09 Mar 2016

Aquino administration committed to provide citizen-oriented service, says Palace official
The Aquino administration remains committed to act in the people’s best interest, a Palace official has said.

“The Aquino administration’s commitment to Daang Matuwid goes beyond mere rhetoric; rather, it translates to concrete action on the part of all government agencies and even the President. His schedule last week, which culminated with a two-day trip to Central Visayas, exemplifies the kind of citizen-oriented service we aspire to provide under a government that is truly for the people,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement issued on Monday.

President Benigno S. Aquino III went to Bohol on March 2 to inspect the building site for the new Panglao Airport, scheduled to be finished in 2017, and led a ceremonial switch-on ceremony for the electrification of 2,684 sitios in Region VII.

“The product of much planning and collaboration among different government agencies, the new airport is designed to boost tourist arrivals in Bohol, from the current figure of 500,000 to an estimated 1.7 million per year,” Secretary Lacierda said.

From Bohol, the President proceeded to Cebu the next day to inspect newly restored heritage sites, as well as to inaugurate the four-storey, 20-classroom school building at the Guadalupe Elementary School in Cebu City. The new school building was donated by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

“In Cebu as well, the President spoke about boosting tourism through the restoration of heritage sites that had been damaged during the 2013 earthquake. Among them are Fort San Pedro and the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu, which on Thursday the President turned over to Augustinian fathers. While there, the President also took the time to visit Guadalupe Elementary School, which was recently endowed a new building by PAGCOR,” he said.

“All these efforts have served not only to improve the lives of Filipinos but also to boost the Philippines’ reputation as an attractive tourism and investment destination,” the Palace official added.

Lacierda also noted the country’s robust tourism sector as reported by the Department of Tourism (DOT).

“Just last week, the DOT announced that our tourism sector has been experiencing robust, uninterrupted growth since 2010. In the last five years, from 2010 to 2015, international tourist arrivals posted a compounded annual growth rate of 8.77 percent, higher than the 7.76 percent achieved from 2001 to 2010. Last year, the industry in fact reached another milestone, as total inbound tourists hit the five-million mark for the first time, with 5,360,682 recorded visitors,” he said.

“Of course, these encouraging figures have repercussions that go beyond tourism, with foreign visitors helping to create more jobs and stimulate our economy. According to the DOT, international tourist receipts rose significantly between 2010 and 2015, growing from P112.55 billion to P227.62 billion,” he further said.

“Rest assured that, for the remaining months of President Aquino’s term, the government will continue to act in the people’s best interest. Beyond that, it will be up to the voters to decide whether our country will deviate from the Straight Path or continue on toward even greater progress,” Lacierda said. PND (jm)

President Aquino attends launch of Novotel Manila Araneta Center
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Tuesday led the grand launch of the Novotel Manila Araneta Center located in the heart of Quezon City’s premier business and leisure district.The Novotel Manila Araneta Center is the first and only Novotel hotel in the country. It is operated by the AccorHotels Group, which also runs the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila.

“It gives me great pleasure to witness the beginning of endeavors like this. It is a concrete manifestation of your confidence in our country; it tells me that, like us, you took a long, hard look at our prospects and decided that the best is yet to come—that the years ahead hold even greater progress for the Philippines,” he said in his speech during the event.

The President said the construction of more hotels “have helped to maximize the potential of our tourism sector”.

He recalled that back in June 2012, there were only 162,403 rooms nationwide and the government saw the need to build 37,352 new rooms by 2016.

“The good news is that, by end-2014, we had already surpassed that target, with a total of 221,486 rooms across the entire country. That well-known names in the hotel industry continue to set up operations on our shores is a sign of our collective optimism. In fact, I am told that AccorHotels alone is set to open another five more properties in the future. Hopefully, in the very near future,” said President Aquino.

The President said the opening of Novotel Manila Araneta Center came just in time as the country is expecting an influx of visitors after the successful “It’s more fun in the Philippines” campaign.

“You could not have timed it more perfectly. More and more people every year are realizing just how much more fun it is in the Philippines. Our own countrymen have been traveling more and rediscovering the attractions of home,” said the President.

“In 2014 alone, we recorded 54.6 million domestic travelers —far higher than the 51.7 million target we had set for 2015. International tourist arrivals have likewise grown, from 3.52 million tourists in 2010 to 5.36 million in 2015. Within that same timeframe, international tourism receipts more than doubled: from 112.55 billion pesos in 2010 to 227.62 billion pesos in 2015. These aren’t empty figures alone: they have a direct impact on the incomes of our countrymen—from local tour guides and handicrafts vendors, to the men and women employed in hotels like this one,” the Chief Executive added.

President Aquino also expressed optimism on the number of tourist arrivals in the future.

“We will likely see even better numbers over the next few years, as we begin to reap the fruits of our development strategy. The Pocket Open Skies policy and reforms in civil aviation have already increased the number of flights to various locations in the Philippines. To handle greater demand, we have likewise pursued the upgrading and rehabilitation of 63 airports and 18 tourism ports; not to mention the development of nine new airports. Integrated transport systems, including the extension of our Light Rail Transit system in Metro Manila and surrounding areas, are likewise on the way,” said the President.

Also present at the launch were Trade Secretary Adrian Cristobal, Jr., Araneta Group Chairman and President Jorge Araneta, Novotel Manila Chief Operating Officer Patrick Basset, Vice President for Operations Midscale and Economy Paul Stevens, and General Manager Bernard Schneider. PND (jm)

President Aquino names Secretary Jose Rene Almendras as new Foreign Affairs chief
President Benigno S. Aquino III has appointed Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras as ad interim Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, replacing Secretary Albert del Rosario whose resignation took effect on Tuesday.“Upon his assumption as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Secretary Jose Rene Almendras has ceased to be Cabinet Secretary,” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said on Wednesday.

According to Secretary Coloma, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. will supervise the Office of the Cabinet Secretary.

President Aquino accepted del Rosario’s resignation last month. Del Rosario was appointed Department of Foreign Affairs head in 2011.

Almendras was appointed as Cabinet Secretary in 2012. Prior to this, he served as secretary of the Department of Energy. He had also been tasked to head the Cabinet cluster on Port Congestion. PND (kt)

President Aquino attends Philippine Air Force change of command ceremony
(LIPA CITY, Batangas) President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday recognized the exemplary leadership of outgoing Philippine Air Force (PAF) Chief, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado, during the change of command ceremony at the Fernando Air Base in Lipa City, Batangas.

Delgado, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Sandigan” Class of 1982, stepped down from his position ahead of his mandatory retirement on March 20.

“Sa araw pong ito, kinikilala natin ang huwarang liderato ni Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado sa inyong hukbo. Panahon pa ng aking ina, nagpakitang-gilas na si Lt. Gen. Delgado bilang miyembro ng Presidential Security Group.

Nang maitalaga naman natin siya noong 2014 bilang inyong Commanding General, at hanggang sa mga sandaling ito, bitbit niya ang talas ng isip, di-matatawarang kakayahan, at ang kanyang angking husay bilang kawal, at bilang inyong hepe,” President Aquino said in his speech.

“Ang sabi nga sa akin ng kanyang mga kasamahan: Ito raw pong si Lt. Gen. Delgado, hindi lang isang mahusay na pinuno, kundi isa ring ‘barkada ng bayan’: maalaga sa tao, at kung may problema ka, tungkol man sa serbisyo o kahit pa personal na buhay, ay talagang napakadaling lapitan.

“Kaya naman kay Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado: Sa ngalan ng bawat kawal ng Hukbong Panghimpapawid, saludo, at nagpapasalamat ako sa halos dalawang taon mong matibay na liderato sa hanay na ito.”

Delgado was replaced by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Deputy Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina, who belonged to PMA “Matikas” Class of 1983.

President Aquino said Fallorina was chosen for his vast knowledge and experience in service.

“Tulad noon, malawak na kaalaman at karanasan din sa serbisyo ang naging batayan natin sa pagpili kay Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina. Sa serbisyo, kilala si Lt. Gen. Fallorina sa kanyang ‘attention to detail’… Ang kanyang prinsipyo: Maikintal sa puso’t isip ng bawat kawani, kawal o opisyal, ang halaga ng paggawa ng tama sa bawat pagkakataon at sa bawat antas ng institusyon,” he said.

“Sinasalamin ng disiplinang ito ang prinsipyo niyang laging maging ‘one step ahead’. Sa simpleng meeting man, o sa mismong operasyon, parati siyang handa at may tangan na datos, kaya’t nagagawa niya ang anumang layunin o misyon nang mabilis, wasto, at maayos. Ang katangian namang ito, pihadong magiging kapaki-pakinabang sa layunin nating maihakbang pasulong ang ating Hukbong Himpapawid.”

“Ang tiwala namang kaloob natin sa inyong bagong pinuno, kailangan niyang matapatan ng karampatang paglilingkod. Kaya kay Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina: Kaharap mo ngayon ang magigiting na kawal ng Hukbong Panghimpapawid ng Pilipinas. Ang marching orders mo: Maging gabay ka sa mas matayog pang lipad ng ating Air Force, kasabay ng pagpapanatili ng kultura ng malasakit, dangal, at propesyunalismo sa buong hukbo,” the President added.

President Aquino also mentioned that the government has allocated P58.43 billion for the AFP Modernization and Capability Upgrade Program since July 2010.

“Malayo yan sa P31.75 billion na nailaan ng tatlong nakaraang administrasyon para sa unipormadong hanay. Sa ilalim din ng parehong programa, umabot na sa 68 proyekto ang ating nakumpleto, na lampas na rin sa 45 na pinagsamang natapos ng tatlong administrasyong bago sa atin,” he said.

“Ngayon, ang dating nag-iisang C-130, tatlo na po; meron na rin tayong tatlong C-295 medium-lift aircraft, at labingwalong SF-260TP aircraft. Dagdag pa rito ang walong Bell-412 combat utility helicopters, at walong AW-109E attack helicopters. Bukod sa nabanggit kong dalawang bagong lead-in fighter jets, nakapila na rin ang pagdating ng dalawa pang C-130 ngayong taon; pati na ang pag-arkila natin mula sa Japan ng limang TC-90 training aircraft, na tutulong naman sa ating Hukbong Dagat sa pagpapatrolya sa ating teritoryo, partikular na sa West Philippine Sea.”

The Chief Executive further noted that six Close Air Support Aircraft and two Long Range Patrol Aircraft are scheduled to arrive next year.

“Sa paparating namang sampu pang FA-50, dalawa ang lalapag sa atin sa Disyembre ng kasalukuyang taon, at ang walo pa, inaasahan nating susunod sa 2017. Lahat naman ng mga dagdag na kagamitang ito, bahagi lamang ng ating PAF Flight Plan 2028, na layong paunlarin ang kakayahan ng Air Force na bantayan ang ating teritoryo,” he said.

“Sama-sama nating pangalagaan ito; gamitin ninyo ito sa tamang panahon at tumpak na layunin. Isabuhay ninyo ang pagiging responsable at propesyunal na kawal. Magtulungan tayo upang maparami pa ang ating mga makabagong kagamitan, at sa gayon ay lalong mapatatag ang ating Sandatahang Lakas,” the President added.

Aside from the equipment upgrade, President Aquino also mentioned government initiatives that have benefited the servicemen and their families.

“Pati ang iba pang pangangailangan ng ating unipormadong hanay, tinutugunan na rin natin. Para sa ating AFP/PNP Housing Program, mula Mayo ng 2011 hanggang Disyembre ng 2015, umabot na sa 61,378 housing units ang naipatayo natin. 25 percent po ng AFP allocation diyan ang nailaan para sa ating Hukbong Himpapawid,” he said.

The President further cited the increase in subsistence allowance and monthly hazard pay; provisional allowance for soldiers, policemen and other uniformed service; monthly combat pay for soldiers in battlefield and livelihood programs for active and retired soldiers.

“Tunay po: Katuwang na ng ating Sandatahang Lakas ang isang administrasyong hindi lang nangangahas mangarap, kundi tunay nang tinutupad ang pinakamatatayog nating pangarap. Sa dulo naman ng lahat ng ito: Naging posible ang paghahatid natin ng positibong pagbabago sa inyong hanay, dahil sa inyong dedikasyon at propesyunalismo. Sa inyong wagas ang sakripisyo at pagmamalasakit sa ating bayan, walang ibang isusukli ang estado kundi malasakit din sa inyo at sa inyong mga pamilya,” President Aquino added.

Also present were Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Hernando Iriberri. PND (jm)

President Aquino on appointing Secretary Almendras as foreign affairs chief: He has proven his skills
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday said newly appointed ad interim Foreign Affairs Secretary Jose Rene Almendras has proven his skills in many fora.“Bakit natin itinalaga? He has, of course, my utmost trust and confidence. He has proven his skills in so many different fora,” the President said during a media interview held at the Fernando Air Base in Lipa City, Batangas province where he led the Philippine Air Force ceremonial change-of-command.

“It will be very difficult to get somebody to go through all of the hardship in this post with the expectation that he will only do it for 113 days,” he said, referring to his remaining days in office as Chief Executive.

He said he had expected Secretary Albert del Rosario to finish the term with him.

“But as you have noticed, his health has really deteriorated. When he stands up, he stands up at an angle and — iyong talagang nakakahiya na na humingi pa tayo ng dagdag na trabaho mula kay Secretary Albert,” he said.

According to President Aquino, Almendras was willing to take on the responsibility.

Prior to his appointment as foreign affairs chief, Almendras served as Cabinet Secretary and Energy Secretary. He had also been tasked to head the Cabinet cluster on Port Congestion.

“Nag-function (siya) as Cabinet Secretary, nag-function siya parang troubleshooter. Ang dami niyang pinuntahan, whether ‘yung pantalan, et cetera. Baka hindi masyado nating batid ‘yung pagsasara ng isyu sa Hong Kong, malaking bahagi ang parte niya diyan. Iyong dito sa naging gusot natin sa Taiwan, nakihalo rin siya diyan,” President Aquino said.

“Katulad ng sa Taiwan, sa batas po natin na One China Policy, prevented ang President, Vice President, Secretary of Foreign Affairs at saka Secretary of National Defense from dealing with anybody in the Taiwanese government. So, tamang-tama, somebody na senior like the Cab Sec (Cabinet Secretary) could go at points in time without — actually with adherence or full adherence to our One China law,” he explained.

Almendras had acted as negotiator to help resolve the 2010 Luneta hostage-taking incident that strained the country’s relations with Hong Kong for almost four years. He made a series of trips to Hong Kong that were not disclosed to show sensitivity to the families of the tourists who died and those who were injured after a botched rescue operation.

Following the resolution of the issue, Hong Kong lifted the sanction requiring Philippine officials and diplomatic passport holders to apply for visa when visiting Hong Kong, as well as the “black” travel alert that warned Hong Kong citizens against travelling to the Philippines. PND (kt)

President Aquino: Supreme Court should clear up rules on citizenship
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday said the Supreme Court, which has allowed Senator Grace Poe to run in the presidential elections in May, should clarify the rules on citizenship.

“Sana iyong ating Korte Suprema, dito sa kanilang desisyon ay magbibigay talaga nang — iyong todong kalinawan o paglilinaw sa sambayanan na, in their role as educator as far as the law is concerned, para maging klarong klaro sa lahat ng ating mamamayan kung ano ba talaga ang mga alituntunin sa pagiging citizen or non-citizen ng ating bansa,” President Aquino said during a media interview held at the Fernando Air Base in Lipa City, Batangas province where he led the Philippine Air Force ceremonial change-of-command.

He declined to comment on the Supreme Court decision, which has yet to be released, but said he wants to see how the decision addressed a number of issues.

“For instance, ‘yung tinanggap na niya (Senator Poe) ‘yung MTRCB position at sa totoo lang, ewan ko kung nakalimutan ko, pero ang pagkatanda ko, first time ko narinig na pumunta pa siya doon sa isang consular official ng Amerika in 2011 para i-renounce ‘yung citizenship kung saang panahon na MTRCB chair na siya. Ni walang nagkwento sa akin, walang nagbalita, walang formal report noong panahon na iyon. At palagay ko naitanong ko rin bakit kailangan pang gawin dahil ang assumption ko nga ay matagal-tagal nang na-reacquire supposed to be ‘yung citizenship. So gusto kong makitang sana may tugon doon sa mga tanong tulad ‘non doon sa desisyon na hinihintay nating ilabas ng Korte Suprema,” he said.

President Aquino also noted the independence of the justices he has appointed to the Supreme Court.

“Tapos doon sa mga appointees natin, siguro palagay ko ‘di ba ‘yung itinalaga natin sila para maging independent. Ginawa nila ang independence nila,” he said.

Voting 9-6, the Supreme Court on Tuesday reversed the ruling of the Commission on Elections to cancel Poe’s certificate of candidacy.

The nine justices who voted in favor of Poe were Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Jr., Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Jose Portugal Perez, Jose Catral Mendoza, Marvic Leonen, Francis Jardeleza, and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa.

Sereno, Leonen, Jardeleza, and Caguioa were appointed by President Aquino.

The Supreme Court has yet to release the full text of its decision. PND (kt)