Friday, 9 May 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Malacanang ‘looking forward’ to upcoming visit of U.S. President Barack Obama

The Philippines is looking forward to the upcoming visit of US President Barack Obama on April 28 to 29, the eighth by an American president, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said on Wednesday.

Coloma said the visit would provide the two leaders “an opportunity to exchange views and their strategic vision for the 21st century and discuss new avenues to further strengthen the longstanding relations between the two countries by intensifying political and security cooperation, expanding trade and investments, tourism and development cooperation, and deepening people-to-people ties.”

He further said that the meeting will allow the two leaders to “discuss continued cooperation on the rehabilitation of ‘Yolanda’-affected areas.”

Coloma noted that President Obama’s visit is the peak of a series of recent high-level exchanges between the two countries.

Last year, US Secretary of State John F. Kerry and US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited the Philippines. Early this year, US Senator and member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Marco Rubio, and US Congressman Ed Royce, who also chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives, visited Manila.

“The treaty alliance between the Philippines and the US has been a cornerstone of peace and stability in the region. The United States is the only defense treaty ally of the Philippines,” Coloma said.

“This wide-ranging security partnership includes joint military exercises, such as Balikatan and humanitarian assistance and disaster response activities, to defense and security assistance that supports Philippine efforts toward achieving enhanced defense capabilities,” he added.

Coloma also noted that the US continues to be the major trading partner of the country, with total trade amounting to US$14.5 billion in 2013. Last year, the US was the second largest export destination of the Philippines after Japan, with exports reaching US$7.8 billion.

“The US is one of the Philippines’ top sources of assistance. From 2011 up to 2013, US assistance to the Philippines has amounted to over a billion dollars. The development and military assistance covers a broad range of programs, from enhancing defense capabilities to supporting the good governance reform agenda, poverty reduction, and improving public infrastructure,” Coloma said.

He said that people-to-people ties are strong with an estimated 2.27 million Filipinos living in the United States, while thousands of US tourists visit the Philippines every year. In 2013, more than 670,000 American tourists visited the Philippines.

“The visit of President Obama affirms the vigor of our strategic partnership and alliance, and the strength of our people-to-people ties,” Coloma said. PND (rck)

Palace asks for greater public vigilance to fend off spread of MERS-CoV

The Department of Health (DOH) continues to track the passengers of the Etihad Airways Flight EY0424 that landed in Manila last April 15, after one passenger tested positive for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), the Palace said on Wednesday.

In a press briefing in Malacanang, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said the DOH has contacted 325 of the flight’s 414 passengers and still trying to contact 43 passengers.

Of the 325 passengers, 252 have undergone nose and throat swabbing, and 221 of them have tested negative for MERS-CoV, he said, adding that the DOH is still awaiting the swab results of the other 31 passengers.

Despite these highly encouraging results, Coloma asked for greater public vigilance, advising the people to heed preventive measures and quarantine procedures issued by health authorities.

“Travelers returning from the Middle East are advised to fill out the quarantine forms providing detailed contact information to facilitate subsequent tracing if needed,” Coloma said.
Health authorities said those who become ill within two weeks upon arrival are strongly advised to seek immediate medical attention from all public hospitals or any DOH-accredited medical facilities. They are also asked to delay visits to crowded places.

Last April 16, the DOH confirmed that an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who arrived in Manila on April 15 had MERS-CoV.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona confirmed that the nurse came into contact with the Filipino paramedic who died of MERS-CoV in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

While the unnamed nurse did not show symptoms of the illness, Ona said he still has the virus and may infect other people.

The DOH said last week that the health worker underwent quarantine procedures.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the MERS Coronavirus is a viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Most people who have been confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection developed severe acute respiratory illness, the CDC said.

Those who were infected had fever, cough, and shortness of breath. About half of these people died. The virus has spread from ill people to others through close contact.

The CDC also said that so far, all the cases have been linked to six countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula. PND (as)

Philippines satisfied with American support, says Palace official

The Palace said the government is satisfied with the support it is getting from the US, especially regarding the country’s territorial dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said on Wednesday that statements of support from the US “have been encouraging and tend to affirm the cooperation and the partnership of both countries.”

He said the government is also pleased with the actions the US has taken as these actions are “aligned with the pronouncements they have made.”

In a recent trip to Japan, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the US remains committed to its defense treaty partners in Asia, including the Philippines, in the midst of a more aggressive posturing of China in the region.

The Philippines continues to get American support in terms of beefing up its military capability through annual joint training exercises with US troops.

The Philippine military also recently acquired two ships from the US to strengthen its capability to patrol its coastline, especially in the West Philippine Sea.

US President Barack Obama is set to arrive in Manila on Monday (April 28). He is on a four-nation trip to renew his government’s commitment with its Asian partners.

Obama’s other stops are Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia. PND (as)

Civil Service Commission should be commended for suspending erring BIR employee, Palace says

The Civil Service Commission (CSC) should be commended for suspending a Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) employee who has failed to file his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), a Palace official said Wednesday.

“Dapat sigurong purihin ang Civil Service Commission sa kanilang paggawa ng ganyang aksyon dahil ang aksyon na ito ay nagpapaalala sa ating mga lingkod-bayan na kailangang gampanan nila ang kanilang tungkulin sa ilalim ng batas,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said during a press briefing.

In a four–page decision, the CSC found substantial evidence to hold Arsenio N. Reyes, Revenue Officer III of BIR Revenue Region 10 in Legaspi City, guilty of failing to file his SALN in 2010.

Reyes was given a three-month suspension.

In February 2011, Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Cesar Purisima issued Department Order No. 12-2011, requiring all officials and employees of the agency and its attached office to submit a copy of their respective SALN to the Revenue Operations and Legal Affairs and Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS), the agency’s anti-corruption arm.

It was the RIPS that filed a case against Reyes before the commission. PND (ag)

President Aquino welcomes resolution of issue with Hong Kong

President Benigno S. Aquino III is pleased with the lifting of sanctions imposed by Hong Kong in connection with the 2010 hostage incident in Rizal Park, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement Wednesday.

Coloma told Palace reporters that he has just talked with Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras who made a confirmation about the lifting of sanctions and normalizing relations between the Philippines and Hong Kong.

Almendras is the national government’s representative to Hong Kong to resolve the issue.

“We join the Department of Foreign Affairs in acknowledging the statement of Hong Kong Chief Executive C.Y. Leung on the complete and final resolution of the Quirino Grandstand incident of 23 August 2010 and the lifting of the sanctions,” Coloma said.

Quoting Almendras, Coloma said Leung has issued a separate statement in which he thanked President Aquino and the Philippine government on the development.

“I have conveyed to the President the report of Secretary Almendras and he expressed satisfaction that final closure and a mutually satisfactory conclusion has been reached,” he added.

The Palace official also thanked former president and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada for his initiative and contribution to the national government’s efforts to mend relations with Hong Kong.

Almendras will make a comprehensive briefing on the recent development on Thursday, Coloma said.

It was reported earlier that the two governments agreed that Hong Kong’s four demands have been resolved.

Among the demands include apology to the victims’ families, compensation, sanctions against responsible officials and individuals, and improved tourist safety.

Almendras, Mayor Estrada, and Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Alan Purisima were reported to have left for Hong Kong to tackle the issue. PND (as)