Thursday, 31 July 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Palace welcomes Vatican’s announcement of Pope Francis’ visit to Manila

Malacañang is looking forward to His Holiness Pope Francis’ four-day trip to the Philippines next year, which reportedly includes a visit to areas devastated by super typhoon "Yolanda," as well as the University of Santo Tomas.

“The government joins the Filipino people in welcoming the Vatican’s announcement confirming that His Holiness Pope Francis will make an Apostolic Visit to the Philippines on January 15 to 19, 2015,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement released Tuesday evening.

He said President Benigno S. Aquino III is calling on all concerned government offices and the citizenry to work closely with the papal visit committee in ensuring the success of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Visit.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. has also been designated by the President as the government’s lead point person for the papal visit.

Coloma said Pope Francis’ first visit to the country marks the 20th anniversary of the celebration of World Youth Day in Manila that was presided over by one of his predecessors and recently canonized St. John Paul II.

“Filipinos will most certainly accord to Pope Francis the warmth of their hospitality and manifest the fervor of their faith as they welcome the first Pontiff from South America,” Coloma said.

The Philippines is considered as the third largest Roman Catholic country in the world, after Brazil and Mexico. More than 80 percent of the country’s population practices the faith, according to the National Statistics Office. PND (hdc)

Communications Secretary Coloma welcomes Filipino-American tourists to Malacañang

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. warmly welcomed the participants of this year’s 9th Ambassadors, Consuls General and Tourism Directors’ Tour (ACGTDT) at Malacañang Palace’s Heroes Hall on Wednesday.

Accompanied by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Secretary Coloma received the 264 ACGTDT delegates, all from the United States.

“Every Filipino who travels, or lives and works overseas, feels a deep sense of longing to come home and revisit the homeland. With as much enthusiasm and excitement as migrant Filipinos have aspired to explore and excel abroad, they are similarly filled with anticipation for rekindling friendships and re-creating the warmth of hearth and home,” he said in his brief welcome remarks.

Coloma shared his experience working inside the official workplace and residence of the President of the Philippines and how other people, including US President Barack Obama, were impressed by the grandeur of Malacañang.

The Palace tour is the highlight of the ACGTDT, which was conceptualized by Secretary del Rosario in 2005.

In his speech, Secretary del Rosario expressed gratitude as the program continues to achieve its objectives in “strengthening family ties, renewing friendships, building business partnerships, and leading to personal discoveries."

He underscored the ambassadors’ tour’s contribution to the tourism sector in sustaining the country’s socio-economic growth.

“Your tourism dollars have a multiplier effect on local businesses as revenues are generated by a number of supporting industries, including hotels, restaurants, and transportation, among others,” he said.

He noted that reforms are being undertaken by the government to further enhance the tourism industry.

“Much needed infrastructure is being prioritized, shortage of hotel rooms is being addressed, and aviation and industry taxes are being studied to make our tourism industry more competitive,” he said.

Del Rosario also gave a brief overview of the deepening and broadening relations of the Philippines and the United States, citing the recent visits of key US officials, among them President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

He also mentioned that the US’ $40-million grant under the Global Security Contingency Fund aims to further build the capacities of the Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine National Police in terms of maritime security and counter-terrorism.

He reiterated that the recently signed Philippine-US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement will bring greater advantage to the country in strengthening alliances, advancing defense capabilities, and increasing readiness in times of disaster.

He further noted that the Philippines’ economic partnership with the United States is “on an upward trajectory,” citing the Philippines’ upgrade to Category 1 status by the US Federal Aviation Administration and removal from the Special 301 Watch List.

Secretary del Rosario meanwhile disclosed that bilateral and multi-stakeholder consultations are being conducted to learn how joining Trans-Pacific Partnership would benefit the country.

He expressed hope that the delegates would have a deeper understanding of their roots and heritage by visiting the Philippines.

“The ACGTDT is an important program that significantly contributes to the deepening of our already robust relations. As both our countries march towards a future full of both opportunities and challenges, our partnership, whether economic, political, or people-to-people, must remain strong, steady and steadfast,” he said.

The ACGTDT, a joint project of all the Philippine Foreign Service Posts in the United States and Canada, aims to encourage Filipino-Americans to visit the Philippines as part of the country’s intensified tourism campaign.

The tour is led by ranking Philippine officials in North America and is participated by professional and business groups. Only the US is taking part in this year’s tour as Canada launched a separate tour last January 17 to 24.

The basic tour package consists of a three-day, four-night stay in Manila and other nearby destinations, a tour of Malacañang Palace, and a wreath-laying ceremony at the Rizal Monument.

Participants are also given welcome and farewell dinners as well as options to avail of tour packages to other top tourist destinations in the country, such as Boracay, Cebu, Palawan, and Bohol. PND (jb)

Palace: No restiveness in the armed forces

Malacañang on Wednesday dismissed rumors of a coup plot against the government, assuring that there is no restiveness among members of the military.

“There are no reports of restiveness among the rank and file of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP),” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told members of the Malacañang Press Corps in a press briefing at the Palace.

Lacierda said the Palace is convinced that there is no reason for the military rank and file to join any destabilization plot.

“The reason for the lack of interest is primarily the reforms that the Aquino administration has already implemented with respect to the armed forces. We have provided mission essential equipment to the people on the ground. We have provided housing units. We have modernized the AFP,” he said.

“These are the measures that we have implemented in order to strengthen our Armed Forces. And the rank and file realize and do recognize and appreciate the efforts of the Aquino administration in this respect.”

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV has said that retired generals affiliated with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are plotting a coup against President Benigno S. Aquino III.

“Senator (Antonio) Trillanes is free to express his opinion and we respect him for that. We respect his opinion,” said Lacierda, noting that the senator spoke of retired generals.

“He did not speak of men and women in active service. We will let the retired generals speak for themselves, not for us. Suffice it to say that we, in the government, and especially the men and women in active service, are committed to the duly constituted authority. There is no question or issue as to any restiveness in the military,” he added.

He further said that AFP Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Demy Zagala has issued a statement on Wednesday morning that there is no truth to the coup rumors.

“Walang agam-agam sa loob ng military,” Lacierda said. PND (ag)

Malacañang says release of four policemen could lead to peace talks with communist rebels

The Palace on Wednesday welcomed the release of four policemen who were abducted by communist rebels in Surigao del Norte, saying the act is a “groundbreaking event” that could lead to the resumption of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF).

“This is a welcome development on the part of the NDF to release these four policemen. Certainly, we hope this is a groundbreaking event where the Communist Party of the Philippines -- National People’s Army -- National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF) would look forward to resuming the peace process without any condition,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during a press briefing.

Lacierda reiterated that the government is always prepared to sit down with them.

“We are always there. We are hopeful that this thing would move forward the peace table with respect to the left,” he added.

The policemen, who were abducted when rebels raided their police station in Alegria, Surigao del Norte last July 10, were released at dawn on Tuesday in a remote village in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte. PND (ag)

Government survey shows 2.5 million Filipinos out of poverty level, Palace official says

An annual poverty indicator survey conducted by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) shows that 2.5 million Filipinos have been moved out of the poverty level, a Palace official said on Wednesday.

“We have government statistics to buttress that and we do so with confidence,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during the daily press briefing in Malacañang.

Lacierda was commenting on the survey on self-rated poverty and hunger, conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS), which said that fewer Filipino families went hungry in the second quarter even as more claimed to be poor.

“We have no problem with that. We respect that survey,” he said, noting however that the result of the SWS survey fluctuates as it is done on a quarterly basis.

The government, on the other hand, has a formula for computing poverty incidence, he said.

“We take into consideration the number of families, their salary below the poverty income level threshold, over the number of families that are part of that,” he explained.

“So there has been a three percent decrease in poverty, insofar as the annual poverty incidence survey is concerned,” he said. PND (ag)

PIA News Dispatch - Tuesday, July 29, 2014

President Aquino reports declining crime incidence in Metro Manila

The Police has posted major gains in fighting crime and ensuring peace and order, particularly in Metro Manila, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Monday.

In his fifth State of the Nation Address, the President said the Philippine National Police (PNP) has carried out several operations to boost security and ensure public safety.

Last June, he said, the PNP implemented Operation Lambat in the National Capital Region (NCR), increasing the number of checkpoints in different areas.

"Matapos nating triplihin ang dami ng checkpoints at magsagawa ng iba't ibang operasyon, ang resulta: 862 sasakyan at 29 firearms ang nakumpiska natin. Nakapag-serve tayo ng 587 warrants of arrest, na nagresulta sa pagkakaaresto ng 410 suspects," the President said in his address.

Before Oplan Lambat was implemented from January to June, an average of 31 murder and homicide cases occurred in the NCR every week, he said.

In five weeks after the operation began, the cases of murder and homicide dropped to 22 per week, he said, adding this is a 29 percent reduction in crimes in the NCR.

And if the government could fix the police pension system, it could hire more personnel and widen the implementation of Oplan Lambat to include other areas in the country, the Chief Executive said.

The ability to procure equipment for the PNP has been affected by the Supreme Court's decision on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) but the government is trying to find other sources of funds to fill the needs of the police, according to the President.

At the same time, the PNP also reimplemented Oplan Katok to ensure that licensed firearms belong to those who qualify under the law, he said, noting that the PNP has checked 28,714 households in the NCR to verify whether gun owners' licenses remain valid.

The President also vowed to bring to justice the perpetrators of recent high-profile murder cases, saying the police have already arrested the killers of Mayor Ernesto Balolong in Pangasinan and the attackers of Davao City businessman Richard King.

Investigators are also following good leads to capture the killers of race car driver Ferdinand Pastor, he said.

"Huwag po kayong mag-alala: hahabulin natin ang hustisya sa kabuuan, hindi isang bahagi lamang. Kaya bukod sa mga ginawa nating pag-aresto, patuloy tayo sa paglikom ng ebidensiya laban sa iba pang suspects," he said. PND (as)

President Aquino instructs Energy Department to work with industry stakeholders to address electricity concerns

Anticipating the country's need for additional electricity, President Benigno S. Aquino III said he has instructed Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla to coordinate with industry stakeholders to address the problem.

The country must prepare for the worst-case scenario, such as when power supply is threatened by the El Niño weather phenomenon, or when power plants are shut down due to breakdown or maintenance, the President said in his fifth State of the Nation Address on Monday.

"Ang habol natin: kumpletong paghahanda para hindi tayo maparalisa sakaling mangyari ang worst-case scenario. Dapat, kahit sa susunod na taon pa uusbong ang problema, meron na tayong pinaplanong solusyon para dito," he said.

"Kaya nga po inatasan ko si Secretary Petilla ng DOE: Makipag-ugnayan sa Joint Congressional Power Commission, sa Energy Regulatory Commission, sa industriya, at pinakaimportante sa mga consumer, upang madagdagan ang kakayahan nating tugunan ang problema sa enerhiya."

The President assured the public that the government is doing everything to address current and future problems on power supply.

The El Niño could decrease the generation of electricity and increase power demand as well, thus, the country must prepare beforehand because building a power plant takes several years, the President said. PND (as)

President Aquino said he reformed government system to regain public trust

President Benigno S. Aquino III said during his fifth State of the Nation Address on Monday that he instituted reforms in the government system to regain the people’s trust.

“Tunay nga po: Tiwala ang pundasyon ng mabuting pamamahalan… Tiwala na kung sumunod ka sa tama, makukuha mo kung ano ang dapat sa iyo. Ang pagbabalik ng tiwala ninyo... ang ibig sabihin ng reporma,” said President Aquino.

“Halimbawa: Sa Customs, na talaga naman pong sinubok ang ating pasensya noong nakaraang mga taon. Naging malinaw sa atin na Reset button ang solusyon,” he noted.

The President said he had replaced the former commissioner of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and six deputy commissioners to reform the agency.

Since the “reset” was made, there has been a 22 percent increase in the cash collection from the BOC, totaling P117 billion, the Chief Executive continued.

“Ang masasabi ko naman sa mga patuloy na rumaraket: Alam kong hindi na kayo tinatablan ng takot at kahihiyan… Ang sa akin lang: Kapag sumapat na ang nililikom na ebidensiya laban sa inyo, sa Bilibid ang susunod ninyong destino,” warned the President. PND (ag)

President Aquino says he will not sacrifice quality over speed in drafting Bangsamoro Law

President Benigno S. Aquino III has addressed the concerns of some sectors over the delay in the submission of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), saying the government does not want to sacrifice quality over speed in drafting the legislation.

In his fifth State of the Nation Address on Monday, President Aquino said they are still in the process of fine-tuning certain provisions that would make the bill “reasonable, just, and acceptable” to all, hoping to complete it as soon as possible.

“Humihingi po tayo ng pang-unawa sa ating Kongreso ukol rito. Mahalaga pong maging masusi ang paghimay natin ng bawat probisyong ilalatag,” President Aquino told members of the 16th Congress at the Batasang Pambansa.

Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, head of the government’s negotiating panel with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), earlier said that delaying the submission of the BBL is better than rushing it because there are issues that still have to be discussed.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission, which is tasked to draft the bill, met last week with the MILF and members of the government peace panel to work on the details of the BBL, bearing in mind President Aquino’s intention to have it passed into law within the year.

President Aquino said he would certify the bill as urgent, once it is submitted to Congress so the government could finally conduct a plebiscite that would pave the way for a Bangsamoro Transition Authority.

“Kung maisasabatas nga po ang Bangsamoro Basic Law bago matapos ang taon at maisasagawa ang kinakailangang plebesito, mabibigyan ng isa’t kalahating taon ang Bangsamoro Transition Authority para ipakita ang positibong pagbabago. Kung maaantala naman ito, natural pong iikli rin ang panahon para mapatunayan na tama nga ang landas ng kapayapaang tinatahak natin,” he said.

Drafting the BBL is the next step the Aquino administration is trying to accomplish after signing the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) with the MILF last March, en route to a peaceful Mindanao.

President Aquino said it has taken his administration a long way to bring back the trust of Muslims in the government, and he has no plan to squander it.

“Napakarami na nga po nating nararating dahil sa tiwala—at wala tayong balak basagin ang tiwalang ito. Ang gobyerno ninyo ngayon ay mayroong isang salita,” he said.

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bansamoro is just the start of better things to come for Mindanao, the President said, as the government has also earmarked a P5.17-billion budget for the Department of Public Works and Highways next year to fund infrastructure projects in the south.

"Gusto po nating bigyan ng pantay na pagkakataon ang lahat ng Pilipino, kaya nga dapat may boost up, para naman maka-catch up ang ating mga kababayang nasa laylayan," he said. PND (hdc)

Palace seeks cooperation of Congress in passing proposed P2.6 trillion budget for 2015

President Benigno S. Aquino III has sought the cooperation of Congress in passing the proposed P2.6 trillion National Budget for 2015 which the Executive department will file soon.

"Sa unang araw po ng trabaho matapos ang SONA, ihahain natin sa Kongreso ang panukalang P2.606 trillion na 2015 National Budget," the President said in his fifth State of the Nation Address on Monday.

The administration drew up the 2015 budget with the participation of the public and using strategies that will ensure that funds are only allocated to projects and programs that will truly benefit the people, he said.

"Umaasa po tayo sa pakikiisa ng ating mga mambabatas na pagtibayin ito, bilang pangunahing instrumento sa paglikha ng pagkakataon para sa sambayanang Pilipino," he added.

The President also said that because of the Supreme Court's decision on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the Executive department will ask Congress for supplemental budget for 2014 to make sure that ongoing projects funded by the program are completed.

He also sought the cooperation of Congress in passing a joint resolution that will clarify definitions and issues that are the center of debates on the DAP.

"Kasabay po nito, nananawagan din tayo sa pakikiisa ng Kongreso, upang maipasa ang isang Joint Resolution na maglilinaw sa mga depinisyon at kaisipang tila pinagtatalunan pa—at iba pang mga usaping kayo lang sa lehislatura, bilang mga nagsulat ng batas, ang makakapaglinaw," he said. PND (as)

President Aquino cites infrastructure projects in the pipeline in his State of the Nation Address

President Benigno S. Aquino III has announced that the bidding process for the government’s largest Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project, the Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike, would start before the end of the year.

In his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, President Aquino said the Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike project would address the flooding in coastal communities along Laguna Lake.

“Siguro po, narinig na rin ninyo ang pinakamalaki nating PPP project—ang Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike—bubuksan na rin ang bidding bago matapos ang 2014,” he said.

“Napakaraming benepisyong maidudulot nito. Una, mababawasan ang pagbaha. Ngayon po, ‘pag pumalo ng 12.5 meters ang taas ng tubig sa lawa, tiyak, babahain na ang mga komunidad sa paligid nito. Ang solusyon: dikeng may taas na higit sa 15 metro.”

The project would also clean up the waters of Laguna Lake and ease traffic congestion in the area, he added.

“Ikalawa pong pakinabang: Malilinis ang tubig sa Laguna Lake. Ang ikatlo po: Bawas ang trapiko. Sa ibabaw ng dike, magkakaroon ng expressway na babagtas sa Los Baños hanggang Taguig,” he said.

“Pag natapos ang C-6 road na kokonekta sa San Jose del Monte, may isa na naman tayong paraan upang makatawid ng Kamaynilaan nang hindi na kakailanganing dumaan sa EDSA.”

President Aquino also mentioned the projects approved by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Board, such as the Laoag City Bypass Link Road project, the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit project, and the LRT Line 1 South Extension and Line 2 East Extension.

“Maliban sa mga proyekto sa Puerto Princesa Airport, abangan na rin ninyo ang Busuanga Airport,” he said, adding that the NEDA Board has also approved the Clark Green City project in Capas, Tarlac.

“Sa mabuting pamamahala, nanunumbalik ang tiwala ng merkado, ng mundo, at ng taumbayan sa ating gobyerno. Nagbubunsod ito ng isang siklo: Dahil nakikita ang resulta ng agenda ng reporma, nakikiambag ang bawat isa sa ating mga Boss,” he said.

President Aquino said that since December 2011, his administration has awarded and signed seven PPP projects amounting to P62.6 billion, surpassing the combined six approved solicited PPP projects of the past three administrations.

“Sa apat na taon natin sa tuwid na daan, nalampasan na natin ang pinagsamang anim lamang na aprubadong solicited PPP projects mula sa nakaraang tatlong administrasyon,” he said.

He noted that a number of infrastructure projects that had been promised by the past administrations have already been completed, among them the Aluling Bridge, the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3, and the Ternate-Nasugbu Road, while the construction of the Basilan Circumferential Road will soon be finished.

“Ilan lang po ito sa mga imprastrukturang wala tayong planong ipamana bilang problema; sa halip, ngayon, nagsisimula na itong mapakinabangan ng ating mga Boss,” the President said.

Citing good governance, the President said the government was able to find solutions to other problems, such as water.

He cited the approval of the Kaliwa Dam project in Quezon, the repair of the lines of Angat Dam, and the Water District Development project, under Local Water Utilities Administration.

Also in his fifth SONA, President Aquino said the government’s infrastructure budget has more than doubled from P200.3 billion in 2011 to P404.3 billion this year.

He lauded Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson for his efforts to curb corruption in the agency. “Sa pamumuno ni Secretary Babes Singson ng DPWH: Bawal ang tongpats, bawal ang bukol,” he said.

“Tinapalan na ang mga butas sa lumang sistema, at pinatag ang proseso sa ahensya. Isang simpleng halimbawa po nito ang pagtatanggal ng Letter of Intent sa bidding process,” he added.

President Aquino said the DPWH has saved P28 billion from the reforms and changes in the department, allowing it to accelerate the implementation of its next projects.

He further said that a total of 12,184 kilometers of national roads have been repaired, widened, or constructed since he assumed the presidency in 2010.

The number is equivalent to four roads that connect Laoag to Zamboanga City, he said, adding that this does not even include local farm-to-market roads or tourism roads. PND (co)

President Aquino greets Muslim community on 'Eid'l Fitr'

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Tuesday extended his warm greetings to the country’s Muslim community as it celebrates Eid'l Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

“The entire Filipino nation greets the Muslim Community in the Philippines as you celebrate Eid’l Fitr,” President Aquino said in his message posted on the government’s Official Gazette.

“Throughout our country’s narrative, Islam has taught many of our Muslim brothers and sisters the values and principles that can lead to solidarity, honor, and harmony,” he added.

President Aquino has earlier issued Proclamation No. 826 declaring July 29, Tuesday, a regular holiday throughout the country in observance of Eid’l Fitr (Feast of Ramadan).

“May this celebration of Eid’l Fitr be a time of thanks and praise to the Almighty for the strength and hope that He has blessed your community with, especially during the month of forgiveness, Ramadan,” the President said.

“May this also be a reaffirmation of your faith as you prepare yourselves for the challenges that may arise in our rapidly shifting milieu; may you always be enlightened by the teachings of Islam that hold true to the collective conscience of the Filipino people.”

In his message, President Aquino said that the administration continues to “build a more harmonious, more just country as we begin to ease the disquiet that has long shaken our lands.”

The President cited the recent signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“The recent signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro proves that, even through all the conflicts that we have endured, we remain one nation bound by a common dream: A new era of peace that will redound to the upliftment of the lives of our kababayans. Let us sustain the gains of positive reform and be steadfast stewards of unity and development in our society,” he said. PND (co)

President Aquino: Labor strikes have decreased

President Benigno S. Aquino III said that the number of labor strikes has been limited to less than 10 per year since he assumed the presidency in 2010.

“Isa po itong positibong bunga ng itinataguyod nating Single Entry Approach o SEnA ng DOLE,” the President said during his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa on Monday.

Under the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Single Entry Approach, all labor cases must undergo a 30-day conciliation-mediation process.

“Ang maganda nga po: sa 115 notices of strike and lockout noong 2013, isa lang ang natuloy na welga,” said the President.

“Ito ang pinakamababa sa kasaysayan ng DOLE. Maraming salamat po kay (Labor) Secretary Linda Baldoz, sa pamilya ng DOLE at siyempre po sa labor at management sectors,” he said, hoping that there would be no strike this year. PND (ag)

President Aquino to submit proposed P2.6 trillion National Budget for 2015 to Congress on Wednesday

President Benigno S. Aquino III is getting ready to submit the proposed P2.6 trillion National Budget to Congress on Wednesday, a Malacañang official said Tuesday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said the President spent the Eid’l Fitr holiday reviewing his budget message to Congress.

“As he said yesterday (Monday), the proposed 2015 budget of 2.606 trillion pesos will be submitted to Congress ‘on the first working day after the SONA’, which is tomorrow (July 30),” he said in a statement.

He said the President was in Bahay Pangarap and did not take the day off following his fifth State of the Nation Address last Monday.

In his address, President Aquino asked the support of Congress for the timely passage of the 2015 National Budget.

Asked about the supplementary budget the Executive department is planning to ask from Congress, Secretary Coloma said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is working on its fundamentals.

“According to Secretary Abad, the DBM is still working on the supplementary budget proposal, in terms of compiling the reports from the various departments and agencies on which projects that were part of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) have not been obligated or completed,” he said.

“Submission of a supplementary budget is part of compliance with the Supreme Court decision, while the motion for reconsideration is still undecided,” he added.

The President announced his plan to ask Congress for a supplementary budget for 2014 after the Supreme Court declared the DAP partially unconstitutional, jeopardizing ongoing projects funded by the program. PND (jb)

PIA News Dispatch - Monday, July 28, 2014

President Aquino vows to intensify poverty reduction program

President Benigno S. Aquino III has vowed to intensify his administration’s poverty reduction program to lift the remaining 24.9 percent of the population out of poverty, especially with the implementation of the expanded conditional cash transfer (CCT) program this month.

Poverty reduction was among the key issues discussed by President Aquino in his fifth State of the Nation Address at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City on Monday, delivered before millions of Filipinos nationwide.

The President said that the P12.3-billion expanded CCT program aims to cover beneficiaries and help their children, aged up to 18 years old, complete their secondary education to give them better job opportunities.

Poverty incidence in the country has decreased by at least three percentage points in the past two years, according to the National Economic Development Authority, from 27.9 percent during the first quarter of 2012 to 24.9 percent in the same period of 2013.

President Aquino attributed this drop to the CCT program, which is implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, saying that his government will continue investing on its people through this particular measure.

“Ang three percentage points pong ito ay katumbas ng halos 2.5 milyon na Pilipinong nakaalpas na sa poverty line. Totoo namang dapat pagtuunan ng masusing pansin ang pinakamahihirap sa lipunan pero hindi tayo titigil diyan. Ngayong nadagdagan ang kakayahan natin, sinisikap nating hindi na manumbalik sa ilalim ng poverty line ang lahat ng nakaalpas na,” President Aquino said.

He said that a sound fiscal management carried out by his administration, beginning with the timely submission of the national budget that only focuses on the needs of the people every year, also helped the government achieve this goal.

The CCT, otherwise known as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, currently operates in 79 provinces, covering 1,484 municipalities and 143 cities in all 17 regions nationwide. It has 4,090,667 registered households nationwide as of last June 25. PND (hdc)

President Aquino cites Central Bank recapitalization, investment grades as major economic achievements

President Benigno S. Aquino III cited the completion of the P50-billion recapitalization of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), as well as investment grades received by the country from three international credit rating agencies as two of his administration’s major achievements in the economic front.

In his fifth State of the Nation Address on Monday, President Aquino said his government has managed to come up with the P40 billion needed by the central bank for its recapitalization program in three years, which two presidents before him had failed to deliver.

He attributed this achievement to an increase in tax collection from P1.094 trillion in 2010 to P1.536 trillion in 2013, enabling the government to address the obligations it had inherited from previous administrations.

The P50-billion recapitalization program is stated under the New Central Bank Act of 1993, but only P10 billion was obtained by the BSP during President Fidel V. Ramos’ time in 1996, shortly after the law was signed.

The Aquino administration paid the remaining P40 billion in three tranches: P10 billion in 2011, P20 billion in 2012, and another P10 billion in 2013 to help the central bank support the economy, especially after the Philippines achieved its investment grade status last year.

Three of the world’s trusted debt watchers -- Moody’s, Fitch, and Standard & Poor’s -- all gave the Philippines an investment grade rating in 2013, with the latter even raising it a notch higher last May, a move that could help the country attract more investors to further boost the economy.

“Ang hatid po nito, dahil nga investment grade na tayo, mas murang mahihiram ng gobyerno ang pondo para sa mga programa at proyekto. Mas maraming maaakit na mamuhunan sa ating bansa at mas mabilis nanmga atatamasa ng mga Pilipino ang benepisyo,” President Aquino said.

The President also noted that in four years, his administration has generated 42 percent of the total investments gained by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) since its establishment in 1995.

He said he is confident that before he steps down from office, his administration would top or at least equal the 58 percent his predecessors had put up for more than 15 years.

“Kay Director General Lilia de Lima, salamat sa nagawa mo na, at gagawin pa, sa pagkamit ng tagumpay na ito. Talagang pa-take off na ang ating ekonomiya at bansa at inaabot na natin ang mas matatayog pang mithiin,” he said, commending the efforts rendered by the PEZA chief. PND (hdc)

President Aquino issues warning against rice hoarders

Assuring the public that the government is addressing food security, the President Benigno Aquino III warned rice hoarders that their scheme will be foiled.

The President issued this warning when he deliver his State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the House of Representatives in Batasan, Quezon City on Monday.

“Mukhang totoo nga po ang mga ulat: May ilang mga halang ang bitukang mga hoarder na itinatago lang ang bigas, para kapag tumaas ang presyo, ibebenta nila ang stock para kumita nang di-makatuwiran,” he said.

“Hindi puwede ito. Kung sa tingin nila wais sila, mas mahusay ang ginagawang diskarte ng inyong gobyerno. Ang agarang solusyon: mag-import pa ng bigas, i-supply sa merkado, pababain ang presyo, at panatilihin ito sa risonableng antas para malugi ang mga nagsasamantala sa mga Pilipino,” the President added.

The Chief Executive said the government has started importing 500,000 metric ton of rice.

“Sa mga hoarder na ito: Kung gusto ninyong makipagmatigasan, sige lang, subukan ninyo ang estado. Tandaan lang ninyo: Anim na buwan lang ang itatagal bago mabulok ang stock sa mga warehouse ninyo. Siguradong malulugi kayo kapag nalunod na ang merkado sa dagdag na bigas,” warned the President.

For the rice shortage, the President Aquino said that the government has imported from abroad enough to sustain the demand of the market.

“Kumikilos kayo kontra sa mga Pilipino; kami naman, isinusulong ang interes ng bawat Pilipino. Tingnan natin kung sino ang mananalo,” the President said. PND (ag)

President Aquino highlights his accomplishments in fifth State of the Nation Address

President Benigno S. Aquino III delivered his fifth State of the Nation Address on Monday, underscoring his administration’s accomplishments in recent years, particularly in social services, infrastructure, economy, and public-private partnership.

President Aquino began his speech by recalling the problems he had inherited from the past administration and how such challenges are being addressed at present.

He stressed how the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) helped scholars of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) under its training-for work scholarship program by augmenting its budget with P1.6 billion.

He showed an audio-visual presentation of two TESDA scholars whose lives were changed by the program. Former jeepney barker, Marc Escora, related how the program helped him land a job in the BPO industry. Jonalyn Navarosa also recalled how the program aided her to become successful in the field of automotive service.

President Aquino said the program produced 223,615 graduates, 66 percent or 146,731 of whom have already found jobs. TESDA is helping the rest find employment.

“This is good governance: the right intentions, practices and results. Everyone wins,” he said.

The President further tackled social services, citing the Expanded Conditional Cash Transfer program, which started last June with a P12.3-billion fund.

He noted the record drop in the country's poverty incidence from 27.9 percent in the first semester of 2012 to 24.9 percent in same period of 2013, which translates to 2.5 million Filipinos currently above the poverty line.
He then mentioned the country’s economic gains through intensified tax collection efforts, with tax collections increasing from P1.094 trillion in 2010 to P1.536 trillion in 2013.

“Under a fair system, the resurgence of our economy began. We were able to save because of prudent fiscal management,” he said.

With prudent fiscal management, he said the government was able to pay P40 billion in debt.

“We worked hard to accumulate the funds the government has today, which is why we will not tolerate wasting it,” he further said.
He also noted the investment grade status the country obtained from Moody’s, Fitch Group and Standard & Poor's.

Wearing a white barong with a yellow ribbon pin, President Aquino arrived at the Batasan Complex at about 3:25 p.m. He was welcomed by Senate President Franklin Drilon and House of Representatives Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.

The President’s sisters, Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, Pinky Aquino-Abellada, Viel Aquino-Dee and Kris Aquino, were present, wearing gowns with yellow embellishments, showing their support for their brother.

Several members of the Aquino Cabinet arrived together namely Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, National Economic Development Authority Chief Arsenio Balisacan, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, and Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje,

Also present were Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, TESDA Director General Joel Villanueva, Agriculture Secretary Virgilio Delos Reyes, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, DOST Secretary Mario Montejo, CHED Secretary Patricia Licuanan, DOTC Secretary Emilio Abaya, Education Secretary Br. Armin Luistro, DILG Secretary Manuel Roxas, DFA Secretary Albert Del Rosario Rehabilitation and Recovery Secretary Ping Lacson, Chairman of the Committees on Agriculture and Social Justice in the Senate Francis Pangilinan, Presidential Management Staff Chief Julia Abad and Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.

All Cabinet members were wearing yellow ribbons, showing solidarity amid criticisms against the administration involving the DAP, which the Supreme Court declared partially unconstitutional.

Vice President Jejomar Binay was also present as well as former President Fidel V. Ramos.

The President’s fifth State of the Nation Address was attended by about 2,000 guests, composed of members of the 16th Congress, Supreme Court justices, members of the Diplomatic Corps, Cabinet secretaries, other national government officials, and invited guests.

The President’s address lasted 1 hour and 31 minutes, drawing applause 86 times. PND (jb)

President Aquino: The Filipino is worth fighting for

“The Filipino is worth fighting for!”

President Benigno S. Aquino III added this line to the slogan of his father, the late Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., when he delivered his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City on Monday.

The President made the remark towards the end of his speech when he was thanking the Filipino people for giving him the chance to lead them.

“Ang transpormasyong tinatamasa natin ngayon, ay magagawa nating permanente sa gabay ng Panginoon. Hangga't buo ang ating pananalig at tiwala, at hangga't nagsisilbi tayong lakas ng isa’t isa, patuloy nating mapapatunayan na the Filipino is worth dying for, the Filipino is worth living for, at idadagdag ko naman po: The Filipino is definitely worth fighting for,” he said.

Ninoy Aquino uttered his famous last words, “The Filipino is worth dying for,” before he was gunned down in 1983 during the regime of former president Ferdinand Marcos.

President Aquino said that now, he knows the reason why he survived the ambush during the presidency of his mother, the late Corazon C. Aquino.

“Alam po ni Vice President na noong 1987, nagkasama kami, may kudeta, na-ambush po tayo doon, at tapos noon ay pangalawang buhay ko na po ito… Kuntento na po ako dahil panatag ang kalooban ko na kung ako po’y mawala na dito, marami po ang magpapatuloy ng ating tinahak; baka iyon lang po talaga ang papel ko, na umpisahan ito,” said President Aquino.

He then expressed his gratitude to the members of his Cabinet and religious leaders.

In an interview after the SONA, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. confirmed that during the last part of the address, the President spoke impromptu.

“He was talking to me, he was talking to every Filipino,” said Coloma. PND (ag)

President Aquino reports on reconstruction efforts in disaster-hit areas

President Benigno S. Aquino III said the government has started rebuilding efforts in areas devastated by disasters and conflict last year.

In his fifth State of the Nation Address on Monday, the President said he signed this month the Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan for the provinces of Cebu, Iloilo, Samar, Eastern Samar, Leyte, and Tacloban City, which were devastated by Typhoon Yolanda in November last year.

The plan, which passed the stringent assessment of the Cabinet cluster, will help the typhoon victims begin new lives, he said.

"Nabuo po ang planong ito sa maigting na pagsisikap ni Secretary Ping Lacson, na inatasan nga nating tumutok sa mga hamong iniwan ni Yolanda. Umaasa po ako sa pakikiisa ng Kongreso, dahil malaking halaga ang kailangan, upang tuluyan nang maibangon ang ating mga kababayan," he said.

The Chief Executive also thanked the countries that assisted the Philippines in its rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of the super typhoon.

Typhoon Yolanda, recorded as the strongest typhoon in history, affected 1.4 million Filipino families in 44 provinces in the country. Eastern Visayas was the most severely hit.

While the government rehabilitates typhoon-affected areas in the Visayas, he said it is also focusing on the welfare of communities devastated by the Zamboanga siege in September last year.

The government is already carrying out the Zamboanga City Roadmap to Recovery and Reconstruction, the President said, adding that this August, families affected by the conflict will start occupying permanent shelters built by the government in Martha Drive Subdivision.

The government aims to complete a total of 7,176 houses in different locations by June next year, the President reported, apologizing for the delays because of concerns in finding relocations sites.

"Tinitiyak din nating ang mga tahanang ito ay sumasang-ayon sa pangangailangan ng kanilang relihiyon at kultura, kaya't hindi pangkaraniwan ang mga ito," he noted.

For the 1,661 families who want to reconstruct their own homes, the government has released P30,000 for each of them under the Home Materials Assistance program, the President said.

The government has allotted P3.5 billion to fix infrastructure, buy land, and build permanent shelters in Zamboanga City. Of that amount, he said that P2.5 billion was released to the National Housing Authority and the Department of Public Works and Highways.

Aside from addressing the problems in the Visayas and Zamboanga City, the government has already reconstructed major infrastructure destroyed by a powerful quake in Bohol and Cebu, he said.

Some 25 bridges destroyed by the quake have been rebuilt and are already functional, the President said, noting that the government had released P3.583 billion to rehabilitate Bohol and Cebu.

"Kasama na rito ang P2.49 billion na ipinagkaloob ng Department of Interior and Local Government sa lokal na gobyerno, para sa pagpapagawa ng mga palengke, civic centers, tulay, water systems, munisipyo at iba pang istrukturang pampamahalaan," he said. PND (as)

Increased flights, aviation safety upgrades bode well for tourism industry, economy: President Aquino

Aviation safety upgrades and an increased number of direct flights by local carriers to other countries are signs of better things to come for the country’s tourism industry, President Benigno S. Aquino III said during his fifth State of the Nation Address, delivered on Monday at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) lifted its "significant safety concern" tag on the Philippines last year, and the United States Federal Aviation Administration (USFAA) has upgraded the country’s status back to Category 1, allowing more flights to US territories.

The European Union (EU) has also relaxed its restrictions on the country’s local carriers, the President said, paving the way for the Philippine Airlines to launch its direct flight to London after 15 years, which may be followed soon by Cebu Pacific.

President Aquino said these developments mean more opportunities for tourists and businessmen, especially those in Europe and the US, to visit the country and add vigor to its already improving economy.

“Dumarating sa atin ang mga ulat na sa dami ng mga gustong bumisitang negosyante at turista sa ating bansa, dumarating ang mga panahong kulang na ang mga biyahe papunta rito. Magandang balita nga po ang mga upgrade: dadami ang mga biyahe kaya matutugunan ang suliraning ito,” he said.

President Aquino thanked Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) director general William Hotchkiss and the men behind local carriers for these achievements.

“Sa patuloy na pagtutulungan ng CAAP at ng ating mga local carriers, pihadong mas marami pa tayong maaakit na turista at negosyante sa mga susunod na taon. Panalo ang mga umaasa sa sektor ng turismo, panalo ang sambayanang Pilipino. Mabuting pamamahala po ang ugat ng mga tagumpay na ito,” he said.

With the Philippines’ successful hosting of the recently concluded World Economic Forum on East Asia last May, President Aquino said he has never been more excited to announce even greater business opportunities for investors in the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, to be hosted also by Manila next year.

“Ihahayag natin sa gaganaping APEC Summit dito sa susunod na taon ang kaunlarang nakakamit natin at ang pagkakataong hatid nito para sa lahat. Wala pong duda, more open for business na nga po ang Pilipinas,” he said. PND (hdc)