Thursday, 30 October 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Palace reaffirms stand on Visiting Forces Agreement

The Palace said Tuesday it stands firm in upholding its defense cooperation agreement with the United States, despite the recent death of a transgender Filipino in Olongapo City.

"The President has already stated that the Philippines needsthe Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which forms an integral part of our national defense strategy," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement.

"On the slaying of Jennifer Laude, the government is exerting all efforts to ensure the ends of justice would be served," he said.

In an event in Leyte last week, President Benigno S. Aquino III rejected calls for the abrogation of the VFA following the killing of transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, allegedly by a US Marine in Olongapo City.
The President also said that the government’s priority is to ensure that justice is served to Laude.

The sin of one person should not reflect badly on an entire country, he said, noting that what is important is that whenever a crime is committed, all evidences must be gathered to prove the guilt of the suspect to attain justice.

The President also said that his administration will ensure that the suspect is made available inall judicial processes, as provided for in the treaty. PND (as)

President Aquino: No second term for me

President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Tuesday that he has no intentions of seeking a second term in office.

"There are some quarters that were saying I should try and go for a second term. I don’t think that’s a right solution," President Aquino said during the open forum of the 13th CEO Forum and 118th General Membership Meeting of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc. (SEIPI) at The Peninsula Manila, Makati City.

The President was responding to a question on how he plans to ensure that the country’s economic growth is sustained after his term expires in 2016.

"Now, with regards to how do we sustain this after 2016? Then, perhaps I will vote for the right candidate," he said, adding that voters should discern properly the candidate who is merely extolling populist sentiments with no substance, as opposed to the candidate who not only says the right things but who can be trusted to deliver on promises made.

“There has to be that continuation of people of like mind who will deliver on the promises that are real and not just self-serving or nice, (or) pleasant to hear,” he said.

President Aquino has yet to endorse a candidate for the 2016 presidential election. His administration is consistently saying that they would rather focus on governance than politicking.

Present during the forum were Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Secretary Joel Villanueva, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, SEIPI President Danilo Lachica, and general manager of The Peninsula ManilaSonja Vodusek. PND (ag)

Better business environment attracts more foreign investors, says official

Creating a better business environment is the government’s major thrust in attracting investors to come to the Philippines, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo said on Tuesday.

During the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc.’s (SEIPI) 13th CEO Forum in Makati City, businessmen asked President Benigno S. Aquino III how the Philippines competes with its Asian neighbors in terms of attracting foreign investors.

President Aquino referred the question to Secretary Domingo, whom he described as the main man conducting the roadshows to engage potential investors.

"The primary answer to that is really creating a better business environment for investments to come to the Philippines," Domingo said, noting that the country's foreign direct investments (FDI) have increased in the past four years.

The country’s FDI amounted to about a billion dollars in 2010, and steadily rose to $2 billion in 2011, about $3 billion in 2012, and $3.8 billion in 2013, he said.

"As of the latest figure writing up to August, it’s already $4 billion FDI this year," Domingo added.

"It seems that the President’s good governance agenda has been very well received by foreign businesses, resulting in the credit ratings upgrades," he said.

"So all of this is really reaping dividends; and we continue to work on improving the business environment and continue the discussions with the private sector so we go hand-in-hand, including the development of roadmaps for many of the sectors including the electronics industry," he added.

In his recent trip to the US, President Aquino said he met with businessmen who have shown interest in doing business in the Philippines due to the much improved business conditions in the country.

The Philippines has begun to get into the limelight and businesses have begun to notice the changes in the country, the President said.

He said his administration intends to maximize the Philippines' exposure by showing all investors the edge in putting their money in the country. PND (as)

President Aquino praises achievements of semiconductor and electronics industry

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Tuesday recognized the achievements of the country’s semiconductor and electronics industry, praising its resilience amid global economic uncertainties.

Speaking during the 13th CEO Forum and 118th General Membership Meeting of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc. (SEIPI), held at The Peninsula Manila, Makati City, President Aquino said the industry has been a true partner in the country’s pursuit of inclusive growth, providing direct employment to 331,000 Filipinos and indirect employment to another 2.3 million workers.

The industry is also responsible for a significant portion of the country’s exports, he said.

“Last year, total exports from the industry was recorded at almost $24 billion, which accounts for 42.2 percent of our country’s total exports, with early data giving us reason to be optimistic for an even stronger performance this year,” he said.

In turn, the government will help the industry maintain its momentum by ensuring that it has the manpower it needs, the President said, acknowledging the role of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in training workers employed by the industry.

He further noted that the Department of Science and Technology has set up the Advanced Device and Materials Testing Laboratory, which semiconductor and electronics companies could use to test their products without going abroad.

He said the number of companies that have availed of the laboratory’s services has increased from 16 last year to 41 this year.

President Aquino further said that the government is establishing the Electronics Product Development Center in Bicutan to assist product designers in improving the quality of their designs, and is doing everything to meet the industry’s energy requirements by seeking authority from Congress to contract additional power reserves.

He also said that the Department of Energy has formed Task Force Electricity to harness the ideas of stakeholders, look into the cost components of electricity bills, and ultimately reduce the price of power.

"Rest assured, the government will continue to match your efforts, listen to your concerns, and do everything possible to give you even more reasons to operate here in the Philippines," said the President.

SEIPI is the largest organization of foreign and Filipino semiconductor and electronics companies in the Philippines. Its members include Texas Instruments, HSDT Philippines Corp., Toshiba, Analog Devices, Amkor Technology, ON Semiconductor, Cebu Mitsumi, Fairchild Semiconductor, Cypress, Continental Temic, SunPower, Ionics, Sharp, and Samsung.

Present during the forum were TESDA Secretary Joel Villanueva, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, SEIPI President Danilo Lachica, and general manager of The Peninsula Manila Sonja Vodusek. PND (ag)

President Aquino: Government is investing in its people

The government is investing in people to make the Philippines competitive at the regional level, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Tuesday.

"We believe the greatest single resource of the country is the people; hence all of the investments, not just in education, but also in other social concerns, like health," the President said during the open forum of the 13th CEO Forum and 118th General Membership Meeting of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc. (SEIPI), held at The Peninsula Manila in Makati City.

He was responding to a question on the country’s efforts to prepare for ASEAN integration next year.

In terms of health care, 82 percent of the population is already enrolled in PhilHealth, he said, adding that the government has already expanded health care coverage to include catastrophic illnesses.

The Conditional Cash Transfer program meanwhile has been expanded to include families with children in high school to give them a better chance of landing decent jobs, he said, acknowledging the help of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and other agencies in training manpower for the semiconductor and electronics industry.

The government has also increased the budget for education from P161.41 billion in 2010 to P281.77 billion this year, the President said, adding that TESDA's budget has been adjusted from P2.89 billion in 2010 to P5.12 billion this year. PND (as)

Contracting generating sets, off the table for now, says President Aquino

Congress has not yet granted the Executive Branch emergency powers to address the looming energy shortage next year, thus contracting generating sets is not an option at the moment, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Tuesday.

"Congress has not given us that power as of yet; and of course, the emergency period or the critical period is from March, April, May, June and July next year. So that doesn’t seem to be an option at this point in time," President Aquino said during the open forum of the 13th CEO Forum and 118th General Membership Meeting of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc. (SEIPI), held at The Peninsula Manila in Makati City.

The President was asked by businessmen about the preparations the government is making to deal with the impending energy shortage in 2015.

He said one of the things they have asked Congress was for the administration to be able to rent two or three diesel generators that could produce 300 megawatts.

“Unfortunately, there is a need of six months to install these facilities to include all of the civil works attendant to it—fuel tanks, the ports that will service, etcetera,” the Chief Executive said.

The government, he said, could utilize the Malaya 1 and 2 power plants but not in full capacity.

“If you run them at full capacity of about 300 or so megawatts each, there is a 90 percent probability that they will conk out. Running them at about 230 will give us, again, a 50-50 chance for them conking out. So, we will have about 120 megawatts for each one,” he explained.

The government is also looking at the Millennium power plant in Metro Manila that will start operating in March next year and could produce 110 megawatts of power, he said.

“Congress and some members of the private sector are very, very inclined to just utilize the so-called Interruptible Load Program,” he said, noting however that these are just back-up generators and are not reliable and that's the reason why the government prefers to have base load plants.

He pointed out that the government wants base load plants because they have demonstrated the capability to produce the attendant power, although at a high cost.

Another thrust of the government is to reduce energy consumption, the President said, noting that the government has distributed some 8.6 million high-efficiency bulbs in an effort to reduce power consumption and reduce the demand for electricity.

"So hopefully, all of these steps that are being undertaken,… and hopefully we will have a mild or non-existent El NiƱo situation next year... will not produce the emergency situation, and that we will all have the necessary power," he said. PND (as)