Thursday, 5 June 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Wednesday, June 4, 2014

U.S. Commerce Secretary Pritzker pays courtesy call on President Aquino

United States Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker paid a courtesy call on President Benigno S. Aquino III at the President’s Hall of Malacanang Palace on Wednesday.

Pritzker arrived in Manila on Tuesday, along with a high-level business delegation, to meet with government officials and several business leaders as part of Washington’s efforts to strengthen trading partnerships with the Philippines.
Present during the meeting, which was held at 10:20 a.m., were Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, and Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia, Jr.

On the US side, Pritzker was joined by US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg and Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets Arun Kumar.

US President Barack Obama, during his visit in Manila last April, announced that Pritzker and a delegation of American business leaders would visit the region to help strengthen business ties between the US and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Pritzker began the first leg of her Southeast Asian trip in Vietnam on Monday. From Manila, she is scheduled to proceed to Myanmar to meet with government officials, Burmese businessmen and civil society leaders. PND (jb)

Global power company CEO Andres Gluski calls on President Aquino

President Benigno S. Aquino III met with Chief Executive Officer and President of global power company AES Corporation, Andres Gluski, during a courtesy call at Malacanang’s Music Room on Wednesday.

Gluski was joined by AES Vice President Scott Kicker during the courtesy call.

Also present at the meeting were Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, and Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia, Jr.

Gluski was part of the high-level business delegation led by US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who arrived in Manila on Tuesday along with members of the US-ASEAN Business Council.

Gluski has an extensive experience in the global electricity business. He has been recognized as an industry leader on international finance and infrastructure issues.

In September 2013, he was appointed by US President Barack Obama as member of the President’s Export Council.

The AES Corporation owns and operates a diverse portfolio of electricity generation and distribution businesses, which provide energy to 21 countries across five continents. PND (jb)

President Aquino creates interagency task force vs emerging infectious diseases

President Benigno S. Aquino III has created an inter-agency task force to help the government effectively and systematically manage and address emerging infectious diseases in the country in order to prevent potential public health emergencies, Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. said on Wednesday.

Ochoa said the President signed Executive Order No. 168 on May 26, 2014, establishing the Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID), which will be led by the Department of Health (DOH), to ensure that the country is prepared to respond and control the spread of possible epidemics in the Philippines.

The presidential order takes effect immediately after publication in a newspaper of national circulation.

“Considering the threats and potential adverse effects of these EID to our people and economy, it is essential for the government to intensify its efforts,” Ochoa said.

“The creation of the task force is necessary to institutionalize efficient government response to assess, monitor, contain and prevent the spread of EID in the country and among Filipinos working overseas.”

According to Ochoa, the emergence of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERs-CoV), as well as the recurring threats of meningococcemia, leptospiroris, antimicrobial resistant tuberculosis, among others, justifies the establishment of the task force, which members also include the Departments of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Justice (DOJ), Labor and Employment (DOLE), Tourism (DOT) and Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

Under the EO, the Task Force on EID is directed to establish a system in managing the dangers posed by recurring and emerging EID in order to properly identify, screen and assist Filipinos suspected or confirmed to be infected with EID.

Part of the mandate of the task force is to prevent and minimize the entry of suspected or confirmed patients with EID into the country and its spread around the country, as well as conduct public education on the prevention and control of EID.

EO No. 168 also empowers the task force to enlist, if necessary, the help of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies, among others, in enforcing quarantine orders or facilitating the transport of EID patients.

The DOH-led task control should also develop the EID Preparedness Manual that will detail government response and protocols in managing EID cases, such as quarantine procedures, immediate containment of EID within ports of entry, epidemiological investigation and contact tracing, treatment of infected cases and containments of affected areas, formulation of a risk communication plan and EID materials for the general public, and respective responsibilities of government agencies.

Funding of the task force will be drawn against the current appropriations of its member-agencies and will eventually be incorporated in their annual budget proposal through General Appropriations Act. Additional funds and fund sources to augment existing budget of the task force must be identified and provided for by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

U.S.-ASEAN business delegation pays courtesy call on President Aquino

A delegation of American CEOs grouped in the US-ASEAN Business Council paid a courtesy call on President Benigno S. Aquino III at Malacanang’s Receiving Hall on Wednesday.

United States Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who had a separate courtesy call on the President, led the business delegation together with Evan Greenberg, Chairman of the Board of the US-ASEAN Business Council and Chairman, President and CEO of ACE Limited; and Alex Feldman, President of US-ASEAN Business Council.

The American CEOs who joined them were Keith Williams, President and CEO of Underwriters Laboratories; John Negroponte, Vice Chairman of McLarty Associates; Hugo Bague, Group Executive of Organisational Resources; Andres Gluski, President and CEO of the AES Corporation; Bill Ford, President and CEO of General Atlantic; Daniel Glasier, President and CEO of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg was also at the meeting.

On the Philippine side were Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia, Jr., and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima.

In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the American business leaders are in the country to identify possible areas for investment.

“We spoke about potential areas of US investment in the Philippines. Some of the areas where they are looking as potential areas for investment include car manufacturing, energy, infrastructure in Mindanao, infrastructure on mass transit, and also tourism,” Lacierda said.

He added that Pritzker commended President Aquino on his leadership and the accomplishments he has done for the Philippines.

Pritzker and the US business delegation’s trip to the country aims to underscore the United States’ commitment to deepen economic engagement in the ASEAN region.

“The US government and US businesses recognize the tremendous mutually beneficial growth opportunities that exist in the region, and are eager to serve as partners to ASEAN countries as they look to support a growing middle class, develop world-class infrastructure, unleash sustainable energy, and invest in their futures,” said Secretary Pritzker in her arrival statement on Tuesday.

While in the Philippines, Secretary Pritzker will also meet with business leaders to discuss how the country can continue developing a fair and open business climate, reduce market access barriers, and increase transparency.

She is also scheduled to deliver a major address on America’s economic engagement in the Asia-Pacific region during a luncheon with American Chambers of Commerce and Makati Business Club at New World Hotel in Makati City. PND (jb)

United States, other countries want to invest in Mindanao, Palace says

The United States and other countries are eyeing Mindanao for their next investment ventures, Malacanang said Wednesday.

In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker paid a courtesy call on President Benigno S. Aquinio III on Wednesday and brought with her a delegation of businessmen who wanted to see where they could invest.

“They are looking at potential areas of investment, like car manufacturing, energy, infrastructure in Mindanao, infrastructure on mass transit, and also tourism,” said Lacierda.

When US President Barack Obama made a state visit last April, he announced that Pritzker and a delegation of American businessmen will come to Manila to look into the possibility of investing in the country.

Lacierda said the business climate in the country has become more favorable following the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro by representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government.

“Now that we have come to a peaceful agreement with the MILF, many countries have been looking at Mindanao as a potential area for investment. We’ve seen other countries—ASEAN nations looking into Mindanao. And so, the United States is also one of the countries interested in looking into investments in Mindanao,” said Lacierda.

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, signed last March 27, ended the decades-long conflict in Mindanao. PND (ag)

Measures in place to protect marine resources in West Philippine Sea: Palace

The Philippine coast guard and fishery bureau will ensure that the country’s maritime resources are protected as the government awaits the resolution of its case against China regarding contested territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the Palace said.

"I think that is where we have made measures, both by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and also by our coast watch, to strengthen and to ensure our maritime resources," Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing in Malacanang on Wednesday.

Lacierda was commenting on the concern of some environmental groups that the country's marine resources in the disputed territories could be depleted before the international tribunal makes a decision on the issue.

Eleven Chinese fishermen were recently caught poaching sea turtles off Palawan province.

News reports also said that black sand mining operations being spearheaded by Chinese operators continue in Zambales, despite a prohibition issued by the Supreme Court.

The international Arbitral Tribunal has asked China to comment by December 15 this year on the case filed by the Philippines.

Lacierda said that the time frame set by the tribunal is part of its rules in settling the dispute, and the Philippine government will leave it to China whether or not to respond to the Memorial filed by the Philippines.

The Philippines filed a case in the international tribunal to clarify the rights and entitlements of each country under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Lacierda said.

"We are all signatories to a treaty or a pact and all parties should abide by the treaty—the treaty provisions that we all entered into," he said.

The Philippines has used the legal mechanism of arbitration to once and for all settle the conflicting claims in the South China Sea, the Palace official said.

The South China Sea, a major sea lane for trade and commerce, is believed to be rich in gas and mineral resources. Aside from China and the Philippines, other claimants include Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan. PND (as)

Palace says reconstruction work in typhoon-hit areas continuing

Rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts in areas devastated by Typhoon Yolanda continue, with the government and the private sector working hand in hand, the Palace said on Wednesday.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda dismissed reports that the majority of reconstruction efforts are being spearheaded by the private sector, while government projects are on the back-burner.

"On the part of the national government, insofar as national bridges, national roads are concerned, the DPWH, the work is ongoing," Lacierda told reporters during a press briefing.

He also noted that the design for school buildings has just been finalized, and the Education Department is in the process of bidding out these projects.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), he said, has also finalized the design for resilient structures, such as the foundation of houses, and this has been approved by Rehabilitation Secretary Panfilo Lacson.

And while the government goes through the usual bureaucratic procedures, it allowed the private sector to start its projects for the typhoon survivors, Lacierda said.

Since the private sector is willing to fund projects immediately, Secretary Lacson has asked private organizations to build shelters and other projects, he said.

As far as the local governments are concerned, Lacierda said funds have already been made available to them so they could start rebuilding initiatives.

"They are supposed to be building the local roads and local bridges, so that is the process right now," he said.

The government is also in the process of identifying and accounting the P14 billion it has received from donor countries, to ensure transparency in the release of funds for rehabilitation efforts, he added. PND (as)