04 August 2015

Latest survey on optimism affirms President Aquino’s final State of Nation Address, says Palace
A Malacañang official on Tuesday said the results of the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey on personal optimism have affirmed the report of President Benigno S. Aquino III during his final State of the Nation Address (SONA) last week.The second-quarter SWS survey, conducted on June 5 to 8 and released on August 2, showed that more Filipinos are hopeful of a better quality of life and the general economy in the next 12 months.

“The results of the latest Social Weather Stations survey on personal optimism and optimism about the economy affirm President Aquino’s report to his Bosses during his final SONA that, indeed, the Filipinos have acquired a highly positive mindset during the past five years. We are gratified to note the ‘very high’ net personal optimism and ‘very high’ net optimism about the economy ratings,” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement.

“Most significantly, net optimism about the economy rose to ‘very high’ in classes E and D, thereby validating the effectiveness of the administration’s targeted and purposive poverty reduction and social safety net programs. For these reasons, the President has consistently emphasized the importance of continuing these programs so that our Bosses’ optimism will be brought to full fruition,” the statement further said.

The SWS survey showed “a significant improvement in personal optimism among respondents in the E socioeconomic class offset a dip among those in the ABC segment; net optimism about the economy in the year ahead improved across classes; and net optimism about the economy was halved in Metro Manila, but this deterioration was offset by significant improvements in Luzon areas outside the capital and in Mindanao”.

The survey also found 42 percent of respondents (flat from March, the same level as in June 1997 and the highest since September 1992’s 44 percent) expected their quality of life to improve in the next 12 months (“optimists”) and 6 percent (up from 5 percent in March) expected it to get worse (“pessimists”), yielding a net personal optimism score of +36 (the difference of “optimists” over “pessimists”), classified by the SWS as “very high” that was steady from March’s “very high” net +37. PND (jm)

Palace: Budget for State Universities, Colleges more than doubled during President Aquino’s term
Malacañang on Tuesday stressed that the budget allocation for state universities and colleges has more than doubled during the term of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

“Contrary to the claim of Vice President (Jejomar) Binay, the total budgetary allocation for State Colleges and Universities (SUCs) has more than doubled (100.4 percent) during the term of President Aquino,” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement.

Secretary Coloma added that according to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the total budget allotment for the country’s tertiary education institutions has increased from P23.8 billion in 2010 to P47.7 billion this year, including “a net increase of P5.2 billion from P38 billion in 2014 to P43.3 billion in 2015”.

“All of the SUCs mentioned by VP Binay in his speech at the Cavite State University (CSU) yesterday (Monday) reflected increases in their respective budgets. The budget of the University of the Philippines (UP) has increased by 90 percent to P13.1 billion this year from P6.9 billion in 2010 while the funds allocated to CSU has increased by almost 93 percent to P353 million in 2015 from about P183.5 million in 2010,” he further said.

Coloma also noted that the budgets earmarked for Isabela State University (ISU) and Mindanao State University (MSU) have jumped by 56 percent and 81.2 percent, respectively in the five-year period from 2010 to 2015.

The ISU’s budget has increased from P367.7 million in 2010 to P572.7 million while MSU’s budget has grown from P1.2 billion in 2010 to almost P2.2 billion in 2015, he said.

In his “True State of the Nation Address” on Monday, Vice President Binay said, “Noong 2014, humiling ang mga state colleges and universities ng limampu’t siyam na bilyong piso mula sa DBM. Ang ibinigay sa kanila: walong daan at siyam na milyong piso lamang.”

“Ayon sa mga pahayagan, ang budget ng UP ay tinapyasan ng higit sa isang bilyong piso. Ang Mindanao State University, higit walong daang milyong piso. Ang Isabela State University, pitumpu’t pitong milyong piso,” he noted. PND (jm)

Palace defends administration’s ‘daang matuwid’ successes
Filipinos are highly optimistic about their future compared to five years ago, especially with regards to fighting corruption and poverty, a Palace official said on Tuesday.

In a press briefing in Malacañang, Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. disputed the statements made by Vice President Jejomar Binay on Monday that corruption and poverty are still rampant in the country.

“Kung tutunghayan natin ang larawan na iginuhit ni Vice President Binay kahapon ay taliwas ito sa maaliwalas na pananaw ng mga mamamayang Pilipino na ngayon ay taas-noo nang ipinapakita sa mundo ang kanilang kakayahan at kapasidad,” Secretary Coloma said.

The country has improved a lot since 2010, especially its economy, he said, adding that many Filipinos have already felt these changes.

Coloma explained that the Aquino administration, which runs on the agenda of reform and poverty elimination, has broken the vicious cycle of hopelessness, unemployment, and lack of proper educational attainment.

Its anti-poverty agenda, he said, is centered on the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, a targeted and purposive poverty reduction initiative validated by both the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.

The improving economic conditions in the country have also led to a significant drop in the number of Filipinos leaving the country to find employment abroad, Coloma said.

President Benigno S. Aquino III mentioned in his final State of the Nation Address (SONA) last week that based on estimates made by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the number of Filipinos who left the country to find work abroad decreased from 9.51 million in 2011 to 9.07 million in December 2014.

“Iyan ang ilan sa mga datos na nagpapatunay doon sa mga sinabi ni Pangulong Aquino sa kanyang SONA,” he said.

“Patuloy din naman ang pagsisikap ng ating pamahalaan na tugunan ang mga hamon hinggil sa unemployment at sa kahirapan.”

Coloma further cited notable developments in the property sector and automotive industry that show improving living conditions in the country.

He said that according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the demand for residential properties is mainly driven by the middle class, particularly by the 11 million Filipinos overseas, who in 2014 repatriated about $24.3 billion, some $7 billion of which went to property investments.

A reputable London-based market intelligence firm also said that in 2014, more middle-income Filipinos coming from overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and from the country’s growing business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, bought their first properties and vehicles, Coloma said.

He quoted a 2014 Euromonitor International report as saying, “The local industry benefited from a vibrant economic performance, an influx of OFW remittances, and the expansion of BPO, which altogether increased the appetite for consumer loans. More middle-income Filipinos were investing in their first properties and cars, facilitated by the widening choices of low / medium-cost housing in Metro Manila and provincial areas.”

Vehicle sales are also an indicator of a growing economy, Coloma said, noting that according to the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines (CAMPI), 300,000 units may be sold this year due to the burgeoning economy, the growing middle class, and higher remittances from OFWs.

“Kaya’t habang ang kanyang iginuguhit ay larawan ng kawalang pag-asa, napakarami pong kongkretong manipestasyon ng mataas na kumpiyansa ng ating mga mamamayan at ‘yung taas-noo na pananaw nila hinggil sa ating kinabukasan,” he said, referring to Vice President Binay.

It is now up to the people whether to stay the course or choose the path of uncertainty, as they plan for their future, he added. PND (as)

Palace counters Vice President Binay on credit rating upgrades, investments
High credit ratings benefit the country’s economy, and eventually improve the people’s living conditions, a Palace official said on Tuesday.

In a press briefing in Malacañang, Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. explained the importance of having high credit ratings from major rating agencies.

He dismissed Vice President Jejomar Binay’s statement on Monday that credit ratings upgrades and foreign direct investments (FDI) have not benefited ordinary Filipinos.The Vice President also hit the Palace over its supposed reluctance to change the economic provisions of the Constitution that affect investments in the country.

Secretary Coloma said the good statistics on property investments and car sales are the result of low interest rates on housing and consumer loans, an outcome of the country’s investment grade rating.

“Batid po ng lahat ng negosyante ito. Ang buhay ng negosyo ay nasa pautang, at ‘yung pautang nagiging attractive ito kapag mababa ang interes, at magiging mababa lang ito kung maayos ang ating credit standing,” he said.

“Lahat na po ng mga grupo ng negosyante [ay] nagbibigay ng mataas na marka sa ating bansa. Dinudumog po tayo ng mga investor.”

Citing an example, he said that when President Benigno S. Aquino III visited Japan in June, many Japanese companies, showing great confidence in the Philippines, wanted to put in new investment or expand their businesses in the country.

More investments mean more infrastructure, as well as jobs for many Filipinos, he noted.

The government, he said, is engaged in many public infrastructure programs due to the abundance of available long-term funds for infrastructure finance, which is the result of the country’s excellent credit standing.

He recalled how difficult it was to obtain funds for infrastructure in the mid-1990s, when the country’s credit ratings were poor.

“Malayong-malayo na po ang narating natin, kaya nga po napakaraming mga negosyante na tumataya sa ating bansa, tumataya ng malalaking halaga dahil mataas ang kumpyansa nila sa kinabukasan ng bansang Pilipinas,” Coloma said. PND (as)

Government committed to ensuring quality health care for filipinos, says Malacañang
The government remains committed to ensuring sustainable and quality health care for all Filipinos by enhancing the health programs of the Department of Health (DOH), the Palace said on Tuesday.In a statement, Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. responded to claims made by Vice President Jejomar Binay’s in his “True State of the Nation Address” on Monday that the administration neglected a number of health care issues, among them the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) coverage, maternal and infant health, and health center services.

In response, Secretary Coloma said that based on DOH records, the package and benefits provided by PhilHealth have been increased and expanded to cater to the growing needs of the country’s citizens.

These services include the Point of Care (POC) Enrolment Program, No Balance Billing Policy, All Case Rates, Primary Care Benefit, PhilHealth Outpatient Anti-Tuberculosis Directly Observed Treatment Short Course, and Animal Bite Package.

PhilHealth also provides Maternity Care Package, Z-benefit and expanded Z-benefit for catastrophic diseases and a benefit package for Peritoneal Dialysis or PD First to cover renal diseases.

It also extends the Z-morph benefit package for the initial fitting of the lower limb prosthesis, and the Z benefit for selected orthopedic implants covering patients with disabilities aged 66 years old and above.

The DOH also increased the number of health professionals deployed in the field, especially in Geographically Isolated and Displaced Areas, he said, disputing the Vice President’s statement that health professionals have not been sent to remote areas.
Coloma said that since 2010, nearly 90,000 health professionals have been deployed to various towns and barrios across the country.

This year, he said, a total of 214 dentists and 787 public health associates are being deployed to augment the existing workforce. Next year, the government will deploy an additional 21,118 health workers.

On the issue of maternal deaths, the department reported that in 2013, the total cases of maternal deaths were lower than the recorded estimates of the World Bank and the World Health Organization at 120 per 100,000 or 3,240 maternal deaths, contrary to the 5,000 deaths cited by the Vice President.

In addition, child mortality in the country has significantly decreased and the country is expected to meet its Millennium Development Goal 4 of reducing infant mortality, according to Coloma.

Based on the National Demographic Health Survey, the number of infant deaths has decreased from 34 per 1,000 live births in 2008 to 30 per 1,000 live births in 2013.

At the same time, the government is constantly improving the capacity of public health facilities nationwide through the Health Facilities Enhancement Program to serve more people, Coloma said.

Apart from barangay health stations, Rural Health Units and other primary care health centers have been established to meet the health needs of the barangays.

Coloma said that a total of 19,489 barangay health stations (BHS) and 3,074 rural stations are serving the needs of the public.

Next year, an additional 6,400 BHS would be established in schools to serve the health needs of both school and community, he added. PND (as)

President Aquino appoints lawyer Jose Vicente Salazar as new ERC Chair
President Benigno S. Aquino III appointed on Friday, July 31, lawyer Jose Vicente B. Salazar as Chairman of the Energy Regulatory Commission replacing Zenaida G. Cruz-Ducut.

Salazar will serve the seven-year term as Chairman until July 10, 2022.

Prior to his appointment, Salazar served as Undersecretary-in-Charge on Energy Matters from 2007 to 2013 and as Chairperson of the Department of Energy-Department of Justice Task Force on the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act of 1998 during the same period.

He was also a former Board Member of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation.

From 2005 to 2007, Salazar was a senior consultant for the National Transmission Corp.

Salazar, 45, holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering degree from the University of the Philippines and earned his Juris Doctor at the Ateneo De Manila University.

Salazar finished his Master in Public Administration degree from Harvard University. PND (as)