Monday, 12 January 2015

PIA News Dispatch - Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Government appeals to importers to move cargoes out of Manila port before Feast of Nazarene, Papal visit

The government has appealed to importers to pull out their cargoes from the Port of Manila before the Feast of the Black Nazarene on Friday and the Papal visit, which starts Thursday next week.

"We are appealing to the private sector, we are appealing to the importers, to all the cargo handlers: Could you please pull out as much of your cargoes now while we are able to? What do we mean by now? That’s today, tomorrow, and Thursday," Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said during a press briefing in Malacañang on Tuesday.

The Feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo falls on Friday, January 9. Classes in Manila, as well as work in city government offices, have been suspended on this day.

Secretary Almendras made the same appeal to importers to claim their cargoes before Thursday, January 15, the day Pope Francis arrives for a five-day visit to the Philippines. January 15, 16 and 19 have been declared as non-working days in the National Capital Region.

Almendras further appealed to businesses that have refrigerated vans in the Port of Manila to pull them out.

"We have noted a significant increase in the refrigerated vans na hindi pinu-pull out. Ang problema po, there is not enough space in the port for refrigerated vans of the volume that we are now seeing... So, nakikiusap din po kami, through media, to all those importers, all those businesses who have these refrigerated vans inside the port, kung pwede lang po, please pull them out as fast as you can," he said.

He said the Bureau of Quarantine, Bureau of Plant Industry and other government offices that give clearances, will help facilitate the moving out of the refrigerated vans. PND (ag)

MRT, LRT fare hike means better services, new facilities, says Palace

The Palace has appealed for more patience from the public, saying the increase in MRT and LRT fares would mean better services and facilities.

In a press briefing in Malacañang on Tuesday, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. laid out the projects to be carried out for the improvement of the MRT and LRT and their corresponding timetables.

"Ipinapakita po natin ito upang ipaliwanag at ipaunawa sa ating mga mamamayan ang konteksto ng pinag-uusapan din ngayon hinggil sa pagbago ng sistema ng pagsingil na ‘yung pagdadagdag ng singil sa pamasahe, kasabay naman nito ‘yung seryosong programa sa pagpapahusay at pagpapabuti ng mga pasilidad ng MRT at LRT," Secretary Coloma said in a brief presentation.

"Kaya’t hinihiling po natin ang pag-unawa ng ating mga mamamayan sa mga kasalukuyang kaganapan."

Coloma said the most important part of the project is the MRT capacity expansion.

“Simula sa Setyembre ng taong ito, madagdagan ng 48 coaches o bagon ang MRT. Pagkatapos makumpleto ito, dadami ang biyahe at iikli ang panahon ng paghihintay. Binibigyan din ng prayoridad ang rail installation o pagpapalit ng riles,” he said.

Also part of the project, he said, is the upgrade of the MRT's ancillary systems, such as the power substations, depot facilities for parking, the construction of the North Avenue turnback and Taft Avenue pocket track extension, the upgrade of the signaling system, the overhaul of 25 light rail vehicles and traction motors, and the installation of a new radio communications system.

Most of these will be carried out starting February, while the process of obtaining the necessary services has begun, he said.

“Ina-announce pa kasi muna ang pagdaraos ng public bidding, pagkatapos ang pagdaraos mismo ng bidding, ang proseso ng pag-a-award at publication,” he explained.

The MRT and LRT fares on Sunday were raised by 50 percent to 87 percent. The new base fare is P11, with an additional P1 for every kilometer. End-to-end fare for MRT 3 increased from P15 to P28.

The fares for LRT 1 were raised from P20 to P30 for single-journey tickets and to P29 for stored-value cards, while those for LRT 2 increased from P15 to P25 for single-journey tickets and to P24 for stored-value cards. PND (as)

PIA News Dispatch - Monday, January 5, 2015

No new survivor or body recovered from cargo ship that sank off Vietnam, says Palace

Three days after a Bahamian cargo ship sank off the coast of Vietnam, no new survivor or body has been found, a Palace official said on Monday.

"Ang latest update from the Philippine Embassy in Hanoi is that there are no new remains recovered or survivors rescued aside from the earlier two bodies recovered, which are now in Ho Chi Minh City, and the one survivor who was rescued," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing in Malacañang.

Secretary Lacierda noted that Vietnam’s Navy has added three helicopters to the search efforts and has called on other countries in the area to help in the search.

“We are asking the Secretary of National Defense if we can extend assistance. Tinitingnan ngayon,” he said.
He further said that a team from the Philippine Embassy and the Philippine Honorary Consul in Ho Chi Minh City are coordinating with the shipping agent over the incident.

The cargo vessel Bulk Jupiter sank on Friday en route from Malaysia to China, about 150 nautical miles from Vietnam’s southern city of Vung Tau.

According to reports, the ship has an all-Filipino crew. PND (ag)

MRT/LRT fare hike may not be popular but it is right, Palace says

The Palace on Monday said that the decision to increase the fares of Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 and Light Rail Transit (LRT) Lines 1 and 2, may not be popular but it must be done.

"This is not a popular decision insofar as the MRT-riding passengers are concerned, but we are doing this because this is the right thing to do," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told reporters during a press briefing in Malacañang.

Secretary Lacierda emphasized that the government has not completely cut its subsidy for the mass transport system but has merely reduced the subsidy from P12 billion last year to P10 billion this year.

"We did not take away the subsidy. The subsidy is still there," he said.

He noted that President Benigno S. Aquino III has already explained that the subsidy for the MRT/LRT fares needs to be reduced so that the government could allocate its resources to regions that do not benefit from the MRT/LRT service.

"So, of the P2 billion that we can save, we are going to allocate the resources to other areas like Visayas and Mindanao," said Lacierda.

He further pointed out that the increased MRT/LRT fares are still lower than air-conditioned or regular bus fares.

An air-conditioned bus traversing the Monumento-Taft Ave route via EDSA charges P42; an ordinary bus, P37; and an FX taxi, P40. The MRT meanwhile charges only P28 for the same route.

Lacierda assured the public that the government will continue to improve the services of the mass transport system.

"We can assure the MRT-riding passengers that rehabilitation is forthcoming. Rehabilitation has been planned this year. We are going to improve the services of the MRT," he said. PND (ag)

Sunday, 4 January 2015

PIA News Dispatch - Sunday, January 4, 2015

Palace hopeful Congress will pass all its priority bills this year

The Palace on Sunday said it is hopeful that the Senate and the House of Congress will pass all its priority bills this year.

"Umaasa ang pamahalaan na hindi bababa sa 18 sa 29 na priority legislative agenda na inihain ng Pangulo at ng administrasyon sa Kongreso noong nakaraang taon ang pormal na maipapasa ng Senado at ng Kamara," said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., in a radio interview over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

Coloma was quoting Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) Secretary Manuel Mamba, who coordinates with both the Senate and the Lower House regarding the President's priority bills.

"Isa sa mga panukalang batas na ito ang Bangsamoro Basic Law na siyang magbibigay daan upang maitatag ang Bangsamoro Transitional Assembly bago idaos ang halalan para sa mga opisyal ng Bangsamoro Political Entity sa taong 2016," said Coloma.

The Aquino administration is also proposing to amend some existing laws.

This includes the laws on Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT), Road Right of Way for the infrastructure projects, and the shipping industry's Cabotage.

"Ibig din ng pamahalaan na ganap na maisabatas ang Rationalization of Fiscal Incentives, Rationalization of the Mining Fiscal Regime, Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act, Antitrust Act, National Land Use Act, at ang Strategic Trade Management Act," Coloma added.

According to Secretary Mamba, the government is prioritizing the passing of the Customs Modernization Act which is included in the fiscal reform package, said Coloma.

The government is also proposing for the enactment into law of the designation of the Philippine maritime zone, and archipelagic sea lanes, plus the delineation of specific forest limits of public domain.

"Nais din ng pamahalaan na palakasin ang sistemang panghustisya ng bansa sa pamamagitan ng pagsasabatas ng Whistleblowers Protection Act at ang pagpapatatag ng Witness Protection Program," he added.

Part of the PLLO's priority list is the Act Protecting the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Freedom of Information Act, proposal to proclaim as alienable and disposable land a part of Bantayan Island in Cebu, that will be used as resettlement site for those affected by Typhoon ‘Yolanda. PND (ag)

Government ready to assist Filipino seamen involved in the sunken Bahaman cargo ship

The government is ready to help the Filipino seamen involved in the sunken Bahaman cargo ship off the coast of Vietnam, a Palace official said on Sunday.

"Nakahanda naman pong tumulong ang ating pamahalaan sa bawat paraan na nararapat para po makabigay ng kalinga sa kanila at sa kanilang mga pamilya. Kailangan lang pong mabatid kung ano ang sitwasyon ngayon dahil wala pa po tayong update," said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., in a radio interview over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

According to reports, the cargo vessel Bulk Jupiter sank Friday en route from Malaysia to China. It was reported that the ship has an all Filipino crew.

Coloma added that the Philippine Embassy in Vietnam is still carefully gathering more information about the incident before the Department of Foreign Affairs issues a statement. PND (ag)

Palace defends MRT, LRT fare hike

The Palace on Sunday defended the fare hike on the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 and the Light Rail Transit Lines 1 and 2.

In a radio interview over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., said the government is just implementing the 'user pay' principle under Philippine Development Plan for 2011 to 2016.

"Dapat ang gumagamit ng serbisyo ay magbabayad ng malaking bahagi ng kanilang biyahe at ito na nga po ang ipinupunto rin na ang tuwirang nakikinabang lamang sa serbisyong ito ay ang mga naninirahan sa National Capital Region at hindi naman po ang buong populasyon ng ating bansa,"

"Kaya ito pong pagbabago sa singil sa MRT/LRT ay paglalagay lang po sa tamang kaayusan ng ating patakaran sa pagsingil at pagsasaayos ng resources na ginagamit para patuloy na mapahusay ang serbisyo para dito," he said.

Coloma added that the last fare increase was made over ten years ago.

"Yon pong last fare increase ay sa LRT-1 na 2003 pa isinagawa. Ang sa LRT-2 naman ay hindi po naitaas simula ‘nung nag-umpisa ito. Sa MRT-3 hindi lang ‘hindi itinaas,’ ibinaba pa mula sa orihinal na singil na 17 pesos to 34 pesos in 1999. Binabaan pa po ito doon sa range na 12 pesos to 20 pesos in 2000, at sa kasalukuyan, mas mababa pa dahil ang range ng singil sa MRT-3 ay 10 to 15 pesos lamang," said Coloma.

"At ang pagkaantala o pagkabinbin ng desisyon na itapat ang fare adjustment doon sa operating cost ay balakid doon sa pagkakaroon ng investment sa large-scale improvement sa mga pasilidad, katulad nga ‘nung acquisition of new train coaches na isinagawa lang sa kasalukuyang administrasyon," he added. PND (ag)

PIA News Dispatch - Saturday, January 3, 2015

Government to continue strengthening frontline agencies to effectively respond to disasters, says Palace

The Palace said it will continue to invest in strengthening frontline agencies of the government to effectively respond to disasters and calamities.

Among the government's major agencies dealing with disasters and forecasting are the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration and the Department of Science and Technology.

In a radio interview over dzRB Radyo Ng Bayan on Saturday, Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said among the major thrusts of the government is increasing the yearly budget of these agencies.

In the case of PAGASA, the government has upgraded the agency's equipment, according to Valte.

PAGASA, which had issues in the past, has received attention from the government. The DOST, PAGASA's mother agency, has tried to resolve issues on the allowances of its personnel with the help of the Department of Budget and Management.

"‘Sa mga naging solusyon natin dito pinapakita ang willingness sa part ng administrasyon na umupo at makipag-usap sa ating mga kasamahan para makahanap ng magandang solusyon," Valte said.

"We continue to invest in mechanisms that will help them make better tracks or make better predictions."

DOST's Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards or Project NOAH has been expanded, Valte said adding that efforts to complete hazard mapping will continue.

The government not only focuses on PAGASA, Valte said, the administration is also improving the capability of responders and rescuers to effectively respond to disasters.

"We continue to invest in the capacity for them to be able to do more," she said.

The government has also augmented PAGASA's budget from P396.5 million in 2014 to P3.46 billion for 2015, an increase of 526.5 percent.

The large chunk of PAGASA's 2015 allocation is intended for the purchase of state-of-the-art weather monitoring equipment, Valte explained.

The new budget will also go to personnel services of PAGASA. In 2014, PAGASA had an allocation of P352 million for personnel services, and in 2015 PAGASA got P434.4 million for personnel services, a 23.4 percent increase.

The country's weather bureau as well as other government front line agencies was once again in close scrutiny after several major typhoons hit the Philippines in 2014.

Among these weather disturbances were Typhoon Ruby that devastated Eastern Visayas as well as the more recent Typhoon Seniang that brought massive flooding and landslides in Mindanao and the Visayas regions. PND (as)

Malacanang sees continuing gains in remaining days of Aquino administration

The Palace sees the achievements in the year 2014 to continue in the remaining days of the Aquino administration saying last year was a good year for the Philippines despite the challenges.

"Kahit marami po tayong mga challenges at mga obstacles na hinarap, we still feel that 2014 was a good year for our country," Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview over dzRB Radyo Ng Bayan on Saturday.

For those in the administration serving the President, Valte said that with less than 540 days to go before the President's term ends, they do not see the year 2014 as an ending but rather a period for continuing to do more.

"To do as many things as possible in the remainder of the President’s term," Valte noted.

In his message for the New Year, President Aquino summarized the country's gains in 2014.

These include the continuing upward trajectory of the country's economy with the upgrades of major credit rating agencies in 2014.

The upgrades given to the Philippines by Standard & Poors and Moody’s last year made the country even more attractive to businesses and tourists.

These gains gave the government enough resources to pursue programs that improves the people's lives particularly on social protection, education, and job creation, the President said.

Year 2014 also saw the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which would bring lasting peace in Mindanao.

The peace pact will open the floodgates for tourism and investments to the island, the President said. He said he expects further development in the region once the Bangsamoro Basic Law is passed.

The President also said in his message that the country also made strides in terms of disaster preparedness, with both the national and local governments performing better in 2014.

He thanked front-liners, first-responders, volunteers, and partners for their contributions in responding to the calamities that hit the country last year.

At the same time, the President rallied the support of every Filipino now that his administration is approaching its final year saying every step and contribution becomes more crucial in the country's quest to create a more inclusive future. PND (as)

PIA News Dispatch - Friday, January 2, 2015

Palace ready to work with Congress to address firecracker-related injuries, official says

The Palace on Friday indicated its readiness to work with Congress in coming up with a law that will effectively address problems posed by the use of firecrackers, especially during New Year celebrations.

The Department of Health (DOH) has expressed concern that despite a drop in the total number of firecracker-related injuries, the number of those injured remains high, and the number of amputations, especially among children, has increased.

According to initial figures from the department and the police, three were killed and 354 were injured during the New Year revelry.

The Health Department has said it wants to ask the President to prioritize the passage of a bill imposing a total ban on the use of firecrackers in the country.

In a telephone interview, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. however said that the DOH's proposal must be thoroughly studied because there are laws that regulate the use of firecrackers.

"At dahil ang patakaran ay inihahain at tinatalakay at pinagpapasyahan sa Kongreso, hihintayin natin ang magiging panukala ng mga mamababatas at handa namang makipagtulungan ang ehekutibo sa kanila sa pagbubuo ng isang mainam, katanggap-tanggap at epektibong batas," Coloma said.

"Sinasabi lang natin sa ngayon ay kinakailangan ang pag-uugnayan at ang masusing pag-aaral para maiwasan na o mapigil na ‘yung mga bilang na nasasaktan at napipinsala dahil sa mga bawal na paputok."

The current thrust of the government is to make New Year celebrations safe, Coloma said, noting that the people's cooperation and discipline are necessary to avoid injuries.

The people, the local and national governments must work together to make communities safe during New Year celebrations, he added.

Coloma explained that simply proposing a total ban would not solve the problem unless the people and the government work together.

"Madaling sabihin ‘yung ‘total ban’ o ‘yung titigil na, pero sa tunay na paggawa ay kinakailangan pa rin ang sama-samang pagkilos at ang disiplina ng mga mamamayan para sumunod sa batas," he said.

The Palace official nonetheless commended the campaign against the use of firecrackers that resulted in reduced number of injuries during the New Year celebration. PND (as)

Security measures in place for visit of Pope Francis, says Palace

The government on Friday assured that enough security measures are in place to make the visit of Pope Francis safe.

The pope will arrive in Manila on January 15 for a five-day visit to the Philippines.

"Lahat naman ng maaaring maging banta o contingencies that could arise ay pinaghahandaan," Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a telephone interview.

Different government agencies continue to do the necessary preparations for the pope's visit, he said, noting that they continued to work even during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

On the possible agenda for the President's meeting with Pope Francis, Coloma said the President is always ready to discuss any issue with the pope.

"Nakita naman po natin ang kahandaan ng ating Pangulo sa maraming pagkakataon na nakipag-ugnayan siya sa mga lider ng ibang bansa na dumalaw sa atin dito at nakipagtalakayan siya sa kanila sa iba’t ibang mga summit ng APEC at ASEAN na kanyang dinaluhan," he said.

"Handang-handa naman po siyang tumalakay ng ano mang relevant topic na mapag-uusapan sa kanilang discussions."

Coloma also mentioned the similarities in the guiding principles of the two leaders, saying that both of them are pro-poor and anti-corruption.

He said that among the President’s major advocacies are achieving inclusive growth for everyone, reducing poverty, and fighting graft and corruption under his righteous path agenda.

Similarly, the pope, in his recent public pronouncements, underscored the need to combat corruption in society, and tackled the ill effects of capitalism that deprive poor people of better opportunities, Coloma said. PND (as)

Government spells out options to address projected power shortfall in Luzon

The Department of Energy will take several measures to address the potential energy shortfall in Luzon this summer, as the Palace awaits the joint resolution from Congress to address the problem.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a telephone interview on Friday that these measures are implementing the Interruptible Load Program with the help of the private sector; speeding up the completion of ongoing power projects; reducing forced outages on major plants; and carrying out several energy-saving measures.

"Masinsin ang pakikipag-ugnayan sa mga power-generating facilities at hinahanda na rin ‘yung sa gobyerno, ‘yung katulad ‘nung sa Malaya kahit na ito ay hindi pinaka-efficient na generating facility, para mapunan ang tinatawag na forced outages, kung hindi man mabawasan ang mga ito," he said.

The longer the Executive branch waits for the joint resolution, the shorter the timeframe to do the necessary preparations, Coloma noted.

He reiterated the President's earlier pronouncement that the most expensive power is no power.

“Pero katulad ng aking binanggit, habang naghihintay pa ay isinasagawa na ang pagbibigay atensyon doon sa apat na mga option,” he said. PND (as)