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)