Wednesday, 24 September 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Monday, September 22, 2014

Philippines better off today with ongoing reforms, says President Aquino

(BOSTON, Massachusetts) The Philippines has changed a lot and has created more opportunities for its people because of the reform measures undertaken by the government, President Benigno S. Aquino III said Sunday in a speech before students of Boston College and the Filipino-American community here.

Among the major changes that have taken place in the Philippines are the country's big strides in the economic front, the peace in Mindanao, and government initiatives to fight corruption, he said.

The President recalled that from 2006 to 2009, average growth was at 4.3 percent, saying this was largely consumer-driven, fueled by the remittances of overseas workers who had lost hope in the motherland.

Since taking office in 2010, President Aquino said, his administration has worked to foster sustainability by rebalancing the economy towards investments.

"Since 2010, our economy has been growing at an average of 6.3 percent, and last year, we posted an economic growth of 7.2 percent, making us one of the fastest growing economies in our part of the world," he told his audience.

The World Economic Forum Competitiveness Report showed that the Philippines jumped from 85th place in 2010 to 52nd in 2014, the biggest improvement by any country in that particular time frame.

The three major credit ratings agencies, namely Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, also upgraded the country for the first time to investment grade in 2013, he said, adding that these upgrades reduced the cost of borrowing and reinforced confidence among investors to put their money in the Philippines.

On its anti-corruption drive, the President said the former chief Justice of the Supreme Court was impeached and is facing charges in regular courts.

A former president and three incumbent senators are also in detention, all of them facing charges of plunder, he added.

Focusing on social protection, he said, is also a major thrust of the government.

The President said that 4.1 million poor Filipino families have committed to vaccinating their children, keeping them in school, and sending pregnant mothers for regular check-ups under the expanded Conditional Cash Transfer program.

Job generation initiatives by the government have also started to bear fruit, the Chief Executive said.

He said that 1.65 million more Filipinos hold jobs in April 2014, compared to April 2013. From the first semester of 2012 to the same period in 2013, 2.5 million Filipinos have risen above the poverty line.

"And we are not satisfied; the government continues to work to ensure that citizens not only surpass the poverty line and find gainful employment, but also are shielded from once again falling below it again," the President said.

After several decades, permanent peace is already evident in Mindanao, he told the Boston College community.

The Executive Branch of the government, he said, has submitted the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law to Congress, after the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed in March this year.

"Our achievements thus far are merely the beginning of a new era of transformation," he said, noting that the country is at the threshold of sustained and positive change.

Current reforms have shifted the Filipino mindset, from indifference and despair to having feelings of hope for Filipinos to dream again, he said. PND (as)

President Aquino thanks donors from Boston for helping typhoon-devastated Visayan region

(BOSTON, Massachusetts) President Benigno S. Aquino III has expressed his gratitude to Boston College and Filipino-Americans who had extended assistance to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda.

"Without the help of our friends in the international community, the path to recovery and rehabilitation would not have been traversed as early and as efficiently," the President said in his speech at Boston College here Sunday.

The President attended a convocation and a reception hosted by the Filipino-American community here, and met with the recipients of the Benigno and Corazon Aquino scholarship.

"To all my countrymen here today and to the organizations you belong to and represent, I know that many of you here, including our host Boston College, raised funds and sent material help to the Yolanda survivors," he told his audience. "I would like to thank you for your generosity and kindness."

The compassion expressed by donors from Boston is similar to core Filipino values that remain to be a shining example of the best that humanity has to offer, he said.

"It is the same sense of community that welcomed us and allowed my family some warmth and light so many years ago, when the darkness of the dictatorship threatened to overwhelm us," he added.

Prior to his meeting with the Filipino-American community and Boston College officials and students, the President attended a mass celebrated at St. Ignatius Church at the Boston College campus.

The President, who arrived here Saturday night, was accompanied by some members of his Cabinet and Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia, Jr. PND (as)

President Aquino recalls hardships during Martial Law years

(BOSTON, Massachusetts) As the country marked the 42nd anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, President Aquino on Sunday recalled his family’s sufferings under the dictatorship of former president Ferdinand Marcos.

"Every aspect of life was controlled by the dictator, and unless you belonged to the favored few, you had very limited rights," the President said in a speech delivered before students and officials of Boston College as well as Filipino-Americans here.

After then president Marcos put the entire nation under military rule on September 21, 1972, President Aquino’s family had to live in exile for three years in Boston. When his father, former senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. returned to the Philippines on August 21, 1983, he was assassinated.

"A curfew limited the time you could be outside your home; travel abroad required official permission; and there was no such thing as free speech, or freedom of assembly," President Aquino said.

Marcos and his cronies plundered the public treasury, destroyed the checks and balances in government, and governed with total impunity to kill, abduct and torture critics, according to the President.

Out of fear, or an unwillingness to take any risk, many people stopped talking to the Aquino family, he recounted.

He noted that his father’s assassination however became a turning point, as the Filipinos sympathized with the Aquinos, leading to the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution that also put his mother, former president Corazon Aquino at the helm of government.

President Aquino further said that just like during the martial law years, the country experienced about a decade of abuse and neglect during the previous administration.

This however changed when the Filipinos gave him the mandate to carry out reforms in government, he said.

He told his audience that present achievements are merely the beginning of a new era of national transformation.

"We are at the threshold of sustained, positive change in society; we have corrected the inefficiencies in government, stopped the wrong practices, and engendered a shift in the Filipino mindset, from one of indifference and despair, to one where we can dream again, and are increasingly being given the wherewithal to fulfill our dreams," he said.

The nation, he said, will be building on what it has already achieved, starting from a higher plane, towards a situation that could harness the full potential of the Filipino people.

"And I know that if we hold fast, and keep on the straight path, then the transformation in Philippine society can become an enduring mainstream of justice, inclusiveness, and empowerment," President Aquino said. PND (as)

President Aquino pays homage to Boston, walks down memory lane

(BOSTON, Massachusetts) President Benigno S. Aquino III on Sunday paid homage to Boston in a 37-minute speech, replete with anecdotes and bittersweet memories, as he looked back at his life in the early 1980s while growing up in this area.

It was a homecoming 31 years in the making. President Aquino acknowledged it took that long for him to come back as he had to make sure his emotions were in check before embarking on this nostalgic trip.

“It has been 31 years since I left Boston, and coming here for the first time since then brings back quite a lot of memories. It was here in Boston that I experienced my first snowfall,” the President told a Filipino-American convocation at the Robsham Theater in Boston College.

“To those of you who remember me back then as the dog-handler, carpenter, plumber, baggage-carrier, mechanic, driver, etc., as that young man who found it difficult to weather your cold winters, you must be thinking ‘how things have changed,' Boston played a significant role in this,” he said.

President Aquino said he owed to Boston and their friends here the “sense of normalcy” granted to his family as they tried to comprehend the suffering they had to deal with under then president Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship.

“It was here in Boston that I learned the value of introspection… I consider my time here as amongst my formative years, fortifying me for the continuation of the struggle, and arming me with relevant experiences… It was in Boston, thanks to all our friends, that my family was given a haven from the persecution of the dictatorship,” he said.

President Aquino lived in Boston with his family from 1980 to 1983. He was in his early 20s then and had just graduated from Ateneo de Manila University.

He remembered the deep conversations he had with his father, the late Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr., during those years and how these conversations guide him whenever he has to make tough decisions.

“My father was quoting from the Bible when he said, ‘If the time is not right, a thousand prophets will not make a difference. But if the time is right, not even a single prophet will be needed.’ He was proven right. Dad's death started a new movement for change,” he said.

The elder Aquino’s assassination on August 21, 1983 ignited a people power revolution in the Philippines, catapulting his wife, Corazon Aquino, to the presidency. President Aquino eventually followed his parents’ footsteps after responding to public clamor for him to run for president in 2010.

“For me, the time my family spent in Boston will always be linked to the revolution that reclaimed democracy and our national dignity. The solidarity we felt from Boston College and the community here was a precursor of the solidarity displayed by the millions of Filipinos who massed in EDSA. It is, indeed, an understatement to say that Boston is close to my family’s heart,” he said.

President Aquino thanked the entire Boston College community as well as the Jesuit priests whom he considered as among those responsible for his scholastic upbringing.

"If I amounted to anything, I think the Jesuits should be credited with, at the very least, half of what I know today," President Aquino earlier said to Fr. William Leahy, who celebrated the mass he attended at the St. Ignatius Church prior to the convocation.

Concluding his speech, the President left this particular vignette about his mother to his audience: “During her visit to Boston in the springtime of Filipino democracy in 1986, Mom said to the communities here, ‘I wish you many splendid autumn memories this winter.’ I echo this today, in saying: May the memories you build here be warmed by the affections of Filipinos who, like me, found in Boston home, kindness, and kinship.” PND (hdc)

MalacaƱang announces new appointments in various agencies

MalacaƱang on Monday announced that President Benigno S. Aquino III has appointed 12 new officials in various government agencies.

In a press briefing, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte told reporters that President Aquino signed the appointment of Victor Jose Luciano as member of the Civil Aeronautics Board under the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC).

Also appointed under the DOTC were Emigdio Tanjuatco III as president/chief executive officer and member of the board of directors of the Clark International Airport Corporation; and Alipio Fernandez, Jr. and Ramil Guiao as members of the corporation’s board of directors.

Under the Department of Health, Valeriano Lopez was appointed as Director IV; and Celia Carlos and Ruby Constantino as Acting Directors III.

The President also appointed Lea Delfinado as Director III under the Department of Public Works and Highways; Danilo Enriquez as Director IV of the Bureau of Philippine Standards under the Department of Trade and Industry; Briccio Santos as chairperson of the Film Development Council of the Philippines; Gregorio Ramon Tingson as member representing the youth sector under the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council; and, Reginald Villasanta as undersecterary under the Office of the President. PND (ag)

Gov’t allots P14.8-M for President Aquino’s visit to US

The government has earmarked P14.8 million for President Benigno S. Aquino III’s visit to the US, where he will address a global summit on climate change organized by the United Nations and sit down with business leaders to discuss the investment and tourism potential of the Philippines, Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. said on Monday.

President Aquino departed Berlin, Germany, the last stop in his eight-day working visit to Europe, on Saturday evening for Boston for a four-day visit beginning September 20. He will be in New York on September 22.

President Aquino will be joined in the US by members of his official family, namely, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo, Socio-economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, Presidential Assistant on Climate Change Secretary Mary Ann Lucille Sering, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, Press Secretary Herminio Coloma, Presidential Management Staff Chief Julia Andrea Abad, Presidential Protocol Chief Celia Anna Feria, Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III and Undersecretary Rochelle Ahorro.

The amount covers expenses for transportation, accommodation, food, equipment and other requirements of the Chief Executive and his delegation.

“President Aquino will underscore the experience and successes of our country in implementing reforms and in dealing with the problem of corruption in government to political and business leaders in the US,” Ochoa noted.

“He sees this visit to the US as an opportunity to push our agenda on trade, tourism, peace and security as well as further strengthen ties between our country and the US.”

In New York, President Aquino is scheduled to meet with the chief executive officer (CEO) of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and will have the opportunity to ring the NYSE bell. A breakfast roundtable with CEOs will also be held at the NYSE.

Later in the day, the President will sit down with CEOs of the US Chamber of Commerce and the US-ASEAN Business Council for a business roundtable.

One of the highlights of the President’s visit in the US is a speech before world leaders at the UN Climate Change Summit Plenary 2014 organized by the United Nations.

“President Aquino will emphasize the need for world leaders to stand together to address climate change and its adverse effects on people and economies. The President is well aware of the impacts of climate change especially to vulnerable developing counties like the Philippines,” Ochoa said.

President Aquino is expected to be back in the country on Thursday (September 25).

President Aquino thanks Boston College for renaming scholarships after his parents

(BOSTON, Massachusetts) President Benigno S. Aquino III on Sunday thanked the Boston College community for honoring his parents, the late senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. and the late president Corazon Aquino, by renaming the Asian American Scholarships after them.

“In this home away from home, I must also express my deepest appreciation to Boston College for renaming the Asian American Scholarships after my parents in 2010,” the President told a convocation of Filipino-Americans at Boston College’s Robsham Theater.

The Benigno and Corazon Aquino Scholarships are bestowed annually upon smart, dedicated, and courageous Asian and Asian-American students who are entering their senior year at Boston College.

“Mom and Dad placed a very high premium on education. They believed that a person can be famous one day, and a nobody the next; he can be rich today, and penniless tomorrow. But education is a permanent resource; once you have it, you can never lose it,” President Aquino told students of the college.

“All of you who are students here bear the hopes and dreams of your families and communities. You face the challenge of balancing your academics with the Ignatian challenge of being a man or a woman for others, of going beyond yourselves and truly being God's light in the world,” he added.

Out of all the many great Asian and Asian-Americans that embody the ideals the scholarship program stand for, naming it after President Aquino’s parents was the perfect fit, said Professor Min Hyoung Song, Boston College Chair of the Aquino Scholarship and Director of the Asian American Studies Program.

“What I personally love about the name—Benigno and Corazon Aquino—is that it tells us something about this problem for justice. It says that one might never see the fulfillment of one’s aspirations for justice. But that one, nevertheless, strives and finds courage to attain it,” Song explained

“And if one fails, someone else will pick up that struggle. That one will have inspired someone else and that it continues on and on, that the struggle for justice never ends, and I think that’s what this scholarship ultimately distills for our students,” he added.

President Aquino also met some of the Asian and Asian-American recipients of the scholarship program, including Matt Alonsozana, who spoke in behalf of his fellow scholars to deliver a message of gratitude for the visiting Philippine head of state.

“Mr. President, the scholarship named in honor of your parents is not so much an occasion to which we here at Boston College celebrate past deeds. Instead, the bestowal of this award is an acknowledgment by our community that the principles and ideals of your parents illustrate that which we are called here to do at Boston College: to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heave the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to seek reward, to be men and women for others now and forevermore,” Alonsozana said.

The connection between Boston College and the Aquino family dates back to the early 1980s, when the latter occupied the house at 175 Commonwealth Avenue, which is a short distance away from the school.

President Aquino’s younger sister, Viel Aquino-Dee, in fact completed her college education here. The Chief Executive also said he spent a lot of time in its St. Ignatius Church back in the day.

“Each year, we award the Benigno and Corazon Aquino scholarship in recognition of their commitment to justice, democracy, and service of others. So today’s events, our presence here, reaffirm the links between Boston College and the Philippines,” said Fr. William Leahy, president of the Boston College. PND (hdc)

Flood control projects to be completed by August 2015, says Palace

In the aftermath of Typhoon Mario that left parts of Metro Manila submerged in floodwaters, the government is optimistic that it can complete its flood control projects by August next year, a Palace official said on Monday.

In a press briefing, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte told reporters that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) will look for other sources of funds to complete the projects.

“Sabi ni (DPWH) Secretary (Rogelio) Singson, while there were infrastructure projects na flood-related affected by the DAP decision, hahanapan nila ng ibang funding source ito,” said Valte.

She noted that the DPWH has identified the three main causes of flooding in Metro Manila -- the clogged waterways, small and old drainage, and garbage that find their way into the sewage system.

Meanwhile, Valte said President Benigno S. Aquino III has directed his Cabinet to give the typhoon victims assistance, restore power supply, and make passable all flooded roads for relief efforts.

“Siguraduhin na kahit umaaraw na ay patuloy pa rin ang pagtulong ng pambansang pamahalaan,” she said, referring to the President’s instruction.

According to Valte, power has been restored in Apayao, Laguna, Batangas, Quezon and Rizal. PND (ag)