27 April 2015


Philippines committed to work with ASEAN in confronting extremism, says Secretary Del Rosario
KUALA LUMPUR) The Philippines remains committed to work with Southeast Asian countries in the fight against extremism, terrorism, and crimes against humanity, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alfred del Rosario said.

“The Philippines is one with ASEAN in its commitment to a culture of peace, tolerance, mutual respect, and inclusiveness,” Secretary del Rosario said during his intervention at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Sunday.

Del Rosario stressed the country “remains absolutely steadfast in cooperating with ASEAN members, the United Nations and all other countries in confronting extremism and radical violence.”

The Foreign Affairs secetary also said the Philippines “condemns war crimes and crimes against humanity being perpetrated by ISIS.”

The Philippines has co-sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 2178 on Foreign Terrorist Fighters and supported the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ statement on the Violence and Brutality Committed by Extremist Organizations in Iraq and Syria.

Del Rosario also said the country would contribute in the fight against extremism, terrorism, and crimes against humanity “by engaging or cooperating with other countries in the areas of information sharing, joint investigations, educational campaigns, humanitarian assistance to victims, restricting flow of funds intended to finance terrorism, supporting resolutions aimed at curbing terrorism, and enhancing local legislation to address terrorism.”

During his intervention, Secretary del Rosario also lauded the efforts of Malaysia, chairman of this year’s ASEAN, in shepherding the Global Movement of Moderates initiative.

A Declaration on the Global Movement of Moderates, a Malaysian initiative, is one of the declarations expected to be adopted by ASEAN leaders at the end of the two-day 26th ASEAN Summit.

The ASEAN summit, which began Sunday, will be held in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi, under the theme “Our People, Our Community, Our Vision,” highlighting the importance of a united ASEAN.

ASEAN, formed in August 1967, groups Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines. PND (co)

Philippines, Vietnam agree to work on Code of Conduct in South China Sea
(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) The Philippines and Vietnam pledged to work for the adoption by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) of a legally binding Code of Conduct (COC) amid China’s reclamation activities in disputed territories over West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said Monday.

Coloma issued the statement to members of the Philippine media delegation following a bilateral meeting between President Benigno S. Aquino III and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyan Tang Dung held Sunday night.

The Philippines and Vietnam are just two of several countries in the ASEAN that have exclusive economic zone claims in the South China Sea challenging China’s nine-dash line theory.

The two leaders spoke to each other before a gala dinner hosted by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center in honor of the visiting heads of state and government for the 26th ASEAN Summit.

Coloma said both President Aquino and Prime Minister Tan Dung expressed concern over China’s aggressiveness in reclaiming uninhabited islands in the disputed waters, which violates a provision stated under the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

“The two leaders expressed concern over the reclamation activities undertaken by China that clearly indicate violation of the DOC provision against ‘inhabiting previously uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features,’ even as they compared notes on incidents of harassment that ‘add to tension’ in the South China Sea,” Coloma wrote in his note.

Coloma said having a legally binding COC will effectively implement the declaration made by ASEAN countries and China on the exercise of self-restraint in order to de-escalate tensions and maintain peace and stability in the region.

Meanwhile, besides the South China Sea issue, the two leaders also talked about the bilateral relationship between the Philippines and Vietnam, which Prime Minister Tan Dung described as “thriving in all aspects.”

Coloma said Prime Minister Tan Dung called for a meaningful observance of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Vietnam next year.

The Vietnamese leader cited the significant progress achieved in rice trade cooperation and in the strategic defense dialogue between the two countries that includes maritime cooperation.

Prime Minister Tan Dung also made an appeal to President Aquino regarding the case of 31 Vietnamese fishermen currently facing trial in the country for poaching.

“Upon the Prime Minister’s request, the President said he will direct the Department of Justice to work for the speedy completion of the ongoing trial of the 31 Vietnamese fishermen who were arrested in Sulu for illegal fishing activities,” Coloma said.

Joining President Aquino in the meeting besides Coloma were Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras, Presidential Management Staff chief Julia Abad, and Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Eduardo Malaya. PND (hdc)

ASEAN foreign ministers offer condolences, assistance to Nepal, India, Bangladesh after quake
(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—Southeast Asian foreign ministers on Sunday extended their deepest condolences to the people of Nepal and neighboring India and Bangladesh over the devastating earthquake that killed more than 2,200 people.

In a statement, the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) said they were “deeply shocked and saddened” by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked Nepal and its neighbors, India and Bangladesh last Saturday.

“We wish to convey our deepest condolences to the governments and peoples of Nepal, India and Bangladesh, as well as to the families affected by the earthquake,” the ASEAN foreign ministers said.

“We are saddened by the loss of lives and damages to properties and infrastructure as well as historical heritage sites in the capital of Kathmandu and its surrounding areas,” they added.

The ministers also expressed their solidarity at this trying time, saying they are ready to extend assistance and join international efforts in helping the governments and peoples of Nepal, India and Bangladesh.

Established in August 1967, the ASEAN groups Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines. PND (co)

26th ASEAN Summit opens in Kuala Lumpur
(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) President Benigno S. Aquino III and other Southeast Asian leaders gathered on Monday morning for the opening ceremony of the 26th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.

President Aquino was welcomed by Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak and his spouse, Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor, upon his arrival at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC), the summit venue.

The leaders of the 10-member ASEAN convened on Monday to discuss, among others, the progress made towards establishing the ASEAN Community by the end of the year, the association’s post-2015 vision, external relations, and future direction.

In his opening address, Prime Minister Najib welcomed the leaders and delegates to Kuala Lumpur, saying 2015 would be a “milestone” in the history of the ASEAN with the establishment of the ASEAN Community by the end of this year.

“It is also our collective duty this year to formulate a successor document to the Roadmap to Establish the ASEAN Community. This will provide the basis for how we further strengthen our unity and deepen our integration over the next ten years, taking us up to 2025,” the Malaysian leader said.

“These are two crucial undertakings for charting a bold, inclusive and forward-looking future for ASEAN and its peoples.”

The ASEAN Community comprises three pillars, namely the ASEAN Political-Security Community, ASEAN Economic Community, and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.

This year’s ASEAN summit, being held in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi from April 26 to 28, has the theme, “Our People, Our Community, Our Vision”.

Established in August 1967, the ASEAN is composed of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

The summit is the association’s highest policy-making body and its chairmanship is rotated alphabetically among the member states every year. PND (co)

President Aquino calls on ASEAN leaders to synchronize regional and national priorities
(KUALA LUMPUR) President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday called on his fellow Southeast Asian leaders to synchronize their regional and national priorities in line with the implementation of the ‘One Community’ concept of regional integration in 2015.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. issued the statement following President Aquino’s intervention during the 26th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre here.

He said President Aquino reiterated the Philippines’ call for the ASEAN to take a common stand to protect freedom of navigation and commerce in the South China Sea, especially in light of China’s recent massive reclamation activities in disputed territories, which pose a threat to the region’s security and peace.

“He (President Aquino) said that ASEAN centrality should now be clearly demonstrated by ‘expeditiously concluding a legally binding Code of Conduct with China’ that would implement the salient provisions of the declaration made in 2012 by China and ASEAN member countries with claims to maritime entitlements in the South China Sea,” Secretary Coloma said.

According to the President, China’s reclamation activities “are direct violations of the DOC (Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea) and the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea)” and “cause irreparable loss and damage to the marine environment, threatening the livelihood of people living in the coastal communities.”

President Aquino cited paragraph 5 of the DOC, which states:

“The Parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.”

President Aquino also thanked various members of the international community, including the Group of Seven (G7) countries, for taking a clear stand and for their calls to action in response to these illegal reclamations.

“President Aquino also called for heightened vigilance to curb ‘the rise of religious fanaticism and extremism in the Middle East’ and reiterated the Philippines’ support for United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178 on foreign terrorism,” Coloma added.

President Aquino said this should be implemented to prevent the spread of terror-related crimes perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and similar groups.

He said that there is also a need to assist peoples caught up in humanitarian emergencies, such as those in Yemen and Libya.

President Aquino further urged ASEAN member states to work toward the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations this year by concentrating on the core issues covering trade in goods and services, investments, and economic cooperation.

He acknowledged the support of Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia in the negotiations that led to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and advocated the use of a grassroots-based, multi-stakeholder approach to peace-building and reconciliation initiatives, Coloma said.

Noting that 2015 is also the terminal year of the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), President Aquino called for intensified efforts to eradicate poverty and foster inclusive growth as part of a collective vision of a post-2015 ASEAN Community, Coloma added.

President Aquino also advocated the initiation of accepting Timor-Leste as the 11th member state of the ASEAN and granting formal status to Norway as a dialogue partner. PND (hdc)

Malaysia shares Philippines’ position to resolve conflicting claims in South China Sea through international law
(KUALA LUMPUR) This year’s ASEAN chair, Malaysia, has expressed support for the Philippines’ position to resolve the territorial disputes in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak made the statement while addressing the opening of the 26th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre here.

“Respect for international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, must be the basis of the rules of engagement and activities in the South China Sea,” Prime Minister Najib said.

The Philippines is pushing for the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea towards the conclusion of a binding Code of Conduct, and for arbitration under UNCLOS.

“While we continue our engagement and cooperative relationships with countries outside ASEAN, we need to peacefully manage differences closer to home, including overlapping maritime claims, without increasing tensions,” Prime Minister Najib said.

He said recent developments have raised concerns about the South China Sea and, given the importance of its sea lanes to international trade, it is natural that almost any occurrence there would attract global attention.

“ASEAN must address the developments in a proactive, but also in a positive and constructive way,” he added.

The Malaysian leader also expressed hope that progress towards the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct would be achieved.

“As chairman, Malaysia hopes that we will achieve progress in our efforts towards the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct,” he said.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Sunday, called on the 10-member grouping to take immediate steps to stop China’s reclamation activities in the South China Sea.

“The threats posed by these massive reclamations are real and cannot be ignored or denied. Their adverse implications are urgent and far-reaching, going beyond the region to encompass the global community,” del Rosario said.

“ASEAN should assert its leadership, centrality and solidarity. ASEAN must show the world that it has the resolve to act in the common interest,” he said.

The ASEAN, formed in August 1967, consists of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines. PND (co)

APEC meeting in Bacolod to center on disaster risk finance
(BACOLOD CITY) Officials and delegates from member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) will tackle disaster risk financing when they meet at the SMX Convention Center here on April 29 to 30.

The discussion, which carries the theme “Disaster Risk Finance-APEC Roadmap of Resilient Economies,” is jointly organized by the Department of Finance, the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The discussion opens on Wednesday with a session on the microfinance landscape in the Asia-Pacific region that seeks to provide a background for APEC member economies, using the Microinsurance Network’s World Map of Microinsurance (WMM).

It is a platform for knowledge generation and sharing on microinsurance. Participants will study key developments in the microinsurance market covering market development strategies, financial education, and trends in the use of traditional and innovative models, among others.

In the second session on Wednesday, delegates will deliberate on how to push the frontiers of microfinance, and showcase innovations in the sector, including those in agricultural insurance, mobile-based and other types of distribution channels, and parametric- or index-based microinsurance.

It will discuss the requirements for facilitating the expansion of these innovations, including appropriate infrastructure, internal capabilities, and external partnerships.

The meeting also aims to tackle the possibility of collaboration between government and industry, based on experiences within and outside the APEC.

In the succeeding session, attendees will discuss the role of microfinance in responding to calamities, which is a concern among poor APEC member economies.

The session will focus on the role of microinsurance in helping individual households address their needs, such as rebuilding of houses, access to capital to restart businesses, and securing funds for daily subsistence, once disaster strikes.

After that, the delegates will consider ways to move forward as APEC member economies incorporate microfinance in the Cebu Action Plan, which will be launched in September.

The session will examine the options for moving forward, including proposed activities and timelines.

The last session on Wednesday will be “Disaster Risk Finance: An Overview of the Current Situation and International Initiatives.”

On Thursday, April 30, participants will discuss “Institutional Arrangements for Disaster Risk Mitigation and Adaptation.”

In the wake of disasters, governments are the first responders at various levels and must undertake immediate resumption of basic services to accelerate recovery and provide relief measures for local communities.

This session will look into the budget and institutional arrangements for mitigation and adaptation; assess the importance of raising public awareness; and identify measures that will facilitate the functioning of disaster risk finance, focusing on risk education and awareness, business continuity plans for small enterprises, businesses’ risk-informed investments, and how to maximize the use of risk information.

The session will also explore potential regional initiatives to support disaster risk financing, and examine such regional initiatives as the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility in the hope of developing ideas that could be adopted by APEC member economies.

It will also seek to identify ways to address the lack of available data, which is a major impediment in the evaluation of disaster risk.

Issues such as the collection and disclosure of relevant regional, domestic and local data, including hazard, exposure and vulnerability; the establishment, adjustment and disclosure of municipal level hazard maps; and the use of disaster risk models will also be given special attention.

The last session on Thursday will discuss the way forward for disaster risk finance in the Cebu Action Plan. PND (as)

Philippines extends sympathy to quake victims in Nepal
The Philippines joined other nations in sending sympathies to the victims of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated Nepal last Saturday.

“Time and again, the world has come together to render assistance in times of dire need: Filipinos from all walks of life have likewise expressed sympathy and offered prayers for the Nepalese people,” President Benigno S. Aquino III said in a statement released on Monday.

The President expressed confidence that with the support of the international community, Nepal will be able to overcome the calamity.

“The Philippine government will be communicating with our counterparts in Nepal, to offer assistance. We are prepared to, and consequently taking steps to render aid to the maximum of our limitations,” he said.

He also noted that a team from the Philippine embassy in New Delhi, India is traveling to Nepal to meet the needs of Filipinos affected by the earthquake.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, no Filipino was hurt in the quake. The department earlier declared as safe two Filipino mountaineers who were at the base camp of Mt. Everest when an avalanche triggered by the earthquake buried part of the camp.

At least 3,326 people have died and 6,500 others were injured in the massive quake, which was also felt in India, Bangladesh and China. PND (ag)

Government committed to protecting workers’ rights, Palace official says
The government will continue to protect the rights of workers, as mandated by the Constitution, a Palace official said on Monday.

Speaking at a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda cited the improvement in the Bureau of Labor Standards as among the government efforts to enhance the plight of workers in the country.

Secretary Lacierda said that according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the number of strikes per year has been limited to less than 10.

He also noted that of the 159 notices of strike filed last year, only two pushed through.

This, he said, is the result of DOLE’s efforts to implement the Single Entry Approach, wherein filed labor cases go through a 30-day conciliation-mediation period.

“We would like to be partners in progress and as much as we’d like the businesses to thrive so that we can employ more workers, we are also very consciously aware and mindful of their need to make sure that the plight of our laborers, our employees are also amply enhanced and protected. So we continue to do that. Our position is that: We would like to see labor and management as partners in progress, not as adversaries,” Lacierda explained.

When asked to comment on reports that the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) will stop holding dialogues with the government, Lacierda said “we will continue to engage any sector that is willing to listen to us.”

“We have always spoken to TUCP. There are certain issues that have been discussed with the Secretary of Labor and we continue to discuss those things. Perhaps, some of them may not be to their entire satisfaction but we have certainly addressed a number, if not most, of the issues that they have raised; and we will continue to do so,” he said.

“We always talk to people who would like to discuss matters with us. But if they chose not to, it is our obligation to continue to fight for it and protect the rights of our workers. That is a constitutionally mandated obligation. It is in the Constitution. It is our job as members of the national government to provide protection for our workers,” the Palace official added.

As the country looks forward to the Labor Day celebration on May 1, Lacierda hoped for better relationships among sectors, which he said must work together for the betterment of the nation. PND (jm)