos who need medical assistance.

"I hope in the near future we will continue to do this because this is our passion, this is our compassion. We love our country and we want to serve our country," the association's president Nida Blankas-Hernaez said during the courtesy call at the Heroes Hall of Malacanang.

During their stay in the Philippines, delegates of the association held medical missions and disaster relief in areas hit by Yolanda, including Tacloban and Leyte.

They also helped several people in six towns in Marinduque province, she said.

"With this, we probably helped over 1,000 recipients .... For this mission alone, we had $300,000 spent for this. We had a lot of donations," she said.

"We are so lucky because we were able to serve the Philippines, and we love to come to the Philippines," she added. PND (jl)

PCOO Assistant Secretary Marfil promoted to Undersecretary

Malacañang on Tuesday announced the promotion of Presidential Communications Operations Office Assistant Secretary Renato Marfil to the rank of undersecretary.

PCOO Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. announced Marfil's appointment by President Benigno Aquino III at Tuesday's regular media briefing.

"I'm pleased to announce President Aquino has appointed ... Renato M. Marfil as undersecretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office," he said.

"We wish to congratulate him on this well-deserved promotion," he added.

Marfil has been with the Aquino administration since it assumed office in 2010, as assistant secretary for media relations. PND (jl)

Palace reminds Davao City mayor to uphold rule of law

Malacañang on Tuesday reminded Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to uphold the rule of law even in going after criminals.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said such a policy applies to all government officials, whether at the national or local level.

"All government officials, whether local or national, have the basic responsibility to uphold the rule of law," Coloma said at a media briefing.

Duterte had said at a Senate hearing Monday that he would "gladly" kill a personality linked to rice smuggling, if he entered Davao City.

The mayor had lamented the slow pace of justice in going after rice smuggling.

But Coloma pointed out the Aquino administration is now putting in place systemic reforms to address so-called loopholes in the criminal justice system. PND (jl)

Palace: Government troops to fulfill sworn duty to protect people from BIFF

Government troops are prepared to fulfill their sworn duty to protect Filipinos from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Malacañang said Tuesday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. gave the assurance amid reports the BIFF may be gearing up for urban warfare.

"Sa lahat na pagkakataon, tungkulin ng pamahalaan na tiyakin ang kaligtasan ng mamamayan sa kanayunan o kalungsuran (At all times, the government has a sworn duty to ensure the safety of Filipinos, whether in the rural or urban areas)," Coloma said at a media briefing.

He said this means the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines are prepared to ensure the people's safety as part of fulfilling their duty.

Coloma also said the PNP, AFP and intelligence community continues to keep tabs on the movements of the state's enemies.

He added the government's forces cannot afford to get complacent or to let down their guard at any time.

"The government cannot tolerate threats to national and local security and the lives and security of our people," he said. PND (jl)

President Aquino says government to work with partners in providing sufficient, affordable and potable water for the people

President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Tuesday the government continues to work hard with the Philippine Association of Water Districts (PAWD), Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) and concerned authorities to provide sufficient, affordable, and potable water for the people.

"Because water is life, your government works hard with concerned authorities like the LWUA, PAWD, and all water districts across our country to ensure that every Filipino has access to this vital resource," the Chief Executive said in his message to PAWD on the occasion of the 35th National Convention.

"We continue to fulfill this task by enhancing the water service industry, extending it to even the most remote areas, and implementing strategies that make it more accessible to all consumers," the President said.

The PAWD, the national umbrella organization of more than 500 local water districts in the country, is holding the Products and Services Exhibit 2014 on the occasion of its 35th National Convention on February 4 to 6 at the SMX Convention Center, Davao City.

The convention, which has for its theme, “Water Districts: Addressing Challenges in Water Supply and Sanitation,” will give emphasis to the crucial role of water districts in making sure that Filipinos in the countryside have access to safe water supply and sanitation facilities.

"May this convention fuel your association’s efforts to provide sufficient, affordable, and potable water for our countrymen; may this gathering be a wellspring of fresh, innovative concepts and action plans that will further empower your members as well as the communities and sectors you serve," President Aquino said.

The Philippines keeps its steadfast momentum towards an even more reinvigorated future, the President said.

"Let us all remain vibrant and inspired as we forge ahead, cascading the benefits of inclusive growth to more of our citizens," he said. PND (js)

Government to tap private sector to upgrade facilities of Orthopedic Center

The government said on Tuesday that it will soon task the private sector to help upgrade the facilities of the Philippine Orthopedic Center in order to expand its scope of coverage and to improve the delivery of universal health care to all Filipinos.

This was announced by Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma, Jr. in a press briefing in Malacanang.

He said the government was seeking the help of the private sector so that the sale of the hospital would no longer necessary.

“To enlarge the scope and improve the delivery of universal healthcare to all Filipinos, the Department of Health is tapping the support of the private sector in upgrading the facilities of the Philippine Orthopedic Center mindful of its duty to provide affordable and accessible health services to the people, the government will modernize the facilities of the hospital without seeding or selling the hospital to the private sector,” Coloma said.

“It will reduce dependence on the national subsidy for its operational needs and move towards an effective and efficient fiscal discipline that will support the hospital’s operational needs,” he added.

Coloma further said the government “shall protect the welfare of the employees of the Center” throughout the duration of the project’s implementation.

“Government shall protect the welfare of the employees of the Center while implementing this project,” Coloma said. PND (rck)

Palace: OES unit now handling complaint vs ERC chief

A new division under the Office of the Executive Secretary in Malacañang is now handling an administrative complaint against Energy Regulatory Commission Chairperson Zenaida Ducut, the Palace said Tuesday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said the Investigative and Adjudicatory Division of the Office of the Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs is now handling the complaint.

"Natanggap nila ang complaint ng Akbayan, at sinimulna ang pagsiyasat nito (The new office has received the complaint of Akbayan and has started looking into the accusations)," Coloma said at a media briefing.

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

The new unit will be under the office of Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs Michael Aguinaldo, he added.

Akbayan had asked the Palace to probe Ducut for allegedly abandoning her duty to protect consumers from a power rate hike.

Earlier, Coloma said there is no basis for asking Ducut to resign or take a leave of absence, at least for now. PND (jl)

Government working to improve agriculture sector’s performance, says official

Malacanang said it continues to look for ways to develop the country’s agriculture sector for it to contribute to the national economy, attain food self-sufficiency and eliminate anomalous transactions in rice importations.

In a press briefing in Malacanang on Tuesday, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said the Cabinet Economic Cluster has discussed the agriculture sector several times to find ways on how to improve its performance.

The agriculture sector is lagging behind manufacturing and services, Coloma said, noting that the administration wants it to be at par with other sectors in terms of contributions to the national economy.

For instance in 2013, while the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) increased to 7.2 percent, the agriculture sector’s contribution is only at 1.1 percent, way below the services and manufacturing sectors, Coloma said.

“Kaya’t bahagi iyan ng pangkalahatang pagturing sa buong kontribusyon ng agricultural sector lalong-lalo na’t ito ay nilalahukan ng pinakamaraming Pilipino na magsasaka at mangingisda,” he said.

He also said the sector may need systemic reforms to improve its productivity and contribute to overall economic development of the country and at the same time eliminate corruption in food importations.

And to stop anomalous transactions in rice importations, Coloma said the Department of Agriculture, through the National Food Authority council, decided to stop extending privileges to farmer cooperatives that do not have the capability to import rice.

The Department of Agriculture is also preparing new rice importation procedures to address loopholes in the system that are being exploited by some unscrupulous traders.

With regards to attaining rice self-sufficiency, Coloma said the administration’s mindset is not about ensuring enough supply of rice in the country but improving the performance of the entire agriculture sector.

“Ang nabubuong pananaw sa Gabinete hinggil dito ay hindi sapat na tingnan lamang iyong rice self-sufficiency kasi iyong rice ay isa lamang sa mga alternatibong produkto sa pagsasaka at maaring sa isang taon o sa iba’t-ibang lugar, magkaroon ng insentibo ang mga magsasaka na ibang produkto iyong kanilang pagtutuunan ng pansin,” he said. PND (as)

Aquino government to curb smuggling by bringing smugglers to the bar of justice

The Aquino government is actively taking steps to curb smuggling and bring smugglers to the bar of justice, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said on Tuesday.

Since 2010 the government has filed a total of 157 cases under the Run After Tax Evaders and Smugglers program for an average of one case per week, Coloma said during the regular press briefing in Malacanang on Tuesday.

"Following President Aquino’s directive, the Bureau of Customs led by Commissioner (John Philip) Sevilla has taken steps to promote transparency and openness, simplified transactions, and adopted a systemic approach to plug loopholes and minimize opportunities for graft and corruption," Coloma said.

The Communications Secretary said the specific reform measures include centralized single reference for valuation information, implementation of a single dispute resolution process for valuation, digitization of every single formal transaction, review of the monitoring of Customs bonded warehouses, revamp of the importer accreditation process and intensified monitoring of sensitive imports.

The President earlier assured the public that his administration remains committed to improve the services of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) by enhancing the anti-smuggling efforts.

The BOC is enhancing its efforts in revenue collection by curbing smuggling activities and to provide quality service to stakeholders with professionalism and integrity, facilitate trade in a secured manner and adapt measures compliant to international best practices and standards. PND (js)