Philippines might elevate violations of agreement to ASEAN, says President Aquino
(PUERTO PRINCESA CITY) President Benigno S. Aquino III said Tuesday he is against developments being done by other claimant countries in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) and that the Philippines might bring the issue to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
Vietnam, Malaysia, China and other countries are building or improving facilities in islands or atolls they claim, which President Aquino said is a violation of the Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea agreed by the ASEAN and China in 2002.
"We brought this up and we will be bringing it up again before the ASEAN and probably also in ITLOS," the President said in an interview during the celebration of the Philippine Navy’s 116th anniversary here in Palawan.
If the Philippines follows suit and builds its own facilities in the contested territories, the country will be guilty of violating the spirit of the 2002 declaration, he said.
Claimant countries agreed in 2002 not to inhabit previously uninhabitable areas and maintain the status quo to prevent the escalation of tensions, he said.
Reading a portion of the declaration, the President said: "The parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability..."
This includes refraining from inhabiting the uninhabited island, reef, shoals, and other features, and countries must handle their differences in a constructive manner, he said.
China’s reclamation activities in the Mabini Reef are obviously a violation of the declaration, he said.
The President said he is alarmed by unconfirmed reports of recent clashes in the Paracel Islands involving China and Vietnam. The reports said a Vietnamese vessel was sunk by China.
In the recent ASEAN meeting in Myanmar, President Aquino said he joined dialogues expressing alarm over the developments in the contested areas.
"Naaalarma tayo dito at sumama tayo sa panawagan na meron nga tayong usapan, nandun na nga sa DOC, iyong sa pag-i-increase ng tension," he said.
"Nandun nga iyong lahat na nagsabi, 'will conform to international law,' lahat nagsabi ng 'peaceful negotiations' at tayo ay nababahala na bakit ganito ang nangyaring mga developments."
In his recent meeting with President Aquino, Vietnamese Prime Minister Tan Dung reported that the number of Chinese vessels in the Paracel Islands has increased to more than 100.
Asked by reporters how the country would respond in case it encounters similar problems, the president said government agencies and the Department of National Defense are constantly monitoring the situation and will respond accordingly. PND (as)
President observes Navy's capability demonstration in Palawan naval station
(PUERTO PRINCESA CITY) President Benigno S. Aquino III attended a capability demonstration of the Naval Forces West (NFW) Command Center during the Philippine Navy's 116th anniversary celebration here Tuesday.
The Navy’s anniversary, held for the first time at the Naval Forces West, Naval Station Carlito Cunanan, aimed to showcase the Navy's future plans to develop and improve its forward operating base in Palawan, facing the West Philippine Sea.
In an interview during the occasion, the President denied that the holding of the event in Puerto Princesa has anything to do with the country’s recent row with China.
Despite their differences, the Philippines is still pursuing better relations with China, he said.
The Navy is improving its facilities in Palawan given the strategic location of the Naval Station Carlito Cunanan, he said.
He noted that the Navy could save money and fuel, and reduce harm to the environment if it operates from a strategic location such as the naval station in Puerto Princesa.
"This is our closest geographical facility to an area where we have a lot of interest," he said.
"And instead of delaying the ability of our forces to respond to anything, be it a man-made or a natural disaster, it is logical to put them in a position where they can address the particular issue at the soonest possible time," he added. PND (as)
President Aquino leads Philippine Navy's 116th Anniversary in Palawan
(PUERTO PRINCESA CITY) President Benigno S. Aquino III hailed the Philippine Navy’s contribution to the country's defense and security, as he led its 116th anniversary celebration at the Naval Station Carlito Cunanan here Tuesday.
"Nakasalalay sa dagat ang ugnayan ng ating mga kapuluan, at malaki ang papel na inyong ginagampanan dito," the President said in his speech during the event.
"Kaya naman, nararapat lang na alagaan at bigyang-lakas ng estado kayong mga kawal na siya ring kumakalinga sa buong sambayanan."
Holding the anniversary celebration in Puerto Princesa is meaningful, he said, noting that the headquarters of the Naval Forces West (NFW) is a major operational command of the Navy that patrols the West Philippine Sea.
The command is at the frontline of the country's territorial defense operations in the Kalayaan Group of Islands, making it necessary for the government to enhance the facility, he said.
The President indicated that every peso spent in the modernization and improvement of the facility will in turn give the people the peace of mind they want.
He also seized the opportunity to pay tribute to the men and women of the Navy who continue to do their job for the benefit of the people.
"Sa bumubuo ng ating Philippine Navy, tumitindig ako sa harap ninyo ngayon bilang kinatawan ng sambayanang Pilipino na nagsasabing: Maraming, maraming salamat sa bawat isa sa inyo," he said.
"Muli, isang malugod na pagbati sa ikasandaan at labing-anim na anibersaryo ng Hukbong Dagat ng Pilipinas."
This year's anniversary celebration has the theme, "Protecting Our Territory, Safeguarding Our Future". PND (as)
Vitangcol relieved for not disclosing relative involved in MRT maintenance, President says
President Benigno S. Aquino III said Tuesday that he was informed the previous night by Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emillio Abaya of the replacement of Metro Railway Transit-3 (MRT-3) General Manager Al Vitangcol III.
The President said that in a text message, Secretary Abaya informed him that Vitangcol is being investigated “if he knew that a relative by affinity” was involved with a company that got the MRT maintenance contract.
News reports said Vitangcol has awarded a P517-million contract for the maintenance of MRT-3 to PH Trams, a company established by the uncle of Vitangcol’s wife and five other investors.
The President said the maintenance contract was previously held by a Japanese company, which charged exorbitant fees.
“So, nagkaroon ng bidding and there was a company that won… Now, he (Vitangcol) didn’t reveal that he had a relative who was an officer of this company to anybody… he was relieved for that purpose,” said the President in an ambush interview in Puerto Princesa, Palawan during the celebration of the Philippine Navy’s 116th anniversary.
He said there will be an investigation. “Secretary Abaya will take all the necessary steps to ferret out the truth,” he added.
Vitangcol will be replaced by Light Rail Transit Authority administrator Honorito Chaneco as officer-in-charge of MRT-3. PND (ag)
President Aquino expects immediate resolution of pork barrel issue
(PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, PALAWAN) President Benigno S. Aquino III said Tuesday he expects the Office of the Ombudsman to resolve the P10-billion pork barrel scam soon to serve justice to the people.
In an interview during the 116th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Navy here, the President was asked if he is concerned that his successor in 2016 may no longer go after the culprits of the scam.
"Basta ako, ang kaya ko lang naman panagutan iyong kaya kong gawin. Kaya pinipilit ko lahat na dapat magawa natin kahapon iyong gusto nating gawin ngayon," he said.
He said his administration has already filed charges against the first batch of people involved in the scam and he expects the Ombudsman to act on it at the soonest possible time.
"Matagal-tagal na nating sinampa iyong unang set. Nasa Ombudsman na. Palagay ko mare-resolve na yan soon. How soon? I don’t know," he said.
"The Ombudsman is an independent constitutional body. Basta ang commitment ko, na-develop na iyong ebidensiya. Iyong tinatawag nilang case build-up is solid, isampa na, regardless of kung sino ang tamaan," he added.
The President also came to the defense of two members of his Cabinet – Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala – who have been implicated in the scam, saying the allegation being hurled against them is intended to malign them.
He said he needs to see the evidence against them, noting that he knows the two secretaries very well and he does not believe the allegations against them.
Citing an example, he said Secretary Abad has worked to ensure greater transparency in the bureaucracy while Secretary Alcala has been doing his job at the Agriculture Department well and that he brought a few people when he assumed office, choosing instead to promote employees from the ranks.
On Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the scam, the President said she might be using delaying tactics in the hope of dragging the case beyond the present administration to avoid a conviction.
He however said he is not falling for such a strategy.
“Wala tayong pakialam sa lahat ng iyon. Ang habol natin, ang pangako natin sa taumbayan, kung may ebidensya, sampahan ng kaso,” he said. PND (as/ag)
Government ready to hold dialogue with Palawan folks on power plant issue
(PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan) The government is willing to sit down with the people of Palawan to discuss the issue on the construction of a power plant in the province.
“We don’t impose,” President Benigno S. Aquino III told the local media during an interview following his attendance of the 116th anniversary of the Philippine Navy here Tuesday.
“We will conduct a dialogue with you and with the local community but it has to be a common decision based on available facts,” he said.
Local residents have been opposing the proposal to construct a 15-megawatt coal-fired power plant to be built by the DMCI Power Corporation in Aborlan, Palawan. They cited as their reason the possible harmful effects of the power plant construction on their health and on the environment.
President Aquino explained the importance of having sufficient power supply in Palawan in relation to the government target of attracting 10 million foreign tourists by 2016.
He explained that construction projects, such as the upgrading of airport facilities, as well as the upstream and downstream industries in the province need more power supply and that the reliable available source of energy in Palawan is coal or diesel.
The President however emphasized that the opinion of local residents will matter in deciding what kind of power plant will be constructed in their area.
“We will hold a dialogue with you, then you tell us. You are the bosses here,” he said. PND (jb)