Sunday, 22 June 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Sunday, June 22, 2014

Enough supply of NFA rice until next harvest season, say Palace

There is enough supply of National Food Authority (NFA) rice until the next harvest season, a Palace official said on Sunday.

Presidential Communication Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., said in a press briefing over radio station dzRB Radyo ng Bayan that there is 2.4 million metric tons of NFA rice in supply.

“Ito ay sapat para sa susunod na 72 araw o hanggang sa unang linggo ng Setyembre na kung kailan inaasahan ang resulta ng unang pag-ani o harvest season,” said Coloma.

He argued that there should be no reason for the prices of NFA rice, whether well-milled or regular milled, to rise and anyone found manipulating its value will be dealt with severely.

“Ayon sa NFA, we are advising the public that they will implement the full force of the law on those who divert, hoard, and overprice government or NFA rice,” said Coloma.

The price of the regular milled rice is P27 per kilo while the well-milled rice is at P32 per kilo.

The Communications Secretary gave an update on the importation of an estimated 800,000 metric tons of rice.

"Ang update mula sa NFA: Nai-deliver at natanggap na ang 193,000 metric tons bago magtapos ang Hunyo. May karagdagang delivery na 274,250 metric tons at sa buwan ng Agosto ay ang balanseng 332,350 metric tons. Nagbigay ng abiso ang NFA sa mga supplier na tingnan ang posibilidad na mapabilis o mapaaga ang delivery,” said Coloma.

Coloma also reported the outcome of the meeting of the National Price Coordinating Council last June 18, where all the stakeholders came up with a program called "Dagdag Alokasyon, Dagdag Outlet, Dagdag-Bantay, at Walang Pagtataas ng Presyo" or DDDW.

“Unang-una, Dagdag Alokasyon. Increase of allocation from 12,500 bags per day to 25,000 bags per day—doble na po. Ang ikalawa ay dagdag outlet from 1,018 to 1,120 outlets. Initially ay 10 percent increase para isama na rito ‘yung mga talipapa at mga smaller market. At ang pangatlong ‘D’ ‘yung dagdag bantay. Increase in monitoring teams at ‘yung paghimok sa ating mga kababayan na i-ulat o i-report sa NFA sa pamamagitan ng kanilang operations center sa teleponong 454-1214…At ang ikaapat ay Walang Pagtataas ng Presyo ang NFA rice,” Coloma explained.

The National Price Coordinating Council is made up of the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Health, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Transportation and Communications, Department of Justice, Department of Energy, National Economic Development Authority, and one representative each from the consumers’ sector, agricultural producers’ sector, trading sector, and manufacturers’ sector. PND (ag)

Food prices to stabilize, says Malacanang

Malacanang said on Sunday that food prices are expected to stabilize as factors that affect its increase have started to normalize.

In a press conference over radio station dzRD Radyo ng Bayan, Presidential Communication Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., said the meeting of the National Price Coordinating Council (NPCC) last week disclosed reasons for the increase of prices of sugar, pork, poultry, garlic, and other food staples.

Coloma said the Sugar Regulatory Administration during the meeting reported that prices of sugar reached as high as P52 per kilo, but after the agency started their monitoring it is now down to P49 and they issued a suggested retail price (SRP) of P50 per kilo.

The hog raisers reported that there were cases of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) in the country that affected the piglets, adding that these cases of PED were now under control with vaccinations being administered, and prices are  expected to improve.

“Nag-request po ang mga hog raisers na huwag namang masyadong pababaan ang mga presyo para naman ma-recover din nila ‘yung kanilang mga losses. So sinusubaybayan po ito,” Coloma said.

Poultry raisers reported that the high temperature last summer affected the growth of chickens that resulted to prices ranging to P130 to P140 per kilo.

“Ibig sabihin mababa ang kanilang timbang kaya ito po ang isa sa mga sanhi ng temporary shortage. Pero nag-i-improve na rin po ang supply situation at sa kasalukuyan ang umiiral ay 90 percent locally supplied chickens ang ating ginagamit,” Coloma explained.

For their part, the Department of Agriculture (DA) reported that garlic prices increased since we primarily imported garlic from abroad. Coloma said to counter the garlic price hike, the said agency deployed rolling stores around Metro Manila to sell local garlic at P100 to P200 per kilo depending on its size.

Coloma assured the public that the government is monitoring everything, including other factors that affect the prices. 

“Isa po sa mga factor din na tinitingnan ay ‘yung epekto ng truck ban. Pero tinitingnan po kung paano kaagad ito mareremedyohan dahil hindi naman dapat ito maging sanhi ng pagtaas ng presyo. Kaya sa kabuuan ay masinsing tinututukan ng pamahalaan ang galaw ng supply at presyo sa lahat ng mga pangunahing food items,” the Communications Secretary noted. PND (ag)

PIA News Dispatch - Saturday, June 21, 2014

New National Artists declared

Six individuals were elevated to the pinnacle of artistic glory as President Benigno S. Aquino III declared them National Artists of the Philippines in their respective fields, Malacanang announced.

They are Cirilo Bautista (Literature), Alice Reyes (Dance), Francisco Feliciano (Music), Ramon Santos (Music), Francisco Coching (Visual Arts), and Jose Maria Zaragoza (Architecture, Design, and Allied Arts).

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said the declaration was made by virtue of Proclamation Nos. 807, 808, 809, 810, 811, and 812 signed and issued by President Aquino on Friday June 20, 2014.

The Order of National Artists was established under Proclamation No. 1001, s. 1972 to give appropriate recognition and prestige to Filipinos who have distinguished themselves and made outstanding contributions to Philippine Arts and Letters.

It is the highest state honor conferred on individuals deemed as having done much for their artistic field as recommended by both the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

Cirilo Bautista is a multi-awarded poet, fictionist, critic, and essayist whose body of works includes Boneyard Breaking, Sugat ng Salita, The Archipelago, among others that has received various accolades from both here and abroad.

Alice Reyes is a dancer and choreographer who founded Ballet Philippines in 1969, which is widely recognized today as a cornerstone of the Filipino cultural identity and is known globally as the country’s flagship company in ballet and contemporary dance.

Francisco Feliciano is one of the country’s most important composers and one of Asia’s leading figures in liturgical music who has created more than 30 major works that include operas and music dramas and hundreds of liturgical pieces, mass settings, hymns, and songs for worship.

Ramon Santos is a world-renowned Filipino composer whose works have been performed in major music festivals around the world. He has also done extensive studies in Philippine traditional music and Southeast Asian and Southern China music.
Francisco V. Coching was an illustrator and writer regarded by many as one of the pillars of the Philippine comic book industry. He was the man behind popular comic book characters Pedro Penduko and Hagibis that graced the pages of Liwayway magazine.

Jose Maria Zaragoza was considered a major figure in the architectural development of the Philippines. Among the places he designed were the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City, St. John Bosco Parish Church in Makati, and the Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Posadas Village, Muntinlupa.

The Communications Secretary said President Aquino will confer the Order of the National Artist on these individuals in an appropriate ceremony in Malacanang. The artist's Francisco V. Coching and Jose Maria Zaragoza will both be awarded posthumously. PND (hdc)

Malacanang says government continues efforts to curb trafficking in persons

Malacanang on Saturday said the government would further strengthen its efforts to combat human trafficking after the country retained its Tier 2 status in the United States’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.

In an interview with the state-owned radio station dzRB Radyo Ng Bayan, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the TIP Report cited the country’s gains in curbing human trafficking and the areas that need to improve.

“… nakalagay din po ang mga magagandang hakbangin na ginawa ng ating pamahalaan para naman ma-maintain ‘yung dating level na Tier 2 po tayo; at pangalawa, kung ano pa ang ating mga kailangang gawin,” Valte said, referring to the said report.

The report released on June 20, the Philippines remained at Tier 2 on the State Department’s three tier ranking system.

The TIP report noted that the Philippines made significant efforts to combat trafficking. It, however, noted that the government does not yet fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

In the radio interview, Valte noted the efforts of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, headed by the Department of Justice, to keep the country’s Tier 2 status, such as the additional prosecutors assigned to handle trafficking cases.

“In fact, from last year, ‘yung 21 convictions, tumaas na po for this particular year, naging 31 convictions na po ito, at mas marami na ang mga kasong nakararating sa korte kesa po noong nakaraang taon,” she said.

“Of course, gusto po nating…mas paigtingin pa ang ating mga ginagawa para naman ho mapababa ‘yung numero ng mga kababaihan at mga bata, at kalalakihan din na nagiging biktima ng trafficking in persons,” Valte said.

“At gusto po nating tumaas ‘yung ating mga convictions pagdating naman doon sa mga dumadaan na sa paglilitis para sa kanilang pagkakasala,” the deputy spokesperson added.

Valte said the Department of Social Welfare and Development continued to operate 26 temporary shelters for victims of abuse. The Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), on the other hand, has been conducting pre-employment seminars for overseas Filipino workers.
“Kasama na dito siyempre ‘yung arming them with the information na kailangan bago sila umalis, nagkakaroon po tayo ng pre-employment orientation seminar,” she said.
Valte also noted that the POEA and the Department of Labor and Employment also conduct training sessions in combating trafficking and illegal recruitment.

“At patuloy ho ang pagtanggap at pag-imbestiga ng POEA sa mga alegasyon ng mga unlawful practices via recruitment agencies. In fact, nag-revoke po sila ng lisensiya ng 294 agencies. Nagsuspinde pa sila ng operations ng 109 agencies at permanente na pong pinasara ‘yung walong ahensiya for illegal practices,” she said. PND (co)

PIA News Dispatch - Friday, June 20, 2014

Palace welcomes arrest warrants for senator, 32 others

Malacanang on Friday welcomed the Sandiganbayan First Division’s resolution finding probable cause to indict Senator Ramon Revilla, Jr. and other individuals accused of graft and plunder in connection with the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
“The issuance of warrants of arrest against Senator Revilla and others implicated in the plunder case pertaining to the alleged misuse of public funds is a significant step forward in the judicial process,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a press statement.

Revilla, businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, and 31 others were charged with one count of plunder and 16 counts of graft in a four-page resolution, signed by First Division Chairman Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz on Thursday.

The First Division, in effect, also denied Revilla’s and his co-respondents’ motion to suspend the proceedings, pending separate petitions they have filed before the Supreme Court to stop their prosecution.

Malacanang, meanwhile, reiterated its assurance to all accused of “fair and just trial” during the proceedings.

“We believe that through a fair and just trial, accountability will be clearly established and in like manner, those who are innocent will be exonerated. We join the citizenry in hoping that truth and justice will prevail,” Coloma said. PND (hdc)

Malacanang urges Filipinos in Iraq to heed government call for mandatory evacuation

The Palace has advised Filipinos in Iraq to follow the government advisory on mandatory evacuation to ensure their safety, as the situation in that country continues to deteriorate.

"We urge all Filipinos in the danger zones to heed the call for mandatory evacuation for their own welfare and safety," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement on Friday.

Coloma said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has raised to Level 4 (mandatory repatriation) the Crisis Alert for all areas in Iraq, except the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, due to the deteriorating security situation.

All Filipinos living or working in Iraq will be assisted by the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad and are advised to be ready for mandatory repatriation, he said.

"The government will undertake mandatory evacuation procedures and the DFA’s Rapid Response Team is currently carrying out registration of Filipinos in Iraq for repatriation," he added.

An Al Qaeda splinter group, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), continue its fierce advance in Iraq after taking a key city last week.

Jihadist militants battle Iraqi security forces for control of towns and cities not far from Baghdad, Iraq's capital.

On Thursday, US President Barack Obama said he is prepared to deploy military advisers to Iraq but noted that America is not returning to a combat role in the country.

The US withdrew its last troops from Iraq end of 2011, nearly nine years after invading Iraq and toppling long-time leader Saddam Hussein. PND (as)

National Economic Development Authority Board approves new infrastructure projects

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Board, chaired by President Benigno S. Aquino III, on Thursday approved three new infrastructure projects worth P139.77 billion, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr said on Friday.

Approved were the P14.6 million Laguindingan Airport Development, Operations and Maintenance Project, the P122.8 million Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike Project, and the P2.3 million New Bohol Airport Development and Operations/Maintenance Project.

Also approved during the NEDA Board meeting was the P9.35 billion single bid of the Light Rail Manila Consortium for the LRT Line 1 South Extension Project. The project will connect Manila to the province of Cavite.

The board also gave its nod to the change in funding source for the Umayan River Irrigation Project (URIP), from an Official Development Assistance (ODA) to locally sourced funds.

This adjustment reduces the cost of the project from P1.56 billion to P1.4 billion, according to Coloma.

The NEDA Board also changed the funding source for the Casecnan Multipurpose Irrigation and Power Project – Irrigation Component, which will also get local funds.

Coloma said the change in funding source will bring down the project’s cost from P7.61 billion to P5.45 billion.

During the meeting, President Aquino urged the members of his Cabinet and the NEDA Board to focus on completing similar ongoing projects and lay the groundwork for long-term economic development and inclusive growth. PND (as)

President Aquino to discuss regional issues with Prime Minister Abe during Japan trip

President Benigno S. Aquino III and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will discuss regional developments and different areas of cooperation between the Philippines and Japan to forge a stronger partnership, a foreign affairs official said on Friday.

The President will undertake a one-day working visit to Japan on Tuesday (June 24).

In a press briefing in Malacanang, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Charles Jose said the meeting between the two leaders is an opportunity for them to exchange views on several issues to develop stronger ties between their countries.

"These areas of cooperation include humanitarian assistance and disaster response, maritime cooperation, promotion of trade and investments, people-to-people exchanges and the Mindanao peace process," Jose told Palace reporters.

The two leaders are expected to deliver their respective press statements after their meeting, he added.

Aside from meeting Abe, the President will deliver the keynote address at the Consolidation for Peace for Mindanao Conference in Hiroshima, organized by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Research and Education for Peace of the University Sains Malaysia.

Jose said the President's attendance in the event in Hiroshima is important because it serves as a follow-up to government actions on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which aims to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao.

On the President's scheduled meeting with Abe, Jose was asked if Japan and the Philippines are joining forces against China.

Jose said Japan is a very important friend and partner of the Philippines and the two countries have a very vibrant political, economic, and people-to-people exchanges.

"Japan is one of our only two strategic partners. And in terms of economic cooperation, Japan is our number one trading partner, largest source of ODA (official development assistance), third largest source of approved investments, and third largest source of tourists," he said.

Japan and the Philippines also have very active people-to-people exchanges, he said, noting the scholarships and trainings being offered by JICA to Filipinos.

The President's delegation will include Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, Presidential Management Staff head Julia Abad, and Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles. PND (as)

PIA News Dispatch - Thursday, June 19, 2014

President Aquino presides over National Economic and Development Authority Board Meeting

President Benigno S. Aquino III presided over the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board Meeting at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room in Malacañang Palace on Thursday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said the meeting will be divided into two parts.

In the first part, the Investment Coordination Committee (ICC), headed by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and NEDA Director-General Arsenio Balisacan, will discuss the development, operations and maintenance projects being done by the Department of Transportation and Communications in the country’s airport.

The ICC will also discuss the Light Rail Transit Line 1 project, also known as the Cavite extension project, which is part of the Aquino administration’s public private partnership. The government is studying the extension of the train line up to Dasmariñas, Cavite, instead of the initial plan to make Bacoor City as the final station.

The Cavite extension project is expected to serve around four million commuters of Parañaque and Cavite province. The rebidding of the P65-billion LRT 1 extension project was set last April 28.

Secretary Coloma said that in the second part of the meeting, the NEDA board will review four projects: the infrastructure projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways in Metro Manila and Laguna Lake Shore; the irrigation projects of the National Irrigation Administration; the roadmap for transport infrastructure development in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon Region and Calabarzon Region; and the government integrated financial management information system, which enables the government to plan, execute and monitor the budget more efficiently.

The meeting started at 10:15 a.m. and is ongoing as of this writing.

The last NEDA Board meeting presided over by the President as chairman, was held last May 29. The meeting, which lasted 11 hours, approved nine projects worth P62.3 billion.

Also present at the meeting were Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis Pangilinan, Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson, Secretary Coloma, Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Jesus Paje, Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo and Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Head Julia Andrea Abad.

Also in attendance were Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino, Mindanao Development Authority Chairperson Luwalhati Antonino, Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines President and Oriental Mindoro Governor Alfonso Umali, Jr., Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Mujiv Hataman, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council Undersecretary Celia Alba, Tourism Assistant Secretary Rolando Canizal, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Managing Director Wilhelmina Mañalac, Energy Undersecretary Loreta Ayson, and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Assistant Secretary Alfredo Benjamin Sabater Caguioa. PND (jb)

PIA News Dispatch - Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Philippines will stick to diplomatic, legal options in resolving territorial row with China, says Palace

The Philippines will focus on diplomatic, legal and political tracks in pursuing its claim in the West Philippine Sea, even without China’s cooperation in the arbitration case filed by the Philippine government, the Palace said on Tuesday.

"We prefer to focus on diplomatic, political, and legal options that lead the way towards the peaceful settlement of disputes," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr said in a press briefing in Malacanang.

"At ang nais natin ay humantong ito sa mapayapang resolusyon ng mga pagkakaiba ng posisyon ng iba’t ibang bansa na mayroong claims doon sa maritime entitlements in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea," he added.

At the same time, he said, the government is doing what is necessary to continue asserting its sovereignty in the contested areas.

He noted that the Philippine Coast Guard has been conducting periodic patrols in those areas and is assisting the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in its research and monitoring work.

The Philippines is also encouraging its ASEAN allies to pursue the crafting of a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea, he said.

The government has called for a moratorium on actions that contradict the principles of the Declaration on the Code of Conduct that have already been agreed upon by the ASEAN in 2002.

Meanwhile, UP Prof. Harry Roque said China’s refusal to participate in the arbitration filed by the Philippines in the international arbitral tribunal is “a serious and belligerent violation” of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which China is a signatory.

Speaking at the 5th Annual Meeting of the Japan Society of International Law held at the Chuo University Law School in Tokyo last Sunday, Roque said that as party to the Convention, China has agreed to refer all matters involving interpretation and application of the UNCLOS to the Convention’s compulsory and binding dispute settlement procedure.

Roque, who is also Director of the UP Law Center’s Institute of International Legal Studies, said that the international community took a very long time to agree on the provisions of the UNCLOS because all countries of the world wanted the Convention to be the “constitution for the seas”.

In agreeing to the UNCLOS, the world community believes that the adoption of all of its provisions would do away with the use of force and unilateral acts in resolving maritime disputes, he said.

He noted that more worrisome is China’s recent resort to the use of force in bolstering its claims to the disputed territories.

It was reported that China has been building artificial islands in Johnson South Reef, expanding its artificial island in the Fiery Cross Reef, and deploying its naval forces to ward off any opposition.

“These constructions are happening in the face of China’s snub of the arbitral proceedings, which precisely impugns China’s legal rights to do so. Clearly, China’s conduct is not only illegal, as prohibited use of force, but is also contemptous of the proceedings," Roque said.

Roque also belied China’s claim that the waters within the nine-dash lines are generated by land territory and hence, the controversy cannot be resolved under the UNCLOS.

The Philippines has filed a case at the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea to have China’s nine-dash line declared as illegal since it is not sanctioned by the UNCLOS.

The Philippines is also asking the Hague-based arbitral tribunal to declare rocks that are only visible during low tide as part of the country's continental shelf and that waters outside the 12 nautical miles of the Panatag shoal be declared as part of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone. PND (as)

Government reaffirms commitment to recover ill-gotten wealth

The Philippine government remains committed to recovering illegally acquired wealth despite facing numerous challenges, a Palace official said Wednesday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr said during a press briefing that he is aware of Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Chairman Andy Bautista’s statement that, given its experience in running after the Marcoses for the past 30 years, the Commission is likely to encounter challenges in recovering the wealth that alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles has amassed illegally.

"Ipinunto niya (Bautista) na simula pa ‘nung 1986, na halos 30 taon na ang nakalilipas, ay nagsisikap ang pamahalaan na ma-recover nga, ‘yung alleged ill-gotten wealth," Coloma said.

"Bagamat mayroong mga hamon at balakid, katulad ng kanyang isinalaysay, determinado pa rin ang pamahalaan na pairalin ang batas," he added.

The government will continue to pursue the recovery of ill-gotten wealth regardless of who the culprits are, Coloma said.

According to state witnesses, Napoles has deposited millions of dollars in US banks and has made huge investments in US properties.

In the records of key whistleblower Benhur Luy alone, Napoles’ dollar remittances ranged from $30,000 to $100,000 almost every week in 2011.

She and three senators are facing plunder charges before the Sandiganbayan. PND (as)

Government monitoring prices of other food staples, says Palace official

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has begun monitoring the prices of basic commodities other than rice, garlic and ginger, in an effort to stabilize food supply and prices, a Palace official said on Wednesday.

“Ayon kay DTI Undersecretary Vic Dimagiba, pati ang presyo ng baboy, karne, ‘yung mga daily food staples, ay mino-monitor na rin nila para mapigilan ‘yung maaaring pagsasamantala,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said during a press briefing.
He warned that the DTI will strictly enforce anti-profiteering measures on retail outlets.

Coloma further said that the National Price Coordinating Council (NPCC) is slated to meet Wednesday afternoon to discuss the food supply situation and come up with concrete actions to protect the public from unreasonably high prices.

The NPCC is made up of the DTI, Department of Health, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Transportation and Communications, Department of Justice, Department of Energy, National Economic Development Authority, and one representative each from the consumers’ sector, agricultural producers’ sector, trading sector, and manufacturers’ sector.

“We would like to get inputs from all stakeholders in this process and to assure that we have reliable data and information on food supply and food prices,” said Coloma.

On garlic supply, the Communications Secretary reported that according to the Department of Agriculture, locally produced garlic reached 8,308 metric tons last March.

“This is more than adequate to meet the current levels of demand,” he said, adding that the meeting thus aims to find out if the reported shortage in rice, garlic and ginger is artificial or if traders are manipulating the prices.

“Kaya nga magpupulong ang National Price Coordinating Council… to be able to size up the situation based on realities on the ground,” he said. PND (ag)

PIA News Dispatch - Tuesday, June 17, 2014

President Aquino to visit Japan next week

President Benigno S. Aquino III will visit Japan on Tuesday (June 24) to deliver a keynote address at the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) International Conference in Hiroshima at the invitation of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Malacañang said.
Before heading to Hiroshima, President Aquino will also hold a summit meeting over lunch with Prime Minister Abe in the latter's official residence.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said Tuesday that details on the agenda of the meeting between the two heads of states will be released by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in accordance with diplomatic practice.

“We will have to await the statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs because matters like this are made known to the public on the mutual consent of both parties,” Coloma told reporters.

President Aquino will immediately return to Manila after his speaking engagement in Hiroshima.

The forthcoming trip will be President Aquino’s fifth visit to Japan since his election in 2010.

President Aquino previously visited Japan to attend the 18th Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting (Yokohama, 2010); hold a one-on-one meeting with Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim (Narita, 2011); make an official visit (Tokyo/Sendai, 2011); and grace the 40th ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit (Tokyo, 2013). PND (hdc)

Government deploys rolling stores, keeps an eye on hoarders to stabilize prices of commodities

In an effort to stabilize the prices of basic commodities, the government has deployed rolling stores to sell rice, garlic and ginger and is keeping suspected hoarders under surveillance, a Palace official said Tuesday.

“The government is exerting all efforts to ensure a stable supply of rice, garlic and ginger. Surveillance is being carried out to discourage hoarding and other practices that could lead to artificial shortage. Rolling stores have been deployed to sell these commodities,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. told reporters during a press briefing.

Coloma said the National Price Council, led by Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo, is closely monitoring the movement of prices of rice, garlic and ginger.

“While there are no suggested retail prices (SRPs) for these commodities, the National Price Coordinating Council may prescribe indicative prices, if needed,” he said, adding that SRPs only apply to manufactured goods.

Asked if the Department of Agriculture has met its target to ensure rice sufficiency, he said, “Hindi natamo nang ganap ‘yung rice sufficiency objectives. Pero ‘yung level of attainment ay mataas naman dahil lampas sa 90 percent.” PND (ag)

Government to increase police visibility, enforce gun-control measures to address criminality: Palace

Malacanang said Tuesday that the government will address criminality by increasing police visibility and strictly enforcing gun-control measures.

“We note the directives issued at a Command Conference yesterday (Monday, June 16) by the Chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to increase police visibility through intensified patrols and checkpoints, stricter enforcement of gun-control measures, neutralization of guns-for-hire and implementation of search warrants for loose firearms,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said during a press briefing.

Coloma noted that increased police visibility, through patrols and setting up of checkpoints, would deter criminals, especially if coupled with “heightened citizen vigilance”.

To improve the ideal police-to-population ratio, he said PNP Chief, Director General Allan Purisima, has ordered the fast-tracking of the processing of applications to fill up 18,568 vacancies for Police Officers and 13,000 positions for Non-uniformed Personnel, as authorized by the National Police Commission.

The hiring of additional police officers will improve the ratio to one police officer for every 579 citizens from the present ratio of 1:675, he added.

Coloma also cited the Quezon City Police Department’s effort to set up mobile police desks in strategic points to give citizens easy access to police assistance.

He further said that in Pangasinan, the PNP has created a task force to oversee anti-criminality operations and neutralize guns-for-hire.

“Another important move taken by the PNP is the stricter enforcement of gun control pursuant to its duty as the chief implementing agency for Republic Act No. Republic Act No. 10591 or the “Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act”, passed in 2013,” Coloma added.

Before the May 2013 elections, the PNP conducted Oplan Katok, a nationwide door-to-door campaign to verify ownership of registered firearms.

“This was also aimed at neutralizing partisan armed groups or private armies. The successful conduct of this campaign resulted in a significantly lower incidence of election-related violence, especially in known hotspots,” Coloma explained. PND (ag)

PIA News Dispatch - Monday, June 16, 2014

Rice prices to stabilize in two months, says Palace

Malacanang said on Monday that rice prices are expected to stabilize in the next two months.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said that the National Food Authority (NFA) is monitoring the situation.

“Tinututukan ng NFA ang galaw ng presyo ng bigas, at ayon sa kanila, ito ay dulot ng market forces, dahil ito ay low-season ng supply at inaasahan nilang magi-stabilize ito kapag dumating na ‘yung inangkat na bigas mula sa ibang bansa, at inaasahan nilang magi-stabilize ang presyo sa susunod na dalawang buwan,” said Coloma in a press briefing.

Rice prices have reportedly increased by PHP2, bringing the average retail price of well-milled rice to PHP42.19 per kilo, and milled rice to PHP38.93 per kilo.

As for the prices of garlic and ginger, Coloma said the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry are closely watching the movement in their prices.

“Mayroong mga suggested retail prices para sa mga bagay na ito at hindi natin pahihintulutan na maging labis ang pagsingil o walang katuwiran,” he explained.

The price per kilo of garlic has reportedly reached as much as PHP300.

“Dahil nga ang pinag-uusapan dito ay mga prime commodities, masinsing tinututukan ito ng ating pamahalaan para tiyakin na walang magiging pinsala sa kapakanan ng ating mga mamamayan,” said Coloma. PND (ag)

Palace on accounting of foreign aid for Ondoy victims: We are transparent

The Palace said all funds received by the government for the victims of Typhoon Ondoy had been channeled to the National Treasury, and people are welcome to check how the donations had been spent.

“Ang mga pondong ito ay maaaring gastusin nang naaayon lamang sa patakarang itinakda ng batas. Alinsunod sa prinsipyo ng mabuting pamamahala, bukas at hayag ang talaan o record ng pamahalaan hinggil sa paggastos ng ganitong mga pondo,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said during Monday’s press briefing.

Coloma was commenting on reports that a group of lawmakers is calling on the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III to account for the PHP16-billion foreign aid for victims of Typhoon Ondoy.

The group said that although the typhoon struck Metro Manila and nearby provinces in 2009, the bulk of the foreign aid was given in 2010 when President Aquino was already in power.

Coloma said that it is the duty of the Commission on Audit to examine how the funds had been spent.

He further said that the government is one with the group “in their advocacy that there should be transparency of information and accountability of public funds.”

The group is led by Leyte 1st District Congressman Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, whose constituents were affected by Typhoon Yolanda. Romualdez is also the nephew of former First Lady Imelda Marcos. PND (ag)

Palace says government is serious in addressing crimes in the country

Malacanang has assured that the government is working to solve and prevent crimes from happening in the country.

"What I can say is that the President takes a very serious and hands-on attitude when it comes to crime and police matters," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. told reporters during a press briefing on Monday.

Coloma was answering questions on the administration's response to the spate of crimes occurring in the country, including the recent killing of a mayor in Pangasinan and a police major in Quezon City.

"I have been with the President on several occasions and I have actually witnessed him call up a particular officer to inquire about an incident report or to make sure that a serious crime is being handled properly and with utmost urgency," Coloma said.

This is a matter of serious concern that should prompt our law enforcement authorities to boost their crime prevention efforts, he said.

The Palace official also called for intensified public vigilance, saying that effective crime prevention requires the people to cooperate with law enforcers.

"Kinakailangan din siguro ‘yung mas masinop na police intelligence work para masubaybayan ang mga kilos ng mga criminal elements that have been under surveillance," he added.

The public has called for increased police visibility, following recent killings in the country. PND (as)

PIA News Dispatch - Sunday, June 15, 2014

Malacanang urges Filipinos in Iraq to return to the country

Malacanang urged on Sunday Filipino overseas workers in Iraq to voluntary repatriate themselves as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) raised the crisis alert to Alert Level 3.

“Hinihimok ang mga Pilipinong nakahimpil sa maligalig o mapanganib na lugar na bumalik sa Pilipinas at ang kanilang pagbiyahe ay sasagutin ng pamahalaan,” said Presidential Communication Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., during an aired press briefing over radio station dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

Jihadist militants in Iraq recently seized a large portion of northern Iraq.

There are an estimated 500 Filipinos working in Iraq, mostly in the American military bases in Baghdad, the capital.

“Magpapadala din ang DFA ng rapid response team upang tumulong sa voluntary repatriation ng mga Pilipino sa Iraq,” Coloma added.

Coloma said that only Kurdistan, Iraq remains in the DFA Alert Level 1 or under precautionary phase.

“Ang Kurdistan ay nananatili pa ring tahimik at maayos,” Coloma explained.

The Communication Secretary also reiterated the government’s call for Filipinos working in Libya to undergo voluntary repatriation. Early this month, the DFA put Libya in Alert Level 3 due to the unrest brought by an ongoing civil war.

“Gayunpaman, mayroong pakikipag-ugnayan ang DFA sa DOLE, POEA at OWWA sa pagpapatupad ng travel exemption sa mga Pilipinong may umiiral na kontrata sa paghahanap-buhay sa Libya tulad ng mga naglilingkod sa mga embahadang banyaga; ang mga naninilbihan sa United Nations at iba pang pandaigdigang organisasyon sa Libya; mga manggagawa sa mga offshore oil rig platforms – basta hindi sila maglalakbay sa mainland Libya o magbabaksyon doon; mga empleyado ng multi-national companies, ospital ng gobyerno, paaralan, at Libyan National Oil Co. at mga Pilipinong kasal sa mga mamamayan ng Libya,” said Coloma. PND (ag)

Scholars funded by PDAF will continue studies, says Palace

Scholars formerly funded by PDAF will continue studies, says Palace.

Scholars formerly funded by the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) from lawmakers will still study, Palace official ensured on Sunday.

Presidential Communication Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., said the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) will make sure that their scholarship will not be disrupted.

“Tungkulin (ito) ng Commission on Higher Education. Bahagi sa kanilang taunang programa na pinopondohan ng ating pambansang pamahalaan ay iyong paggawad ng mga scholarships at tulong pinansiyal sa mga mag-aaral, lalung-lalo na sa mga kolehiyo at pamantasan,” said Coloma in a press briefing aired over radio station dzRB Radyo ng Bayan on Sunday.

“Ayaw po nating mapariwara iyong kalagayan ng mga estudyante na nag-aaral. Nais nating maging tuluy-tuloy iyong kanilang pag-aaral at matulungan sila sa pagtapos ng kanilang mga kinukuhang kurso,” Coloma added.

An estimated 100,000 scholars will be affected as Congress no longer include PDAF in the 2014 national budget.

Formerly, each House of Representative members and Senators receive PDAF in their respective annual budget for their “hard and soft projects.” Included in the “soft” projects are the scholarship programs and medical assistance.

Last year the Supreme Court declared the PDAF unconstitutional.

“Hindi po natin papabayaan na mapariwara ang kanilang sitwasyon at basta na lang hindi sila makatapos. So hinahanapan po ng kongkretong solusyon ang bagay na iyan,” Coloma asserted. PND (ag)

PIA News Dispatch - Saturday, June 14, 2014

Palace assures farmers land distribution will continue despite expiration of Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program

The Palace made an assurance on Saturday that land acquisition and distribution will continue despite the expected expiration of Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Law this month.

Some farmer groups said that the expiration of the law will affect land distribution in the country and especially poor farmers who rely on parcels of land they till.

In a radio interview Saturday over state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan, Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the President certified the CARP extension bill as urgent but Congress failed to act on it.

Despite this development however, Valte said the Department of Agrarian Reform continues to issue Notices of Coverage for the land distribution.

What is important is the issuance of Notices of Coverage for lands covered by CARP and despite the expiration on June 30 this year, land acquisition and distribution could continue, she said.

"Medyo paspasan na talaga ang DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) dahil palapit na ang deadline. At kung mapapansin niyo sa inyong mga pahayagan ay halos araw-araw may makikita kayong napa-publish na Notice of Coverage at mahahaba ho ‘yung mga pangalan," she said.

The Palace official said the public could view at the DAR's website how many hectares of land were already processed by the department and also the number of Notices of Coverage that have been issued. DAR's website is

Farmers should not worry, she said, noting the efforts being made by DAR for the program to benefit the people. PND (as)