10 December 2015

President Aquino attends Philippine Daily Inquirer’s 30th anniversary
President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Wednesday he expects the Philippine Daily Inquirer to become a major force towards democracy and development.

Gracing the daily’s 30th anniversary celebration, President Aquino said he expects the daily, as a guardian of democracy, to always think of the general good when writing and publishing its stories.

“When you write your stories, may I suggest that you put yourselves in my position: See what we have, what can be done, and at the end of the day, what is being done,” he said in a speech during the event, held at the Marriott Hotel.

“If all of that is still lacking and you believe there are ways to do more, then please criticize us. This will undoubtedly help us fulfill our duties. If, on the other hand, you believe that everything that can be done is already being done, then perhaps you can also write about that.”

The President also asked the Inquirer to counter the “alternate versions of Martial Law circulating today, which have led younger generations to believe history has treated the dictatorship unfairly”.

He also asked the newspaper to fight the “brashness of those who are unrepentant of their crimes—those who believe they can ride a wave of manufactured nostalgia to revise history”.

With a deep background on fighting dictatorial rule, the Inquirer is best equipped to overcome threats against freedom, the President said.

As the country elects a new leader next year, President Aquino said the country will once again face a time “every bit as crucial as the one we faced in 1986”.

“Back then, we were asked if we, as a people, would be able to reclaim democracy by the ways of democracy, as my mother put it,” he said, referring to the late president Corazon Aquino.

“And in 2016, we will be asked: Will we allow the past few years to be a temporary blip on the radar? Will we allow the old and broken status quo to return? Or will we say, ‘Never again,’ to transactional politics, corruption, and greed—will we demonstrate to the world and to each other that we are a people now more mature, more focused, and more determined to build on the gains we have made?”

As the Inquirer stood for truth and for justice during Martial Law, the President said he is confident that the daily will do the same at every occasion.

He expressed hope that as it celebrated its 30th anniversary, the Inquirer will help the government in bolstering the people’s confidence in themselves and inspiring a love of country.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer was born in the last days of 1985 and played an important role in helping chronicle the historic EDSA revolution.

After the assassination of senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. and President Ferdinand Marcos’ call for a snap presidential election, there was a strong demand for a credible alternative broadsheet that would compete with the three national dailies controlled by the Marcos regime.

Mrs. Eugenia Apostol, chair of Mr. & Ms. Publishing Co., and a group of media people organized the Inquirer to meet the demand for a credible broadsheet.

The Inquirer published its maiden issue on December 9, 1985, selling 30,000 copies.

It is now the No. 1 newspaper in the country in terms of circulation and readership, with a daily average circulation of 250,000 and a Sunday circulation of 270,000. PND (as)

Palace welcomes results of latest Labor Force Survey
Malacañang on Thursday welcomed the results of the latest round of the Labor Force Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), which showed another decline in unemployment.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda noted that from 6 percent in October 2014, the unemployment rate further decreased to 5.7 percent, which is the lowest figure recorded in the past decade.

“We are pleased to announce that the latest round of the Labor Force Survey, as released today by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), registered another decline in unemployment. From 6.0 percent in October 2014, the unemployment rate further dropped to 5.7 percent—the lowest figure recorded in the past decade. Coupled with an improvement in employment and a decrease in underemployment, this serves as an indication of our economy’s robust growth. Our employment rate is currently estimated at 94.3 percent—an increase from last year’s 94.0 percent—while underemployment decreased to 17.6 percent from 18.7 percent in October 2014,” said the Palace official.

Secretary Lacierda said that according to the PSA report, employment growth was led by the services and industry sectors, which hired an additional 440,000 and 169,000 workers, respectively over the past year.

“The report also indicates that our youth unemployment rate decreased to 13.6 percent from 14.2 percent in October 2014, and that this decline in the number of unemployed was recorded across all educational levels,” he added.

“In the interest of comparability, the above figures exclude data from the province of Leyte. Due to the devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda, Leyte was not included in the October 2014 round of the Labor Force Survey,” he further said.

Lacierda attributed the results of the October 2015 labor force survey to the Aquino administration’s Daang Matuwid platform that seeks to translate good governance into good economics.

“This encouraging report once again reflects the positive fruits of Daang Matuwid. Indeed, a government that invests in its people is bound to reap rewards for future generations. By pursuing policies and programs that widen opportunities for our citizens, the administration lays the foundation for a better future marked by increased access to education and health services. Given all these improvements, we trust that the Filipino people will make the right choice during next year’s referendum and vote for continuity, prosperity, and inclusivity—an accelerated Daang Matuwid,” said Lacierda. PND (jm)

Public urged to cooperate with government in dealing with ‘El Niño’ challenges
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Thursday urged the public to cooperate with the government in dealing with the challenges posed by the El Niño weather phenomenon.

The President made the call after his meeting with Cabinet members to discuss the action plan to minimize the impact of El Niño, which is expected to hit the country early next year.

“The President is calling upon the citizenry to cooperate fully with government in the spirit of bayanihan to deal adequately with the challenges posed by El Niño,” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said during a press briefing at the Palace.

Secretary Coloma said preparations are in place to deal with the worst possible El Niño scenario.

“The full effect of the current El Niño phenomenon will be felt in February and March 2016 when the entire country is projected to get only 20 to 30 percent of normal rainfall,” he said.

According to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the projected worst-case scenario might exceed the most severe El Niño conditions experienced in 1997 and 1998.

“Siyempre doon sa analysis ng DOST-PAGASA, mayroong areas na itinuring na matatamaan ito ng mas higit sa iba. Merong analysis covering Luzon, Visayas (and) Mindanao. Merong iba’t ibang grado ng severity, depende nga doon sa amount of rainfall that is projected. Tinalakay naman ito, ipinakita ang sitwasyon sa iba’t ibang rehabilitation nito kaya’t ‘yung iba’t ibang mga ahensiya ng pamahalaan ay magreresponde in accordance with the projected severity by area,” Coloma explained.

“Basta sinisiguro ko sa inyo na mayroong regional breakdown ito in accordance with the projections of DOST and PAGASA. Siyempre, dahil organized naman ang gobyerno according to regions, ipagbibigay alam ito doon sa iba’t ibang mga field offices at titiyakin na ganap ang kahandaan doon sa field level. Ito ang ating batayan sa pagsasabing ganap ang kahandaan, preparations are in place kahit na ang pino-project natin ay napaka-severe na scenario, nandoon ang ganap na kahandaan ng pamahalaan to cope with the worst possible scenario,” he further said.

The Palace official said President Aquino has instructed the Cabinet to exert concerted efforts to mitigate the impact of El Niño and to prioritize the adequate supply of food and potable water, as well as stable power supply, and minimize health risks to citizens and fire prevention due to increased humidity.

Coloma said the Department of Agriculture and the National Food Authority (NFA) were directed to increase the buffer stock of rice through importation and to provide necessary support and assistance to farmers, fisherfolk, forest workers, and other vulnerable sectors through the distribution of planting materials, cash-for-work program, and the building of farm-to-market roads, small water impounding projects and other rural infrastructure.

“According to NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, Chairman of the Cabinet Task Force on El Niño, the NFA Council has determined that 300,000 to 400,000 metric tons will be imported to boost the country’s buffer stock and to augment local rice production. The importation will be undertaken in the second quarter of 2016 and will be over-and-above the usual volume of rice that the country imports annually,” he said.

“The National Water Resources Board is coordinating efforts with concerned government agencies to heighten water conservation and to construct additional catchment areas, as well as water, sanitation and hygiene facilities nationwide,” he added.

Coloma noted that the Department of Energy was instructed to intensify the interruptible load program, deploy modular generation sets, especially in Mindanao, and expand the energy efficiency conservation program to lessen forced power outages.

Meanwhile, he said, the Department of Health will undertake immunization for the elderly, provide psychotropic drugs and anti-fungal medicines, and extend additional support through PhilHealth, public hospitals and health units.

Coloma further said the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Bureau of Fire Protection will acquire additional fire-fighting equipment and will work closely with local government units to ramp up information and advocacy campaigns on fire safety and prevention.

Agencies concerned were also instructed to submit their respective budget requirements, he said.

“Pinag-utusan ang iba’t ibang ahensiya na isumite ang kanilang mga budget requirements. At the end of the meeting, sinabi naman ni Budget Secretary (Florencio) Abad na kahit doon sa inaasahan nating maaaprubahan na 2016 national budget ay meron namang mga sapat na probisyon para sa mga kalamidad at kaganapan katulad nito. Meron tayong iba’t ibang mga authorized sources of funding,” Coloma pointed out.

The Palace official assured that concerned agencies are monitoring the situation to prevent unscrupulous people from taking advantage of the public.

“Ang mahalaga dito ay ang ganap na kahandaan ng pamahalaan. Lahat ng mga ahensiya ay masinsing tinututukan ang sitwasyon at hindi pahihintulutan ang anumang pagsasamantala o pagmamanipula ng sitwasyon sa panig ng mga kriminal at may mga masasamang hangarin. Hindi ito papayagan ng ating pamahalaan. Ang importante rito ay ang kaalaman, kamulatan, kasanayan at kahandaan ng lahat,” said Coloma. PND (jm)

Palace denies offering lawmakers hefty amount for passage of draft Bangsamoro Law
The Palace on Thursday brushed off accusations that it offered legislators more than P1 billion worth of projects to get support for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress.During a media briefing in Malacañang, Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said there is no truth to allegations that the Palace offered billions worth of projects to lawmakers to vote for the BBL’s passage.

Secretary Coloma however said that the BBL was a major agenda when President Benigno S. Aquino III met with congressmen last Tuesday.

“Batid ng ating mga mambabatas sa Senado at sa Kamara ang kahulugan nito para sa ating buong bansa,” he said.

“Patuloy na nananalig ang Pangulo na nauunawaan ng ating mga mambabatas ito at meron pa namang mga nalalabing araw sa kasalukuyang sesyon.”

Like what the President said during an interview in Europe last week, Coloma said President Aquino believes the BBL’s passage is inevitable and he hopes that it will be passed into law during his tenure.

In an interview with the Philippine press in Italy, President Aquino expressed high hopes that the BBL would be passed into law within, or even after, his administration to pave the way for lasting peace in Mindanao.

He said that despite the snag in Congress, he is confident that a very strong push could be made, but passing the BBL should happen sooner rather than later.

“I think the movement towards having the BBL in its present form or with a little modification is really just a question of time. It will happen,” the President said.

The Mindanao peace process was a major topic during President Aquino’s meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Rome last week. PND (as)

Suspension of Cebu City Mayor Rama, lawful, says Malacanang
Malacanang justified on Thursday the suspension of Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama saying his temporary removal from office went through legal processes.

“Iyong suspensyon kay Mayor Rama ay isinagawa ng ayon sa batas,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said in response to accusations that Rama’s suspension is politically motivated.

“According to administrative procedure, the DILG may recommend disciplinary action on local government officials. In the case of Mayor Rama, the DILG recommended that a preventive suspension be imposed on him and this was affirmed by the Office of the President through Executive Secretary (Paquito) Ochoa.”

Rama’s case went through usual processes after a barangay official filed a compliant against him, Coloma said.

In the usual procedure, a complaint is filed at the Office of the President. The Office of the President remanded the matter to the DILG, which investigated the case.

“So let the facts of the case speak for itself. Ito naman ay dinisesyunan on the merits of the case,” Coloma said.

The Palace suspended Rama for 60 days for alleged violation of the Constitution, grave abuse of authority, grave misconduct and oppression in connection with a demolition he ordered last year. PND (as)