22 January 2015

Government eyes long-term solution to traffic congestion, says Palace official
The government is serious in tackling the persistent traffic congestion in the country and wants a long-term solution to the problem, a Palace official has said.“Patuloy namang tinutukoy ang suliraning ito sa pamamagitan ng pagpapahusay ng imprastruktura, sa pagpapahusay ng traffic management, at sa patuloy ring panawagan sa mga mamamayan na makiisa,” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. told reporters during a press briefing in Malacañang on Thursday.

A recent study on countries with the worst traffic situation ranked the Philippines as fourth in Asia and ninth in the world.

The study was conducted by Numbeo, a research firm launched in 2009 by Serbian software engineer and mathematician Mladen Adamovic.

“Kaya nga tayo may umiiral na number coding sa mga pribadong sasakyan, nakikiisa ang mga private vehicle owners sa pag-regulate ng paggamit nila ng pribadong sasakyan para maibsan ang pagsisikip ng ating main thoroughfares,” he said.

Coloma further said that the National Economic Development Authority has already approved the recommendation of the Japan International Cooperation Agency regarding the long-term traffic management and infrastructure program for Metro Manila to address the traffic congestion.

The Numbeo study, which collated data on the traffic situation in 88 countries for its 2015 Traffic Index, showed that the Philippines obtained a traffic index of 202.31.

Numbeo defined traffic index as the “composite index of time consumed in traffic due to job commute, estimation of time consumption dissatisfaction, carbon dioxide consumption estimation in traffic, and overall inefficiencies in the traffic system.”

In Asia, the Philippines trailed behind Bangladesh, Jordan and Iran. PND (as)

Palace confident Gross Domestic Product would hit 6.5 to 7.5 percent target
The Palace on Thursday expressed confidence that the country would be able to hit its gross domestic product (GDP) target of 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent.

Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. told reporters during the daily press briefing that the target is attainable, contrary to forecasts made by some economists.

“Our focus is on attaining the targets of the Philippine Development Plan, which is a range of 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent GDP growth per annum. So, while we listen with respect to views expressed by other parties, our commitment is to implement the needed programs in accordance with the objectives of the Philippine Development Plan and we would like to attain those objectives,” he said.

He was commenting on forecasts made by economists during a forum held by Ateneo de Manila University that the country is likely to achieve a GDP of only 5.7 percent to 6.5 percent.

Last year, the Philippines attained a GDP of 7.2 percent. PND (ag)

Philippines, U.S. reiterate South China Sea row must be settled through international arbitration, says Palace official
Senior Philippine foreign affairs and defense officials and their counterparts from the United States have reiterated that the maritime dispute in the South China Sea must be resolved through international arbitration.

Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said during a press briefing in Malacañang on Thursday that the officials of the two countries made the statement following their fifth Bilateral Strategic Dialogue held in Manila on January 20 to 21.

“The two countries expressed concern over developments in the South China Sea that are inconsistent with the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and international law, and emphasized the importance of upholding peace and stability, respect for international law, unimpeded lawful commerce, and freedom of navigation and over flight,” Coloma said, reading the joint statement.

“The two sides reiterated that international disputes in the South China Sea should be settled in accordance with international law, and through diplomatic and other peaceful means, including the use of international arbitration,” he added.

Manila and Beijing are both laying claim to the Kalayaan Group of Islands, and the Ayungin and Scarborough Shoals located in the South China Sea.

On March 30 last year, the Philippines filed a memorial before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) against China.

Philippine officials on Wednesday accused China of expanding its reclamation work in the disputed territory, describing it as “massive.”

Present during the dialogue were Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Evan P. Garcia and National Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo F. Batino for the Philippines, and Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel and Assistant Secretary of Defense David Shear for the US.

Meanwhile, asked if the dialogue discussed the status of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which is pending at the Supreme Court, Coloma said both sides have acknowledged that there are legal questions that are now being addressed at the Supreme Court.

Former senators Wigberto Tañada and Rene Saguisag filed a petition at the Supreme Court in May last year, questioning the validity of the EDCA.

The petitioners argued that the agreement is unconstitutional and violates several provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

The EDCA was signed in April last year, shortly before US President Barrack Obama arrived in Manila for a visit. PND (ag)