President Aquino to visit Europe from September 13 to 20
President Benigno Aquino III is embarking on a four-nation official tour of Europe from September 13 to 20, his first to the region since he assumed office in 2010, to pitch for investments and support for the Philippine position to resolve the conflict in the West Philippine Sea.
In a press briefing in Malacañang on Monday, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Maria Zeneida Angara-Collinson discussed in detail the President’s schedule in Europe, where he is set to meet with leaders of Spain, Belgium, France and Germany before heading to the United States to attend the United Nations Global Climate Change Summit.
According to Collinson, the Chief Executive, accompanied by his official delegation, will depart on September 13 for Spain via a chartered flight, his first stop of the eight-day European trip.
In all of his visits to these nations, the President will also discuss with his counterparts common issues that include the Philippines’ Generalized System of Preferences or the GSP+ application, the illegal and unregulated fishing, the Standard of Training Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCWS) and the latest developments in the comprehensive peace agreement on the Bangsamoro.
In the Spanish capital of Madrid, President Aquino is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and His Majesty King Felipe VI to thank Spain for keeping the Philippines—its only partner in Asia in its Official Development Assistance program—a priority country.
The President is also expected to meet with the Filipino community in all four countries. According to Collinson, there are about 700,000 Filipinos in Europe, of whom 44,000 live in Spain, 6,600 in Belgium, 46,000 in France and 20,000 in Germany.
The President’s next visit is the Belgian capital of Brussels where he will sit down with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who was the former Prime Minister of Belgium, His Majesty King Philippe and Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo.
The European Union (EU) is the Philippines’ number one source of foreign direct investments and one of the major sources of tourists as well, Collinson said.
The EU, she added, has also been a strong supporter of the Philippine position in the West Philippine Sea.
According to Collinson, President Aquino will again invite King Philippe to visit the Philippines, as well as the Belgian Economic Mission to explore investment potentials.
One of the highlights of the Chief Executive’s trip to Belgium is a policy speech at the Egmont Institute in time for the 50th anniversary of the Philippine-EU relations. “It will center on the enduring partnership of the Philippines and the European Union based on shared values of democracy rule of law,” Collinson said.
In Paris, the President will meet separately with French leaders President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls to discuss bilateral issues, including the reactivation of the joint economic committee. He will also witness the signing of the Philippines-France Defense Cooperation Agreement and the air services agreement, and deliver a policy speech at a forum organized by the French Institute for International Relations.
In his last leg of the four-nation European tour, the President will have a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and another with Federal President Joachim Gauck. He is also scheduled to receive German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in a courtesy call.
Germany is the country’s number one trading partner in Europe and ninth overall among the trading partners of the Philippines, currently home to 200 German companies engaged in service-oriented industries, trading and manufacturing.
“We are looking at the signing of a Social Security Agreement and an agreement to establish the Philippine-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry. We are also looking at cooperation in technical vocational education and training,” Collinson said.
She added that the Philippines will also discuss ways on how to increase the deployment of Filipino health care professionals to Germany.
The government aims to deploy 500 nurses in Germany, and hopefully 200 by the end of the year, but so far only 25 nurses are employed since most of the applicants are having a hard time passing German language proficiency.
Aside from nurses, President Aquino is also expected to discuss with his counterparts the Philippine-German Maritime Cooperation to increase employment opportunities for Filipino seafarers.
The President will also deliver a policy speech at a forum organized by the Körber-Stiftung and the Asia Pacific association while in Germany. PND (jb)
President Aquino to discuss trade, West Philippine Sea with European leaders
President Benigno S. Aquino III is set to meet with leaders of four European countries next week to discuss bilateral trade relations and the ongoing dispute of the Philippines with China over the West Philippine Sea, among other issues.
During his eight-day trip to Europe, the President will meet with several leaders, including Spain’s King Felipe VI and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Belgium's King Philippe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President François Hollande, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant SecretaryZeneida Angara-Collinson said during a press briefing on Monday.
President Aquino will also hold talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy when he visits Brussels.
Collinson said the President will seek continued support from the European leaders regarding the country’s position on the West Philippine Sea.
She noted that the European government has been a “strong supporter” of the Philippines’ protest against China in settling territorial disputes over the disputed Spratly Islands.
“The European position on the West Philippine Sea is that they have supported us in terms of peaceful resolution of conflict; resolution of conflict within the framework of international law, which includes UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” she said.
“They have also supported us in terms of freedom of navigation, maritime security. Basically, this visit will also introduce to these countries the 'triple action plan', which is the short-, medium- and long-term roadmap of the Philippines to seek resolution of the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea issue,” she added.
Collinson said it is important for President Aquino to apprise world leaders about what is happening in the West Philippine Sea.
President Aquino is also expected to lure more foreign investors during his visit to the four countries.
"This visit is very important because we have a good story to tell. It is a story that if told directly to the heads of these countries, will act as a spur for them to look at the Philippines, keep the Philippines in mind, and appreciate the potential of further engagements in trade, investments, and tourism with this country," said Collinson.
President Aquino will also inform the European leaders of the latest developments on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which the Chief Executive is set to hand over to Congress on Wednesday.
President Aquino will leave for Europe on Saturday. This is his first official visit to Europe since he assumed presidency in 2010.
The President will first visit Spain, then proceed to Belgium, France and Germany for two days each. PND (jb)
President Aquino to seek European investment
President Benigno S. Aquino III’s upcoming visit to four European countries aims to attract more trade and investment, an official of the Department of Foreign Affairs said Monday.
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Maria Zeneida Angara-Collinson said President Aquino would also seek the European countries’ continued support for the Philippines’ position in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
The President is scheduled to travel to Spain, Belgium, France, and Germany from September 13 to 20.
During a press briefing in Malacañang on Monday afternoon, Assistant Secretary Collinson underscored the importance of the President’s visit to the four European countries.
“First of all, Europe is a very important region in the world. We must remember that the President is in his fourth year in office and he has not once visited Europe. Europe is our partner, not only in trade and investment,” she said.
“But most importantly, it is our partner in the political field when it comes to values, promotion of democracy, rule of law, support for the Philippine position in the West Philippine Sea. Europe is right there with us,” she added.
Collinson said the President’s visit to Europe is a way of recognizing the importance of this region.
“It’s about time. But also, we are expecting the visit to stimulate trade and investment,” she said.
The Philippines is expected to seek investments in areas ranging from tourism to specific products, such as information technology, according to the Foreign Affairs official.
Collinson further said that President Aquino would introduce to the EU the Philippines’ ‘Triple Action Plan’ to address the escalating tensions in the WPS.
“The European position on the West Philippine Sea is that they have supported us in terms of peaceful resolution of conflict—resolution of conflict within the framework of international law, which includes UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.). And when we say that, it includes arbitration,” she said.
“They have also supported us in terms of freedom of navigation, maritime security. Basically, this visit will also introduce to these countries the 'Triple Action Plan', which is the short-, medium- and long-term roadmap of the Philippines to seek resolution of the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea issue,” she added.
Moreover, Collinson said, President Aquino would also assure its European partners that the Philippines is undertaking measures to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUUF).
“President Aquino will go there and assure these countries he’s visiting that the Philippines is serious about combating IUUF, and that we’re undertaking measures,” she said.
Collinson said no sanction has so far been imposed on the Philippines. PND (co)
Government aims to increase Filipino workers in Germany
President Benigno S. Aquino III will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck to look into ways to increase the deployment of Filipino workers in Germany.
Speaking to reporters in Malacañang on Monday, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for European Concerns Maria Zeneida Angara Collinson said President Aquino is set to sign various agreements with Germany when he embarks on his eight-day trip to Europe late this week.
“We are looking at the signing of a social security agreement, also an agreement to establish the Philippine-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry. We are also looking at a cooperation in technical vocational education and training,” Collinson said.
“We will promote the triple win project, which is essentially based on a previous agreement with Germany on health care professionals,” she added.
The government aims to deploy 500 nurses to Germany. So far, only 25 Filipino nurses are working in Germany, as most applicants have a difficult time passing the German language proficiency exam.
The government is eyeing to send 200 nurses in Germany by the end of the year.
Aside from nurses, President Aquino is also expected to discuss with his counterparts the Philippine-German Maritime Cooperation to increase employment opportunities for Filipino seafarers.
Germany is the country’s number one trading partner in Europe and ninth overall among the Philippines’ trading partners.
Collinson said there are about 200 German companies in the country, which focus on service-oriented industries, trading and manufacturing.
There has been a 6 percent increase in German tourists who came to the Philippines in 2012.
There are about 20,000 Filipinos in Germany. PND (jb)
Palace: Government has sufficient funds to rebuild Zamboanga City, could finish housing projects by December
The Palace said the government has enough funds to rehabilitate Zamboanga City and it could complete permanent housing for the informal settlers within the year.
In a press briefing in Malacañang on Tuesday, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said the National Housing Authority (NHA) has a timetable for the completion of the housing projects in Zamboanga City.
The city on Monday marked the first year anniversary of the devastating siege carried out by the Moro National Liberation Front-Misuari faction.
Secretary Coloma said that the NHA was slated to inaugurate new permanent housing facilities in the city on Tuesday.
"Ayon sa pinakahuling ulat, tinatayang maaari nilang makumpleto ang kanilang mga tinatayong permanent housing by December of this year at ito ay ayon sa kanilang timetable," he said.
"Kaya ginagawa ng pamahalaan ang lahat ng nararapat para matukoy ang mga pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayan."
Citing a report from the Department of Budget and Management, Coloma said the department has already released the entire funding requirement for the rehabilitation of Zamboanga City.
He said that although the President did not designate a point person for the city’s rehabilitation, as what he did for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda in Eastern Visayas, several government agencies work together to rebuild the city.
Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson is the overseer of the Zamboanga City rehabilitation and he is being supported by other agencies, such as the National Housing Authority.
Regarding the families living at the Zamboanga City Grandstand, several agencies and organizations are working together to address their needs.
These include the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the city government, and the Red Cross, Coloma said. PND (as)
Government transparent enough in releasing rehabilitation funding reports, says Palace
Malacañang on Tuesday appealed to the public for patience with the release of audit reports on the government’s relief and rehabilitation efforts in areas devastated by calamities.
Commenting on questions regarding certain audit findings, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said during a press briefing that Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman has explained the time difference between conducting the audit and carrying out the project.
Secretary Coloma said that at the time of the audit, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) was using funds the General Appropriations Act has allotted for calamities.
When those funds ran out, the DSWD began using funds from other sources, he said.
"Ang hihilingin lang natin dito ay ang pag-unawa na kapag mayroong naipahayag na mga audit findings, meron namang proseso para ipaliwanag ito ng mga tinutukoy na ahensiya at hindi naman pinapabayaan ang pag-uulat sa napapanahong paraan," he said.
On the proposal to extend P70,000 to every family affected by Typhoon Yolanda to enable them to start a new life, Coloma said the government thinks this form of assistance is not the best way to help them.
"Makailang beses na itong ipinunto ng iba’t ibang pangkat at naalala ko na dito mismo ay sinagot ‘yan ni (Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery) Secretary (Panfilo) Lacson na hindi ito ang pinakamainam na paraan para tugunan ang sitwasyon," he told reporters.
The Palace also made an assurance that the government will continue assisting families affected by Typhoon Yolanda.
"Kaya’t ginagawa ng pamahalaan lahat ng mga nararapat para isagawa ang rehabilitation at ang build back more resilient communities doon sa mga naapektuhang lugar," he added.
The government, he said, has thoroughly assessed the situation and is implementing the Comprehensive Master Plan on Relief and Rehabilitation. PND (as)
Palace says ongoing reform in national police aims to cleanse its ranks of rogue officers
The Palace on Tuesday affirmed that there are serious efforts within the Philippine National Police (PNP) to cleanse its ranks of rogue cops.
In a press briefing in Malacañang on Tuesday, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said this small number of rogue police officers should not tarnish the image of the entire police organization.
"They form a very small proportion of the total strength of the PNP," Coloma said.
Nine police officers, seven of whom are members of the La Loma Police station, have been linked to a recent robbery and illegal detention case. Two of them have been arrested.
Asked by reporters if he thinks the September 1 incident along EDSA is a major blow to the 125,000-member police organization, Coloma said it would be a major setback if there is no effort on the part of the PNP leadership to clean up its ranks.
"What would be a major blow is if there would be a situation where the PNP is not doing its duty," he said.
The PNP is doing its job, given the challenges of a large number of people to be covered and given the shortage in manpower and equipment that it is still trying to address, he said.
Despite the incident, the police is working to gain the trust of the public, Coloma said, stressing the importance of police and community coordination to fight crimes.
To make the PNP more efficient, the government is working to increase its members, buy more weapons and equipment, and go after loose firearms, he said. PND (as)
President Aquino, Murad met to iron out details of draft Bangsamoro Law, says Palace
President Benigno S. Aquino III and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Haj Murad met last week to clarify and resolve issues in the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, which will be submitted to Congress on Wednesday.
"The meeting between the President and Chairman Murad resulted in the clarification and resolution of issues pertaining to the details of the implementation of the peace agreement that are embodied in the draft law," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said during Tuesday’s press briefing.
Both leaders deemed it urgent and important that this draft Bangsamoro law be completed, Coloma said.
“That is why they took the opportunity to meet face-to-face, together with the other significant participants in this process from the Philippine and the MILF panels,” he said, noting that the draft law faithfully represents the agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF.
The Palace is making the preparations for the transmittal of the document to the Senate President and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Coloma said.
The draft was scheduled to be submitted to Congress last May, but it was delayed due of some differences from both sides.
Once it is passed by Congress, the President said he would aggressively push for the conduct of a fair and democratic poll in the region for the election of its leaders in 2016. PND (as)
President Aquino to underscore Philippine initiatives in addressing climate change during Climate Summit in New York
President Benigno S. Aquino III will highlight the country's vulnerability to weather disturbances as well as the Philippine government's initiatives in addressing climate change when he attends the Climate Summit 2014 in New York on September 23.
The President will join other leaders during the one-day summit to show that while the country is hit by devastating natural calamities as a result of changing weather, the Philippines is also doing several initiatives to mitigate climate change, Climate Change Commission Secretary Lucille Sering told reporters on Tuesday.
Among those to be highlighted by the President are the country's passage of the renewable energy law in 2008, and the adoption of bus rapid transport that considers alternative modes of transportation and the use of electric vehicles.
Sering said there are different proposals in Congress relating to the adoption of laws on energy efficiency.
The Philippines is among the countries in Southeast Asia to have a windmill, she said, noting that recently, the President also launched a solar farm in the country.
The Philippines is also the first country in Southeast Asia to have the People Survival Fund Board, which has allocated special funds to help local governments access technical support to address their lack of technical expertise.
"Iyon po ang gusto nating iangat at sabihin doon na maliban dito sa ating vulnerability, meron na po tayong ginagawa," she said.
"At inaasahan po na sa latest po ay baka ang Pangulo ng US ay dumalo rin at inaasahan rin ang mga leaders galing sa Tsina, India, Brazil ay baka dumalo rin," she added.
The Climate Summit 2014, organized by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, is not part of the climate negotiations held annually, Sering said, adding that the summit intends to give global leaders direction for a meaningful global agreement on climate change next year. PND (as)