09 May 2015

President Aquino conveys his condolences to the family of Ambassador Lucenario
(OTTAWA, Canada) President Benigno S. Aquino III on Friday conveyed his sympathy and condolences to the family of Philippine Ambassador to Pakistan Domingo Lucenario Jr. killed in a helicopter crash in northern Pakistan.

Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said President Aquino was saddened upon learning that Ambassador Lucenario was among those killed in a helicopter crash in the Naltar Valley area of Pakistan.

“President Aquino expressed sadness and grief on the death of Philippine Ambassador to Pakistan Domingo Lucenario, Jr. who was among those killed in a helicopter crash in northern Pakistan,” Coloma said.

President Aquino, accompanied by the Philippine delegation, is conducting a three-day state visit to Canada, which includes stops in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.

In a statement, Secretary Coloma said news of the tragedy reached President Aquino and his delegation in Ottawa, where the President began his state visit to Canada Thursday (Friday in Manila).

“He said that the Philippines lost an outstanding career diplomat who served his country with distinction for nearly three decades,” said Coloma, who is also part of the Philippine delegation.

“In behalf of the Philippine government and people, he conveyed his sympathy and condolences with Ambassador Lucenario’s family,” the communications secretary added.

Ambassador Lucenario, 54, was a career ambassador who served the Philippine government for over 25 years, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

“During his term as ambassador to Pakistan, relations between the Philippines and Pakistan have enjoyed a robust partnership in various areas of cooperation,” the department said.

Lucenario was also the Philippines’ non-resident ambassador to Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. PND (co)

Philippines, Canada boost ties with the signing of bilateral agreements
(OTTAWA, Canada) The Philippines and Canada further strengthened its relations with the signing of several bilateral agreements, including the launch of exploratory discussions towards a possible free trade agreement between the two countries.

President Benigno S. Aquino III and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday witnessed the signing of the agreements on trade, development ASSISTANCE, and occupational health and safety, during the president’s state visit at Parliament Hill.

The first document signed was a Letter of Intent between the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development of Canada, and the Philippines’ Department of Trade and Industry on bilateral cooperation on trade and investment.

The cooperation aims to strengthen the longstanding trade and investment relationship by pursuing exploratory discussions on the feasibility of a mutually beneficial and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.

The two countries also agreed to work towards upgrading the existing 1996 Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). A modernized FIPA would give Canadian and Filipino investors greater confidence when doing business.

Also, the Philippines and Canada will explore projects and activities under the Canadian Trade and Development Facility in providing trade-related technical services to small-and-medium enterprises.

“On the economic front, the Philippines expresses its appreciation as regards Canada’s offer of assistance through the Canadian Trade and Development Facility, which enables our Small-and-Medium Enterprises to better access the Canadian market,” President Aquino said in a statement after a tête-à-tête with Prime Minister Harper.

“We also look forward to the commencement of exploratory discussions on a possible free trade agreement, the review of our bilateral investment agreement, and the convening of the Joint Working Group on Economic, Trade and Investment. Such steps will indeed redound to the benefit of our respective economies and societies,” the President added.

President Aquino and Prime Minister Harper also witnessed the signing of a five-year Mutual Accountability Framework (MAF) for development cooperation between the governments of the Philippines and Canada.

President Aquino said the Mutual Accountability Framework “sets in stone our shared desire to support broad-based and sustainable economic growth in the Philippines.”

The MAF establishes the shared commitment of the Philippines and Canada to support broad-based and sustainable economic growth, by making available programs, projects and activities that will create employment, significantly reduce vulnerabilities to poverty, and improve the quality of life of all Filipinos.

Also on Friday, the Philippines’ Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety signed a memorandum of understanding on occupational health and safety.

The agreement is intended to raise awareness and understanding regarding the importance of occupational health, safety, and industrial hygiene programs in the workplace.

The said memorandum will also lead to the improvement of existing occupational health and safety policies and reporting mechanisms, as well as to the creation of training courses and tools on best practices in the workplace to avoid illness and injury.

President Aquino is on a three-day state visit to Canada, which included stops in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. PND (co)

Canada supports peaceful resolution to maritime disputes in South China Sea
(Ottawa, Canada) Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has reiterated position that maritime disputes in South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) should be resolved in a peaceful manner.

During a joint press conference with President Benigno Aquino III at Parliament Hill here on Friday, Harper said while he is not taking sides on the issue, he maintained that all claimant countries should respect international law and should not use force in asserting sovereignty over the disputed waters.

“Canada does not take position on maritime territorial disputes. However, it is important that all parties do not engage in provocative unilateral actions, all parties must show respect for international law and for international decisions in that regard,” Harper said.

The Prime Minister admitted that he has discussed the issue on territorial disputes with President Aquino a number of times.

Harper has thrown his support solidly behind Aquino’s efforts of nonviolent and rules-based resolution to ongoing tensions in the region.

“President Aquino certainly raised this issue with me and we discussed in the past and we were certainly appreciative of the fact that he has handled this difficult issue very prudently and very responsively. And I think we should all recognize that,” he said.

For his part, President Aquino personally extended the Philippines’ appreciation for the position taken by the G7 leaders, which includes Canada, supporting the creation of a legally binding code of conduct that will be followed and respected by all claimant parties to the disputed islands in the South China Sea.

“We welcome the growing consensus across the international community: a rules-based approach must be observed in managing maritime disputes in the sea to the west of my country, a sea known by many names,” he said.

“It is in our interest to uphold the freedom of navigation and over-flight in the South China Sea, a region that is of vital importance not only to Southeast Asia, but also to the rest of the global community,” he added.

The G7 or the Group of Seven composed of Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States has called for a binding code of conduct in the disputed sea amid China’s aggressive construction in the South China Sea.

President Aquino during the recent ASEAN Summit in Malaysia again urged fellow leaders to uphold the adoption of a legally binding code of conduct to guide the behavior and actions of claimant parties in the disputed waters. This position was backed by Vietnam and Malaysia.

At the joint press conference, President Aquino said the adoption of the code of conduct would “clarify” how countries should conduct activities in the disputed islands that would benefit all their respective peoples.

“We are hoping that everybody’s entitlements and obligations are clarified so that there is stability that is induced in the region, which is a necessary precondition for everybody’s prosperity which I think all claimants in the area are aspiring for their people,” he said. PND (jb)

President Aquino thanks Canada for all its support to the Philippines
(OTTAWA, Canada) President Benigno S. Aquino III on Friday thanked the government of Canada for all its support to the Philippines through various initiatives, especially in its assistance in times of need.

“That friendship which we enjoy has grown deeper through generations,” President Aquino said during a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper after their meeting at Parliament Hill.

“And in the time of need, Canada was there, a partner ready to offer humanitarian assistance to the Philippines,” the President noted.

President Aquino cited the assistance extended by the government of Canada during the aftermaths of Typhoons Haiyan and Glenda.

For Typhoon Haiyan, the Canadian government deployed personnel from the Canadian Armed Forces to deliver much needed aid, provide medical care, and complete construction projects in devastated areas.

“The work done has helped our local communities get back on their feet,” the President said.

President Aquino also cited Canada’s commitment to support peace and development in Mindanao.

“Canada has likewise never wavered in its commitment to our peace process, and your determination to see a peaceful and prosperous Mindanao, a Land of Promises Fulfilled, is truly encouraging,” the President added.

President Aquino also expressed his gratitude to the Prime Minister for the warm hospitality that the Canadian government and its people has shown to him and the Philippine delegation on his first state visit to Canada.

“The warmth and solidarity you have demonstrated is testament to the truth my mother spoke of 26 years ago, when she came to your shores as the leader of a free Filipino people: Ours is a friendship that is old and tested,” the President said.

“Canada was one of the first nations to give recognition to my mother’s government; and I am told that the Canadian ambassador to the Philippines at that time was the very first to present his credentials to her,” the Chief Executive added.

Moreover, the President also said Canada’s support in helping local governments in the Philippines simplify their processes and implement economic development plans “have helped communities maximize their potential as hubs of growth.”

“Canada is also a partner in fully realizing the capabilities of the Filipino youth in advancing growth. A specific program that demonstrates this is Jobstart Philippines, which shows immense promise in its present stage,” he said.

President Aquino said Jobstart Forum has helped the Department of Labor and Employment, the local governments, and the private sector actively engage each other in developing the skills of Filipino high school graduates.

“Without doubt: The support that Canada has shown through such initiatives merits nothing less than the heartfelt gratitude of my people. Mr. Prime Minister, on behalf of my countrymen, I thank you for all of your country’s efforts,” the President said. PND (co)

Government closely watching ‘Typhoon Dodong,’ says Palace
The Palace said national government agencies continue to coordinate with local government units affected by Typhoon Dodong which is expected to make landfall in Isabela Sunday morning.

“Puspusan naman ang pakikipag-coordinate ng ating mga national government agencies doon sa ating mga lokal na pamahalaan dahil ang bilin po talaga sa kanila ay siguraduhing handa sila at binabantayan ang magiging pagdaan ng bagyo through DOST-PAGASA,” Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview on Saturday.

Valte told dzRB Radyo Ng Bayan that based on the latest advice of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and PAGASA, Typhoon Dodong is expected to make landfall in the Isabela-Cagayan area early Sunday morning.

She also reported that authorities also issued storm surge warning in coastal areas that are under Typhoon Signal No. 2.

The NDRRMC report has been disseminated to the local and provincial DRRMCs, as well as the regional offices of national government agencies, like the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Health and the Office of Civil Defense, Valte added.

Authorities are also monitoring the situation in Sorsogon because of the restiveness of Mount Bulusan, Valte said.

The alert level in Mount Bulusan was raised from zero to one and local government units already carried out preemptive evacuation in the barangays near the four-kilometer danger zone.

President Aquino is also monitoring the situation in the country although he is still in Canada, according to Valte. PND (as)

Palace announces appointment of new Sandiganbayan Justice
Malacanang announced the appointment of Sarah Jane T. Fernandez as Associate Justice of Sandiganbayan replacing Justice Gregory Ong.

“We’d like to announce that the President has appointed the Honorable Sarah Jane T. Fernandez as Associate Justice of the Sandiganbayan,” Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview on Saturday. The President signed the appointment of Fernandez last May 5, 2015, she said over dzRB Radyo Ng Bayan.

As to other vacancies in different government agencies like the five Commision on Human Rights commissioners whose terms will expire soon, Valte said the selection process for their replacement is already in process.

Among those whose term in the Commision on Human Rights will end include Chairperson Loretta Rosales.

There is still no replacement for the post vacated by Presidential Commission on Good Government Chair Andy Bautista, according to Valte.

“Nagpapatuloy naman po ‘yung work ng PCGG despite the departure of Chair Bautista,” she said. PND (as)

Malacanang congratulates Vigan after being named Wonder City
Palace congratulated the City of Vigan for being named among the New Seven Wonder Cities of the World.

“I would like to extend our congratulations to the City of Vigan for being picked as one of the New Seven Wonder Cities for this year,” Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said on Saturday.

“Previous to that, it was Puerto Princesa, the underground (river), and we hope that this will help Vigan City to welcome more tourists into their city to see the beauty of Vigan,” Valte said over dzRB Radyo Ng Bayan.

Vigan’s status as one of the new seven wonder cities of the world was formalized with a grand inauguration on Thursday night, making the Philippines one of three countries with more than one wonder.Vigan is considered by the New7Wonders Foundation as the “best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia.”

New7Wonders Foundation president Bernard Webber led the ceremony held at St. Paul Cathedral where he personally handed to city officials a bronze plaque that declares Vigan as the New Wonder City.

The City of Vigan joins other cities such as Beirut in Lebanon, Doha in Qatar, Durban in South Africa, Havana in Cuba, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and La Paz in Bolivia as those that “best represent the achievements and aspirations of our global urban civilization,” according to the foundation.

Vigan is the first of the New Seven Wonders Cities to be officially inaugurated. PND (as)

Aquino meets Filipino community in Toronto with Prime Minister Harper
(TORONTO, Canada) President Benigno Aquino III met with the Filipino community here on Friday accompanied by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In his speech, President Aquino thanked Prime Minister Harper for the warm hospitality extended to him and his official delegation for the three-day state visit to Canada particularly in the cities of Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.

“I thank you for being such an accommodating host, and for being a true friend of the Philippines,” he told Harper.

He noted that partnership between the Philippines and Canada has deepened under the watch of Harper, who has been the prime minister of Canada since 2006.

“Whether in helping ensure the welfare of Filipinos here in Canada, or in standing in solidarity with us in times of disaster, and in contributing to nurturing a more peaceful and more progressive Philippines—as demonstrated by Canada’s firm commitment to our peace process and the significant economic and development support from your nation—you and your government have indeed changed the lives of so many Filipinos,” he said.

“In our language, “Salamat” means thank you, and today I say to you: Salamat for all that you have done for my people,” he added.

Addressing the Filipino community, President Aquino trumpeted the reforms his administration have instituted in the Philippines.

He cited anti-corruption reforms in Department of Public Works and Highways, improvements in the country’s weather system, Armed Forces modernization program, opportunities in the coconut industry, remarkable economic growth and the decrease in unemployment rate.

For his part, Prime Minister Harper also thanked President Aquino for the warm reception he and his spouse Laureen received during their visit to the Philippines in 2012.

Harper said Aquino’s visit to Canada provides an opportunity to expand trade and investment and strengthen security relations between the two countries.

He extolled the growing population of Filipino Canadians in Canada which, he said, has contributed greatly to the success and strength of Canada.

He noted that Toronto is home to the largest Filipino community in Canada. He even shared that he already has Filipino relatives on the side of his wife Laureen.

“Filipino Canadians have become an integral part of any aspect of the Canadian society. From small towns to southern cities, wherever they work settle, worship, and raise families, those places grow stronger and more prosperous,” the Prime Minister said.

He said Canada today has become more prosperous and more united than ever before in history because of the increasing population of Filipinos in their country.

Harper was also proud to share to the Filipino community here that part of the Canadian Red Cross Medical Team he sent to assist in the earthquake in Nepal were Filipinos, who were trained by Canadian aid workers when typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in 2013.

“Canada and the Philippines may be separated by many thousands of kilometers of ocean but we are joined by history, kinship and the desire to do the right thing in the world,” he said.

Some of Prime Minister Harper’s colleagues in the Parliament were present including Tobias Enverga, the first Filipino Canadian Senator. PND (jb)

President Aquino meets with top businessmen in Toronto
(TORONTO, Canada) President Benigno Aquino III met with top business leaders here in a roundtable forum organized by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (APFC) on Friday.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said President Aquino addressed questions and concerns from business executives of companies such as life insurance, bank, entertainment, and telecommunications.

The business leaders were accompanied by Canada’s Minister of International Trade Ed Fast, said Coloma.

First to say his piece was Stewart Beck, APFC Chairperson, who said that “the vitality of Philippine-Canadian relations was underpinned by diaspora,” referring to the 700,000-strong Filipino-Canadian community.

In reply to a question from Sunlife Financial CEO Dean Connor on what must happen for the Philippines to sustain its fast rate of economic growth, Coloma said President Aquino replied that “he will continue focusing on investments in people and hoped that the next administration will continue initiatives such as the K to 12, intensified technical-vocational skill training, and job matching, and social protection programs such as conditional cash transfer, universal health care and socialized housing.”

Donald Guloien, Manulife Financial CEO, expressed the upbeat confidence of Canadian business in the Philippine economy, said Coloma.

In reply, he said Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima pointed out that there are robust opportunities in the Philippines for investments in infrastructure development, calamity insurance, asset management, and agribusiness.

TD Bank Group Chairperson Franck McKenna expressed that Canadian business is impressed about the Philippines’ ascent in world competitiveness rankings on account of increased transparency and good governance policies.

Doug Murphy, President and CEO of Corus Entertainment, said his company was interested in tapping into Filipino talents in animation and the creative industries.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura del Rosario said there were many government initiatives to promote innovation such as the tie-up between De La Salle University in the Toon Boom animation innovation project.

Murphy likewise said that his company wants to increase its footprint in the creative industry through collaboration with the Philippine Export Zone Authority (PEZA) industrial park program.

Last to speak during the forum was Anna Forgione, general counsel of D2L, who shared her company’s experience working with Globe Telecoms in enhancing technology use in education.

President Aquino said that the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has been tasked to improve public wi-fi connectivity and that public high schools in the Philippines are already using computers extensively, said Coloma.

President Aquino also met several business leaders in his one-day visit to Chicago before he flew to Canada for the state visit in the cities of Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. PND (jb)