28 August 2015

Visiting Thai Prime Minister lays wreath at Rizal monument
The Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand on Friday paid his respects to Filipino national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, by laying a wreath at his monument at the Rizal Park in Manila.

Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha is in Manila for a two-day official visit from August 27 to 28 at the invitation of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

This is his first visit to the Philippines since assuming office in August 2014. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the visit aims to further strengthen Philippine-Thailand relations.

Prime Minister Prayut arrived at the Rizal Park for the wreath-laying ceremony at 9:38 a.m., and was welcomed by former president and incumbent Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo and other officials.

The Prime Minister was accompanied by his spouse, Madame Naraporn Chan-o-cha, and members of the Thai delegation in offering flowers to the Philippines’ national hero. He was accorded military honors with a 21-gun salute.

The visiting Thai leader also received the symbolic “key to the city” from Mayor Estrada during the wreath-laying ceremony.Prime Minister Prayut, together with the members of his official delegation, left Rizal Park at 9:48 a.m. for Malacañang for a bilateral meeting with President Aquino.

The DFA earlier said the two leaders would discuss matters of mutual concern, such as defense, law enforcement, education, trade and investment, agriculture, tourism, security, technical cooperation, and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) matters.

Thailand is the Philippines’ eighth largest trading partner in 2014, with total two-way trade amounting to US$5.83 billion. Both countries enjoy excellent and cordial relations at the bilateral, regional, and multilateral levels. PND (co)

President Aquino meets with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Friday said the solidarity between the Philippines and Thailand was reaffirmed during his meeting with visiting Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.In a statement delivered at the President’s Hall of Malacañang Palace following their one-hour expanded bilateral meeting, President Aquino said their discussions “focused on trade and investments, security, and the strengthening of our people-to-people ties”.

“In terms of investment activity, I noted that Philippine companies such as San Miguel Corporation, Liwayway Food Industries Company Limited, Goldilocks, and Monde Nissin have established their presence in Thailand, while Thai enterprises have likewise opened doors of opportunity for my countrymen,” the President said, referring to the Siam Cement Group, Charoen Pokphand Foods Philippines Corporation, and Dusit International.

“We took note of how these companies have continued to expand in our respective countries, because of the sustained support that our governments and peoples have given them,” the President said.

In terms of security, President Aquino said he and Prime Minister Prayut welcomed the signing of the Terms of Reference for the Working Group of the Philippine Army and Royal Thai Army last April.

“In the same way that the Prime Minister was instrumental in strengthening the partnership between our Armed Forces during his time as Chief of the Royal Thai Army, so too does he continue to work with us in order to forge the kind of defense relations that enables us to serve our peoples in a more holistic manner. We are confident that this agreement will further strengthen our defense and security cooperation for the welfare of our peoples and of our brothers in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations),” he added.

President Aquino further said that the two nations are committed to work towards the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cooperation in Combating Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs, which “reiterates our shared belief that our peoples must be protected from dangerous drugs”.

“As part of our efforts, coordinated operations between Philippine and Thai agencies will be conducted; and through this process, we look forward to sharing information between our relevant law enforcement agencies,” he said.

President Aquino also noted that in terms of fostering people-to-people ties, he and his Thai counterpart recognize that education is of “prime importance in developing the abilities of our peoples, so that they themselves may have the wherewithal to fulfill their aspirations for their families, their communities, and the future we share as brother nations”.

“This is the principle behind our continued work towards the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on the Exchanges of Professional Teachers. Through this, we will have the opportunity to further enhance the capabilities and competencies of both our Filipino and Thai teachers,” he explained.

The Chief Executive said he took the opportunity to convey the Philippines’ gratitude to Thailand’s Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn for including three Philippine schools in the Collaboration Project on Children and Youth Development.

“Without doubt, this will bolster the capacities of our institutions to further empower our youth,” he said.

Meanwhile, President Aquino congratulated Thailand for its “successful term” as country coordinator for ASEAN-China relations, as well as for its support in the Philippines’ efforts in the United Nations and other international organizations.

“Thailand has truly been a reliable companion of the Philippines in promoting understanding, peace, and stability, not only within our community and region, but throughout the larger community of nations,” he said.

He earlier expressed his deep gratitude to Thailand for extending $100,000 in financial assistance and 500 metric tons of rice in the aftermath of Typhoon Hagupit last year.

He likewise extended his condolences to the Thai citizens on the “recent tragedy” in Bangkok, saying “as always, we Filipinos will stand with our brothers, the Thai people”.

President Aquino assured Prime Minister Prayut that Thailand will continue to enjoy the friendship of the Philippines.

“Mr. Prime Minister, in my remaining months in office, I can only assure you that Thailand will continue to enjoy the friendship of a Philippines that aspires to build a just, prosperous, and inclusive ASEAN Community, one that is a wellspring of opportunity for all peoples, one that continues on the straight path to stability and progress, and one in which no citizen is left behind,” the President concluded. PND (jm)

Palace welcomes survey results on decline in corruption in public sector
Malacañang on Friday welcomed the results of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showing a decline in corruption in the public sector.The results of the 2014/15 SWS Survey of Enterprises on Corruption, conducted from November 2014 to May 2015 among executives of 966 companies, showed that executives who have personal knowledge of a corrupt transaction with the government during the last three months of their operation reached a new low of 32 percent.

“The latest snapshot of public opinion from the Social Weather Stations shows a decline in corruption, with a new record low: 32 percent of business managers affirming personal knowledge of a corrupt transaction with government during the last three months of their operation.

The previous record low for this measure was logged in 2012, at 33 percent. We also note that a record low of 39 percent was also reflected in the latest survey, based on those who stated that most companies in their lines of business resort to bribes to win public sector contracts,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement.

“We welcome this positive news, which affirms global perception as reflected in surveys, such as Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index,” said the Palace official.

“Under the Aquino administration, the Philippines has steadily climbed this index, from a ranking of 134th in 2010 to 85th in 2014. These figures reflect the reality of our government’s transformation in recent years: from one plagued by corruption and dishonesty to one that is committed to public service through Daang Matuwid,” he added.

Lacierda also stressed the importance of continuity to further reap the fruits of good governance.

“Daang Matuwid is a task and responsibility that stretches beyond 2016. The gains we have achieved only make more urgent the imperative to continue a firm policy against corruption that is geared for the benefit of our true bosses, the Filipino people,” he said. PND (jm)

Thai leader commends ‘Straight Path’ vision of President Aquino
Visiting Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday praised President Benigno S. Aquino III’s ‘Straight Path’ vision to reform and develop the Philippines into a more prosperous country.

In his message during a luncheon hosted in Malacañang Palace in his honor, the Thai leader said he was impressed by the country’s beauty, as well as President Aquino’s commitment in translating his vision into concrete action.

“This is evidenced by the progress, good governance and the successful economic recovery to achieving a continued high growth at an annual rate of 6.2 percent during the past five years, which is also the highest economic growth in the past 40 years,” he said.

As a result, he noted, the Philippines is widely praised by the international community as the “new rising star” of the region.

Congratulating President Aquino for the country’s successes, Prime Minister Prayut said he is confident that the vision laid by his Philippine counterpart will serve as an important foundation in guiding the Philippines to greater prosperity in the future.

He further said that he was satisfied with his meeting with the President, with both of them agreeing on the need for Thailand and the Philippines to further strengthen their more than six decades of bilateral relations.

He also sees that the bilateral relations of the two countries will advance in various areas, such as trade and investment, tourism, education, technical and agricultural cooperation, energy and the strengthening of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) community.

“The growth and prosperity of Thailand and the Philippines will help promote stability and prosperity in the region,” he said.

“In return, a prosperous region will augur well to the national development of both countries.”

The Thai leader also expressed his gratitude to President Aquino and the government of the Philippines for the confidence in the political and economic stability of Thailand.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his delegation arrived in Manila on Thursday for a two-day official visit.

Prior to his meeting with President Aquino in Malacanang the Thai leader led a wreath-laying ceremony at the Rizal Park in Manila on Friday morning.

Prime Minister Prayut was given full military honors upon his arrival at the Palace grounds, with President Aquino welcoming him and his delegation. PND (as)

Thai Prime Minister updates President Aquino on political situation in Thailand
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he updated President Benigno S. Aquino III on the political developments in Thailand and the implementation of the country’s five-year vision of national reform, during their meeting in Malacañang Palace on Friday.

“Thailand has now returned to stability and security,” Prime Minister Prayut said during the joint press conference that followed their meeting.

He said he also informed President Aquino of the progress in the implementation of the three-phase roadmap and the critical reform process in building the foundation for a stronger and more sustainable Thai democracy, as the country prepares for its next general elections.

“I thank President Aquino for his understanding,” he said.

At the same time, the Prime Minister said he and President Aquino exchanged views on the regional situation, particularly in terms of the relations between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China, as well as the situation in the South China Sea.

Prime Minister Prayut said he appreciates the Philippines’ support for Thailand in its role as country coordinator for ASEAN-China relations.

He also affirmed Thailand’s cooperation with the Philippines and the ASEAN countries in fully implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and promoting consultation to settle the dispute.

On behalf of the Royal Thai Government, Prime Minister Prayut expressed his sincere condolences to the family of the Filipino national who was injured in the bomb explosion in the Ratchaprasong area last August 17.

He assured the President that the situation is already under the control of the authorities and that necessary measures have been taken to assist the victims.

“Security officials are also investigating and searching for the perpetrators to bring them to justice,” he said. PND (as)

President Aquino signs law protecting student-athletes
President Benigno S. Aquino III has approved a measure that protects student-athletes by regulating the residency requirement of school leagues.The President signed last Wednesday Republic Act No. 10676, which protects the amateur nature of student-athletes in the Philippines by regulating the residency requirement and prohibiting the commercialization of student-athletes.

The new law scraps the two-year residency rule of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) applied to high school student-athletes transferring to another school for college.

The law also covers the Private Schools Athletic Association (PRISAA), National College Athletic Association of the Philippines (NCAA), Women’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (WNCAA), State Colleges and Universities Athletic Association (SCUAA), Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. (CESAFI), National Capital Regional Athletic Association (NCRAA), Association of Local Colleges and Universities Athletic Association (ALCUAA), and National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU), among others.

Senator Pia Cayetano was the main proponent of the bill, which was aimed at discouraging student-athletes from receiving excessive perks.

Regarding benefits and incentives, Section 5 of the new law states that schools may grant tuition and miscellaneous school fees, including books and learning materials; full board and lodging; school and athletic uniforms; regular monthly allowance; medical services, and other reasonable and similar benefits that would enhance the academic and athletic performance of student-athletes.

The commercialization of student-athletes is also covered in RA 10676, with Section 6 stating that “schools shall not offer a student-athlete or the immediate family members benefits or incentives beyond those enumerated under Section 5 of this Act which are contrary to the nature of amateur sports and which may result in the commercialization of a student-athlete”.

Schools and athletic associations will be sanctioned and penalized for violations of provisions of the Act.

A school will be suspended from joining the athletic organization and/or charged a fine ranging from P100,000 to P1 million, depending on the gravity of the offense, while an athletic association will be fined an amount ranging from P100,000 to P1 million. PND (jm)

Palace on Iglesia ni Cristo case: Government is merely enforcing the law
Malacañang said the government has no intention of interfering in the internal affairs of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) but it has an obligation to enforce the law.

“Government’s duty is to ensure that the laws of the land are complied with and does not wish to interfere in the internal affairs of any legitimate organization,” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement issued on Friday.

“Government is not taking an adversarial position against the INC whose contributions to national development and demonstration of civic consciousness are duly acknowledged,” he said.

“We trust that expressions of dissent will continue to be peaceful, orderly and not in any way disruptive of normal activities of our citizenry.”

Members of the INC flocked outside the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday to protest Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s alleged interference in the church’s affairs.

Members of the INC, who called Secretary de Lima “biased”, occupied the entire stretch of Padre Faura the same day she celebrated her 56th birthday and announced her plans to run for an elective post next year.

According to the INC members, de Lima showed “bias” after she accepted expelled INC members to the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP).

De Lima gave assistance under the WPP to INC members Joy Yuson, former coordinator of the TV arm of INC, Lito de Luna Fruto, Roel Rosal, and Anthony Menorca and his family. PND (as)

Thailand wants to replicate ‘successful administration’ of overseas Filipino workers
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday commended the Philippines for its “successful administration” of overseas Filipino workers.

“Thailand can benefit in learning from the experiences of the Philippines, particularly in the establishment of funds to assist the employment of workers and the reintegration of overseas workers to society,” the visiting Thai leader said following his one-hour expanded bilateral meeting with President Benigno S. Aquino III in Malacañang Palace.

In this regard, he said he proposed to President Aquino that both countries promote bilateral consular cooperation to assist and protect Thai and Filipino overseas workers in various situations.

“I encourage the concerned agencies of our two countries to meet and engage with each other regularly to move our cooperation forward in various areas,” he said.

At the same time he encouraged Filipino companies to expand their investments in Thailand, especially in the country’s special economic zones.

“Both President Aquino and I concur on the important roles of the Philippines-Thailand Business Council and Thailand-Philippines Business Council in promoting cooperation in trade and investment between the two countries,” Prime Minister Prayut said.

During his meeting on Thursday with members of Thailand’s private sector in the Philippines, the Prime Minister said Thai companies have expressed confidence in the potential of the Philippine economy and they also showed interest in expanding investments in the Philippines.

“I extended them my support. In this regard, I also seeked the support of President Aquino on this matter,” he said.

Prime Minister Prayut further said he was pleased that both sides convened the first Thailand-Philippines Energy Forum in early August in Bangkok, which aims to promote cooperation in energy sustainability.

Thailand is ready to host the sixth Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation in 2015 and the first Technical Cooperation Meeting between Thailand and the Philippines on September 24 to 25.

Delegates from Thailand will also attend the first Joint Trade Commission and the first Joint Commission for Military Cooperation to be hosted by the Philippines this year, he said. PND (as)