Friday, 9 May 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Tuesday, April 29, 2014

President Aquino thanks US for continuing financial assistance

President Benigno S. Aquino III thanked visiting US President Barack Obama for America’s financial assistance to further help the Philippines economy.

The President also said that he and President Obama recognized the importance of strong economic engagement for the continued growth of both the Philippines and the US.

“On this note, we expressed our appreciation for the US’s support to our government’s programs under the Partnership for Growth framework, which enhances the policy environment for economic growth through a $145 million total planned contribution from the USAID,” President Aquino said in a statement he read during the joint press conference with Obama in Malacanang on Monday.

“US support is also coursed through the Millennium Challenge Corp., which supports the implementation of projects on road infrastructure, poverty reduction, and good governance with a $434 million grant from 2011-2016,” he added.

The US Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to reinstate the Philippines to a Category 1 status will create mutual benefit for both the US and the Philippines, he said.

As more routes are opened between the US and the Philippines, it will create more business opportunities, as well as facilitate increased tourism and business travel, he said.

At the same time, President Aquino said his administration welcomes the substantive agreement between the Philippines and the US on the terms and concessions for the US to support the Philippines’ request for the extension of special treatment of rice imports until 2017.

As they discussed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement seen to shape the global and regional economic architecture in the 21st century, the Philippines is working on how to participate in the TPP.

The President also thanked the US’s support for the successful conclusion of the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Obama arrived in Manila Monday for a two-day state visit. The Philippines is the last leg of his four-country Asian tour, stopping in Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. PND (as)

President Obama grateful for Filipino hospitality

US President Barack Obama expressed his gratitude to President Benigno S. Aquino III for the hospitality and kindness given to him and the members of his delegation in his visit to the Philippines.

“I’ve only been here one day but the kindness that you’ve shown me and the extraordinary hospitality that has been extended to us leaves us with very warm feelings and reflects, I think, the legendary spirit of the Filipino people,” he said in a message during the state dinner in Malacanang.

The US leader praised the Aquino family to their contributions to Philippine society noting that there is no greater nobility than offering one’s life to the nation as what the President’s father did during Marcos’es martial rule.

Obama also mentioned the role of the President’s mother, former president Corazon Aquino, as the country moved on following the Marcos dictatorship.

Obama recognized Filipino talents like Manny Pacquiao and Cris Comerford, the White House’s executive chef who was born in Manila.

Also, Obama said Americans are inspired by the Filipino’s resilience and determination to rise from any adversity like the devastating Typhoon Yolanda that hit the Philippines last year.

“Tonight, our hearts actually grieve for some of our fellow Americans back home who have been devastated by very terrible storms and tornadoes, but we draw our strength from your example,” he said.

“For even as we grieve, we know that we will recover and we will rebuild in these communities that have been affected because people will care after each other,” he added. PND (as)

Government working to protect journalists, says President Aquino

President Benigno S. Aquino III told foreign journalists that his administration is addressing the killing of media men in the country through an inter-agency committee.

This body has been looking into extralegal killings and forced disappearances, torture and other grave violations of right to life, liberty and security of persons, he said in a joint press conference with US President Barack Obama in Malacanang on Monday.

The President reported that of 62 labor-related cases being investigated by the body, 10 were considered extrajudicial killings.

Of the 10 cases of extrajudicial killings, only one happened during the present administration, he noted.

With regards to the Maguindanao massacre of more than 50 journalists, the President said that more than a hundred people have been indicted for the crime and are undergoing trial.

“That doesn’t mean that we have stopped trying to look for others potentially involved in this particular killing, and may we just state for the record that even when it comes to journalists, it is not a policy of this state to silence critics,” he said.

He noted that another thrust of his government is judicial reform, which he promised when he ran for election in 2010.

The government is also working to speed up ongoing trials in courts to ensure quick disposition of justice, he added. PND (as)

U.S., Philippines agree on greater economic tie-up

The US and the Philippines have agreed to further strengthen their economic cooperation, US President Barack Obama said as he congratulated President Benigno S. Aquino III for his efforts to reform the Philippine bureaucracy.

“I congratulated President Aquino on the reforms that he has pursued to make the Philippines more competitive through our partnership for growth and our Millennium Challenge Cooperation compact,” Obama said during a joint press conference in Malacanang on Monday.

“We are going to keep working together to support these efforts so that more Filipinos can share in this nation’s economic progress because growth has to be broad-based and it has to be inclusive,” he added.

Obama said he and President Aquino discussed the steps so that the Philippines could position itself for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

He said he encouraged the Philippine leader to seize the opportunity by opening the next phase of economic reform and growth.

Obama announced that he is sending US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker to lead a delegation of American business leaders to the Philippines this June to explore new opportunities in the country.

The American leader also renewed the US’ commitment to help the Philippines address the devastating effects of climate change and make its communities less vulnerable to extreme storms like Typhoon Yolanda.

Obama expressed his gratitude to President Aquino for his generous hospitality, saying that the friendship between the two countries has become deeper because of the contributions and patriotism of millions of proud Filipino-Americans.

He also praised the vibrant democracy in the Philippines, which he said reflects the desire of its citizens to live in freedom and to have their universal rights upheld. PND (as)

President Aquino says regional stability brings prosperity

President Benigno S. Aquino III said that as Asian countries focus on achieving greater prosperity for their people, continued growth does not happen in a vacuum--there has to be regional stability.

The disputes in the West Philippine Sea are not the end-all and be-all of Philippine-Chinese relations, he said during a joint press conference with US President Barack Obama in Malacanang on Monday.

“We have had good cooperation with them in so many different fronts and perhaps, one can’t even argue that this is the only sour point in our relationship,” he noted.

For his part, President Obama renewed his country’s support to the Philippines to settle the West Philippine Sea issue through diplomatic means.

Obama reiterated US backing for the Philippines as it brought its territorial dispute with China to international arbitration.

The US wants China to abide by international law and resolve its maritime disputes with its neighbors diplomatically, he said.

“Our message to China consistently in a whole range of issues, is we want to be a partner with you in upholding international law,” he said, noting that larger countries have a greater responsibility to abide by international norms and rules.

There is also a consensus among the countries with territorial row with China to resolve the disputes in a peaceful manner, the US leader said.

Obama said that in the course of his trips to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines, the message has been the same—these countries want the issue to be settled peacefully and diplomatically.

“That’s why I think that the approach that President Aquino has been taking, putting this before the international arbitration, is a sound one,” he noted.

The US leader said it is inevitable that China is going to be a dominant power in the Asia-Pacific region, given its size and its current economic momentum.

And if it is able to develop and provide basic needs to people and work cooperatively with its neighbors, it will strengthen the Asian region and not weaken it, he said.

Obama also reiterated that the US has no interest in the ongoing territorial row in the West Philippines Sea but said his country is after ensuring freedom of navigation and making sure every claimant follows international laws. PND (as)

President Aquino thanks US President Obama for America’s support after typhoon Yolanda

President Benigno S. Aquino III expressed his gratitude to US President Barack Obama for US’s assistance to the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda last year.

“Mr. President, in your State of the Union Address early this year, you spoke of how American volunteers and troops were greeted with gratitude in the affected areas,” President Aquino said in a statement he read in Malacanang on Monday.

“Today, I reiterate formally: the Filipino people will never forget such kindness and compassion. On behalf of my countrymen, I thank the United States of America once more for being a true friend to our people.”

Typhoon Yolanda showed the entire world how vulnerable the Philippines, as well as other developing countries, are to natural disasters, according to the President.

The Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response is an essential component of cooperation between the Philippines and the US.

The Philippines continued to look forward to cooperating with the US and the rest of its partners in the international community, as the country undertakes rebuilding efforts of communities affected by Typhoon Yolanda.

The Philippines and the US made a promising start, as both countries discussed how their partnership can be enhanced through building climate-resilient communities, the President said.

“These kinds of strong communities are important, not only in withstanding disasters, but also in fostering inclusive growth across the entire country,” he added. PND (as)

President Aquino confers Order of Sikatuna on US President Obama

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday conferred the Order of Sikatuna with the rank of Raja or Grand Collar on US President Barack Obama, who is in Manila for a two-day state visit.

During the state dinner in honor of the visiting US leader, President Aquino presented the Order of Sikatuna award in recognition of Obama’s “leadership and policies that assisted the Philippines in times of natural disaster.”

“As a friend and partner of the Filipino people, Mr. President, you have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the growth and development of our nation. It is only fitting, therefore, that your efforts be recognized with the conferment of the Order of Sikatuna,” President Aquino said in his toast.

“Since 1953, the highest recognition of diplomatic merit of the Republic of the Philippines has been the Order of Sikatuna. It is conferred on those who have fostered, and elevated, the bilateral partnership of our country with other nations,” the President added.

President Obama was also cited “for helping uphold stability and peace by means of the rule of law in Southeast Asia, and for working with us to fundamentally raise the defense capacity of our country.”

President Obama said he is deeply honored to receive the award. “I accept it in the spirit in which it has been bestowed with the commitment to continue and to deepen the bonds between our two great nations,” he said in his toast.

The Order of Sikatuna is an Order of Diplomatic Merit conferred upon individuals who have rendered exceptional and meritorious services to the Philippines. The first US leader to receive such distinction was former American President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1960.

“Then, as now, may this conferment symbolize our nation’s esteem to the American people; and may it serve as a reminder of the mutual desire to always be partners based on the highest principles of liberty, democracy, and progress,” President Aquino said.

Also in his toast during the state dinner, President Aquino noted that their discussions on Monday highlighted the onging dialogue and cooperation between the two countries.

“The world has come to realize that stability is a necessary foundation of progress and prosperity for all our peoples; alliances are deepened not only through a shared history, but also through mutual confidence and respect, which is constantly refreshed to give new relevance and purpose to our positive, longstanding relations,” he said.

“We are bound by the quest to turn our shared principles of democracy, human rights, and freedom into an inclusive reality, not just for our respective peoples, but for all nations,” he added. PND (co)

President Obama sets foot on Malacanang for the first time

President Benigno S. Aquino III welcomed United States President Barack Obama in Malacanang Palace as he arrived in the country on Monday for the last leg of his Asia trip.

Air Force One touched down at AGES Aviation Center, Balagbag Ramp in Pasay City around 1:30 p.m. on board President Obama, who is in the country for a two-day state visit.

Upon his arrival, Obama and his delegation proceeded to Malacanang where arrival honors were accorded to him at the Malacanang Palace Grounds.

He then entered inside Malacanang, with stairs adorned with sampaguita flowers, for the signing of the palace guest book.

President Obama was ushered into Malacanang’s Music Room for a closed-door meeting with President Aquino. Joining them inside the room were Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr., US Ambassador Philip Goldberg and US National Security Advisor Susan Elizabeth Rice. The meeting lasted about 20 minutes.

The leaders then proceeded to the adjacent Aguinaldo State Dining Room for the Expanded Bilateral Meeting.

Present during the meeting were the Cabinet secretaries of President Aquino led by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma, Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan. Their counterparts in the United States were also present.

Wide-ranging topics were discussed during the meeting, which include trade, commerce, agriculture, tourism, security and strengthening people-to-people ties between the two countries.

Following the bilateral meeting, the two leaders addressed the media during a joint press conference.

Both leaders were asked about domestic and regional issues including Philippines’ maritime dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea.

President Obama reiterated that territorial disputes should be resolved peacefully and China should not resort to bullying smaller nations.

“I think that all the countries that I had spoken to in the region during the course of my trip --- Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and now the Philippines --- their message has been the same, everywhere I go, which is: They would like to resolve these issues peacefully and diplomatically,” he said.

“That’s why I think that the approach that President Aquino has been taking --- putting this before the international arbitration is a sound one,” he added.

President Aquino, on the other hand, said that the disputes in the West Philippine Sea, “are not the end-all and be-all” of the Philippines' relationship with China.

“We have had good cooperation with them in so many different fronts and perhaps one can’t even argue that this is the only sore point in our relationship,” he said.

He noted that the primordial concern should not be the disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea but the relationship of both countries in trade and commerce that will lead to achieving stability for the two nations, and the rest of the region. PND (jb)

America draws strength from ‘Yolanda’ survivors in dealing with aftermath of deadly tornadoes

Inspired by the resiliency shown by the Filipinos in the aftermath of super typhoon "Yolanda," the American people are also hopeful they will recover from the deadly tornadoes that hit the central and southern parts of the United States over the weekend.

President Barack Obama, in his remarks at the state dinner hosted Monday evening in his honor by President Benigno Aquino III, said they draw strength from the Filipino people’s example in dealing with this tragedy.

“After Yolanda, America grieved with you and stood with you, but we were also inspired by your resilience and your determination to care for those who have been affected.

Tonight, our hearts actually grieve for some of our fellow Americans back home who have been devastated by very terrible storms and tornadoes, but we draw our strength from your example.

For even as we grieve, we know that we will recover and we will rebuild in these communities that have been affected because people will care after each other,” President Obama said.

In a press conference held earlier, President Obama said at least a dozen of lives were already claimed by the tornadoes, and damaged homes, businesses, and communities across multiple states with Arkansas taking the worst toll.

President Obama offered his deepest condolences to all his countrymen who lost loved ones and commended the heroic efforts of those who immediately responded and rushed to help the victims.

“I want everyone affected by this tragedy know that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the Federal government is on the ground, and will help our fellow Americans in need, working with state and local officials. And I want everybody to know that your country will be there to help you recover and rebuild as long as it takes,” President Obama said.

Super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck the Philippines in November last year, affecting almost the entire Visayas region, with over 6,000 casualties and billions worth of damages to infrastructure and livelihood.

President Aquino said the Philippines’ experience with super typhoon Yolanda showed the entire world how vulnerable it is, as well as other developing countries, to natural disasters.

Nevertheless, President Aquino is grateful for the support extended by the United States to the Philippines that helped in rebuilding the lives of people in typhoon-stricken communities.

“Today, I reiterate formally: the Filipino people will never forget such kindness and compassion. On behalf of my countrymen, I thank the United States of America once more for being a true friend to our people,” President Aquino said in a statement.

“As the United States and the American people have always been ready to support us in the aftermath of disasters, so, too, do we look forward to the continued cooperation of the United States and the rest of our partners in the international community, as we undertake the task of building back better the communities affected by typhoon Haiyan,” he added.

President Obama was on a two-day state visit to the Philippines in conclusion of his four-country Asia trip, which began last week. He visited Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia five days prior. PND (hdc)

U.S. President hails Filipino war veterans

United States President Barack Obama on Tuesday hailed Filipino war veterans who fought alongside American forces during World War II.

In his speech before some 300 Filipino and American soldiers at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig, President Obama acknowledged his nation’s “injustice” towards Filipino war veterans, who were denied compensation promised to them by the US government during the war.

“Sadly, the proud service of many of these Filipino veterans was never fully recognized by the United States. Many were denied the compensation they had been promised. It was an injustice,” he said.

Obama said his administration has been working with Congress and other concerned units to correct said wrongdoing.

“We passed a law, reviewed the records, processed claims, and nearly 20,000 Filipino veterans from World War II and their families finally received the compensation they had earned. And it was the right thing to do,” he said.

The US President then honored some of the Filipino war veterans present at the event, among them those who fought in Bataan and Corregidor.

“Some fought in the resistance, including nurse Carolina Garcia Delfin. These veterans are now in their nineties. They are an inspiration to us all, and I’d ask those who can stand to stand or give a wave so that we can all salute their service,” he said to a round of applause and standing ovation from the crowd.

He lauded the heroism of the war veterans, saying that their struggle “brought out the best in the Filipino character in the face of adversity and served as a beacon to freedom loving peoples everywhere.”
Before leaving, he had a brief opportunity to shake hands with several veterans and soldiers.

After the event, President Obama paid his respects at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, also in Fort Bonifacio. It is the resting place of Americans and Filipinos who fought in the war.

“These Americans and Filipinos rest in peace as they stood in war -- side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder, balikatan,” he said. PND (jb)

U.S. President Obama lays wreath at Manila American Cemetery

United States President Barack Obama on Tuesday paid his respects to the fallen American soldiers who fought in World War II, by laying a wreath at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Upon his arrival at the cemetery, where the remains of thousands of Americans and Filipinos who fought and died during the second World War are buried, President Obama was received by Manila American Cemetery Superintendent Larry Adkison, Vice President Jejomar Binay, and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

Following the ceremony, President Obama was shown around the map rooms by Adkison.

Afterwards, the US leader proceeded to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City for his departure.

President Obama was in Manila on the last leg of his four-nation tour of Asia. He also visited Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia. PND (co)

President Obama says U.S. commitment to defend Philippines is ‘ironclad’

United States President Barack Obama on Tuesday reiterated the US government’s commitment to defend the Philippines against any external armed attacks.

“Our commitment to defend the Philippines is ironclad and the United States will keep that commitment, because allies never stand alone,” President Obama said before 300 Filipino and American soldiers at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig.

The US President noted that for more than 60 years, a mutual defense treaty has bound the US and the Philippines with a common pledge saying “common determination to defend themselves against external armed attacks, so that no potential aggressor could be under the illusion that either of them stands alone.”

Obama made the statement a day after the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which will allow US forces greater access to Philippine military facilities.

“Yesterday, President Aquino and I agreed to begin a new chapter in our alliance. And under our new agreement, American forces can begin rotating through Filipino airfields and ports,” he said.

He added that the agreement will also allow US and Filipino forces to train and exercise together, in an effort to strengthen the armed forces.

He said such training would improve the ability of the armed forces to respond even faster to disasters like Typhoon Yolanda.

President Obama took the opportunity to honor several Filipino and American troops who responded during the aftermath of the super typhoon in Tacloban.

Those he cited were Captain Roy Trinidad of the Philippine Navy SEAL; Colonel Mike Wylie of the United States Marines; and US Air Force Major George Apalisok, who is a Filipino-American.

As a show of good relationship, Filipino and American troops stood alternately behind President Obama as he made his speech.

Obama again stressed that disputes between China and other Asian countries should be resolved peacefully and not by threat and coercion.

“We believe that nations and peoples have the right to live in security and peace, and to have their sovereignty and territorial integrity respected. We believe that international law must be upheld, that freedom of navigation must be preserved and commerce must not be impeded,” he said.

“We believe that disputes must be resolved peacefully and not by intimidation or force. That’s what our nations stand for. That’s the future we’re working for. And that’s why your service is so important,” he added.

President Obama left the country on Tuesday, ending his four-nation Asian tour, which also took him to Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. PND (jb)

President Obama ends Asian tour

US President Barack Obama left the Philippines on Tuesday, concluding his four-nation tour of the Asia-Pacific region.

At the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to see him off were Vice President Jejomar Binay, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia, Jr.

Major General Jeffrey Delgado escorted Obama to his presidential plane after the US President alighted from the US Marine One chopper at about 11:15 a.m.

Before boarding Air Force One, he waved several times at the media men and chatted with Philippine officials there to bid him goodbye.

Air Force One took off from Runway 26 at about 11:29 a.m.

President Obama’s four-nation tour began with a visit to Japan, followed by South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines. PND (ag)

U.S. to help Philippines set up coast watch center to enhance maritime security

The US government will help the Philippines establish a coast watch center to enhance its maritime border security and maritime domain, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said Tuesday.

Coloma, who was present during the bilateral meeting between President Benigno S. Aquino III and US President Barack Obama on Monday, said the US leader vowed to assist the Philippines in creating the National Coast Watch Center (NCWC).

The NCWC is an inter-agency mechanism which aims to enhance maritime border security, as well as in governing the country’s maritime domain, pursuant to Executive Order 57 issued in September 2011.

Coloma said Obama likewise expressed his desire to promote enhanced maritime information-sharing with its allies—the Philippines, Japan, and Australia -- to easily manage maritime conflicts and disputes.

Obama, who arrived in the Philippines for a two-day state visit, said the newly signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the US will benefit the two countries, particularly on military readiness and response to calamities.

The goal of the agreement is to build Philippine capacity in training and in coordination, he said in a joint press conference with President Aquino in Malacanang on Monday.

He added that the EDCA not only concentrates on maritime security, but also on enhancing the two countries’ capabilities in responding to natural disasters.

Defense Minister Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg on Monday morning signed the agreement that allows a bigger US military presence in the country.

The 10-year deal is only a framework agreement. Details on the duration and number of US troops staying in the country still have to be negotiated.

Manila was the final leg of Obama’s Asian trip that also took him to Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia. PND (as)

Philippines expresses intention to join Trans-Pacific Partnership

President Benigno S. Aquino III has conveyed to US President Barack Obama the Philippines’ interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The TPP is a free trade alliance between the US and 11 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region that aims to enhance regional commerce.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr,, who was present during the bilateral meeting between the two leaders in Malacanang on Monday, said Obama promised to help the Philippines by extending technical assistance, as it prepares to join the said partnership.

According to the Trade Department, joining the trade alliance would improve the country's competitive position to become a regional hub for growth, investment and exports in the US and key Asian markets.

The TPP consists of Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US, and Vietnam.

During the meeting, Obama also lauded the country’s significant progress in areas of intellectual property and labor rights, Coloma said.

President Aquino, in response, thanked Obama for removing the Philippines from the US Trade Representative’s Special 301 Watch List of countries with “serious intellectual property rights deficiencies”.

The President likewise expressed his gratitude to Obama for the US Federal Aviation Authority’s (FAA) upgrade of the Philippine’s aviation safety status to Category 1.

The US leader also commended the Philippines’ effective implementation of the Millennium Challenge programs, including the construction of a circumferential road in Samar island and poverty reduction programs.

Obama arrived in Manila Monday afternoon for a two-day state visit to the country. He departed for the US Tuesday noon. PND (as)

President Aquino joins Pre-Labor Day dialogue with labor groups at the Palace

President Benigno S. Aquino III joined a Pre-Labor Day dialogue with labor groups in Malacanang on Tuesday to know which of their sentiments have not yet been addressed during separate talks with his Cabinet members.

“Nandito ho ako, makikinig ako sa inyo. Baka meron ho kayong gustong iparating sa akin na hindi pa tinutugunan ng ating Gabinete. They are my alter egos. They speak on my behalf and I stand by whatever they say,” the President said in his opening remarks during the dialogue.

The President’s Cabinet has been holding dialogues with the labor sector on a quarterly basis. According to President Aquino, his Cabinet members have told him that so far, they have held 26 dialogues with labor groups in the country.

The government will support the creation of different task forces as proposed by labor organizations, the President said, noting however that labor organizations must send their representatives.

Among the labor issues already tackled by the Cabinet and the labor groups are extrajudicial killings, tax concerns, the government’s agroindustrial plan, high electricity costs, security of tenure, the ratification of International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 151, and the Yolanda job-led recovery.

For his part, the President renewed his administration’s commitment to address power problems in the country by continuing to produce power surplus.

The focus, he said, is not only in urban areas but also in rural areas to increase agricultural productivity.

The President however acknowledged the huge challenge in the power sector, especially during this summer season, when there is an increase in the consumption of electricity.

There are plants not scheduled to have maintenance shutdown that have to be shut down and this has affected power generation, he said.

This problem is exacerbated when the unscheduled shutdowns coincide with scheduled maintenance shutdowns, he added.

On the country’s competitive advantage, the President said he has received a Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) report that showed a 91 percent placement rate for those who have undergone training in semiconductors and allied electrical services.

Citing separate data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), President Aquino said that when he assumed office, TESDA’s placement rate was merely 26 percent but it has already increased to 62 percent and is still growing.

“Tuloy-tuloy po ‘yung investments natin. Ang pinakamalaki hong porsyento ng budget natin, puro doon sa social services, which is education and health, among other things,” he said.

The government also expanded the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program this year to include high school, he said, adding that the government intends to help families send their children to high school.

Different government agencies have so far made commitments to the labor sector to address the concerns raised during the previous dialogues. PND (as)