Sunday, 22 June 2014

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)