Thursday, 13 March 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Friday, February 28, 2014

President Aquino arrives in Malaysia for two-day state visit

(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) President Benigno S. Aquino III arrived here for a two-day state visit. Philippine Airlines chartered flight 001 carrying the President and his 57-member delegation touched down at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 3:15 pm Thursday.

This is the President’s first state visit to Malaysia since assuming office in 2010. The last Philippine leader to have made a state visit in Malaysia was in 2001.

Accompanying the President were Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., Presidential Management Staff Chief Julia Abad, Mindanao Development Authority Chairperson Luwalhati Antonino, and Presidential Protocol Chief Celia Anna Feria.

President Aquino is visiting Kuala Lumpur on the invitation of Malaysia’s King or Supreme Head of State Tuanku Abdul Halim and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

While in Malaysia, President Aquino will meet King Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, Prime Minister Razak, the Filipino community and Malaysian businessmen.

The Palace said the government allocated P9 million for the President’s state visit to Malaysia. PND (as)

President Aquino inaugurates first Petron service station built in Malaysia

(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) President Benigno S. Aquino III inaugurated Thursday the first service station built by Petron in Malaysia since the company poured a huge amount of investment in the country two years ago.

The Petron MRR2 Jalan Selayang station here in Kuala Lumpur is the first station built by Petron following its investment of $610 million in early 2012 to acquire 65 percent of publicly listed Petron Malaysia Refining and Marketing Bhd, Petron Fuel International Sdn Bhd and Petron Oil (M) Sdn Bhd.

These three companies comprise Petron Malaysia which represents the single largest investment by a Philippine company.

Petron Malaysia is a subsidiary of Petron Corp., the largest oil refining and marketing company in the Philippines, which has been operating for the past 80 years.

Ramon Ang, Petron’s chairman and CEO, said the President’s visit inspires the company to create more value to its customers and stakeholders while playing a major role in the energy needs of Malaysia.

Petron investments are expected to reach over $1 billion in the next few years especially with the upgrade of Port Dickinson refinery and with the continuing expansion of its retail network.

Petron Malaysia has successfully completed the re-imaging and upgrading of 300 out of 560 stations of Petron in Malaysia. The company targets to complete the upgrade program by the end of this year.

Among the officials who accompanied the President were Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., Presidential Management Staff Chief Julia Abad, and Mindanao Development Authority Chairperson Luwalhati Antonino. PND (as)

President Aquino assures Filipinos in Malaysia of continuing fight against corruption

(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) President Benigno S. Aquino III assured the Filipino community in Malaysia that his administration will remain determined to fight graft and corruption to make the country a better place for Filipinos.

During his message to the Filipino community at a gathering held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel here, the President said reforming the bureaucracy is continuing and his government will go after those who have committed wrongdoings and abuses.

The Filipino community in Malaysia praised the President for his firm stand against corruption and assured him of their continuing support.

He also told Filipinos in Malaysia that the Philippines improved a lot since his assumption to office in 2010. And despite the recent calamities that hit the country, the Philippines posted a 7.2 percent GDP growth last year, one of the highest in Asia.

The government succeeded in creating more jobs particularly in the business process outsourcing and semiconductor industry, eliminated the backlog in classrooms and chairs and gave schoolchildren enough books to use, he said.

And as the country reels from the devastation caused by natural and man-made calamities last year, such as the quake in Bohol and Cebu, the super typhoon "Yolanda" and the Zamboanga siege, the good thing is that the government has money to rebuild hard-hit areas.

Many countries are also helping the Philippines recover, he said adding he’s grateful about having Cabinet members who can immediately provide solutions to different concerns.

In the long term, the goal is attaining inclusive growth for Filipinos, he said. The government has increased the number of families under its conditional cash transfer program to 4.4 million this year from 3.9 million in 2013, the President added.

The country’s prospects for continuing economic growth is also good, as the Philippines enters the “demographic sweet spot” or having a large number of young work force contributing to the national economy. Experts said these could continue for a few more decades.

The President also said that with the signing of the agreement on the Bangsamoro, he wants the Mindanao region to be given an opportunity to develop itself and in the long run, improve the living conditions of the Muslim population in the south.

"Hindi ko magagawang mag-isa na ayusin lahat ng problema ng Pilipinas. Pero habang naniniwala sa akin ang taumbayan, sumasama sa akin ang aking mga boss, at tulung-tulong tayo sa direksyon na tahakin ang tuwid na daan, oras lang ang pinag-uusapan bago natin maabot ang gusto nating abutin,” he told the Filipino community.

Another good thing about the country today is that Filipinos now have changing views about their country and fellowmen, he said. He noted that more and more Filipinos are adopting the spirit of volunteerism especially in the times of need and distress.

The Filipino community in Malaysia, during the meeting with the President, donated more than P400,000 for the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda.

“Malaki-laki na ang narating natin mula ‘nung 2010,” he said.

“Wala hong dahilan na ang susunod na salinlahi daanan ‘yung problemang dinaanan natin na nagtulak sa atin sa kanya-kanya nating tadhana ngayon. May obligasyon tayo at ginagawa na natin at gagawin pa na ang ipapamana natin sa susunod na salinlahi ay ‘di hamak mas maganda kaysa sa dinatnan natin.” PND (as)

Malaysian King, Prime Minister, receive President Aquino at state welcome ceremony

(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) President Benigno S. Aquino III arrived at the Parliament House Friday morning here in Kuala Lumpur for the state welcoming ceremony, the first event of his second day in Malaysia.

The President was received by Malaysia’s king, His Majesty The Yang Di-Pertuan Agong and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
He was given full military honors upon his arrival and was also welcomed by other Malaysian officials.

After that, the President had a state drive with His Majesty The Yang Di-Pertuan Agong to the Parliament House.

He and Prime Minister Najib met in a formal meeting and proceeded a bilateral meeting with respective officials from the two countries. The two leaders also witnessed the signing of agreements on cultural and education cooperation.

They also issued a joint press statement on various issues after their meeting. PND (as)

President Aquino, Prime Minister Razak agree to cooperate on trade, defense and security

(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) The Philippines and Malaysia agreed on different areas of cooperation such as on commerce and trade as well as defense and security.

In a press statement following his meeting with President Benigno S. Aquino III, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak said both Malaysia and the Philippines could improve in terms of trade and investment.

“We must agree on this that once our bilateral trade is at about $4.5 billion, but given the size of the Philippines, we believe that the potential is far greater than that, and both our governments agree that we should encourage the value and volume of bilateral trade to increase, and President Aquino has brought a team of businessmen with him,” Prime Minister Najib said.

The Malaysian leader said he believes that after the President’s meeting with the Malaysian business community which is scheduled Friday afternoon, the two nations could improve their bilateral trade.

Also discussed during his bilateral meeting with President Aquino was the matter of Islamic banking and finance, particularly about the possibility of Malaysian companies participating in Islamic banking in the Philippines.

Prime Minister Razak also expressed his country’s readiness to train Filipinos in the field of Islamic banking and finance in Malaysia. There is also a huge potential in terms of export products to be promoted between the two countries, Razak added.

Aside from trade cooperation both leaders also discussed security matters, underscoring the necessity of having closer cooperation between their security forces, the military and the police.

Razak said he stressed during his meeting with President Aquino the importance of timely exchange of intelligence as well as ensuring high degree of deterrent.

The Philippines and Malaysia is also looking at the possibility of establishing a hotline between their security forces to immediately respond to any security incident or threat.

“We need to ensure immediate interdiction on our Malaysian side as well as the Philippine side, so that is a very important facet. Once we have peace and security, then trade and investment will flow in the southern Philippines as well as in Sabah,” Razak said.

The Philippines and Malaysia reviewed the aspects of their defense relations, particularly on training and education exchanges between their armed forces and defense officials. The two countries are also looking at continued joint training activities and intelligence exchanges between them. PND (as)

President Aquino invites Prime Minister Razak to come to Manila for the signing of Bangsamoro Peace Pact

(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) President Benigno S. Aquino III invited Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to come to the Philippines for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro at the end of March this year. The peace talks between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front was facilitated by Malaysia.

“The successful conclusion of the Mindanao peace process finds root in the determination of both our peoples to strengthen the foundations of peace and justice,” the President said in his press statement after his meeting with the Malaysian leader.

“This makes possible the empowerment of all the peoples of Mindanao. I look forward to welcoming Your Excellency in Manila for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.”

The President also said he believes Malaysia is a reliable partner in pursuing the vision of a peaceful Mindanao, and the Asian neighbor could further contribute to the development of the Land of Promise by encouraging their businesses to invest in Mindanao.

The Filipino leader invited Malaysia to work with Philippine companies to develop the Philippine palm oil industry, among other sub-industries in agriculture.

“This is an area that aims to open more doors of opportunity for growth for both our peoples,” he said.

The President also expressed his gratitude to the people of Malaysia for helping the Philippines in the wake of typhoon Yolanda that devastated the country late last year.

At the same time, President Aquino said he is looking forward to seeing Prime Minister Razak in the 8th Philippines-Malaysia Joint Commission Meeting, which will take place this year.

This meeting serves as an important opportunity for the two countries to deepen their engagement by discussing bilateral relations, and examining the progress of the initiatives they have forged so far.

The President also announced the signing of agreements on cultural and education cooperation which he said, will become the foundation of even closer ties between Malaysia and the Philippines. PND (as)

Philippines gets Malaysia’s backing on peaceful resolution of South China Sea dispute, says President Aquino

(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) Malaysia has renewed its support for the Philippines for the peaceful settlement of the dispute in the South China Sea in which both countries are claimants to said territories.

“As brothers in ASEAN, our two nations believe that the potential of our nations, and of our community, to prosper can only be fully realized in an international context where rule of law is upheld,” President Benigno S. Aquino III said in a statement he delivered after his meeting with his Malaysian counterpart Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak at the Prime Minister’s office here in Kuala Lumpur.

“The Prime Minister and I agreed on the peaceful settlement of disputes in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, in accordance with the rule of law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” he added.

The two countries believe that adherence to the rule of law, positive engagement and sincere dialogue are fundamental in building a prosperous and peaceful Southeast Asia, President Aquino said.

Both the Philippines and Malaysia are claimants to the contested territories. Other countries from the ASEAN seeking ownership include Vietnam and Brunei. Non-ASEAN claimants are China and Taiwan.

The Philippines has elevated the territorial dispute for international arbitration saying it has exhausted all diplomatic means to resolve the issue peacefully. The move encountered strong objection from China.

Other countries such as the US said it doesn’t take sides but said its main interest is freedom of navigation in the area. It is pushing for all parties to agree on a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to avoid miscalculations and lessen tensions. PND (as)

Department of Trade and Industry orders Meralco to explain new billing statement

The Department of Trade and Industry, through its Consumer Protection Group, has asked the Manila Electric Co. (MERALCO) to explain to the public its latest billing statement, which caused confusion among consumers, a Malacanang official said Friday.

On Thursday, the DTI-CPG summoned the executives of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and MERALCO over the confusing February billing statement, which included the power rate hike that was temporarily stopped by the Supreme Court.

During a press briefing on Friday, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the DTI-CPG has asked MERALCO to conduct information dissemination activities so as to avoid confusion among its consumers.

“They had stated to MERALCO to conduct information dissemination activities for consumers to understand the latest billing statement it has issued in order to clarify the confusion among the public as to the difference between the ‘amount due’, as well as the ‘total amount due,’” Valte said.

“So it was clarified that the subscribers need not pay the amount described as ‘deferred,’ pending resolution of the Supreme Court TRO, and please pay in accordance with the SC TRO. So these amounts apparently were included in the billing for purposes of being transparent to its subscribers who are affected by the pending resolution of the Supreme Court,” she added.

Valte also said that the DTI-CPG will be monitoring the compliance of MERALCO on its commitment. She further said that the ERC will continue its investigation on MERALCO, and has also asked the power utility to explain in five days its new electric billing. PND (co)

President Aquino: Malaysia state visit could improve Philippine Economy, develop Mindanao

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) President Benigno S. Aquino III said that among the country’s gains in his two-day state visit here in Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s reaffirmation of its assistance for Mindanao peace, improvement in trade, and the creation of a banking and financial system in Mindanao once a final peace pact is signed.

Malaysia has been helping the Philippines attain peace in Mindanao for a decade, working as a facilitator in the talks, sending monitoring teams, and other components of the peace process, the President said in an interview Friday with Philippine media at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

In his meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, the Prime Minister noted that the two-way trade between the Philippines and Malaysia is around $4.5 billion and has a lot of room for improvement.

With the Philippines having a huge population, with less than 100 million, increasing trade could benefit the Philippines and its neighboring Asean countries such as Malaysia. And this should not happen immediately, the President said quoting the Malaysian leader.

Malaysia, which has expertise in Islamic banking is also willing to assist the Philippines put up Islamic banks in Mindanao once a final peace agreement is forged.

“We have a state institution—financial institution that should cater to the banking needs of our Muslim brothers, which is called Al-Amanah. And what Al-Amanah has succeeded in doing from the time it started was to basically exhaust the capital that was infused into it.”

“The MILF has been asking that it be turned over to them, or we will actually sell them the entity, so that a new entity with the necessary expertise will be able to service the banking needs in conformity with the principles of Islam,” he said.

In his meeting with the business community here, the President has also invited Malaysian businessmen to come to Mindanao and invest. PND (as)

Private sector backing government solve energy concerns

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) There are enough private companies that are willing to help the government ensure steady supply of power for the summer, the time consumption spikes due to increased energy demand, President Benigno S. Aquino III said.

“The identified private entities that have generating are, I understand, still willing to help ease that burden. Kaya lang nga ‘yung plants, the baseload plants will be online starting 2015, especially for Mindanao,” he told the members of the Philippine media in an interview at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel here.

There is not much concern for the supply in Luzon, and the Visayas, he said. Mindanao is much more of a concern because hydroelectric power plants will easily be affected by El Nino.

The government he said had previously offered a loan facility to set up generators that will use diesel to remedy the power shortage, but when the rains came, investors lost interest, the President said.

But there are power generating companies who remain committed to helping the government.

“If there are shortages, I understand, we are already advanced in our discussions with the private entities that hold generating capabilities,” he said.

The government is also using technology to ensure a continued supply of electricity, according to the President. It also has to work with private entities find new wells that could supply natural gas to power electric generation facilities like the one being produced by Malampaya.

Congressional intervention is also needed to solve the country’s energy problems.

With the current laws, the government can’t engage in power generation and retail, he said.

“Parang sinasabi yata hindi na natin gagamitin ‘yung Malampaya fund. That is why there is this law that will correct the Presidential Decree that governs how to utilize the Malampaya funds,” he said.

“There is a bill pending in Congress right now—in the Senate in particular—filed by Senator (Antonio) Trillanes that will authorize us to use the Malampaya funds, for instance, to go into repairing the grid and the transmission lines.” PND (as)

President Aquino invites Malaysian businessmen to invest in the Philippines

(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) President Benigno S. Aquino III invited Malaysian businessmen to come to the Philippines and invest noting they must seize the opportunity in a country with tremendous growth.

The President said in a business forum with Malaysian investors at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel here that it is foresight and oversight in planning that allowed his administration to move beyond short-term gains and keep its eye on the long-term agenda for the country.

He said he expects the firm foundations of today lead to permanent change that allows more and more Filipinos and foreign partners, to harness the natural advantages of the Philippines.

“This is why, on top of our traditional strengths in the services sector, we are focusing on the industries of infrastructure, agriculture, and tourism,” he told Malaysian businessmen.

To realize this, the government ramped up spending on vital infrastructure by increasing the national budget from $7.16 billion in 2013 to around $9 billion this year, the chief executive said.

“With this in mind, let me invite all of you to come and visit the Philippines. It is certainly easier to do so today, since our government has already liberalized the aviation industry and enacted legislation that will entice more carriers to open or expand operations here,” he said.

Businessmen coming to the Philippines could visit factories and plantations, and could even take a detour to one of the country’s beaches or malls afterwards.

He also told Malaysian investors to consider Mindanao as the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forge a final peace pact next month.

Mindanao has fertile land and a lot of potential, he said adding the transition to peace in the region will also open up opportunities in business, noted to the President.

The recent assessment of different global entities such as the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report showed a 26-place jump in the country’s ranking over the span of three years --from 85th in 2010 to 59th in 2013 makes the Philippines interesting.

The World Bank and International Finance Corporation’s latest Ease of Doing Business Report recorded a 30-place jump in the country’s ranking in the span of one year: from 138th place last year, to 108th in the report released for 2014, he noted.

The Corruption Perception Index, prepared by Transparency International, also indicated an improved ranking for the Philippnes -- from 134th in 2010 to 94th place today, he added.

After speaking before Malaysian businessmen, the President had a meeting with top executives of Maybank, Air Asia and Genting Berhad, some of the major companies in Malaysia. PND (as)

Malaysia and the Philippines sign cooperation in education and culture

(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) Malaysia and the Philippines agreed to enhance cooperation in education and culture to further strengthen their bilateral ties.

President Benigno S. Aquino III and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak witnessed the signing of the agreement on cultural, arts and heritage cooperation at the prime minister’s office here in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.

The agreement is aimed at developing and enhancing bilateral relations between the two countries through cooperation in the field culture, arts and heritage.

Both countries believe that enhancing the relationship through this field would widen the knowledge and understanding of their people.

Through the agreement, there will be close cooperation between museums, archives, arts and heritage and cultural institutions.

It will also enhance literature, performing and visual arts as well as other related cultural activities. Exchanges of archeological, museumological and archival materials of the two countries will also be promoted.

The two countries will collaborate on research and development, education and training and organize meetings and visit of experts. They will also promote cultural exhibitions and performances in both countries.

The agreement will be enforceable in three years and could be renewed for another three years.

Aside from culture, the two countries also signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the field of education.

Malaysia and the Philippines recognize the importance of education and training to achieve national development as well as for the cultivation of ties between their peoples.

Both countries will cooperate on school and institutional linkages, teacher education and training, educational assessment, planning and research, technical vocational education, and curriculum design and development.

They will establish a joint working group to review the implementation of the memorandum of understanding (MOU). The group will meet once every 18 months alternately in the Philippines and Malaysia.

The MOU will be in force for five years and automatically extended for another five years following its expiration. PND (as)

Aquino welcomes aggressive expansion of Malaysian companies in the Philippines

(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: President Benigno S. Aquino III expressed elation over the planned expansion of existing Malaysian businesses in the Philippines as he invited others to come to the country.

In a meeting with the President at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel here, Malayan Banking Berhad (Maybank) said it plans to widen its banking network in the Philippines through expanded coverage in the Visayas and Mindanao and additional investments of less than P300 million.

Malayan Banking Berhad President Datuk Abdul Farid Alias and Maybank Philippines President Herminio Famatigan Jr. reported the planned expansion to the President.

In his meeting with the top executives of Air Asia Berhad and Genting Berhad, the President emphasized the Philippines’s major thrusts on tourism and infrastructure development.

The chief executive encouraged officials of Air Asia Berhad and Genting Berhad to expand their businesses in the Philippines.

He also thanked Air Asia for starting direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Kalibo, Aklan that will further boost tourism in Boracay Island. Among Air Asia’s top executives who met the President were Tony Fernandes, Air Asia Group CEO; and Aireen Omar, Air Asia Berhad CEO.

President Aquino also welcomed Genting Berhad’s expansion in the country through its partnership with Resorts World Manila. He invited Genting’s Star Cruises to make the Philippines a part of its regular cruise destination.

He also wanted an expansion of the Genting-Star Tourism Academy to further strengthen the pool of hospitality professionals in the Philippines.

Genting’s partner in the Philippines are Tan Sri Kok Lim, director of Genting Group; and David Chua Ming Huat, chairman and CEO of Genting Hong Kong Ltd. PND (as)

Malaysia's King hosts state banquet for President Aquino

(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) Malaysia’s king, The Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, hosted a state banquet for President Benigno S. Aquino III Friday.

The Malaysian royalty received the President and the members of his delegation at Istana Negara, the king’s residence Friday night.

After the state banquet, the President left Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 11:20pm for Manila.

The President wrapped up his state-visit to Malaysia by forging stronger ties with the Philippine’s Asean neighbor.

Among those tackled with his counterpart, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, were cooperation on defense and security, as well as trade. The two countries also agreed on closer cooperation on education and cultural exchanges.

While in Malaysia, President Aquino also met Malaysian businessmen willing to invest in the Philippines particularly in Mindanao.

The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are expected to sign a final peace pact this month that could open up a lot of investment opportunities for Malaysian companies.

The President’s trip to Malaysia is his first since assuming office in 2010. The last Filipino leader to have a state visit in Malaysia was in 2001. PND (as)