Tuesday, 16 September 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Thursday, September 11, 2014

President Aquino leads launch of 420-megawatt power plant project

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Thursday led the ceremonial launch of the 420-megawatt Pagbilao III Power Plant project, signaling the start of the 37-month construction of the plant in Barangay Ibabang Polo, Pagbilao, Quezon province.

“This (project) is absolutely necessary to ensure a steady supply of the power that Filipinos need day in, and day out, even as we seek to diversify the energy mix by bringing in other power sources,” President Aquino said in his speech during the event, held in Fairmont Hotel in Makati City.

The President said that apart from supplying additional coal power, the construction of the plant would create 2,000 jobs, which will have a multiplier effect in the community.

“So, to TeaM Energy Corporation and Aboitiz Power Corporation, thank you for your continuing confidence in the Philippines,” he said, referring to the Japanese and Filipino companies that have teamed up to construct the power plant.

President of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which is a partner of TeaM Energy, Naomi Hirose said they were investing in the Philippines due to President Aquino’s good governance, the country’s Triple “B” credit rating, and economic growth.

“This investment of close to $1 billion will be equipped with the latest, reliable environmental technologies, such as state-of-the-art flue gas desulfurizer. This will ensure strict adherence to the country’s environmental laws and regulations,” Hirose said.

Meanwhile, Aboitiz Power Corporation Chief Executive Officer Erramon Aboitiz said his company initiated the project because it believes that “the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) is working.”

The EPIRA Law or RA 9136 is designed to reduce electricity rates and improve the delivery of power supply to end-users by encouraging greater competition and efficiency in the power industry.

Also present during the launch were Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla; Aboitiz Equity Ventures Chairman Jon Ramon Aboitiz; Vice Chairman of Marubeni Corporation, the other partner of TeaM Energy, Mamoru Sekiyama; and Fairmont Hotel General Manager David Bachelor. PNA (ag)

President Aquino receives Temasek officials during courtesy call in Malacañang

President Benigno S. Aquino III received officials of Temasek, a Singapore-based investment company, during a courtesy call in Malacañang Palace on Thursday.

The Temasek officials who called on President Aquino included Temasek International Pte. Ltd. president Then Kiat Lee; Temasek Foundation chief executive officer Benedict Cheong; managing director Jeffrey Chua; and director Eddy Jetjiwarat.

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo were also present.

Temasek's portfolio is mainly concentrated in Asia and Singapore, covering a broad spectrum of industries.

The Temasek Foundation, set up by the company, is a philanthropic organization that seeks to build a more prosperous, stable and connected Asia through building human and social capital.

Working with expertise institutions from Singapore and the region, the foundation supports training programs that build capabilities in health care, education, public administration and disaster response, as well as programs that promote positive networks of cooperation across Asia. PND (as)

Government to prosecute garlic hoarders, Palace official says

President Benigno S. Aquino III has directed two Cabinet Secretaries to coordinate with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to build up cases against those involved in garlic hoarding and price manipulation.

In a press briefing in Malacañang on Thursday, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said the instruction was directed at Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Secretary Francis Pangilinan.

“He also instructed (Trade and Industry) Secretary Gregory Domingo to work closely with the two Secretaries to ensure faster response to unusual increases in the prices of rice and other commodities through the National Price Coordinating Council,” said Coloma.

The directives came after Justice Secretary Leila De Lima and DOJ Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy briefed the President and other members of the Cabinet on Wednesday, regarding the result of the probe on garlic supply and prices conducted by the DOJ and the National Bureau of Investigation.

“According to Secretary De Lima, the NBI shall pursue the leads and gather further evidence to prosecute the personalities involved in garlic hoarding and price manipulation, including officials of the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Plant Industry, who may have been in collusion with them,” Coloma said. PND (ag)

New MRT 3 coaches to start arriving in September 2015, Palace says

The Palace announced on Thursday that 48 brand new coaches for MRT 3 will arrive starting September next year to improve the services of the light railway system.

The delivery of the new coaches will increase MRT 3’s capacity by 66 percent and improve headway -- the gap between trains-- to 2.5 minutes, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. told reporters during a press briefing in Malacañang.

He said Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya informed President Aquino of the delivery of the coaches during a meeting at the Palace on Wednesday.

Coloma further said that aside from the delivery of the new coaches, the government will also carry out maintenance and improvement projects for the light railway system.

These include train overhaul and general repair of 28 cars amounting to P1.156 billion; upgrade of the power substations and ancillary systems for P870 million; upgrade of signaling system and computer software for P184.7 million;

Improvement of radio communication system for P110 million; replacement of old rail tracks for P119.5 million; replacement of traction motors for P94.5 million; and upgrade and replacement of elevators and escalators for the benefit of persons with disability, senior citizens and pregnant women for P50 million.

The procurement of these equipment and services are either ongoing or will start next month, Coloma said, noting that most of the projects will be fully implemented in 2015, according to the Department of Transportation and Communications.

Abaya also reported on the ongoing selection process for a new maintenance service provider that will service the light railway system in the next three years, Coloma added. PND (as)

President Aquino still has confidence in Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, Palace official says

President Benigno S. Aquino III still has confidence in Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, the Palace said on Thursday.

“Patuloy ang pagtitiwala ni Pangulong Aquino kay Secretary Soliman dahil sa kanyang dedikasyon sa tungkulin at kasipagan,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said during a press briefing in Malacañang.

Coloma was responding to calls for the President to dismiss Soliman over reports that Family Food Packs meant for survivors of Typhoon Yolanda had been lost to spoilage due to improper handling.

He noted that the government understands the frustration felt by the victims of Typhoon Yolanda.

“Unawain lang po natin na libu-libo ang mga taong apektado at kung mayroong iilan na magpapahayag ng hindi pagiging kuntento sa mga serbisyo, mauunawaan po natin ‘yan, dahil batid din natin na malawak at naging malalim ang pinsala at hindi naman nagpapanggap ang pamahalaan na solusyunan na itong isandaang porsyento,” he said.

He said the status of international donations to the typhoon victims could be verified at the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH) website. PND (ag)

President Aquino to ask Congress to allow government to address power deficit

President Benigno S. Aquino III said Thursday he will ask Congress to authorize the government to contract an additional power generating capacity to meet the 300-megawatt power shortage projected for next year.

“To be more efficient and impactful in our efforts, very soon, we will formally ask Congress for a joint resolution that will authorize the national government to contract an additional generating capacity to address the 300-megawatt projected deficit, on top of that, to have sufficient regulating reserves equivalent to four percent of peak demand, for another 300 megawatts,” the President said during the launch of the 420-megawatt Pagbilao III Power Plant project in Fairmont Hotel in Makati City.

The ceremonial launch signaled the start of the 37-month construction of the plant in Barangay Ibabang Polo, Pagbilao, Quezon province.

In his speech, the President said his administration has always underscored the importance of reforms in the energy sector.

He noted that growing demand, brought about by the country’s economic resurgence and changes in personal lifestyle, is only one of the challenges faced by the energy sector.

“Forced power plant outages have been observed to rise, especially in the summer months, coinciding with the periods of peak demand. This situation results in quite thin reserves, particularly in Luzon,” he said, adding that these outages are the result of ambient temperatures on the operation of thermal plants; low water supply for hydropower plants; and turbine and part issues of other power plants.

“And there are the many other factors that affect our power supply adversely: weather phenomena such as El Niño and the typhoons that visit our country every year; the de-rating of plants due to unforeseen problems; and delays in the construction of power plants; and various legal challenges to the setting up these power plants are also part of the problem mix,” he said.

He further said that many power plants are still running beyond their maximum age.

The President however assured that the government is on top of the situation.

“We are keeping tabs on all the factors involved, and I am very much aware that government cannot be complacent in addressing these issues,” he said, adding that the Department of Energy has intensified its coordination and consultation with consumers, industry stakeholders, and other agencies in trying to find solutions.

The President also guaranteed that the government would not interfere in the current provisions that allow competitiveness in the electricity sector under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).

“Government intervention will be focused solely on addressing the projected shortage. We have no plans of intervening to distort the market or complicate the situation even further,” he said.

Under the EPIRA or RA 9136, the government encourages competition among power suppliers to reduce electricity rates and improve the delivery of power supply to end-users.

During Thursday’s press briefing in Malacañang, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said the joint resolution is only one of the government’s options in addressing the possible electricity shortage.

“Hindi naman nagfo-focus lamang doon sa sinabi ng Pangulo na hinihiling sa Kongreso at ito naman ay para bang naniniguro lang na meron tayong pampupuno doon sa maaaring kakulangan dahil hindi naman kagyat ito,” Coloma said, adding that the Department of Energy will also continue to solicit participation in the Interruptible Load Program. PND (ag)

Philippines supports U.S. strategy against Islamic State, Palace says

Malacañang said it supports the United States' newly announced strategy to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

During Thursday’s press briefing at the Palace, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said the Philippines is behind US President Barack Obama's plan to fight terror.

"In principle lang po," he told reporters about the nature of the country's support. "Iyong posisyon kasi ng Pilipinas ay ‘yung paglaban din sa mga acts of terror, saan man ito magaganap."

He cited as an example the September 11 attack in the US 13 years ago, which was condemned by many countries across the world.

"Kaya’t ang tinutukoy na acts of terror ay kinokondena hindi lamang ng Estados Unidos pero ng Pilipinas at ng lahat ng mga bansang pinapahalagahan ang buhay at ang katahimikan at kaayusan sa ating bansa at sa daigdig," he said.

Obama on September 10 outlined his strategy to destroy the ISIS through a systematic campaign of air strikes and increased support for allied ground forces fighting the militants.

Prior to Obama's announcement, he rallied the support of other allies, especially those from European countries to work together in annihilating ISIS.

US officials are also working to forge a strong alliance with Mideast countries to defeat the terror organization. PND (as)