26 February 2015

French President Hollande arrives for two-day visit in Manila
French President François Hollande arrived in Manila on Thursday for his two-day state visit to the country.

His airplane touched down at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 11:18 a.m.

There to welcome him were Vice President Jejomar Binay, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino, and Pasay City Congresswoman Imelda Calixto-Rubiano.

Among the more than 100 delegates accompanying the French President was Hollywood actress, Marion Cotillard, who won an Academy Award for best actress for her performance as Edith Piaf in the film La Vie en Rose. Cotillard is also an environmentalist and spokesperson for Greenpeace.

According to reports, part of President Hollande’s agenda is to lobby for President Benigno Aquino III’s support for his campaign on climate change mitigation.

France will host the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or COP 21, to be held in Paris in December. The conference will discuss climate change.

This is the first time a French President has visited the country since the Philippines and France established diplomatic relations in 1947. PND (ag)

Government to extend assistance to families affected by ongoing military operation in Central Mindanao
The government will ensure the welfare of the estimated 3,000 families displaced by the ongoing military campaign in Central Mindanao aimed at going after lawless elements in the region, the Palace has said.

“Ayon sa ulat ng ating Sandatahang Lakas ay mayroon nang na-displace na 3,000 pamilya, humigit-kumulang 15,000 katao ito, sa Central Mindanao, at puspusang kumikilos ang pamahalaan upang mabigyan sila ng kaukulang pagtulong at tiyakin ang kanilang maayos na kalagayan,” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a press briefing in Malacañang on Thursday.

Secretary Coloma said the military and the police are working together to neutralize criminal elements and terrorists groups, such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and at the same time ensure the safety of communities there.

President Benigno S. Aquino III recently ordered a military operation against those groups, according to Coloma.

Members of the BIFF, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and other armed groups have been implicated in the bloody clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao which resulted in the death of 44 members of the police’s elite force last January 25.

Meanwhile, the Palace brushed off calls for the government to replace the present composition of negotiators talking peace with the MILF.

Senator Francis Escudero has said that the President must replace the members of the present negotiating team because they are apparently biased towards the MILF with regards to the Mamasapano incident.

In response, Coloma said: “Buo ang tiwala ng ating Pangulo sa mga bumubuo ng ating peace panel, kabilang na si Secretary Teresita Deles, ang Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, at si (Chairperson of the government peace panel) Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.”

“Ginagampanan nila ang kanilang tungkulin nang ayon sa patnubay na ibinibigay ng Pangulo,” he added. PND (as)

French President Hollande begins two-day state visit, lays wreath at Rizal monument
French President François Hollande on Thursday began his two-day state visit to the Philippines with a wreath-laying ceremony at the monument of national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal.

President Hollande and the French delegation proceeded to Rizal Park in Manila City upon their arrival on Thursday morning for a state visit to the country at the invitation of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

The French leader arrived at Rizal Park at 12:16 p.m. and was received by former president and incumbent Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, and other officials.

President Hollande was escorted by Mayor Estrada as he laid a wreath at the foot of Rizal’s monument. The visiting head of state was given military honors, including a 21-gun salute.

Dr. Jose P. Rizal, who was inspired by the 1789 French Revolution’s ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, wrote the first chapters of his novel, El Filibusterismo, in Paris.

During the ceremony, President Hollande was presented a “Key to the City of Manila” by Mayor Estrada.

After the event, the French President and his delegation headed to Makati City for a luncheon meeting with local businessmen.

The French leader is scheduled on Thursday afternoon to meet with President Aquino in Malacañang Palace, where they are expected to discuss various facets of a bilateral relationship that has gained momentum in recent years.

The two leaders will also exchange views on pressing regional and global issues, including terrorism.

While in the country, President Hollande will drum up support for action on climate change. France is hosting the 21st Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or COP21 in Paris in December.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the French leader’s state visit to the Philippines is a first by an incumbent President of France since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1947.

President Hollande’s visit reciprocates President Aquino’s first official visit to France in September 2014. PND (co)

Palace apologizes for heavy traffic during EDSA People Power anniversary
Malacañang has extended its apology to the public affected by the heavy traffic along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) during the 29th anniversary celebration of the People Power Revolution on Wednesday.“Humihingi kami ng paumanhin sa ating mga kababayan na naipit sa traffic dulot ng pagsasara ng mga daan kahapon,” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said during Thursday’s press briefing at the Palace.

The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) closed the northbound lane of EDSA starting from Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City, from morning to afternoon for the wreath-laying ceremony and mass, both of which were attended by President Benigno S. Aquino III.

President Aquino offered a wreath at the EDSA People Power Monument in Quezon City in the morning, then proceeded to the Shrine of Mary Queen of Peace, Our Lady of EDSA in Ortigas for the mass officiated by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.

The traffic jam forced commuters to walk to their offices, while motorists were stuck on the road as the alternate routes proposed by the MMDA were also congested.

Secretary Coloma said that he heard MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino explain on Wednesday that an advisory was announced two weeks ago.

“Ganun pa man, kinikilala niya (Tolentino) na pwede namang ma-improve pa ito at ayon nga kanya, sa susunod na pagkakataon ay gagawin nila ang nararapat,” he said.

“Sa susunod na pagkakataon, maglalabas na nang mas maaga at mas kumpletong abiso hinggil sa mga alternate routes na maaaring daanan, upang huwag dumanas muli ng malaking abala at sakripisyo sa matinding trapik,” Coloma assured. PND (jm)

Palace supports National Railway’s fare adjustment
The Palace supports the Philippine National Railways’ (PNR) plan to raise its minimum fare from P10 to P15, as it is in line with the government’s Philippine Development Plan, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said on Thursday.

Secretary Coloma said the same principle guides the fare adjustment of the PNR and that of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and the Light Rail Transit (LRT).

“Ayon sa ating Philippine Development Plan na siyang batayan ng ating programang pang-ekonomiya, kinakailangan na ang mga gumagamit ng serbisyo ay nagbabayad ng angkop na pamasahe,” he told reporters during the daily press briefing in Malacañang.

“Kaya’t sinusunod ng DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communications) at ng PNR ang patakarang ito at iyan din ang prinsipyong ipinaiiral sa pagtatakda ng fare structure sa PNR.”

The MRT and LRT have recently adjusted their fare rates to improve their services to commuters. Both transport systems rely heavily on state subsidies, prompting the government to share the burden with the riding public. PND (as)

Espina doing a good job as officer-in-charge of National Police, says Coloma
Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina is doing a good job as officer-in-charge (OIC) of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said on Thursday.While the PNP currently does not have a permanent chief, Secretary Coloma said the agency is functioning well under Espina.

Espina was appointed OIC following the suspension of PNP Director General Allan Purisima in December last year.

“Ginagampanan ni officer-in-charge (OIC) Leonardo Espina ang kanyang tungkulin at ito naman ay hindi nakakaantala sa mga operasyon ng Philippine National Police,” Coloma said during a press briefing at the Palace.

He said Espina has the trust and confidence of President Benigno S. Aquino III, who is still studying the situation and continues to look at the bigger picture where it is necessary to appoint a permanent PNP chief.

“Matagal-tagal na rin siyang nag-pe-perform ng OIC functions simula noong December 4 at nananatili naman ang kumpyansa at tiwala sa kanya ng Pangulo sa pagtupad sa kanyang tungkulin,” Coloma said. PND (jm)

President Aquino welcomes visiting French leader to Malacañang
President Benigno S. Aquino III welcomed French President François Hollande at Malacañang Palace on Thursday afternoon for the latter’s two-day state visit to the Philippines.

Ceremonial rites were held upon President Hollande’s arrival at the Kalayaan Grounds at about 4:50 p.m. The French leader then had a private conversation with President Aquino at the Palace’s Music Room shortly after signing the guest book.

President Aquino and President Hollande are expected to discuss various aspects in the diplomatic relations between the Philippines and France during an expanded bilateral meeting, especially in the areas of trade and economy.

The two leaders will also exchange views on global and regional issues, including climate change and terrorism, owing to the attack on the office of French publication, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris last month that killed 20 people.

President Hollande hopes to seek President Aquino’s support for the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that will be hosted by France in December this year.

Foreign relations between the Philippines and France were established as early as 1947, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs, but Hollande is the first incumbent French president to make a state visit to the country.

France is the Philippines’ second largest trading partner in the European Union (EU), with two-way trade amounting to US$2.39 billion in October 2014. This represented an increase of 24 percent from the same period in 2013. PND (hdc)