No plans to apologize to Hong Kong, President Aquino tells New York Times
President Benigno Aquino III this week reiterated the Philippines' stand not to apologize to Hong Kong over the death of eight Hong Kong tourists in a hostage crisis in Manila in 2010.
The President made his first public response to Hong Kong's latest demand for an apology in an interview published Wednesday on The New York Times.
In the interview, the President was quoted as saying he had no plans to apologize, adding that this could create a legal liability.
He was also quoted as saying in the interview that China had not paid compensation to the families of Filipinos who died in episodes on the mainland.
On Wednesday, the latest sanctions by Hong Kong against Manila took effect - a visa requirement on holders of red and blue official passports.
The move is expected to affect only Philippine government officials and not holders of regular passports.
Hong Kong's demands for an apology stemmed from the August 2010 crisis where a dismissed policeman took a busload of tourists hostage to demand his reinstatement.
The policeman and eight of the tourists were killed in a failed rescue operation. PND (jl)
President Aquino seeks international help vs China's claims over West Philippine Sea
President Benigno Aquino III this week sought international support in contesting China's claims over the West Philippine Sea, warning of the consequences of "(saying) yes to something we believe is wrong now."
The President, in an interview with The New York Times also cited a lesson from history where the West failed to support Czechoslovakia against Adolf Hitler’s demands for the Sudetenland in 1938.
"If we say yes to something we believe is wrong now, what guarantee is there that the wrong will not be further exacerbated down the line?..... At what point do you say, ‘Enough is enough?’ Well, the world has to say it," he said.
"Remember that the Sudetenland was given in an attempt to appease Hitler to prevent World War II," he added.
He maintained in the interview that the Philippines will not give up its territories in the disputed area.
The New York Times described President's Aquino’s remarks as "among the strongest indications yet of alarm among Asian heads of state about China’s military buildup and territorial ambitions."
The Philippines is among the Asian countries that have territorial disputes with China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
During the interview, the President also said he is optimistic the Philippines and the United States are very close to an agreement that could enhance the Philippines' security.
“We are very optimistic that will happen,” he said.
On the other hand, the President expressed reluctance to increase military spending, if that means sacrificing social concerns.
“I’m not sure if I would be willing to sacrifice social concerns to try to improve the military capabilities,” he said. PND (jl)
Filipino-Chinese reaffirm commitment to help in rehabilitation of Yolanda-hit areas
The Filipino-Chinese community on Wednesday reaffirmed its commitment to help the Philippine government in its rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in areas hit by super Typhoon "Yolanda" (Haiyan).
Filipino-Chinese business groups signed an agreement with the local government of Leyte province to build 500 houses and five barrio schools in Palo town, one of the areas hit hardest by Yolanda.
"Your Excellency, the Chinese-Filipino community reaffirms its full support to our Filipino brothers and sisters and to government efforts on the road to rehabilitation and recovery," Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. president Dr. Alfonso Siy told President Benigno Aquino III, who witnessed the signing ceremony at Malacañan Palace.
He also assured the President the FFCCCII and the Chinese-Filipino community "are fully behind you in serving our beloved country and fellow Filipinos."
Siy added the Chinese-Filipino community's donation for Yolanda relief and rehabilitation efforts has amounted to nearly P150 million.
President Aquino witnessed the signing of the memorandum of agreement between Siy and Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla.
Also witnessing the signing are Secretaries Carlos Jericho Petilla (energy) and Manuel Roxas II (interior), Palo town mayor Remedios Petilla, and FFCCCII Chairman Emeritus Lucio Tan.
Under the agreement, 500 houses will be built on a five-hectare lot in Barangay Barayong in Palo, with the project costing P40 million.
Five barrio schools with 10 classrooms costing P2 million will also be constructed.
The relocation site will be dubbed the Filipino-Chinese Friendship Village.
The fund for the projects came from:
- FFCCCII and FFCCCII Foundation Inc.
- Federation of Filipino-Chinese Associations of the Philippines
- World News Daily
- Filipino-Chinese Amity Club
- Overseas Chinese Alumni Association of the Philippines
- Filipino-Chinese Shin Lian Association
- Philippine Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc.
Before Wednesday's signing, Siy noted the Filipino-Chinese community had been active in relief operations, health intervention, and support in terms of finances, fishing boats, and welding generator sets.
Some officials of the FFCCCII even extended personal assistance, giving not only financial help but much of their time.
For his part, Leyte Gov. Petilla assured the people of his province continue to recover from Yolanda, saying the provincial government is focusing on shelter so the people can later on concentrate on making a living.
The governor called on the private sector and the international community to continue their support even as his administration focuses on long-lasting intervention. PND (jl)
Government renews unwavering commitment to combat graft, corruption
The government will continue carrying out reforms in the bureaucracy to sustain recent economic gains for the benefit of all Filipinos, a Palace official said on Tuesday.
“The Aquino administration shall continue to pursue and institutionalize these reforms anchored on principles of good governance and to build stronger public institutions,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said in response to a report noting tremendous government losses as a result of rampant corruption in government.
In a report, the Global Financial Integrity, a Washington, DC-based research and advocacy organization, said the Philippines has suffered $132.9 billion in illicit financial outflows from crime, corruption, and tax evasion, while $277.6 billion was illegally transferred into the country over a 52-year period.
Coloma noted that while the report only covers the first year of the Aquino administration, the government is committed to continue eliminating corruption in the bureaucracy.
The study made by the Global Financial Integrity covered the administrations of seven Presidents from Carlos P. Garcia to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, he said noting that it is important to address the concerns expressed in the report because it affects the country’s reputation in the global stage.
To address these concerns, Coloma said that since 2010, the government has undertaken reforms to curtail smuggling and curb money laundering activities. Last year, the Financial Action Task Force excluded the Philippines in its blacklist citing “significant progress to improve anti-money laundering” measures.
He also said several international agencies have cited considerable improvements in the country, especially in the areas of governance, transparency, government and business efficiency and economic performance.
For instance, the Philippines’s ranking in the International Finance Corp.’s “Doing Business 2014” report, jumped 25 places to 108 from 133 in 2013 while its standing in Transparency International last year improved significantly to number 94 from 105 the previous year.
Also, in the latest 2013 World Economic Forum, the Philippines’ ranking rose to 59th spot from the previous year’s 65th out of 148 countries, while the 2013 Grant Thornton Global Dynamism Index showed the Philippines ranking rising to 25 places to 21st among 60 countries.
The Philippines also achieved consecutive ratings upgrades to investment grade status from prominent credit ratings agencies such as Standard and Poor, Fitch, Moody’s and Japan Credit Agency. These ratings agencies are globally recognized as credible endorsers of countries attaining seal of good financial housekeeping and management. PND (as)
Government reports 97-percent rice self-sufficiency last year
The government said it attained 97-percent rice self-sufficiency last year and it is not abandoning its rice self-sufficiency target.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said that since rice is the staple food, the country cannot attain food security if there is no rice sufficiency.
He noted that the Department of Agriculture reported attaining 97 percent rice sufficiency in 2013.
The DA is also concentrating on promoting and producing high value crops that have potential in the global market such as bananas and pineapples, he said. The DA is also developing organic fruit products such as dragon fruit.
The DA initially targeted to attain rice self-sufficiency in 2013. To attain its goal, the DA has partnered with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for the production and distribution of high-quality, stress-resistant seeds that can adapt to climate change; the prioritization of the development of new and modern technologies; and the dissemination of best agricultural practices and support tools, including skills-training for extension and field workers. PND (as)
President Aquino says ‘inclusiveness’ remains government’s guiding principle in efforts to help typhoon survivors
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday said “inclusiveness” will remain as government’s guiding principle in its efforts to help the survivors of super Typhoon "Yolanda" recover from the disaster.
President Aquino witnessed the signing of the memorandum of agreement between the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. and the Provincial Government of Leyte for the construction of 500 houses and five units of barrio schools for the survivors of the typhoon.
During his speech, the President thanked the Chinese-Filipino community for its efforts to help the survivors of Yolanda.
“I assure you that what you are doing on the community level, my government has been doing, and will continue to do so, on a national scale. Inclusiveness remains our guiding principle, as we build a regime of opportunities, and empower those who have lost so much to the tragedies that befell our country in the past year,” he said.
President Aquino said the various disasters that struck the country last year, such as the Zamboanga siege, the Bohol earthquake and Typhoon Yolanda, were “a true test of our capabilities as a nation.”
Typhoon Yolanda has caused extensive damage to infrastructure and left thousands of people dead in the Visayas in November last year.
“The challenge that confronted us was enormous; and it was only through our people’s resilience and solidarity that we overcame it. It was through the commitment and the hard work of those in government who dealt with relief, recovery, and reconstruction; of those from private entities who conducted relief operations either on their own or shoulder-to-shoulder with government; and of those citizens who sacrificed their time in volunteer centers,” he said.
“Now, a different—but no less formidable—challenge lies ahead of us. As we rebuild the communities affected by Typhoon Yolanda, we must do so in a way that can unshackle us from the vicious cycle of destruction and reconstruction. This is precisely why we are building-back-better. Instead of simply rebuilding what was lost, we are building in a way that makes our communities more resilient in the face of disaster; and everyone’s participation makes this a reality,” he added.
President Aquino welcomed the partnership between the FFCCCII Foundation and the Provincial Government of Leyte to construct 500 houses and five units barrio schools for the survivors of the typhoon.
The agreement was signed by Dr. Alfonso Siy for the FFCCCII and Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla for Leyte province on Wednesday in Malacanan Palace. It was witnessed by President Aquino, FFCCCII Chairman Emeritus Dr. Lucio Tan, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla, DILG Secretary Manuel Roxas II and Palo Mayor Remedios Petilla.
President Aquino, also during his speech, expressed confidence that the houses and the classrooms that will be constructed in Palo, Leyte, will be a boost in the government’s efforts to empower those affected by the typhoon.
“This project of yours comes at the heels of your enormous contributions in the aftermath of Yolanda, where you, your members, and six other organizations distributed more than 50,000 relief packs and provided welding sets, fishing boats, water purifying systems, and medicine, among other resources needed by those who were affected,” the President said.
The Chinese-Filipino community has undertaken various relief and rehabilitation efforts in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda. In total, the Chinese-Filipino community’s donation for typhoon-affected areas is close to P150 million.
“All that you have done serves to underscore the compassion that you hold for your fellow Filipinos: You will never hesitate to step in and assist our countrymen in times of need, whether it is through helping them recover after a major disaster, or helping our Department of Education build classrooms, or funding your own volunteer fire brigades,” the President said. PND (jl)
Aquino government institute reforms to curtail illicit financial outflows from crime, corruption and tax evasion, Coloma says
The Aquino government has undertaken reforms to curtail illicit financial outflows from crime, corruption, and tax evasion that beset the country from 1960 until 2011, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said on Wednesday.
The Communications Secretary issued the statement following the release of the report of the Global Financial Integrity (GFI) that the Philippines had suffered US$132.9 billion in illicit financial outflows from crime, corruption, and tax evasion for the period of over five decades.
"In yesterday’s briefing, we discussed the report of Global Financial Integrity, a Washington, DC-based research and advocacy organization that pointed out the “...Philippines (had) suffered US$132.9 billion in illicit financial outflows from crime, corruption, and tax evasion, while US$277.6 billion was illegally transferred into the country...” over a 52-year period from 1960 to 2011," Coloma said.
"We note that while this study covers only the first year of the Aquino administration, it addresses vital issues pertaining to quality of governance spanning more than five decades and covering the administrations of seven Presidents from Carlos P. Garcia to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Hence, it is important to address the concerns expressed in the report as it affects the country’s reputation in the world community," Coloma said.
Since 2010, Coloma said the government has undertaken reforms and has made headway to curtail smuggling and curb money laundering activities.
According to Coloma, the Financial Action Task Force excluded last year the Philippines in its blacklist citing “significant progress to improve anti-money laundering” measures.
Several other international agencies have cited considerable improvements in the country, especially in the areas of governance, transparency, government and business efficiency and economic performance, Coloma said.
"The country’s ranking in the International Finance Corporation’s 'Doing Business 2014' report, jumped 25 places to 108 from 133 in 2013 while its standing in Transparency International last year improved significantly to number 94 from 105 the previous year," Coloma said.
In the latest 2013 World Economic Forum, Coloma said the Philippines’ ranking rose to 59th spot from the previous year’s 65th out of 148 countries, while the 2013 Grant Thornton Global Dynamism Index showed the Philippines ranking rising to 25 places to 21st among 60 countries.
"In addition, the Philippines achieved consecutive ratings upgrades to investment grade status, which was granted by prominent credit ratings agencies Standard and Poor, Fitch, Moody’s and Japan Credit Agency that are globally recognized as credible endorsers that a country has attained the seal of good financial housekeeping and management," he said.
Coloma said the Aquino administration continues to pursue and institutionalize these reforms anchored on principles of good governance and to build stronger public institutions. PND (js)
Government to ensure that people will not suffer unjustifiable price hikes, Coloma says
The Aquino government remains committed to protect the welfare of the citizens by ensuring that the people would not suffer unjustifiable price hikes, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said.
"As the President Benigno S. Aquino III has pointed out, the trigger for the significant power rate increase that is now at issue in the Supreme Court was a foreseeable event for which Meralco (Manila Electric Company) and other industry players should have prepared," the Communications Secretary said during the regular press briefing in Malacanang on Wednesday.
Coloma said the Chief Executive also believes in enforcing the provision of the EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Reform Act) on possible disgorgement of profits if current investigations by the Department of Energy and the Department of Justice will establish that there has been collusion among the industry players," Coloma said.
"Most importantly, government believes that unjustifiable price hikes should not be passed on to the people. Therefore, the proposed petition for the lifting of the TRO (temporary restraining order) is not consistent with the public interest," Coloma said.
"To recall the President’s previous statement: “Under Article II, Section 5 of our Constitution’s General Welfare provision, I think it is incumbent that, inasmuch as this situation greatly affects the welfare of so many of our countrymen, we should know what actually transpired and what corrective action should be undertaken to address that situation,” he said.
Coloma said the electric power industry is imbued with public interest. "Public interest dictates that electric service be provided continuously and without unjustified interruption," he said. PND (js)
President Aquino lauds Association of Philippine Medical Colleges Foundation Inc. for efforts to increase competence of the medical sector
President Benigno S. Aquino III lauded the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges Foundation Inc. (APMCFI) for implementing much needed reform in education, and increase the competence of the country's medical sector.
"Given the continued evolution of our milieu, it is imperative that we raise the bar of competence in our disciplines and adopt more innovative approaches," the Chief Executive said in his message to APMCFI on the occasion of the 47th Anniversary and Annual Conference.
APMCFI is the umbrella organization of all medical schools, colleges and universities in the Philippines.
"This gathering allows us to tap into the academic framework in synergizing the dynamism and passion of our youth to make advances in our pursuit of excellence," he said.
"I look forward to the success of this conference: May it yield an enlightened, empowered collective of professionals that will push for much needed reform in education, and increase the competence of our medical sector. In this way, we secure the welfare of the Filipino people," President Aquino said.
He called on the APMCFI to work together with the government in fulfilling their duties as the builders of a just and inclusive society.
"Let integrity, accountability, and professionalism define the path that we are taking towards the fulfillment of our aspirations," he said. PND (js)
Palace tells Filipinos in Hong Kong to remain calm amid imposition of visa restrictions
Malacanang appealed for calm as Hong Kong’s visa restrictions among Philippine government officials visiting the Chinese territory take effect today.
“Sa kasalukuyang pagkakataon, yaman din lamang at ito ang petsa na itinakda doon sa pagsasagawa ng restrictions, ang ating panawagan sa ating mga kababayan na nagtratrabaho sa Hong Kong SAR ay manatiling mahinahon,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said in a press briefing in Malacanang on Wednesday.
“Ang ating pamahalaan ay handa sa mga posibilidad na maaaring manggaling doon sa mga inaambang aksyon. At patuloy na naninindigan ang ating pamahalaan na gagawin ang lahat ng nararapat upang pangalagaan ang kapakanan ng mga Pilipino sa Hong Kong SAR,” he added.
Hong Kong cancelled visa-free arrangements for Philippine official and diplomatic passport holders in its first sanctions against a foreign state.
It said the cancellation of the 14-day visa-free arrangements for the two categories of passport-holders was just the first phase of the sanctions.
The Chinese territory imposed the measure in retaliation for the Philippine’s failure to respond to all of its demands after the 2010 Manila hostage crisis.
Survivors and the relatives of the victims have been asking the Philippine government for a formal apology, compensation, punishment of responsible officials and improvement on tourist safety.
The Philippine government maintained it won’t issue a formal apology arguing the hostage taking was an isolated incident and the bloodbath was a result of actions taken by a deranged individual and not by the government.
On August 23, 2010, sacked policeman Rolando Mendoza took hostage 22 Hong Kong tourists and three Filipinos inside a tourist bus. Seven tourists died and several others were injured in a bungled rescue. The hostage-taker also died in the incident. PND (as)