Monday, 2 June 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Wednesday, May 7, 2014

President Aquino to attend 24th ASEAN Summit in Myanmar

President Benigno S. Aquino III is scheduled to attend the 24th ASEAN Summit, to be held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar on May 10 to 11.

Department of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Charles Jose said during a press conference on Wednesday that the President will have a tight schedule in Myanmar.

Upon his arrival on Saturday, the President is slated to attend the welcome dinner to be hosted by Myanmar President U Thein Sein for all ASEAN leaders and their delegations.

On Sunday, the President will attend the 24th ASEAN Summit Plenary; the 24th ASEAN Summit Retreat; the ASEAN Leaders’ Interface Meeting with Representatives of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA); the ASEAN Leaders Interface Meeting with Representatives of the Civil Society Organizations; and the ASEAN Leaders Meeting with ASEAN Youth.

During the ASEAN Summit Plenary, the leaders will discuss and exchange views on the progress of the implementation of the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community, the initiative for ASEAN Integration Work Plan II and the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, said Jose.

They will also discuss and exchange views on the future of the ASEAN community, as well as external relations and future directions, he added.

At the 24th ASEAN Summit Retreat, the leaders are expected to exchange views on current regional and international issues.

Jose said the crafting of the Code of Conduct (COC) and the situation in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea are expected to be discussed in the summit. He noted that the President will most likely ask his fellow ASEAN leaders to work for the early conclusion of the COC.

“There have been three meetings thus far since September 2013; and we take note of the discussions of the working groups on the crafting of the COC. I am sure the President will be bringing up this agenda item,” he said.

“I would imagine the President will be informing his fellow ASEAN leaders on the submission by the Philippines of our Memorial last March 30 on the progress of our case. And I would also imagine that there would be discussions on the general situation in the South China Sea,” he added.

Asked if there will be bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit, Jose said the President’s schedule would be “tight” but they are still open for last minute bilateral meetings with other leaders or officials.

Myanmar, as ASEAN Chair, will brief the leaders on its preparations relative to ASEAN’s participation in the G-20 Summit to be held in November 2014.

The President, together with all the other ASEAN leaders, is also scheduled to meet with leaders of the AIPA, representatives of the Civil Society Organizations, and representatives of the ASEAN Youth.

“Moving Forward in Unity to a Peaceful and Prosperous Community” is the theme for this year’s ASEAN, highlighting the importance of a united ASEAN. PND (jb)

Rehabilitation ‘on track’ six months after ‘Yolanda’: Lacson

Six months after Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated central Philippines, government rehabilitation work on affected communities is on track, Presidential Assistant for Recovery and Rehabilitation Panfilo Lacson said on Wednesday.

In a press briefing in Malacanang, Lacson, who was accompanied by Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman and Trade Undersecretary Zenaida Maglaya, said the Philippines, compared to other nations which suffered natural calamities, has recovered in just six months.

“Kung ibabase natin sa international experiences, ‘yung experience ng ibang countries: ‘Katrina’ fully recovered after eight years; Banda Aceh fully recovered after eight years; Haiti four years after, has yet to see their road to recovery. Tayo, six months after, marami na pong nangyari doon sa ‘Yolanda’ avenue, and considering the vastness of the area and the extent of devastation, ay mukhang hindi naman talaga nahuhuli, at sinisikap pa nating mas madaliin,” Lacson said.

He said the Philippines took a “clustered framework approach,” which formed five clusters, each headed by a Cabinet Secretary, to expedite the formulation of plans and programs for rehabilitation.

“The infrastructure cluster is headed by Secretary (Rogelio) Singson of DPWH, social services cluster headed by Secretary (Dinky) Soliman of DSWD, resettlement cluster headed by Vice President (Jejomar) Binay, in his capacity as HUDCC chairman, support services cluster co-chaired by Secretary (Butch) Abad of DBM and Secretary Arsi Balisacan of NEDA, and the livelihood cluster that is headed by (DTI) Secretary Gregory Domingo,” Lacson said.

“They will submit to my office their respective action plans and programs, and then, we will consolidate and that will form part of the master rehabilitation plan na isusumite kay Pangulong Aquino,” he added.

He said the initial rehabilitation plan has already been submitted to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and that they are just waiting for the President to convene a full Cabinet meeting so they could present the plan to him. PND (rck)
Conditions in typhoon-hit Eastern Visayas beginning to normalize, Social Welfare Secretary says

Conditions in Eastern Visayas are beginning to normalize six months after the region was devastated by super typhoon "Yolanda," Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman said Wednesday.

The government has so far released P1.4 billion for the rehabilitation of the affected areas in Eastern Visayas, Soliman said during a press briefing in Malacanang.

She said that of the amount, P467.3 million came from the government’s calamity fund, P764 million from cash donations and P131.3 million from an Asian Development Bank (ADB) grant.

The fund has been used for core shelter efforts; the cash-for-work program; the provision of pedicabs and motorized bancas, as well as kitchen sets; supplemental feeding; livelihood assistance; and the provision of toys for children, she said.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) continues to distribute family food packs, Soliman said, noting that in the first three months following the calamity, the department regularly provided each family three to six kilograms of rice, canned goods, noodles, coffee, and sugar. The government spent P4,340,059 for this effort, she said.

A total of 3,455 families have already moved to bunkhouses, while 10,795 families have received building materials -- corrugated iron sheets, nails, common wire nails, hammers and handsaws -- distributed by the DSWD and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The DSWD has also extended emergency shelter materials to 571,206 households, trained 2,552 carpenters, and given cash to 26,972 households, she said.

“Ito po ay galing sa gobyerno at sa mga NGO and international organizations,” she said.

Soliman further noted that the government has spent P2,534,431 for the cash-for-work program, that benefitted 7,367 individuals who agreed to help in food preparation and repacking, as well as those who did hauling and cleaning work.

Starting February, the DSWD carried out the cash-for-assets program, handing out cash to 186,080 individuals who cleaned canals, irrigation and farmlands, Soliman said, adding that the program was worth P531million.

She reported that schools are preparing to reopen in June.

School authorities in Leyte, Samar and Panay are focusing on repairing classrooms instead of constructing new ones so they would be ready next month, she said.

They are also assessing the need for teachers, she added.

Soliman said the government is drawing up a list of students who want to go to college and is helping those who want to enroll in state universities.

The Budget Department has readied funds for the repair of damaged university facilities, she added. PND (as)

Lacson: There is enough funds to rebuild typhoon-hit Eastern Visayas

Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery Secretary Panfilo Lacson said the national government has enough funds to reconstruct typhoon-devastated areas in Eastern Visayas.

In a press briefing in Malacanang, Lacson said all the government has to do is to comply with the requirements of the law and determine the spending capacity of each locality affected by the disaster.

He said the post-disaster assessment report is done and is awaiting the President’s approval while the master rehabilitation plan is being prepared by his office.

The government, in its rehabilitation efforts, has forged tie-ups with the private sector, he said, noting that it is getting help from 48 private companies and NGOs in different locations in Eastern Visayas.

Lacson further reported that on Thursday, 20 housing units will be turned over to beneficiaries in Tanauan, Leyte, in addition to the 20 units turned over last week.

The government, he said, aims to construct 216,966 housing units but has so far built only 26,000 housing units in safe zones.

Different government agencies, such as the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), are identifying safe areas for the construction of new residential areas, he said.

The government and the private sector are also actively providing livelihood to the typhoon victims, he added. In Western Samar, farmers have already harvested crops, after receiving seedlings a few months ago.

Lacson said he expects the efforts to continue and succeed because there is not much problem on the ground. He was referring to the fact that there has been no reported mass hunger, epidemic or breakdown of law and order in the typhoon-stricken areas. PND (as)

Survey result on declining poverty, encouraging, says Coloma

Malacanang said it will continue to carry out programs to fight poverty and attain inclusive growth in the country after a recent survey showed declining poverty levels in the Philippines.

“While we are encouraged by these results, the government is determined to intensify efforts to implement reform measures and poverty reduction programs that will lead to the attainment of the goal of inclusive growth,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement issued on Wednesday in response to a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey on poverty.

Coloma noted that according to SWS president, Dr. Mahar Mangahas, “the SWS surveys anticipated the official finding that poverty declined from the first semester of 2012 to the first semester of 2013.” The survey results were published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on May 3.

Citing a report from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Coloma said poverty incidence declined from 27.9 percent in 2012 to 24.9 percent in 2013.

“In terms of families, poverty incidence likewise declined to 19.1 percent in the same period from 22.3 percent in 2012,” he said.

Meanwhile, reacting to another survey by Pulse Asia regarding Charter change, Coloma said the perception on the need to amend the present Charter did not get much support from the public.

He noted that based on the Pulse Asia survey, only 468 or 39 percent of 1,200 respondents, are aware of the House of Representatives’ resolution on Charter change.

Of those who are aware, only 204 or 17 percent agree that there should be Charter change, he said.

“The survey results seem to indicate that there is a low awareness level and that agreement on the need for Charter change is still a minority view among the citizenry,” he added.

President Aquino remains firm in his stand that Charter change is not a priority of this administration, Coloma said. PND (as)

Palace renews appeal for water conservation

Malacanang on Wednesday renewed its call for the public to support water conservation efforts in anticipation of the onset of the El Nino weather phenomenon next month.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement that the special inter-agency task force on El NiƱo was convened on Tuesday by Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson to monitor the impact of the phenomenon on the situation in the country’s major water sources.

Coloma said that according to the National Power Corp. (NPC), the water level in Angat Dam, which supplies more than 90 percent of potable water in Metro Manila, has continued to drop and is nearing the critical level of 180 meters.

“Given the tight water supply situation in Angat Dam, the MWSS (Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System) has said that priority will be given to potable water supply over irrigation and hyrdroelectric power plant requirements,” he said.

He added that the NPC however reported that the water levels in the Magat and Pantabangan dams are projected to be sufficient for the June planting season.

To induce rain over the major watersheds and drought-affected farming areas, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services (DOST-PAGASA) will continue with their cloud-seeding operations, the Palace official said. PND (as)

Most businesses in typhoon-hit Visayas operating normally, says trade official

A Trade Department official reported on Wednesday that most of the businesses in the typhoon-stricken areas in the Visayas have begun to operate normally.

Trade Undersecretary Zenaida Maglaya said in a press briefing in Malacanang that businesses in Leyte, Samar and in other regions are 80 to 90 percent back to normal.

“Nakita po natin sa mga report at sa mga pagbisita natin sa Tacloban, Leyte, Samar and even in other regions, ay lumalabas po na sa Region VI, 80 to 90 percent na po ng negosyo or businesses are back in operation, except for parts of the Iloilo area,” she said.

Maglaya said 60 percent of these businesses were affected by the disaster.

Business operations and food production in northern Cebu, particularly in Bantayan Island, have also begun to normalize, she said.

Bantayan Island is Cebu’s source of chicken eggs, Maglaya said, noting a drop in egg prices in Cebu.

In Region VIII, which covers Eastern Visayas, 50 percent of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are operating normally, she said, describing it as “good news.”

The trade official also said that her department continued to carry out the Diskwento Caravan until last month to give the people a cheap source of basic commodities.

There is a regular flow of goods from Cebu and from Manila and the supply of basic commodities is no longer a concern, she said, adding that the only problem is providing warehouses for the goods.

As far as financing is concerned, Maglaya said that a month after the disaster, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) conducted a financing forum for micro and small entrepreneurs.

She said that the Land Bank and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) will also conduct a financing forum for micro and small entrepreneurs.

“Of the P70 million, P42 million ang aprubado sa Region VIII and the rest will be for Antique, Capiz, and of course Northern Cebu na mga around P28 million,” she said.

The DTI is working together with its development partners and donor organizations, as support for typhoon survivors continue to arrive, she said.

The assistance is intended for sustainable livelihood as well as for the government thrust of generating jobs over the medium to long term, the trade official said. PND (as)