Thursday, 13 March 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Thursday, February 20, 2014

Government determined to reconstruct typhoon-devastated areas amid criticisms, says Palace

The Palace said it remains committed to helping Typhoon Yolanda survivors get back on their feet despite criticisms from some groups. Some groups said the government hasn’t done enough to help the people in typhoon-ravaged areas start normal lives.

But Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said those criticism were just political statements and the government won’t be cowed by such negative assessments.

“We will not be deterred by those political statements. Our responsibility is to bring them back on their feet. There will always be criticisms but our determination will never diminish, will not wane, because that is our responsibility,” he told reporters in a press briefing on Thursday in Malacanang.

“The government’s responsibility is to restore them, to bring them back to build back better. Our resiliency comes not only from the people but from the government itself.”

The administration is committed tackle reconstruction of the Typhoon Yolanda-devastated areas and it will always be a priority for the government, Lacierda said.

But Lacierda also said normalization will not happen overnight and the government expects reconstruction and rehabilitation works to take several years.

The good thing is that the government is doing everything and the private sector is also extending assistance, the Palace official said.

Quoting reconstruction czar Secretary Panfilo Lacson, Lacierda said the private sector has already made commitments in a number of private sector initiatives.

“On the part of government, we have the DPWH, DOH, DSWD, all the necessary resources of government to respond to the needs of the Typhoon Yolanda victims. It's for you to decide but whether you agree or not, our decision is to continue to help the people affected by Typhoon Yolanda,” Lacierda said.

President Benigno S. Aquino III is expected to tour calamity-affected areas in the country next week to see the progress of the government rehabilitation initiatives. PND (as)

Palace backs PNP’s policy on media interviews

Malacanang defends the Philippine National Police policy barring ordinary personnel from talking to media during an investigation to avoid misinforming the public.

The PNP has barred ordinary police officers from giving information to the press unless tasked by the leadership.

“They just want to be very clear that when we relay information to the public it is accurate, so that it will not lead to wrong information being relayed to the public,” Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing in Malacanang on Thursday.

“There is no effort to hide the truth from the public. It’s just that we want to be sure that whatever we release to the public is accurate.”

The media has to report to the public a certain crime accurately so that the police could investigate it properly, he said.

The PNP said the move aims to prevent policemen from unduly disclosing information to the media and eventually to the public.

Several police officers are being investigated for unduly disclosing sensitive information to the media, it said. Some of them gave personal opinion in an ongoing case during an interview with the press, the PNP added. PND (as)

President Aquino wants government prosecutors to come out with a strong case to merit conviction of pork barrel scam perpetrators

President Benigno S. Aquino III has directed government prosecutors to come out with solid and strong evidence to ensure conviction of the persons who were involved in the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), a Palace official said on Thursday.

The Chief Executive wants the Department of Justice (DOJ) to thoroughly prepare for a successful prosecution of those who were involved in the pork barrel scam, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during the regular press briefing in Malacanang on Thursday.

"The role of the prosecution is to gather all evidence that would come up with, not only a situation that would merit a probable cause for filing, but also to ensure a successful prosecution. That has always been the instruction of the President. It’s not enough that we file a case, it should merit a conviction," Lacierda said.

The testimonies of the prospective witnesses will be thoroughly evaluated by the DOJ , Lacierda said.

"So the Secretary of Justice, Leila de Lima, is the one—her teams are the ones evaluating the evidence, so I would defer to them. If, for instance, Secretary Leila de Lima says ‘it’s a slam dunk evidence’, we would presume that there is basis for her to say so," Lacierda said.

"Let’s not forget that apart from the oral testimonies that have been submitted to them for evaluation, there are the documentary evidence, which are already in the possession of the DOJ, for instance, the COA (Commission on Audit) reports and all the other documentary evidence that are already in the possession of government," he said.

Last year, the President abolished the PDAF amid allegations of misuse of public funds through releases to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs).

The President decided to abolish PDAF to put an end to abuses being committed by some groups at the expense of the public that need major services and government projects.

Established in 1990, the PDAF was intended to bring development to every part of the country by giving congressmen allocations regardless of their political affiliations.

The PDAF fills the limitations of the national government in spearheading development projects. Under the system, lawmakers propose projects to be funded by their PDAFs. PND (js)

President Aquino maintains position on Charter change

President Benigno S. Aquino III maintains his position not to support moves to amend the present Constitution noting the country could prosper even without such revision, a Palace official said.

The issue on Charter change resurfaced as Palace allies in the House of Representatives continue to be active on pushing for ChaCha.

“The latest update is that he maintains his position that there is no need to amend the economic provisions of the charter considering a number of things,” Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a media briefing at the Palace Thursday.

Citing the President’s position, Lacierda said the country’s economy has grown better even without amending the charter.

“The President has always cited the example of China as a country where land is not open to foreign nationals and yet (they) experienced growth,” he said.

The President remains firm in his position despite the endorsement of House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte towards amending the charter’s economic provisions, he said.

“I suppose Speaker Belmonte has a position different from the President, but the President has always been very transparent about his position on charter change,” he added.

There have been occasions, for instance, that there were some people calling for the amendment of the charter, but the President, either publicly or privately, has always stated that changing the charter is not necessary as far as the economy is concerned, Lacierda said. PND (as)

Meetings on transport safety keep President Aquino busy in Malacañang

President Benigno Aquino III was kept busy Thursday in Malacañang by meetings with concerned officials on transportation safety.

The President disclosed this during the courtesy call of the San Francisco-Manila Sister City Committee Business and Cultural Mission at the Palace's Rizal Hall.

"We are tackling improvements in road safety, air safety, maritime safety which took up practically the whole of this morning and is actually a meeting I'll be going back to after I finish today's ceremonies," he said.

President Aquino had pushed for improved safety in transportation in the wake of recent deadly accidents involving public transportation.

Earlier this month, a bus fell into a ravine in Mountain Province, killing at least 14 people.

The President's schedule for the day included a courtesy call by an Australian delegation led by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb, and Premier Barry O’Farrell of the state of New South Wales. PND (jl)

President Aquino urges residents of San Francisco to continue best collective effort with Phl counterparts

President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday urged residents of San Francisco, including Filipinos based there, to continue giving their best collective efforts for the good of their communities and countries.
The President made the call at the San Francisco-Manila Sister City Committee Business and Cultural Mission in Malacañang, where he thanked San Francisco for helping Filipinos recover from recent calamities.

"I have no doubt that, if we all continue giving our best collective effort for the betterment of our communities and our countries, then we will be that much closer to our shared vision of more prosperous lives for all our fellowmen," he said.

He also said he is glad San Francisco residents who have roots in the Philippines "have chosen to stand with us during this time of great challenge."

Also, he thanked the Philippines' friends from San Francisco who he said came over "to demonstrate that you indeed have our backs."

"Without doubt, your involvement will help our country further; and I am eager to work with all of you. You have the chance not only to take advantage of a golden opportunity in a revitalized nation, but to open more doors for our countrymen, who have for so long been shackled by hopelessness and cynicism, but now are dreaming again, and are demonstrating their capacity to fulfill their vast potential," he said.

The President also said such hopefulness reminded him of his family's exile in San Francisco and Boston.

At the time, Filipinos abroad mourned what seemed to be the Philippines' slow and irreversible decay yet did not give in to despair.

"Rather than curse the darkness, we chose to light candles. In our long history as a country, this has always been the case:

Filipinos have looked for ways to overcome apathy, and to extend a helping hand; to rise from the rubble, to dream, and to fulfill those dreams," he said.

The President also thanked San Francisco for its help for the Philippine government's bid to "build-back-better."

"We can all look forward to the time when the survivors of Yolanda can take full control over their destinies once again," he said.
Earlier during the program, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee reiterated the city's official condolences over the tragedies that beset the Philippines.

"On behalf of the citizens of San Francisco and the entire Bay Area, we again offer our official condolences to the tragedies that beset you and this country during the aftermath of the Super Storm --- the Typhoon Yolanda," he said.

He added the city commits "not only to helping with the relief, but to also helping with the recovery for the Philippines because we know that our own ability to recover from disasters depends on how we help others who were similarly situated."

"These are global responsibilities not just on the shoulders of the Philippine people, but that we share them; and, more precisely, it is also our opportunity to learn from disaster management as we've done throughout the day today. To exchange the best practices and to adopt each others best ideas and go forward to making sure we improve the ability to recover from these disasters," he added. PND (jl)

President Aquino emphasizes the need for development of private education for efficient implementation of K-12 curriculum

President Benigno S. Aquino III emphasized the need for the further development of private education in the Philippines in preparation of the efficient implementation of the K to 12 curriculum.

"Our greatest task in this period of revitalization is to empower our citizenry with the necessary knowledge, skills, and values, so that they can help transform our society into one that is just and equitably progressive," the Chief Executive said on Thursday in his message to Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) on the occasion of its 5th National Congress.

The COCOPEA is the unifying voice of private education in the Philippines with more than 2,000 institutions among its five national member-organizations namely Association of Christian Schools, Colleges, and Universities, Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities, Philippine Association of Private Schools, Colleges, and Universities, and Technical Vocational Schools Association of the Philippines.

The COCOPEA opened on Thursday the national congress at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ortigas, Pasig City. The event which has for its theme “Leading Philippine Education for Global Excellence” will end on Friday.

"The COCOPEA has always been a staunch partner in this mission, as you create opportunities for education leaders to improve their expertise and share best practices with your member institutions and students," the President said.

"May your council remain steadfast in leading our country’s academic sector towards global excellence, and in inspiring our countrymen to continue to do well in their chosen paths and cast their stake in nation-building," President Aquino said.

"Your event comes at a time of renewal, when the ideals of positive change are burning bright as ever: in our minds, our hearts, and in the work of our hands. Together, let us make the Philippines a place with equal opportunity for all, and where everyone strives to make a difference in the lives of others," he said. PND (js)

Australian Foreign Minister, party pay courtesy call on President Aquino

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop together with some officials paid a courtesy call on President Benigno S. Aquino III at the Malacanan Palace’s Music Room on Thursday.

Bishop, Australia’s first female foreign minister, was joined by Australian Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb, New South Wales Premier Barry Robert O’Farrell, and Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Bill Tweddell.

The Philippine officials were led by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Gregory Domingo, Philippine Ambassador to Australia Belen Anota and DTI Undersecretary Adrian Cristobal Jr.

Bishop and her party arrived in the country for the official launching of the ASEAN-Australia 40th Anniversary Commemoration held Thursdayat The Peninsula Manila Hotel in Makati City.

An earlier DFA statement said that the launch will mark 40 years of successful dialogue partnership between the ASEAN and Australia and will also serve as a “great opportunity to chart a new strategic direction, complementing ASEAN’s focus on strengthening regional integration through the ASEAN Community 2015 and beyond.”

Secretary del Rosario and Foreign Minister Bishop led the launch in the presence of ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh. The event also envisions the gathering of top diplomats, including the Heads of Mission/Representatives of all ASEAN Member States and Dialogue Partners in the Philippines, as they reflect on the depth of ASEAN-Australia engagement in security, culture, trade, education, people-to-people exchanges and development.

Australia is ASEAN’s first formal dialogue partner.

Aside from the ASEAN-Australia 40th Anniversary Commemoration, Bishop and her party will also be attending the 4th Philippines-Australia Ministerial Meeting (PAMM) from February 20 to 21.

The Philippine and Australian officials are expected to discuss regional and global developments and priorities, areas of mutual interest, and cooperation in international relations and trade.

Australia is one of the Philippines’ closest bilateral partners in the Asia-Pacific region. The PAMM began as the Philippines-Australia Dialogue in 1997 and was upgraded to a Joint Ministerial Meeting in 2005. It sets the direction and vision of the Philippines-Australia bilateral relations and serves as the forum to discuss initiatives and activities to strengthen the bilateral partnership.

Meantime, New South Wales Premier O’ Farrell, who was part of Bishop’s delegation during the courtesy call, also embarked on several engagements in the country as he met with key business leaders, and private sector representatives wherein he discussed political and economic cooperation as well as people-to-people exchanges.

This is the first time O’Farrell visited the country since he was elected in 2011 in New South Wales — Australia’s oldest and largest state, which is home to almost 50 percent of Filipinos living in Australia.

He has pledged AU$500,000 on behalf of their government for the relief and recovery efforts for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). PND (jb)
President Aquino to celebrate EDSA People Power anniversary touring calamity areas

Malacanang is not pushing through of holding the 28th anniversary celebration of the EDSA People Power Revolution on February 25 at the Palace grounds and the President will instead visit calamity affected areas.

In a statement, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said the President met Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa last Monday and conveyed his decision to revisit calamity areas before he leaves for his official visit to Malaysia on 27-28 February.

“Considering that the theme for this year’s celebration is ‘Kapit-Bisig Tungo sa Pagbangon’, the President said it was important to rally the people in the calamity-affected areas to rekindle the spirit of EDSA People Power in building back better communities,” Coloma said.

Coloma said that the traditional “Salubungan” or commemoration of the meeting between the civilian and military participants of EDSA People Power will be held on Tuesday morning at the Cebu provincial capitol grounds.

Cebu was chosen as venue because the province was the bulwark of the opposition to the dictatorship during the martial law regime. It was in Cebu City where Mrs. Corazon Aquino was staying when the military broke ranks from President Marcos on February 22, 1986.

The President also plans to revisit Leyte and Eastern Samar to see the progress of government’s recovery and rehabilitation efforts there.

He may also visit Bohol which was devastated by an earthquake last October, Coloma said. The President may also proceed to Davao Oriental to assess reconstruction works following the devastation of super-typhoon Pablo in December 2011, he added.

The EDSA People Power Commission (EPPC) will issue the final program of events for the EDSA anniversary commemoration. PND (as)