Thursday, 30 October 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Wednesday, October 22, 2014

President Aquino renews commitment to stop media killings

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday made an assurance that his administration will continue to work to stop attacks on members of the press “until this number reaches zero."

In his speech during the Annual Presidential Forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines in Marco Polo Ortigas, the President said things have changed since the martial law years, as the country has returned to democratic rule.

‘We no longer live in a country where the media is muzzled, or where the government tries to impose its will on journalists,” he said.

In fact, he said, his administration has been in active pursuit of all those who have allegedly committed extralegal killings, including those involving media, and the public can already see the effects of the government’s efforts.

"We have made high-profile arrests, recently, most prominently that of Retired Major General Jovito Palparan for alleged violations of human rights," the Chief Executive noted.

There is also a significant reduction of recorded or validated extralegal killings, from a total of 168 during the Arroyo government to 42 in the four years of the present administration, he said.

"Indeed, one could consider this as progress, but make no mistake: Our administration will not be content until this number reaches zero," he emphasized.

The President in turn requested the press to protect the truth.

"As we continue our efforts to bring to justice all those who have resorted to violence or intimidation to skew or hide the truth, my only request is that the media fulfill its obligation of protecting the truth as well," he said.

The President expressed hope that in making their news reports, the press would exert more effort in defining the problem and describing the situation accurately.

“If there was a crime committed, for instance, then media men must be clear about the facts, and the motivations of the culprits to solve the problem,” he said.

President Aquino also acknowledged that the media is part and parcel of society, and press people must always tell the truth.

That role also means “accurately representing the national condition by striking a healthy balance between the positive and the negative,” he said. PND (as)

President Aquino encourages media to inspire the people with ‘uplifting news’

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday proposed to the members of the press a "paradigm shift," saying they could continue criticizing the government but must provide the people uplifting news as well.

In his speech during the annual Presidential Forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) in Marco Polo Ortigas, President Aquino acknowledged the role the foreign press played when the country was under martial rule.

“Back then, media taking an adversarial role to government was a symbol of bravery, social responsibility. It was a badge of honor, and rightfully so,” he said.

He however observed that despite the return of democracy – and freedom of the press -- in the country, “some veteran journalists have maintained their jaundiced eyes towards government.”

This attitude is no longer compatible with the times, he said, noting that while it is incumbent on the press to tell the truth, it also needs to strike a “healthy balance between the positive and the negative."

"Negativism has driven some members of our media for far too long, and it might one day convince our people that a disproportionate amount of national events are negative; that all is lost and it is foolish to hope," he lamented.

"By all means, criticize; dialogue has, in many cases, helped accelerate our nation’s development. My only suggestion is for you to make room in your reports for hope. After all, it is also one of the tasks of media to inspire our countrymen with uplifting news," the President reminded the press.

These days, there is no shortage of positive, inspiring news in the country, he said, citing the Mindanao Peace Process and the performance of the economy as examples.

“Rest assured, the government will do everything in its power to produce even more of these developments to report,” said, appealing to the media to give these stories “their time in the sun."

"Even as you retain a sharp critical eye… still look to inspire and encourage our people along the path to progress," President Aquino said. PND (ag)

President Aquino welcomes National Democratic Front's intention to talk peace with government

President Benigno S. Aquino III said Wednesday his administration welcomes any move by communist insurgents to return to the negotiating table to end several decades of rebellion in the Philippines.

The President, during the annual Presidential Forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines in Marco Polo Ortigas, was asked if he is pursuing peace talks with communist rebels and wants progress before he steps down in 2016.

It was reported that the National Democratic Front (NDF) mentioned on Tuesday that there would be informal talks with the government in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

"That’s a hopeful message from them, but may I reiterate that they were the ones who walked out. So now they are ready to talk. We will welcome," he said.

"We would rather talk than fight, but if they would rather fight than talk, then we will not accommodate them," he added.

The negotiations have collapsed following the rebels’ demand for the government to free some of their consultants who are still in detention. PND (as)

Code of Conduct in West Philippine Sea, a major thrust in next ASEAN meeting, says President Aquino

President Benigno S. Aquino III said he will ask for an update on the discussion on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) when he attends the closing sessions of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar next month.

"Number one is, we will ask for an update of precisely what has transpired after the agreement with regard to pushing for the Code of Conduct," the President said when asked about the issue during the annual Presidential Forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines in Marco Polo Ortigas on Wednesday.

He said he understands that there have been at least two preliminary discussions before the formal talks on the Code of Conduct.

Asked about the status of the relations between the Philippines and China, the Chief Executive said that it has not changed much since tensions escalated in the West Philippine Sea.

He however noted that when he visited China in 2011, his counterpart then, Hu Jintao, acknowledged that the tensions in the West Philippine Sea should not be the end-all and be-all of their relationship, which was described as multifaceted.

The President also said that trade between the two countries continues to grow and the number of tourists from both countries has increased despite China’s advisory against travel to the Philippines.

The promise of cultural assistance from China, such as the provision of Mandarin instructors, is happening, he said, citing information from the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce.

"Hopefully, we can really move on that Code of Conduct with China as an active participant so that we can introduce a regime of stability based on rules that everybody acknowledges that we are bound to,” President Aquino said.
The ASEAN and China in 2002 agreed on the non-binding Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

Aside from China and the Philippines, other claimants to the West Philippine Sea include Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and Taiwan. PND (as)

President Aquino: Government implementing two-pronged strategy to defeat Abu Sayyaf

The government is carrying out a two-pronged approach in dealing with the Abu Sayyaf Group, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Wednesday.

During the annual Presidential Forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines in Marco Polo Ortigas, the President said the government is using military power to crush the rebel group but is also exerting efforts to develop Mindanao.

The military and the police are implementing security measures to combat the Abu Sayyaf, especially following the release of the two German hostages last week, he said.

He declined to give details but said the public will see "very significant accomplishments as far as suppressing the Abu Sayyaf is concerned."

While military operations are being carried out, the government is also undertaking peace initiatives in Mindanao, the President said.

“Even before we signed the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro, we have been trying to show the people of the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) the benefits of peace,” he said.

For instance, there are more than 700,000 new enrollees in PhilHealth, he said, adding that the government's Sajahatra program is transitioning into a formal institution to give the people livelihood skills so they could participate in the development of Mindanao.

He further said that the Trade Department has set up markets for the mangosteen and lanzones produce of Sulu province, hoping this would spur economic activity not only in Sulu but also in Basilan and Tawi-Tawi.

"We will try to change the status quo to get them to buy into the system and be partners in development rather than people who stifle the development activities in the area," President Aquino said. PND (as)

Coal-powered plant in Subic, possible solution to power shortage next year, says President Aquino

President Benigno S. Aquino III said Wednesday the government is looking into the possibility of acquiring the much-needed power load from a stalled coal-powered plant in Subic, Zambales to address the projected electricity shortage during next year’s summer months.

"Perhaps we would also like to ask the judiciary to finally rule on the Redondo (Peninsula Energy, Inc.) issue in Subic Bay with finality. As you know, that could have been decided rather quickly from our perspective," said the President during the annual Presidential Forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines in Marco Polo Ortigas, Pasig City.

He was referring to the case filed before the Supreme Court.

In 2007, the Redondo Peninsula Energy, Inc., a joint venture between Aboitiz Power Corp. and Taiwan's Cogeneration Corp., secured a government deal to build a coal-fired power plant at the Redondo peninsula in Subic Bay.

In 2012, the High Tribunal issued a writ of Kalikasan after local residents, environmental groups and local government units in Zambales opposed the construction of the power plant.

"If it had been approved, then you would have additional 600 megawatts already being produced by the end of this year, but it’s still pending with them. The ground has been prepared and after that nothing else, because there is that pending issue with the courts," said the President.

When asked if the controversial Bataan Nuclear Power Plant could be used as an alternative source of power, he replied that there is a study to see if it could be converted into a gas- or a coal-powered plant.

“Pero ‘yung nuclear—and with all due respect to our Japanese friends—their rigidity in terms of rules, et cetera, did not prevent the tragedy of Fukushima," President Aquino said. PND (ag)

Philippines maintaining dialogue with China regarding West Philippine Sea, says President Aquino

The Philippine government is trying to maintain an open line of communication with China despite tensions on the issue of the West Philippine Sea, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Wednesday.

"We are trying to keep the lines of communication open. Even on the ground, the Chinese ambassador and our Secretary of Foreign Affairs, amongst others, keep on dialoguing," the President said in response to a question on the country's relationship with China, during the annual Presidential Forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines in Marco Polo Ortigas.

In his upcoming attendance to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing next month, the Chief Executive said he is scheduled to meet with other leaders for bilateral talks but there is no scheduled meeting with the Chinese leader.

The President however stressed that the Philippines’ position is that “preserving the status quo doesn’t do anybody any benefit,” and that is why the country has entered into arbitral proceedings and is pushing for the Code of Conduct.

Backing off from these two approaches, he said, would just exacerbate the problems that the country is seeing in the West Philippine Sea.

Asked to comment on reports that there are members of the Chinese government who are just waiting for President Aquino’s administration to end before enhancing China’s relationship with the Philippines, the Chief Executive said he does not believe that his successor would compromise the country's interest in the West Philippine Sea.

"At the end of the day, it’s still a problem. And, I guess, the focus is to achieve a solution through peaceful means bound by international law to everybody’s benefit," he said. PND (as)

No special treatment for U.S. Marine, says President Aquino

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday denied that US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, who is suspected of killing a transgender in Olongapo City, is getting special treatment.

"He is not being treated with kid gloves and the Americans, may I reiterate, are conforming to the treaty wherein they have to make this person and others available for both the investigative and the judicial processes that are forthcoming," the President said during the annual Presidential Forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines in Marco Polo Ortigas, Pasig City.

He noted that a Filipino citizen suspected of committing the same crime would also undergo a preliminary investigation, as what Pemberton is going through at present.

The Olongapo City Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday began preliminary investigations on Pemberton to see if there is enough evidence to charge him in court.

Pemberton, suspected of slaying transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, 26, on October 11, was brought to Camp Aguinaldo on Wednesday, following the Philippines’ request to the US for his custody. PND (ag)