October 20 2015

APEC News Release

President Aquino satisfied with gov’t response to Typhoon ‘Lando’
President Benigno S. Aquino III has expressed satisfaction with the government’s response to Typhoon Lando, which has battered northern Luzon and has affected 283,486 people.

“The government, I think has responded to all. Casualties, so far, hopefully will not climb. But again, we will not take any chance and we will try to ensure that we are on the side of being conservative and making sure that everybody is protected during this time,” President Aquino said on Monday after visiting families affected by the typhoon at the Nueva Ecija National High School in Cabanatuan City.

The school was transformed into an evacuation center where 204 families from 11 barangays have been staying since Sunday.

“We are still collating all of the data. There are areas we have no communication and no electricity but there are less and less areas that are somewhat isolated. Cabanatuan, in fact, was part of the list of those isolated, that is why we are here,” said the President, who also had a meeting with Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Health Secretary Janette Garin, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Nueva Ecija Governor Aurelio Umali, Cabanatuan City Mayor Julius Cesar Vergara, and Department of Social Welfare and Development Region 3 officials after the distribution of relief goods.

President Aquino noted that while preparations have been undertaken by the national government, the challenge was in dealing with the “lingering typhoon” that has left many areas flooded and without electricity.

“Basically, the challenge here is that you have a lingering typhoon as opposed to just crossing our land mass in a matter of a few hours. The expectation for the effects of this particular typhoon are about three days long,” said the Chief Executive, who distributed relief goods consisting of food packs, each containing six kilos of rice, canned goods and 3-in-1 coffee, as well as family kits, each of which was made up of a kawali, a ladle, cups, plates, plastic mats, a blanket and a mosquito net.

President Aquino also warned residents to remain at evacuation centers until such time when it is safe to return to their communities.

“There is something like 800 barangays in several provinces that are deemed to be susceptible to the effects of rainwater coming down from further up north. Now, the challenge with a lot of our countrymen ‎is that, they don’t seem to see the amount of rain it is pouring. They think it is safe already to go back to their communities but we are preventing them right now because the expectations from tonight and until tomorrow, a lot of this rainfall that fell on the northern portion of Luzon will be coming down and will be affecting all of these barangays near the major river systems,” he explained.

“The various electric cooperatives are checking their lines right now to ensure that by the time they re-energize, then there is no threat of electrocution for ‎any of the communities. But still the disturbance is still with us. It has not exited the land mass at this point in time. It has veered northeast so it really will affect a lot of these areas in Region 1 and the Cordillera area, and that is what we are trying to gear up for. And of course, we want to prevent any spread of a disease, leptospirosis is considered a threat, especially the way through the floodwaters,” the President added.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has estimated Typhoon Lando to stay in the Philippine Area of Responsibility until Saturday.

The PAGASA bulletin issued at 11 a.m. on Tuesday said Typhoon Lando has weakened into a tropical storm and was moving slowly towards Calayan and the Babuyan Islands.

The storm was located 125 kilometers (km) west of Calayan, Cagayan, with maximum sustained winds of 85 km per hour (kph) near the center and gustiness of up to 100 kph. It was forecast to move northeast at 4 kph.

Public Storm Warning Signal No. 2 has been hoisted over Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Apayao, Abra, Batanes and Northern Cagayan, including Calayan and Babuyan Islands, which will have stormy weather, while occasional rains and gusty winds will be experienced over La Union, Pangasinan, Benguet, Nueva Vizcaya, Ifugao, Mt. Province, Kalinga, Isabela and the rest of Cagayan, which are under Signal No. 1.

Elsewhere, the storm warning signal has been lowered. PND (jm)

Malacañang condemns murder of Agusan del Sur Mayor, son
The Palace has condemned the murder of Mayor Dario Otaza of Loreto, a town in Agusan del Sur province, and his son Daryl, by armed men believed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

The two were abducted from their home on Monday night and were found dead at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, hogtied with multiple gunshot wounds, in the vicinity of Purok 2, Barangay Bitan-agan, Butuan City.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this cowardly act. We hope that Mayor Otaza’s death unites the people of Agusan del Sur, the Manobos and the entire Lumad community, and every decent Filipino in working sincerely towards lasting, meaningful peace,” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

“Mayor Otaza was a Manobo, a Lumad, and a former NPA rebel himself. Since his surrender, he has been an invaluable partner for peace in the region. His programs to ensure that former rebels have the means to lead dignified lives as part of mainstream society have encouraged many insurgents to lay down their arms. Observers have lauded the success of these programs,” said Secretary Coloma.

The Palace official said the Philippine National Police, with the support of the Armed Forces, has intensified its operations to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Undersecretary Manny Bautista of the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace also issued a statement condemning the killings.

“We strongly condemn the murder of Mayor Dario Otaza and Daryl Otaza, as we condemn all the attacks on the Lumad peoples. We grieve with his family, the people of Loreto, the Manobos and other indigenous peoples, and the entire Filipino public. Rest assured that our law enforcement personnel will exert every effort to bring the perpetrators of this grisly, cowardly crime to justice,” said Bautista.

“Mayor Otaza was a staunch partner of peace in Agusan del Sur. A member of the Manobo indigenous group, he stood as the representative of the Lumad peoples, ensuring that IP communities were not left behind. He founded programs that allowed rebel returnees like himself to live dignified lives upon their return to mainstream society,” Bautista’s statement further said.

He said the Butuan City local government has activated its crisis committee and was scheduled to call for a press conference later in the day. PND (jm)

Government appeals to communist rebels to spare Lumads from violence
Following the killing of a mayor of Agusan del Sur, the government appealed to the New People’s Army (NPA) to spare the Lumads from further violence and restart the peace negotiation with the government without any precondition.

During a press conference at the Palace on Tuesday, Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista of the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace said there have been a lot of Lumad killings, and most of them were perpetrated by the NPA.

Hundreds of Lumads have been killed in the past several years and it is unfortunate that the indigenous group is at the center of the violence, Bautista said.

He noted that the Lumads have been dragged into the conflict because the ancestral domains they inhabit host most NPA guerilla bases.

“We appeal to the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) – NPA to please spare the Lumads and we appeal (to them) to end the armed struggle and not to involve the Lumads in this armed struggle,” he said.

“They deserve to live freely in their ancestral domain the way they want to live, and we hope that this is respected.”

Any ideological or political issue must be resolved through peaceful means and without exploiting any group, he added.

According to Bautista, the rebels have been asking for a resumption of the peace talks but the government could only accept such peace initiative without any precondition.

Previous attempts to restart the talks bogged down because of the guerrillas’ demands for the release of consultants, who remain in government detention.

“Government is always open to the resumption of peace talks. What government is against is the setting of preconditions for these talks to resume,” he pointed out.

“But government is sincere in resuming the peace talks whenever they are ready and we have always communicated that.”

Malacañang on Tuesday condemned the killing of Mayor Dario Otaza of Loreto, Agusan del Sur, and his son, saying the police and the military have intensified their operations to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Otaza and his son, Daryl, were abducted Monday night from their home by armed men believed to be members of the NPA.

Their remains, hogtied with multiple gunshot wounds, were found by authorities at 7 a.m. on Tuesday in Barangay Bitan-agan, Butuan City.

Mayor Otaza was a Manobo, a Lumad, and a former NPA rebel himself. He helped the government in running a successful rebel returnee program that encouraged hundreds of NPA rebels to return to the fold of the law. PND (as)

Serbisyo Caravan to continue in Lumad communities, says government
The government will continue holding its Serbisyo Caravan to reach more poor communities in remote areas, especially territories hosting indigenous people, an official said on Tuesday.

“That is what the Serbisyo Caravan is all about, the Whole of Nation Initiative (WNI) is all about — to bring government to those far-flung communities, especially to our Lumad brothers,” Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista of the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace, said during a press conference in Malacañang.

“We will continue to bring services to them and we will continue to perform the mandate of government, regardless of whatever they say,” he said, emphasizing that Lumads will not be left behind.

Bautista also denied that the government is engaged in a propaganda war with communist rebels in Lumad communities in Mindanao, noting that the administration is always transparent and is after the truth.

The Armed Forces, accused of taking part in some of the violence, is always open to investigation and will let appropriate investigative bodies to conduct inquiries to know the truth, he said.

Bautista pointed out that the hierarchy in the Lumad culture has become more complicated with the entry of mining companies operating in the Lumads’ ancestral domain.

There are divisions among the Lumads, with some leaders siding with the New People’s Army (NPA) and some against the NPAs as a way of protecting or preserving a particular land domain, he explained.

He said the government wants the Lumads to settle their differences among themselves, without outside intervention and under the existing mechanism.

“It has been very complicated right now. What we want is for them to resolve all of these issues among themselves, without interference from any outside forces,” he said.

According to Bautista, the Lumads have the facility and structure to resolve their internal squabble and they just need empowerment.

“It is just empowering them and leading them to resolve all of these issues in leadership, in the baganis, in the ancestral domains and who controls the ancestral domains, who will deal with the mining companies, and we should allow them to do that.” PND (as)

APEC energy working group to undertake cooperation on setting up an Asia-Pacific Urbanization Partnership
(LAPU-LAPU CITY, Cebu) Energy ministers of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies have instructed the APEC Energy Working Group (EWG) to work with the APEC Sustainable Energy Center (APSEC) and the Low-Carbon Model Town Task Force (LCMT-TF) to undertake an APEC Cooperation Initiative for Jointly Establishing an Asia-Pacific Urbanization Partnership endorsed by APEC Leaders in 2014.

In their instructions to the EWG issued at the conclusion of the 12th APEC Energy Ministers’ Meeting held here last week, the ministers noted that the construction of new buildings is an integral component of sustainable cities, and serves as an effective platform to demonstrate and apply cutting-edge technology.

“In line with this, we encourage member economies to explore strategies to drive the shift towards green buildings, including zero energy buildings,” they said in the instruction.

“This will ensure that new construction designs are incorporated in residential, commercial and even industrial structures, including concepts and principles embracing energy efficiency, particularly in emerging economic growth areas or second-tiered cities.”

Recognizing that most energy poverty-stricken areas possess the potential to be developed as tourist destinations, the ministers likewise instructed the EWG to work with the APEC Tourism Working Group to come up with an energy eco-tourism development framework.

Last year, the APEC Policy Support Unit (PSU) conducted a study on Urbanization and Sustainable City Development at the instruction of APEC Leaders.

This study presented arguments and a rationale for APEC member economies to engage in an Asia-Pacific partnership to shape the future of urbanization and sustainable city development.

It discusses the challenges, policies, issues, and changes facing the development and management of cities.

Drawing on research on five cities and four urban corridors, the study outlined important lessons from the ways cities are addressing urbanization and sustainable development issues.

It discusses the role of innovation in identifying solutions to address the problems of cities. The study also outlines a framework for the Asia-Pacific partnership, and provides recommendations for consideration by member economies. (APEC Communications Group)

President Aquino could visit more typhoon-hit areas, says Palace official
President Benigno S. Aquino III continues to monitor the situation in typhoon-stricken areas in Luzon and could visit devastated communities in the coming days, Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said on Tuesday.

“Patuloy na tinututukan ng Pangulo ang sitwasyon at kung kinakailangan ay handa naman siyang magtungo muli sa mga lugar na apektado nito,” Secretary Coloma said during a media briefing in Malacañang.

The President visited Nueva Ecija province on Monday to lead the distribution of relief goods.

Despite the bad weather, President Aquino opted to go to Nueva Ecija on Monday, Coloma said, adding that the President also took the opportunity to check the situation and find out how the national government could extend assistance to the typhoon victims.

Commenting on how the government could further institutionalize forced or preemptive evacuations, as many residents continued to refuse to leave their homes at the height of the typhoon, Coloma said the government will continue to carry out information campaigns on disaster preparedness and mitigation.

“Patuloy na edukasyon at impormasyon ang isinasagawa ng pamahalaan para itaas ang kamulatan at kamalayan ng ating mga mamamayan para kilalanin nila ang panganib na nananatili sa iba’t ibang mga lugar na apektado ng kalamidad,” he said.

Despite the improving weather, authorities warned that water from the mountains could still affect low-lying communities a few days after the typhoon. They advised residents not to return to their homes because of the risk of flash floods.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Typhoon Lando brought a volume of water equivalent to half-a-month of average rainfall, exposing low-lying areas to sudden floods.

Coloma said the Department of Science and Technology and PAGASA continue to monitor water levels as the basis for their warnings.

“Iyan din ang batayan sa pag-uutos ng preemptive evacuation. Kaya hindi dapat na maging pasaway ang attitude ng ating mga mamamayan dahil sila ay binibigyan ng sapat na panahon at sapat na impormasyon para sa proteksyon ng kanilang mga pamilya,” the Palace official said. PND (as)