Thursday, 13 March 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Friday, February 21, 2014

President Aquino declares February 22 as a special (non-working) day in the City of San Pedro, province of Laguna in celebration of its town fiesta and Sampaguita Festival 2014

President Benigno S. Aquino III has declared February 22, which falls on a Saturday, as a special (non-working) day in the city of San Pedro in the province of Laguna in celebration of its town fiesta and the “Sampaguita Festival 2014.”

The Chief Executive issued the declaration through Proclamation No. 721 signed by Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on February 12 to give the people of San Pedro the full opportunity to celebrate and participate in the occasion with appropriate ceremonies.

San Pedro City celebrates its annual town fiesta in honor of its patron saint, St. Peter.

The town fiesta coincides with the celebration of the “Sampaguita Festival 2014.” The festival aims to promote tourism in San Pedro and revitalize the sampaguita industry in San Pedro, Laguna. PND (js)

Government prioritizes infrastructure projects in addressing traffic congestion, Coloma says

The Aquino government is prioritizing major infrastructure projects to ease travel amid reports that the Philippines is losing over P2 billion daily in potential earnings due to heavy traffic in the metropolis, a Palace official said.

"According to a JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) study cited by Socio-economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, the Philippines is losing more than P2 billion daily in potential income and foregone productivity due to severe traffic congestion in the metropolis," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio B. Coloma Jr. said during the regular press briefing in Malacanang on Friday.

"This is why the government has prioritized two major infrastructure projects namely, the Skyway Stage III project and the North Luzon Expressway -South Luzon Expressway (NLEX-SLEX)) Connector Road," Coloma said.

When completed, the travel time from NLEX to SLEX will be reduced drastically from an average of two hours to less than 30 minutes, the Communications Secretary said.

"These projects will bring about an improved quality of life due to ease of travel across Metro Manila that will benefit the citizens, communities, businesses and industries in CALABARZON (Region IV-A), National Capital Region and Central Luzon, an area that presently contributes about 60 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product," Coloma said.

The President, in a meeting on Friday, directed the secretaries of Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Transportation and Communications and the Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Chairman of Metropolitan Manila Development Authority to fine-tune mitigation and remedial measures designed to minimize the citizens’ inconvenience.

President Aquino ordered the Cabinet secretaries of the concerned government departments to carry out their tasks in coordination with Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, Department of Labor and Employment and Department of Trade and Industry.

According to MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino, traffic volume along South Super Highway has been reduced by more than seven percent from 131,000 to 122,000 vehicles daily since the start of construction last Monday evening, Coloma said.

"This shows that affected motorists have begun using alternate routes, adjacent to the construction area. Construction of the other major project, the NLEX-SLEX Connector Road, which follows the same alignment as Skyway Stage III, will start in July this year. This means that there is ample time to make further adjustments," he said.

Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said efforts will be exerted to ensure that road projects in other areas will be implemented in a manner that will minimize disruption and inconvenience to citizens.

"He (Singson) pointed out that EDSA, which carries the heaviest volume of motor vehicles, will not undergo any major construction or repair. Those using this major artery will not be affected significantly," Coloma stressed.

"Malinaw ang benepisyo na idudulot ng Skyway III at NLEX-SLEX Connector Projects. Magkakaroon ng malaking ginhawa para sa mga mamamayan dahil sa pinaikling oras ng paglalakbay. Ngunit bago natin makamit ang mga benepisyo, kailangan ng konting sakripisyo. Ayon sa isang salawikain: “Kapag may tiyaga, may nilaga.” Di po ba, sulit na sulit naman ang magiging resulta ng ating pagpapasensiya," he said. PND (js)

Philippines has good standing on reviving major infrastructure projects, says Palace

Given the country’s good economic standing, Malacanang said it is optimistic that big ticket infrastructure projects such as the proposed rail system that will connect Metro Manila and Clark, Pampanga could materialize.

In a press briefing on Friday, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said the project has not materialized because the present administration believed the cost outweigh the benefit.

The government paid a commitment fee on the loan as a penalty for not pursuing the project approved during the previous administration, Coloma said.

The administration could find an alternative for the project to continue without deviating from the original concept of connecting Manila to Clark, he added.

The project concept, originally crafted during the administration of former president Fidel Ramos is good and could benefit the country economically, he said.

But since the country was recovering from the effects of EDSA People Power revolution in the 80s, it didn’t have much good financial standing in the international community which made it unattractive to foreign investors.

“Sa kasalukuyan ay napakaganda ng financial standing natin, investment grade tayo, mababa ang interest rates, at maraming bansa ang gustong mamuhunan sa mga malalaking proyekto,” Coloma said.

“Kaya may posibilidad pa siguro na pag-aralan muli kung paano mare-revive itong project na ito.”

Aside from the rail service, Coloma also mentioned the revival of the ferry service along the Pasig River to ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila as the government carries out major infrastructure projects.

According to Coloma, the transportation department said there were private business groups who have shown interest on the project.

President Aquino wanted a thorough study of the ferry service to determine its business viability.

The study will include the connectivity with jeepney and public bus routes, and the right configuration of the service, Coloma said.

Another measure to ease traffic flow is the Philippine National Railway’s extended service through longer operating time, he said.

The government has appealed for public’s cooperation and patience as the government improves the road system in the metro including the construction of Skyway connector. Coloma said it is intended to solve traffic problems in the long term. PND (as)

Government remains open to talking peace with communist insurgents

The government remains open to peace discussions with the communist rebels as Communist Party of the Philippines’s founder Joma Sison expressed willingness to continue peace talks with the government.

It was reported that Sison said he’s ready to meet the President in a neutral place.

“Sa kabuuan, nanatili namang bukas ang pamahalaan sa lahat ng mga option na maaaring tahakin dahil ang layunin natin dito ay makamit iyong kapayapaan,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said said in a press briefing on Friday in Malacanang.

“Kaya nga hindi naman tayo nagfo-focus sa Bangsamoro lamang. Patuloy na umiiral iyong mga pakikipag-usap, pakikipagtalakayan sa lahat ng mga kasapi ng ating lipunan na mayroon pang nabibinbing usapin katulad nga noong sa CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front),” he added.

Secretary Teresita Deles of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process has been coordinating with the Norwegian facilitator to open the talks with communist rebels, he said.

The Philippine government wants to clarify the intention of the rebels since this proposal is new and a turn-around from their previous position, Coloma said.

Both sides halted talks due to disagreements on rebel’s demands. Communist rebellion in the Philippines is one of the longest running insurgency in Asia. PND (as)