Philippines lauds European Union’s peace and development efforts in Mindanao
A top Malacañang official has lauded the programs of the European Union (EU) to promote peace and development in the Mindanao region, especially in the areas of poverty alleviation, promotion of human rights, and good governance.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said on Wednesday the EU has been an active partner in the peace process in Mindanao and has provided grants to civil society organizations that spearhead programs in peacekeeping and monitoring, confidence- and peace-building actions, as well as facilitate workshops and dialogues among stakeholders in the region.
“The EU is a member of the International Monitoring Team and has been a major development partner in Mindanao,” Coloma said. “We thank the EU for its decision to double its bilateral assistance to the Philippines of up to P19 billion for the next five years.”
Coloma’s statement comes on the heels of the visit of Lady Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Vice President of the European Commission, who visited the Philippines last month to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the EU and the Philippines.
According to data from the Department of Trade and Industry, the EU is the largest investor in the Philippines by stock, with total investments amounting to an estimated P440 billion, which have created an estimated 400,000 jobs in the country.
Data from the Board of Investments show net Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flow from the EU amounted to about P645 billion last year, up from P551 billion in 2012. The EU bloc is the country’s third largest trading partner.
Coloma expressed appreciation to the EU for the bullishness in the country with increased investments in recognition of the significant reforms implemented by the Aquino administration to strengthen transparency and good governance. Early this year, the EU lifted its sanctions on Philippine carriers.
He also commended the EU’s call for a peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“We are one with the EU in its position to ...oppose any unilateral attempt by any party to assert its territorial or maritime claims through the use of intimidation, coercion or force,” Coloma added. PND
Government, MILF panels eye submission of draft Bangsamoro Law to the President this month, says official
A Malacañang official said they hope that the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) panels hammering out the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law could submit the proposal to the Office of the President this month.
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during Wednesday’s press briefing that Senate President Franklin Drilon and Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles have discussed the issue.
"The idea is really to submit it on or dito nga sa month ng August,” Lacierda said, adding that Senator Drilon wants Congress to pass the draft law by the end of December or until the first quarter of next year.
He said that based on a statement they recently issued, both panels intend to submit the draft to the Office of the President by August 18 and hopefully, it could be forwarded to Congress by the end of August.
Lacierda said that while the Palace would like the draft law to be passed by the end of the year, Senator Drilon has been looking at the first quarter as also a possible deadline for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Given the current time constraints, he said it is still possible to go through the timetable, particularly the holding of a plebiscite, the formation of the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority, and the formation of a regional government to be synchronized with the national elections in 2016.
On concerns that the delay in the passing of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law could lead to apprehensions on the ground, Lacierda said the MILF is well aware that both sides are committed and working hard to complete the draft.
"The MILF is also familiar that both parties are working steadfastly on making sure that the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be submitted to Congress," he said.
"This is not a decision that was unilaterally made by just the government panel. Both parties agreed on a certain date, hopefully, to submit to the Office of the President," Lacierda added. PND (as)
Government ready to protect relatives of Maguindanao massacre victims, says Malacañang
The Department of Justice is ready to provide protection to the families of the victims of the Maguindanao massacre, following reports about an attempt to bribe the widow of one of the victims, a Palace official has said.
"One of the things that we have really implemented is to make sure that the witnesses are covered under the Witness Protection Program," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing on Wednesday.
"That is very important for us—to protect them. And for those who are not covered by the Witness Protection Program, we would ask them and request them to join the program, so that they will not be put in harm’s way," he added.
Lacierda advised those being offered money in exchange for their silence to file a complaint in court so that the Department of Justice could conduct an investigation.
“Otherwise, we won’t be able to act on it,” he said.
Lacierda however said it is not clear when the bribery attempt was made, considering that the prosecution has rested its case in the trial of the massacre.
The public, he said, is waiting for the defense to present its evidences. PND (as)
Government undertaking measures to decongest port of Manila to prevent commodity price increases
Several measures are being undertaken to decongest the Port of Manila as a delay in the delivery of goods could lead to inflation, Malacañang said on Wednesday.
"While we are continuously putting in place measures to decongest the Port of Manila, we are also finding alternatives, such as Batangas, which is now being used by some boats," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during the daily press briefing.
Secretary Lacierda was commenting on reports that traders have warned of a spike in the prices of commodities in the coming months, as shipments have failed to arrive in their intended destinations on time due to congestion at the Port of Manila.
He noted that the number of ships docking at the port of Batangas has increased from two per week to eight per week.
With regards to the existing truck ban in the City of Manila, Lacierda said city officials have announced the opening of another route to accommodate more trucks ferrying goods.
"We are also asking that the operations in the port be made 24/7 and that is being done right now," he added.
On traders who are jacking up the prices of their goods even if they are not affected by the traffic congestion at the Port of Manila, Lacierda warned profiteers that the government will go after them.
“We will make sure that the consumers are protected,” he said. PND (as)