Government exerting all efforts to secure release of German hostages, Palace says
Malacañang said Thursday the government is doing everything to secure the release of a German couple abducted by the Abu Sayyaf Group.
“The Philippine government is exerting all efforts to secure the safe release of the German hostages. We shall continue to pursue this objective,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement emailed to members of the Malacañang Press Corps.
German couple Viktor Stefan Okonek, 71, and Henrike Dieter, 55, was abducted by the group in April.
They were reportedly seized in April from their yacht, which broke down near the island of Palawan en route to Sabah in eastern Malaysia and have since been held in captivity.
The Abu Sayyaf has demanded a P250 million ransom. PND (ag)
Meeting between President and Vice President did not center on official issues: Palace
The recent meeting between President Benigno S. Aquino III and Vice President Jejomar Binay did not center on official issues, Malacañang said Thursday.
"Ang pag-uusap ng Pangulo at Pangalawang Pangulo ay hindi tumukoy sa mga opisyal na usapin," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a press briefing at the Palace.
Reports said the President and Vice President met on Tuesday night in the midst of corruption allegations against Vice President Binay.
The Senate has been investigating the alleged overpricing in the construction of the Makati city hall that occurred during Vice President Binay’s term as mayor of Makati.
"Sa panig ng Pangulo at ng Gabinete, ang prayoridad ay ang pagpapatupad sa mga programa sa reporma at pagsulong sa mga proyektong pangkabuhayan, panlipunan, at pagpapaangat ng ekonomiya," Secretary Coloma said.
“Napakarami pa pong dapat asikasuhin kaya ang pokus ng aming gawain ay ‘yung trabaho para mapahusay ang paglilingkod sa mga mamamayan, mapahusay ang imprastruktura, mailatag ang malakas na pundasyon para sa pangmatagalang pag-unlad ng ating kabuhayan, at makapagbigay ng pagkakataong panghanapbuhay sa ating mga mamamayan. ‘Yan po ang prayoridad naming,” he added.
Asked to characterize the present relationship between the President and Vice President, Coloma said the President had addressed this when he was in Bali to attend the 7th Bali Democracy Forum.
In an interview with the media in Bali, Indonesia, the President said he was confident in the way the vice president has been handling his job as the government's housing czar. PND (as)
Palace says Olongapo murder unacceptable, government determined to seek justice
The Palace has reiterated its determination to attain justice in the slaying of a transgender in Olongapo City allegedly committed by an American serviceman.
“Hindi natitinag ang determinasyon ng pamahalaan hinggil sa pagkamit ng hustisya para sa pagkamatay ni Jennifer Laude," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a press briefing in Malacañang on Thursday.
"The Philippine government is working closely with the US government to ensure that the ends of justice will be served," Secretary Coloma said.
He said that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday morning met with different government agencies, such as the Department of Justice (DOJ), which handles the City Prosecutor's Office in Olongapo, to give them an update.
Commenting on calls to abolish the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) as a result of the incident, he said the Palace recognizes the rights of Congress to pursue such initiative, since the legislature is a separate branch of government.
Reporters also asked the Palace official if he thinks the country still needs the VFA despite the incident, and he said that since there is still no law halting its adoption, the agreement will remain part of the country's defense structure.
"Ang VFA ay kasama doon sa istruktura ng ating tanggulang pambansa kaya’t ito ay umiiral pa at ito ay sinusundan pa natin sa kasalukuyan," he said.
Coloma also commented on previous discussions on the custody of US soldiers committing offenses in the Philippines, saying that the death of a Filipino citizen is not acceptable and the Philippine government has more reason now to review the defense agreement with the US. PND (as)
Aquino attends 113th anniversary of Philippine Coast Guard
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Thursday commended the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) for fulfilling its role in the face of new challenges in patrolling the country’s 36,289-kilometer coastline, including dealing with the tension in the West Philippine Sea.
“Isangdaan at labintatlong taon na nga po ang Philippine Coast Guard at sa paglipas ng panahon, nagbabagong anyo rin ang mga kinakaharap nating hamon,” the President said during the PCG’s 113rd anniversary celebration in its headquarters in Port Area, Manila.
He said climate change has brought about an increase in storms that are also more powerful. He also noted the complicated situation in the West Philippine Sea.
“Sa inyo nakasalalay ang kaligtasan ng ating karagatan mula sa anumang banta ng pagkasira. Kayo rin ang nagsasagawa ng mga operasyon laban sa smugglers, human traffickers, poachers at iba pang masasamang loob na lumalabag o mangangahas na lumabag sa batas pandagat ng ating bansa,” he said.
The Chief Executive said that the government is recognizing the PCG’s dedicated service with efforts to modernize their equipment and improve their capability.
He cited the purchase of 40 rubber boats and 300 aluminum boats for the PCG to use in patrols, as well as in search and rescue operations. He also announced the delivery of 10 40-meter multi-role responsive vessels from Japan between October 2015 and October 2017; the start of the construction of 113 lighthouses and 109 more upon the acquisition of land; and the completion of the National Coast Watch Center in April 2015.
“Ang lahat po ng mga inisyatibang ito ay nakaangkla sa iisang prinsipyo: ang pagiging handa sa anumang problema o tensyong maaaring maganap sa ating karagatan,” he said.
He called on the members of the Coast Guard to continue their dedication to their work.
“Nawa'y patuloy kayong maging huwaran sa inyong mga kasamahan sa pagtitimon sa Philippine Coast Guard sa pampang ng mas matatag at maunlad na kinabukasan,” he said.
The President, with PCG Vice Admiral Rodolfo Isorena, also conferred awards to deserving Coast Guard officers and personnel as well as civilians who have rendered commendable and brilliant services.
Also attending the event were Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Abaya; Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang, Jr.; Philippine Air Force Commanding General Lt. General Jeffrey Delgado; Philippine Navy Chief Vice Admiral Jesus Millan; Bureau of Fire Protection Director Chief Superintendent Carlito Romero; and members of the diplomatic corps. PND (ag)