29 July 2015

Malacañang asks public to cooperate and join Metro Manila-wide earthquake drill on Thursday
The Palace called on the public to participate in the synchronized Metro Manila-wide earthquake drill on Thursday to prepare the metropolis for a possible earthquake triggered by the West Valley Fault.“We ask the public to cooperate in the exercise,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during a press briefing on Wednesday.

“I think it will be good and beneficial for all of us to be trained as to how to respond to a situation like an earthquake.”
Earthquake drills, he said, aim to prepare everyone for a major quake.

The five-hour Metro Manila earthquake drill will be staged on Thursday as part of the government’s plan to prepare residents for a possible 7.2-magnitude earthquake that could be triggered by a movement in the West Valley Fault, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has said.

The drill will start at 10:30 a.m. and will involve Metro Manila schools, business establishments and local governments. This is expected to be one of the biggest earthquake drills to be held in the country’s capital region.

Mobile phone service and electricity across Metro Manila would be cut off during the drill. Massive traffic jams would also be simulated, as traffic lights are expected to stop functioning when electrical supply is interrupted during an earthquake, the MMDA said. PND (as)

President Aquino has obligation to ease flooding in Manila, says official
It is President Benigno S. Aquino III’s obligation to find a solution to Manila’s flood problem, that is why he mentioned in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) the proposal to build a catchment for floodwaters within the premises of the University of Santo Tomas (UST), a Palace official said Wednesday.España Boulevard in Manila is prone to flooding, affecting many people who pass the area daily, among them pedestrians, senior citizens, schoolchildren and university students, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during a press briefing.

“This is a situation where the interest, the safety of many should prevail over the concerns of, for instance, unfortunately a university. I think you should look at it from that perspective,” Lacierda said.

“Given that the solution is scientifically well-founded and technically proven, why does it not make sense for us or for all those people involved there to join and cooperate with government in building that catchment area?”

In his SONA on Monday, President Aquino said his administration’s strategy is clear — in constructing roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, “we reduce the suffering where we must”.

“Ang panawagan ko nga po, makiambag sana tayong lahat, at maging handang magsakripisyo. Halimbawa: Para matugunan ang madalas na pagbaha sa Maynila, isinulong natin ang pagpapagawa ng catchment area; pero tumutol po dito ang isang malaking unibersidad. May lumang gusali daw kasi silang maaaring tamaan,” he said.

According to UST’s official student publication, The Varsitarian, in 2013, the Department of Public Works and Highway proposed to dig out a retarding tank under UST’s open grounds “to serve as storage for water during heavy rains, to be pumped out to waterways after a downpour”.

The publication further cited the status of UST’s open grounds and certain structures as national cultural treasure, which, according to law, “shall not be relocated, rebuilt, defaced or otherwise changed in a manner, which would destroy the property’s dignity and authenticity, except to save such property from destruction due to natural causes.”

Asked if the government plans to ask UST to reconsider the proposal, Lacierda said it is up to the leadership of the university to study it.

“It’s not too much to ask,” he said. PND (as)

Palace says it never wavered in pushing for Freedom of Information Bill
Malacañang remains committed to pursue the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill to achieve more transparency in the bureaucracy, a Palace official has said. President Benigno S. Aquino III has been criticized for failing to mention the FOI Bill during his State of the Nation Address on Monday. He however sought the immediate passage of the proposal in his message to legislators on the submission of the 2016 National Budget to Congress on Tuesday.

During Wednesday’s press briefing at the Palace, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told reporters that the Malacañang version of the bill has already been submitted and has been debated by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Information, headed by Congressman Jorge Almonte.

The Palace’s representative, Undersecretary Manolo Quezon, has been present in all the committee hearings, and this is a sign of Malacanang’s commitment, Lacierda said.

“The FOI Bill has passed the Committee on Information, headed by Congressman Jorge Almonte. It is now supposedly going to be calendared for second reading,” he said.

On the criticisms against the President, he said that although he did not mention the bill in his final SONA, he gave it priority in his Budget message to Congress.

“The Budget Message is powerful, if not more powerful, than the State of the Nation Address. It comes with perspective,” Lacierda pointed out.

He noted that FOI advocates were very pleased with recent developments regarding the proposal.

One of the FOI advocates in the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Leni Robredo, even issued a statement welcoming the President’s Budget message, which put emphasis on transparency policies such as pushing for the FOI Bill, Lacierda said.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte already announced that he will pass the FOI Bill, he said.

“So we will just ask the majority floor leader if he can calendar the FOI Bill for second reading and, hopefully, it will move. It certainly would require some debates if there are people who have concerns with the FOI,” he added. PND (as)