Tuesday, 1 April 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Monday, March 24, 2014

President Aquino leads launch of ALAGA KA program

President Benigno S. Aquino III lead the launch on Monday of the Department of Health and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s multi-sectoral advocacy campaign dubbed as “Alaga ka para sa Maayos na Buhay” (ALAGA KA) aimed at providing the country’s 14.7 million indigent families greater access to primary health care services.

Joining the President at the launch held at the Quezon Memorial Circle were Quezon City mayor Herbert Bautista, DOH Secretary Enrique Ona, Philhealth president and CEO Alexander Padilla and Department of Education Secretary Armin Luistro.

According to Padilla, who is also chair of the ALAGA KA steering committee, ALAGA KA is a collaboration between Philhealth, DOH, local government units and other stakeholders in the health sector to make sure that indigent members and those from the poor segment of the population are properly instructed on how to avail of these basic health services at the rural health units and health centers where they are assigned.

In his speech, the President invited the attendees – some 2,000 indigent families from different parts of Metro Manila – to fully partake and utilize the benefits offered by ALAGA KA.

“Layunin po ng ALAGA KA program na imulat ang ating mga kababayan, lalo na ang 14.7 milyong kapus-palad na pamilya, sa mga serbisyong ipinagkakaloob ng DOH at PhilHealth. Hinihimok natin silang sagarin ang pakinabang na bunsod ng pagkakataong ito. Kabilang sa maraming mga serbisyo ng programa ang pagkakaloob ng micronutrient supplements, maternal and neonatal care package, at family planning—bukod pa sa treatment package para sa TB, at sa libreng pagpapagamot sa mga pampublikong ospital. Malinaw sa mga serbisyong ito: naniniwala tayong “prevention is better than cure.” Imbes na makuntento sa paglunas sa karamdaman, binibigyang kakayahan natin ang mga Pilipinong iwasan ang sakit at ang paglaganap nito,” the President said.

He said Philhealth and other related government health services has been able to keep with the demand because of proper management of the nation’s resources.

“Sa nakalipas na mahigit tatlong taon, pinalawak po natin ang saklaw ng PhilHealth, at ang mga serbisyong kaakibat nito. Bukod sa pagpapatayo at rehabilitasyon ng ating mga government health facilities, nagpadala rin tayo ng libo-libong mga doktor, nurse, midwife, at community health teams sa malalayong lugar upang arugain ang mas nangangailangan nating mga kababayan. Nariyan din po ang ating Primary Care Benefit—na tinatawag ding “Tamang Serbisyo para sa Kalusugan ng Pamilya” o TSeKaP,” the President said.

“Kabilang nga po sa mga serbisyo nito ang health-risk counseling at cancer screening, at ang pagsiguro na ang mga benepisyaryong pamilya ay makakapagpatingin sa doktor kada taon,” he added.

He added that even the legislative branch pitched in and helped by passing the Sin Tax Reform And Responsible Parenthood Laws that greatly helped in larger health services to the people.

“Bukod po sa makabuluhang serbisyong mula sa ehekutibo, nakipag-ambagan na rin ang lehislatura upang maisabatas ang Sin Tax Reform Law at ang Responsible Parenthood Law na nagbibigay kakayahan sa atin na lalong magbigay-lingap sa ating mga kababayan,” the President said. PND (rck)

Government remains committed to competitive business environment, says Aquino

President Benigno S. Aquino III assured the business community that his administration will remain committed to ensuring a level playing field for businesses and keeping a good business environment in the country.

The President told businessmen during the oathtaking ceremony of the new officials of Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), Philippine Exporters Confederations (Philexport) and Anvil Business Club that the government posted significant successes in the past few years of the Aquino administration.

Among these include the Philippines’s huge jumps in various competitiveness rankings, as well as investments upgrades from major credit ratings agencies.

Investments have also gone up with the net FDI increasing by 20 percent, from $3.22 billion in 2012, to $3.86 billion in 2013, he said in his message in Malacanang.

“When I met with PHILEXPORT back in October of 2012, I expressed my confidence in their ability to weather the storm that the exports sector was facing at the time. Today, we are indeed seeing brighter skies, with total merchandise exports increasing by 9.3 percent to more than $4.38 billion in January of this year, as compared to $4 billion in January of 2013,” the President said.

The government posted these major feats after leveling the playing field and creating a better environment for businesses.

“Given the global community’s reception to the new face of Philippine politics and systems, we expect increased access to wider arenas of competition: so long as you take advantage of our resurgence, you will cease being big businesses operating in a small pond, and perhaps become industry leaders in an entire ocean of opportunities,” the President added.

The President also advised the newly elected officials of different business organizations in the country to always keep in mind the benefits to the people of whatever endeavors they do.

Local businesses must ensure the competitiveness in the domestic market and create a healthy business environment for each player, the chief executive said.

With the government’s partnership with private businesses, the country can take even greater strides for the benefit of millions of Filipinos, he noted. PND (as)

President Aquino receives Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs in courtesy call

President Benigno S. Aquino III received Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs José Manuel García-Margallo in a courtesy call in Malacanang on Monday.

Margallo arrived in the Philippines for a two-day official visit from March 24 to 25 at the invitation of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario.

While in the Philippines, Margallo will also meet Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and discuss bilateral relations with Secretary del Rosario.

A highlight of Margallo’s visit to the Philippines is his trip to Tacloban City on March 25. Spain is one of the biggest donors to the rehabilitation efforts in areas hit by super typhoon Yolanda last year.

The visiting Spanish official will also address the members of the Makati Business Club and also visit Bangkal High School in Makati to check on the progress of the implementation of the Department of Education’s Special Education Program in Foreign Language in partnership with the Embassy of Spain and Instituto Cervantes in Manila.

The Minister will likewise inaugurate the Spanish-assisted Humanitarian Assistance Emergency Warehouse project at Clark International Airport.

Total trade between the two countries from January to October 2013 is valued at $385,130,000 while the total investments from Spain from January to September 2013 amounted to $200,000.

Philippines’s total exports to Spain are valued at $122.26 million, while the total imports from Spain amount to $262.87 million.

Among the Philippine’s major exports to Spain include coconut (copra) oil, yellow fin tunas, seaweeds, carrageenan and other algae, and pineapple.

The Philippines’ top commodity imports from Spain are women’s outerwear, tubes, pipes and hoses, wine and spirits and preparations for animal feed.

The country is also a major destination for Spanish tourists with 17,126 visiting the Philippines last year. There is an estimated 40,000 Filipinos living in Spain today. PND (as)

Aquino wants National Commission on Muslim Filipinos involvement in PDAF scam investigated

President Benigno S. Aquino III wants an investigation into the alleged involvement of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) in the multibillion peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam which the Commission on Audit (COA) recently unearthed according to reports.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, President Aquino said he already tasked Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr., Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to come up with a thorough report on the matter as soon as possible.

The NCMF is an agency under the Office of the President that reportedly received P515-million from two senators—named in a newspaper account as Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Gregorio Honasan—and 38 former and incumbent members of the House of Representatives based on COA’s findings.

“To be perfectly candid about it, there are so many functions embodied in their (NCMF’s) charter, which I reviewed today, and I was not clearly aware or immediately aware that they were a conduit or an implementing agency for various PDAF projects,” President Aquino told reporters.

He added they are still clarifying with COA whether the report can already be considered a "finding" or just an “observation audit memorandum” in which case the NCMF would have to respond to certain questions first.

“Even before we get their answers, I want to make sure exactly what went to whom, and why was it coursed through the NCMF… So I want to get as thorough knowledge as possible, and I have directed the concerned individuals—specifically the Executive Secretary, the Secretary of Budget and Management, and the Cabinet Secretary—to submit to me a thorough report on this particular issue,” President Aquino said. PND (hdc)

President Aquino says resumption of peace talks depend on communist rebels

President Benigno Aquino III on Monday said the resumption of peace talks with communist rebels will only depend on their “willingness” to return to the negotiating table.

In an interview with reporters following an event in Malacanang, President Aquino dismissed that the arrest of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, top leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA), will have an effect on the stalled peace talks with the communist groups.

“Well, they have walked out to the CPP-NPA and they have walked out of the peace talks, if you remember correctly. Does it have an impact? I don’t think so. It really depends on their willingness to go back to the bargaining table,” the President said.

He said he was not surprised with the arrest of the Tiamzons affirming that they were the ones he was pertaining to in a prior interview about a high-profile fugitive who will be arrested soon.

“It wasn’t a surprise because I did mention it,” the President told reporters.

CPP founding chairman Jose Maria "Joma" Sison earlier said that the arrest of the Tiamzons will impede the peace negotiations. The insurgent’s peace panel likewise condemned the arrest of the couple saying that they were both covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG), while government officials said otherwise.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima earlier defended the legality of the arrest of the Tiamzons in Carcar, Cebu last Friday saying that they were not covered by any immunity. She stressed that guarantees under the Jasig is not operational since the peace process between the government and the communist rebels have been stalled.

President Aquino, meanwhile, believes that the arrest of the couple has delivered a “serious blow” to the CPP-NPA. “It shows you also the competency of our security forces,” he said.

On Sison’s threat of more attacks following Tiamzon’s arrest, the President said “The attacks have not ceased. So, what are they saying? For them, it’s business as usual I guess.”

He also cited media reports that the Tiamzons were in possession of hand grenades and pistols, which he said "normally does not occupy the belongings of a peace negotiator."
President Aquino said the government should deal with “root causes” of insurgency problem to be able to stamp it out.

“That’s why we are focused on empowering our people, especially in trying to move them out of poverty in the various interventions that we have been doing from education, to health, to livelihood, to housing, to disaster preparedness and so on and so forth,” he said. PND (jb)