20 June 2015

Palace acknowledges latest Global Peace Index report
Malacañang acknowledged on Saturday the latest report issued by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), ranking the Philippines 141st out of 162 countries in its Global Peace Index (GPI) this year.

The Philippines dropped seven places from its 134th position last year as the Sydney-based global organization described the current state of peace in the country as “low” with a score of 2.462.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. noted that the IEP, in its report, attributed the slide in the Philippines’ ranking to “the South China Sea remaining as a potential area of conflict and the internal conflicts between the government and rebel groups occurring late in the measurement period.”

Coloma explained that the “government has always advocated a peaceful and rules-based approach in resolving the issues concerning the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).”

He said this is precisely the reason the Philippines chose to bring the matter before the United Nations International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea from the outset.“In fact, the international community expressed solidarity in this approach chosen by the Philippines. We are awaiting the findings of the permanent court of arbitration on this matter,” Coloma said.

In its assessment of the South China Sea conflict, the IEP said further military skirmishes among the nations involved remains a probability, but it is unlikely to escalate in a large-scale armed forces engagement.

With respect to the ongoing conflict in Mindanao, meanwhile, Coloma said achieving long-term peace, stability, and progress in that area remains a “top priority” of the government as well.

He said this is why the 16th Congress under the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III continues to work towards the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

“Although debates about the BBL went beyond the last session of Congress, we see this as an opportunity to harmonize the differing viewpoints,” Coloma said.

“Government will also continue to intensify efforts in pursuing heightened citizen awareness that is essential in engaging their active participation in the peace process,” he added.

The Philippines considerably paled in comparison with its Asia Pacific neighbors in terms of relative peace in 2015, as the IEP placed it way below in its regional rankings at 18th, only a notch above perennial cellar-dweller North Korea.

Indonesia made the most improvement among Southeast Asian countries this year, rising 12 places to 46th in the global rankings owing to its reduced impact of terrorism and low levels of violent crime, the IEP said.

The GPI report is released annually by the IEP as an attempt to measure the relative position of a nation’s and/or region’s peacefulness using a variety of indicators through consultations with a number of highly respected sources worldwide. PND (hdc)

Government focuses on efficient budget spending to spur growth
President Aquino has instructed his Cabinet to ensure that all agencies effectively and consistently execute their respective budgets based on the 2015 General Appropriations Act to boost economic growth, a palace official said on Saturday. “The DBM (Department of Budget and Management) continues to monitor the disbursements of all agencies to ensure that the agencies meet their targets,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said in a radio interview over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

Coloma also noted the latest forecast by Moody’s, lowering its estimated GDP (gross domestic product) growth for the Philippines from 6.5 percent to 6 percent.

According to Moody’s, this adjustment is due to “weak global trade alongside low government spending.”

Despite Moody’s adjustment in its outlook, Coloma said the government will stick to its plan of boosting spending through the approved 2015 national budget.

Coloma said that the government doesn’t have much control over the weakening of trade although the country’s trade performance is good. So the focus is on efficiently disbursing the budget this year.

“‘Yung ikalawa ay pinag-iigting ang mga pagsisikap na ma-execute ang budget,” Coloma said about government spending. “Kung ano ang inilaan na pananalapi ay magastos sa tamang paraan at sa mga kapaki-pakinabang na mga proyekto para ang benepisyo ng pag-unlad ay maramdaman ng ating mga mamamayan.”

The central bank reported a surplus because the government has not spent much of its budget, according to Coloma. PND (as)

Palace allays public fears on MERS-CoV infection
The palace made an assurance on Saturday that it has enough measures in place to address the threat being posed by MERS coronavirus especially after a case was reported in Thailand, a neighboring Asian country.

“Sa bahagi naman po ng ating pamahalaan, ganap ang ating kahandaan na labanan ang banta ng MERS coronavirus,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said in a radio interview over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

Coloma said the government started with intensive an information campaign in the Middle East, where MERS-CoV originated, briefing Filipino health workers there on infection control protocols to avoid contracting MERS-CoV.

“Dito naman po sa atin ay mahigpit na ipinatutupad ang mga quarantine procedure,” he said.

“Dapat po pagdating sa airport ay nagdedeklara hinggil dito para mapadali ang tinatawag na contact tracing.”

Health authorities are also conducting thermal checks at the airports to detect passengers from abroad who might carry the disease, he said.
“Wala pong dapat ipangamba ang ating mga mamamayan dahil puspusan po ang pag-iingat at pagsisikap ng Department of Health na labanan at pigilin ang pagdating ng MERS coronavirus sa ating bansa,” Coloma said.The Palace official said that although there are reports of infections in Thailand and South Korea, the government has not issued travel advisories for those countries.

The government is using World Health Organization assessments, and still does not see a need to issue travel advisories for those countries, Coloma said.

Prior to reports of infection in Thailand, MERS-CoV has killed several people in South Korea, especially among the elderly. PND (as)

DPWH, MMDA working to address flooding, traffic congestion, says Palace official
The Department of Public Works and Highways and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority are working together to address flooding and traffic congestion in Metro Manila, a Palace official said.

In a radio interview on Saturday, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said the government is working to build the necessary facilities to address those problems in the metropolis.

One initiative of the DPWH, according to Coloma, is the construction of a catchment area in España in Manila because it is a flood-prone area in Metro Manila.

“Ibig sabihin, kapag may catchment area, mayroong sasalo doon sa bugso ng tubig-baha para hindi bahain kaagad ang ating mga main thoroughfare,” Coloma told dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority on the other hand, continues to do extensive clean up operations of esteros and drainage canals to prevent flooding.

To address traffic congestion, Coloma said one of the most important things was the National Economic Development Authority’s approval of the comprehensive roadmap for Metro Manila.

The roadmap was proposed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency to ease traffic congestion in the National Capital Region (NCR).

Japan is helping the Philippines implement the comprehensive roadmap for Metro Manila and nearby areas. PND (as)