Monday, 2 June 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Friday, May 9, 2014

No taxes, landing fees for U.S. military under EDCA, says defense official

Under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), the US military will not pay the Philippine government any tax since it is a government-to-government agreement and not a contract for commercial purposes, a defense official noted on Thursday.

“This is a defense cooperation agreement,” Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino said in a press briefing in Malacanang.

“This is not a transaction that would generate income. That was not the purpose of the EDCA. We think that through the defense cooperation that will be implemented here, the benefits that will be enjoyed by both the AFP and the US military would be mutual,” he said.

Tax issues are also consistent with the provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the US, said Batino, who chaired the Philippine panel in the EDCA negotiation.

The VFA provision states that the US military will be exempted from paying landing charges or port charges.

It is in recognition of the rule that a sovereign power does not have jurisdiction over another sovereign, he explained.

Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Eduardo Malaya, member of the Philippine panel representing the Department of Foreign Affairs, said the reason why there is no provision on compensation in the EDCA is that it was envisioned to be a mutually beneficial agreement.

Malaya said there is a distinction between a defense agreement, which by nature is a government-to-government agreement, and a contract of lease.

This is not a contract of lease where rent is required, he said, noting that in fact, Japan and South Korea, which host large US military bases in their respective territories, provide subsidies for the maintenance and operation of the US bases.

He cited that in 2011, Japan provided $3.7 billion in subsidy to the US military for the maintenance and operation of US forces there.

South Korea this year allotted $749.6 million for the maintenance of the US bases in its territory, the ambassador said, adding that it is the same with Germany and other places where there are US facilities.

On the issue of taxes on utilities, Malaya said these are counterpart funds on the part of the Philippines, and this is an accepted practice in the country, particularly with respect to the receipt of foreign donations and foreign assistance.

“This is what you call as a matter of assumption of the taxes that are supposed to be collected from a foreign government entity,” he added. PND (as)

Use of radio frequency by U.S. military under EDCA does not need Congressional approval: Official

Under the newly signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), American forces using the country’s airwaves do not need a franchise from the Philippine Congress, a foreign affairs official said Thursday.

Some quarters have asserted that a franchise from Congress is necessary for the US military to be allowed to use frequencies or spectrum in the Philippines.

Ambassador to Malaysia Eduardo Malaya however said that based on the country’s laws, franchise from Congress would be required if the operation of a radio frequency is intended for commercial purposes.

Malaya is a member of the Philippine panel for the negotiation of the EDCA, which was signed by the Philippines and the US late last month.

The presence of US forces in the Philippines under the EDCA is not for commercial purposes, he told reporters during a media briefing in Malacanang.

“We did a lot of consultations during the course of the negotiations with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), and they told us that they allot a bundle of frequencies to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It is envisioned that under this agreement, the NTC will not grant a new bundle of frequencies to the US military,” Malaya said.

The AFP will just allow the US military to use existing frequencies or spectrum for the latter’s temporary use, he explained.

US troops coming to the Philippines will be bringing telecommunications equipment only for internal use and not for commercial purposes, according to Malaya.

“That is the same arrangement that we give, for instance, to other visiting military personnel who come to us, including those who have assisted us during Typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan,” he said. PND (as)

Philippine-Myanmar relations stronger, says envoy

(NAY PYI TAW, Myanmar) Philippine-Myanmar relations have strengthened with the exchange of visits between the two countries’ leaders, Philippine Ambassador to Myanmar Alex Chua said Friday.

These visits have raised the two countries’ bilateral relations to a higher level, Chua said during an interview with PBS-RTVM here.

President Benigno S. Aquino III will lead the Philippine delegation to the 24th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit on May 10 to 11 in Nay Pyi Taw.

President Aquino and Myanmar President U Thein Sein had their first bilateral talks in June 2013 when President Aquino attended the 22nd World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia hosted by Myanmar.

In December last year, President Thein Sein visited the Philippines at the invitation of President Aquino. The state visit was the Myanmar leader’s first visit to Manila since he assumed office in 2011.

Ambassador Chua said President Thein Sein’s visit resulted in the signing of agreements on trade and investment, food security and agriculture, renewable energy, information cooperation and visa exemption for ordinary passport holders.

“It is worth noting that the exchange of high-level visits has fast-tracked air talks between the Philippines and Myanmar,” Chua said, noting that aviation officials of the two countries will meet on May 19 to 20 to discuss an air services agreement that is expected to result in direct flights between Manila and Yangon.

The Philippines and Myanmar established diplomatic relations in 1956. PND (co)

Philippines, Myanmar to discuss air agreement this month, envoy says

(NAY PYI TAW, Myanmar) Aviation officials of the Philippines and Myanmar will meet on May 19 to 20 in Yangon to discuss the two countries’ air services agreement.

This would result in the first direct flights between the Philippines and Myanmar, Philippine Ambassador Alex Chua said Friday during an interview with PBS-RTVM here in Nay Pyi Taw.

There is currently no direct flight between the two countries.

Last year, President Benigno S. Aquino III and Myanmar President U Thein Sein witnessed the signing of an agreement that would allow Filipinos holding ordinary passports to enter Myanmar without a visa and stay there for up to 14 days.

The pact, which is expected to boost tourism, trade and investment between the two countries, was among the six agreements signed during the state visit to the Philippines of President Thein Sein in December 2013.

On Saturday, President Aquino will visit Myanmar to attend the 24th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit from May 10 to 11.

This year’s summit has the theme, “Moving Forward in Unity to a Peaceful and Prosperous Community.” PND (co)

Palace gratified by Standard & Poor’s rating upgrade

Malacanang on Friday welcomed the recent rating upgrade of Standard & Poor’s (S&P), saying it expects the move to benefit the country economically in the long term.

"We are gratified by Standard & Poor’s decision to raise the Philippines’ credit rating to a notch higher than investment grade, and we are hopeful that this will eventually translate into increased investments, and accelerated jobs generation," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement.

"The Aquino administration is committed to strengthening public institutions, and building increased capacity among citizens and communities, and thereby promoting the attainment of inclusive growth. This is the path that leads to sustained economic development and the raising of the Filipino people’s quality of life."

Coloma further said that the highlight of the rating upgrade is S&P's recognition that the present economic successes would be sustained even after President Aquino's term of office.

The S&P on Thursday announced a fresh rating upgrade for the Philippines’ long-term peso and dollar bonds, obtaining its highest credit rating in history.

It is in recognition of the reforms undertaken by the Aquino administration that allow the country to outperform its Southeast Asian neighbors.

The S&P raised the Philippines' ratings from the previous "BBB-" to “BBB,” one notch above minimum investment grade.

This is the best grade the Philippines has ever received from any of the three major credit rating agencies.

The S&P said in a statement that it expects recent reforms that had paved the way for the country’s economic boom to be sustained beyond President Aquino’s term.

A sovereign rating serves as an indicator for the perceived health of a national economy as well as its attractiveness to foreign investors.

An excellent rating also lowers the interest costs of the government and local corporations whenever they borrow funds abroad.

The S&P is one of the leading credit rating agencies making evaluations. The other two are Moody’s Investor Service and Fitch Ratings.

Last year, the Philippine economy grew by 7.2 percent, faster than the previous year’s 6.8 percent. This is also better than the government’s goal of 6 to 7 percent for the year despite the massive devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda in Eastern Visayas. PND (as)

President Aquino thanks Margarita Juico for serving PCSO

President Benigno S. Aquino III has expressed his gratitude to Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) chairperson Margarita Juico for serving the public under several administrations.

Juico tendered her resignation on Thursday, saying she is leaving public service to spend more time with her family.

"President Aquino thanks Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) chairperson Margarita Juico for her dedicated service to the government and the Filipino people," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said in a statement on Friday.

"She also served with President Corazon Aquino all throughout her presidency, then went on to serve in the PCSO Board in the succeeding administrations. As an esteemed family friend, President Aquino wishes her well on her decision to end her stint in public service."

Juico’s resignation takes effect once she receives the President’s formal written acceptance, which is in accordance with procedures, Coloma added.

The PCSO chairperson has said it is a good time to leave the office, which according to her is in sound financial condition.

She said the PCSO has P16 billion in cash and 38 branches nationwide to serve indigent Filipinos in need of medical services.

Juico was named PCSO chair by President Aquino in 2010. Prior to that, she was the social secretary of the late President Corazon Aquino.

Juico is not new to PCSO having sat on its board for 17 years. PND (as)

President Aquino to lead Philippine delegation to ASEAN Summit in Myanmar

(NAY PYI TAW, Myanmar) President Benigno S. Aquino III is set to arrive here Saturday afternoon to join fellow leaders of member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for its 24th summit.

A busy schedule awaits President Aquino, who is leading the Philippine delegation to the annual meeting, to be held on May 10-11 at the Myanmar International Convention Center (MICC-1) in Nay Pyi Taw.

This year’s summit theme is "Moving Forward in Unity to A Peaceful and Prosperous Community,” which emphasizes the importance of a united ASEAN.

Upon arrival at Myanmar’s capital, President Aquino will join other leaders at the welcome dinner to be hosted by Myanmar President U Thein Sein for all ASEAN leaders and their delegations attending the summit.

On Sunday, the President is scheduled to attend the ASEAN Summit Plenary, the Summit Retreat, and meetings with representatives of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, the Civil Society Organizations, and the ASEAN Youth.

In an interview with PBS-RTVM, Philippine Ambassador to Myanmar Alex Chua said preparations for an integrated ASEAN will be in the summit agenda.

“I believe that during these meetings, our leaders will discuss the various preparations being made to realize an integrated ASEAN that aims to benefit the people in the region, including Filipinos in Myanmar, in terms of unimpeded movement of people, goods, and services in the region,” Chua said.

He said the summit also provides a venue for President Aquino to raise awareness of the country’s priorities in the region.

“As we move towards a more integrated ASEAN, it is important for the Philippines to create awareness of the country’s priorities in the region, such as maritime security and the need to focus on micro, small, and medium enterprises, among others. The 24th ASEAN Summit provides a venue for the President to do that,” Chua said.

After the ASEAN meetings, President Aquino will also participate in the 10th Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) Summit here.

The President is expected to return to Manila on Sunday evening. PND (co)

Palace justifies arrest of Chinese fishermen off Palawan

The Palace reiterated that the arrest of 11 Chinese fishermen off Palawan last Tuesday was meant to enforce the country's maritime laws and protect its sovereignty, and not to provoke any country.

"We reiterate that the apprehension made by the PNP Maritime Group at Hasa-Hasa or Half Moon Shoal was undertaken to enforce Philippine maritime laws and to uphold the country’s sovereign rights over our exclusive economic zone," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said during Friday’s press briefing.

"We stand by our commitment to a peaceful and rules-based approach to the resolution of disputes in the West Philippine Sea."

Malacanang issued a similar statement on Thursday, saying that the arrest of the Chinese fishermen for poaching was to enforce the country's environmental law.

The Palace said that aside from detaining the Chinese fishermen and impounding their vessel, police also held five Filipino fishermen and their boat for the same offense.

Police found nearly 400 live sea turtles aboard the 15-ton Chinese ship and 70 live sea turtles on the local fishing boat. PND (as)

Palace confident Mrs Arroyo will be brought to justice, official says

The Aquino administration is confident that former president and current congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will be brought to justice, a Palace official said on Friday.

The Office of the Ombudsman has recently said it found no evidence linking Mrs. Arroyo to a multi-million peso fertilizer fund scam.

In a press briefing in Malacanang, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said the Palace respects the decision of the Ombudsman, an independent constitutional body, in dismissing the case against Mrs. Arroyo.

Coloma also clarified that the case on the fertilizer scam was filed, not by the present administration but by former solicitor general Frank Chavez.

He however said that the administration is confident that justice will be served.

“Ang mga kasong inihaharap ng kasalukuyang administrasyon ay nababatay sa kongkretong ebidensya at sa buong pagsisikap na mapatunayan ito sa ating mga hukuman alinsunod sa mga proseso ng katarungan ng ating bansa. Walang ganyang pangangamba," Coloma said in response to reporters' questions about the Palace's optimism on moves to go after the former president.

He said the goal of the administration is to gather evidence meticulously and build strong cases against her that would lead to conviction.

The Office of the Ombudsman has also thrown out three other cases filed against Mrs Arroyo and other members of her family. PND (as)

Palace spells out three major thrusts to attain continuing, inclusive growth

The government is focusing on three major thrusts to address the weaknesses in the economy as it envisions continuing and inclusive growth, a Palace official said on Friday.

During a press briefing in Malacanang, reporters asked Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. about government measures to deal with several points raised by Standard & Poor’s (S&P) in assessing the Philippines for a rating upgrade.

These points include the narrow revenue base, shortage of basic infrastructure, government services, and low-income level.

On the narrow revenue base, Coloma said, the government, through the Bureau of Internal Revenue, is working to increase the taxation-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio to the 1990s level.

He said that during the Ramos administration, before the onset of the Asian financial crisis, the country's taxation-to-GDP ratio reached 16 to 17 percent of the GDP, compared to the present 12 to 13 percent.

"Ang target natin doon sa Millennium Development Goals ay pataasin ito. Sa Millennium Development Goals at saka doon sa Philippine Development Plan, pataasin ito at maibalik doon sa halos kasingtaas ‘nung sa Ramos administration," he explained.

On infrastructure development, Coloma said the government has accelerated spending on public infrastructure in the past three years.

"Kapag nagbunga nang ganap ang mga nasa pipeline ng Public Private Partnership—‘yung mga MRT, highway, at infrastructure projects—ay tiyak na madadagdagan ‘yung mga mahahalagang public infrastructure projects," he said.

Coloma further said that the administration is addressing poverty reduction by carrying out the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program for families living below the poverty threshold.

"Kaya lahat ng mga tatlong bagay na ‘yan ay desididong ina-address ng ating administrasyon para ma-convert natin ‘yan mula sa kahinaan at maging malakas na aspect rin ng ating pag-unlad bilang isang bansa," he said.

Coloma said he is pleased that the S&P believes that current economic gains would be sustained even after President Aquino leaves office in 2016.

"Bilang isang mamamayang Pilipino, ako ay nagagalak doon sa isinasaad sa Standard and Poor’s credit ratings report, na sa kanilang pakiwari mayroong basis o mayroong batayan para umasa na ang mga kasalukuyang reporma at ang kasalukuyang magandang performance ng Philippine economy ay masu-sustain beyond the term of the Aquino administration," he said.

"Sa aking palagay ito ang mas mahalagang aspeto ng Standard and Poor’s investment upgrade report," he added. PND (as)