27 February 2015

Period for filing human rights violation claims extended until May, Palace says
President Benigno S. Aquino III has signed a joint resolution by Congress approving a six-month extension of the period for the filing of claims by victims of human rights violations, from November 10 last year to May this year, the Palace announced on Thursday.

The President signed Joint Resolution No. 03 last February 17 to ensure that the goals and objectives of Republic Act No. 10368, known as The Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, are fully achieved, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said.

Republic Act No. 10368 “provides for the recognition and monetary and non-monetary reparation for victims whose human rights were violated by persons acting in an official capacity and/or agents of the State during, as a rule, the period of September 21, 1972 to February 25, 1986”.

This extension will give all legitimate claimants, especially in far-flung areas of the country, a full opportunity to file their claims with the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board, providing them access to a means of gaining redress for the sufferings and sacrifices that they endured during Martial Law. PND (ag)

Philippines, France sign agreements on tourism, education
The Philippines and France on Thursday signed several agreements to enhance their cooperation in tourism and education.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by President Benigno S. Aquino III and President of the French Republic François Hollande.

Officials of the two countries signed the memoranda of understanding on Tourism Cooperation and the Cooperation in Higher Education and Research.

They also signed several other agreements to enhance Philippine local infrastructure and public transport, among them the Letter of Confirmation for the Financing Agreement for the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit Project; the Business Agreement for the management, operation, and maintenance of the Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway between the Manila North Tollways Corp. and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority; and the Letter of Award for the Manila Light Rail Transit Line 1 Extension Project between the Light Rail Manila Corporation, Bouygues Travaux Publics, and Alstom Transport.

The two countries’ officials also signed the Declaration of Intention Related to the Protection of the Environment and the Sustainable Development of Marine Resources of the Philippines.

The declaration aims to protect and sustain management of the country’s natural resources, which is one of the Aquino administration’s major priorities.

President Hollande arrived in Manila on Thursday for a two-day state visit. His trip to the Philippines is the first for a French leader since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1947. PND (as)

President Aquino says Philippines, France share same principles in building a peaceful nation
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Thursday pledged support for the people of France in building a peaceful nation by upholding human dignity and promoting the rule of law.

In his toast during the state dinner in honor of visiting French President François Hollande at the Rizal Hall of Malacañang Palace, President Aquino admitted that he was “appalled” by the attack on the French publication Charlie Hebdo in Paris last January where 11 people were killed.

“Such savagery should have no place in this world, and my countrymen and I are in full support of the people of France, as you uphold human dignity and work to protect the blessings of democracy,” he said.

The Charlie Hebdo shooting was reportedly in retaliation for the French satirical newspaper’s controversial drawings of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

President Aquino said the Philippines is one with France in treading a path towards building a better nation, free from terrorism, injustice, and inequality.

“As leaders of our respective peoples, you and I are bound by fraternité; ours is a brotherhood pledged to protecting the principles that serve as the firm foundation of our nations: the belief in the democratic way of life, the pursuit of justice and the preservation of one’s rights, and the promotion of the rule of law,” he said.

For his part, President Hollande pledged to build a sustainable partnership with the Philippines in terms of addressing climate change, combating corruption, and upholding the rule of law in resolving domestic issues.

He said his visit was made special by the launch of the Manila Call to Action on Climate Change, which aims to engage the international community and all stakeholders in addressing climate change that has greatly affected the Philippines in recent years.

“My visit is exceptional as well, given that we have launched together today the appeal of Manila. I am sure it will be heard beyond the borders of the Philippines, all around the world. I wanted to mobilize the international community in prospect of the Paris meeting, which will be crucial for the future of our planet,” he said.

“You have been dealing with tsunamis and typhoons. We’ve been by your side on these occasions, and front we’ll always be. We reaffirm our commitment to stand by the Philippines when I travel to Guiuan tomorrow and confirm that we will provide all support to the projects that you’re undertaking in order to preserve your country, the environment and to introduce innovation and technology,” he added.

President Hollande will be going to Guiuan, Eastern Samar on Friday to visit areas devastated by super typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

President Hollande brought along a large delegation of advocates of environmental protection, led by Oscar award-winning actress Marion Cotillard, French actress Melanie Laurent, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. PND (jb)

President Aquino: Nations must agree on a universal climate change pact to prevent catastrophes
The international community of nations must conclude a universal climate change agreement when they meet in Paris late this year to save the planet from destruction, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Thursday.

In a statement during the launch of the Manila Call to Action on Climate Change in Malacañang Palace, the President said he welcomed the initiative and emphasized the need for all countries to work together to address the dangers posed by climate change.

“The choice before us is clear. We can either overcome this problem together, or together reap the consequences of apathy,” he said during the launch, which was attended by visiting President of the French Republic François Hollande.

“For this reason, it is incumbent upon us to conclude a universal climate change agreement in Paris later this year: one that is ambitious; that is guided by science, and that allows developing countries to pursue their economic goals in the context of sustainable development.”

The President also assured that the Philippines will continue to exert all efforts to address the issue, and adhere to the commitments outlined in the call to action.

“We stand in hope that many nations in the global community will do the same,” he said.

As a small Pacific nation, the Philippines is already feeling the effects of climate change through stronger typhoons in increasing frequency, he noted, adding that as a result, the country has found itself in a vicious and unsustainable cycle of destruction and reconstruction.

President Aquino extended his gratitude to President Hollande, along with all nations that have pledged action to address the global threat.

Aside from meeting President Aquino, President Hollande will travel to Eastern Samar on Friday to highlight his Philippine trip aimed at rallying nations to combat climate change.

Eastern Samar saw massive destruction in November 2013, when the region was hit by Typhoon Yolanda, killing and displacing thousands of residents. PND (as)

President Aquino invites French companies to invest in the Philippines
President Benigno S. Aquino III has invited French companies to put their money in the Philippines, particularly in aerospace, information technology, energy, and infrastructure.

In his statement during the joint press conference with French President François Hollande at the Palace grounds on Thursday, President Aquino said that in line with the two countries’ mutual resolve to strengthen their economic engagement, he conveyed to President Hollande his invitation for French companies to do business in the Philippines.

French companies, he said, could tap the large and skillful pool of Filipinos workers.

“Filipino workers have proven themselves to possess the skills, loyalty, and drive necessary to spur any industry to success, and given the economic resurgence that our country has experienced these last few years, there is no more opportune time than today to invest in the Philippines,” he said.

Among the French companies already operating in the country and are currently reaping the fruits of the country’s potentials are Teleperformance and Schneider Electric, he noted.

At the same time, the President welcomed the participation of French companies in the government’s thrust to boost the state of local infrastructure and public transport.

These initiatives include the establishment of a rapid bus transit system in Cebu and the extension of LRT Line 1, to be built or funded by French companies.

President Hollande’s two-day state visit to the Philippines is the first for a French leader since the Philippines and France established diplomatic relations in 1947.

Aside from his meeting with President Aquino, the French leader will visit Eastern Samar on Friday as a highlight of his Philippine trip, aimed at focusing on environmental protection and fighting climate change.

In November 2013, Eastern Samar was devastated by Typhoon Yolanda, considered as the world’s strongest typhoon to make landfall.

France is the Philippines’ second largest trading partner in the European Union (EU), with two-way trade amounting to US$2.39 billion in October 2014. This represented an increase of 24 percent from the same period in 2013. PND (as)

Philippines, France enhance cooperation in intelligence sharing to fight terrorism, says President Aquino
The Philippines and France have agreed to enhance their cooperation in intelligence sharing to fend off future terrorist attacks, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Thursday.

One of the major concerns of both countries is the attack by a terrorist acting alone, or the ‘lone wolf’, as this is difficult to track by the intelligence community, the President said during a joint press conference with visiting French President François Hollande in Malacañang Palace.

These people are not in any database, and they could have been radicalized through the Internet and are capable of doing horrific deeds, he told reporters.

“Therefore, exchanges of intelligence, exchanges of best practices have been discussed between France and ourselves to fortify our respective countries with regards to terrorism,” he said.

President Aquino noted that terrorism is a global problem and if countries do not act together, then they are not fortifying themselves enough to protect their respective territories.

Last month, the Philippines succeeded in neutralizing Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkifli Bin Hir, also known as Abu Marwan, one of the most wanted terrorists in the United States.

The pre-dawn raid against Marwan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao also resulted in the death of 44 police commandos in the ensuing firefight with members of various Muslim groups in the area. PND (as)

France to extend monetary support to strengthen country’s fight against climate change
The French government will extend at least 50 million euros to the Philippines to contribute to the country’s prevention and reconstruction efforts in response to natural disasters resulting from the effects of climate change.The two countries announced the grant of support from France in a Joint Declaration on the Enhanced Partnership between the Republic of the Philippines and the French Republic.

According to the declaration, the loan will be given to the Philippine government through the French Development Agency.

Both countries also stressed the importance of strengthening the fight against climate change and its impacts and agreed to work together to encourage the adoption of a universal and equitable agreement during the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), to be hosted by France in December.

“We, therefore, took the initiative to launch the Manila Call to Action on Climate Change, which takes into account the needs and concerns of the most vulnerable countries,” the declaration read.

In a joint press conference with President Benigno S. Aquino III, visiting President of France François Hollande said the French Agency for Development will extend loans and credits to many investment funds, not only in the Philippines but other countries as well.

President Hollande said a Green Fund has already been created in France. He however stressed the need to create an international Green Climate Fund, which aims to pool resources from different countries and international institutions to support countries vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

“Our ambition is, therefore, starting from 2020, to generate $100 billion for the funding of what would be energy transition and the protection of the most vulnerable countries,” President Hollande said.

“This is what we hope to bring forward to the Paris conference but this will not prevent Europe and France to already take action and this is what I wanted to indicate by coming to the Philippines,” he added.

The French leader arrived in Manila on Thursday for a two-day state visit, the first for an incumbent French president since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1947.

Aside from meeting President Aquino in Malacañang, President Hollande is also slated to visit Eastern Samar on Friday, as a highlight of his Philippine trip, which aims to rally support for the campaign to combat climate change. PND (as)

Energy Department working to minimize power outages, Palace says
The Department of Energy (DOE) is carrying out measures to ensure minimal power interruptions, especially during the summer months, the Palace said on Friday.

Energy authorities have said that the supply of electricity in Luzon might not be sufficient for the demand during summer and might result in power interruptions.

“The DOE is working on making sure that interruptions are minimized,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said during a press briefing in Malacañang.

“There are scheduled shutdowns that we have calendared and they want to make sure that all other plants do not have unscheduled shutdowns.”

The DOE wants to make sure that everything goes according to schedule, she said, adding that the government must also manage the supply well to avoid prolonged interruptions.

Aside from asking the public to conserve energy, the government also has existing measures to save energy, Valte said, noting that government offices are obliged to keep the thermostat of their air conditioners to 25 degrees.

“We also have mandatory turning off of lights and air conditioners and fans at certain times of the day, especially at lunch time,” she said.

“Kasama ito doon sa mga energy conservation measures because we want to make sure that government offices also do their share in terms of energy conservation.”

The government will also continue to appeal to different industries and stakeholders to make their commitments known to DOE regarding energy conservation, she added. PND (as)

Philippines, France agree to enhance bilateral ties
The Philippines and France agreed to strengthen their bilateral relations and elevate their bilateral relationship to an enhanced partnership during the visit of President François Hollande to the Philippines.

President Hollande’s historic visit is the first to be made by an incumbent president of France since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and France in 1947. President Benigno S. Aquino III visited France in September 2014.

In the Joint Declaration on the Enhanced Partnership between the Republic of the Philippines and the French Republic released on Thursday, the two countries affirmed their shared commitment to democracy, the rule of law, and the maintenance of peace and international security.

They also opposed “any acquisition or claim, by coercion or force, of any or all territory of a State by another State, in violation of international law, especially the Charter of the United Nations”, according to the declaration.

The two countries reiterated the importance of maintaining peace and stability in Southeast Asia and promoting maritime security, freedom of navigation, and the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“We call for a full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea in fostering peace and stability,” the declaration read.

The Philippines and France further condemned terrorism in all its forms and called on the international community to work together to fight this “scourge to mankind.”

At the same time, they welcomed the promising outlook on the development of their enhanced economic and trade relations.

The two countries are also eyeing to develop mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation in health care in the fight against emerging and re-emerging diseases due to the effects of climate change.

The two countries also hope to promote people-to-people exchanges particularly the youth, by intensifying academic exchanges.

“In this regard, we welcome the conclusion of agreements in higher education and research, and in the development of the tourism sector in the Philippines which would increase tourist flows between our countries,” the declaration read.

Enhanced partnership will also be pursued through regular bilateral political consultations between the two countries’ foreign ministries, the Joint Economic Committee, and through the framework provided by the bilateral Defense Cooperation Arrangement between their respective defense ministries. PND (as)

Government to assist families displaced by clashes between military and rebels in Mindanao
The government is ready to provide assistance to families affected by the ongoing military campaign against rebels in Mindanao, the Palace has said.“We have gotten reports that there are evacuations, or at least families are moving to avoid fighting. We do make sure that these families make it to a safe place,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said during the daily press briefing in Malacañang on Friday.

“It has happened in the past that we have opened evacuation centers for them. We do provide support and assistance,” added Valte.

Government troops have been deployed in Mindanao to go after lawless elements, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), one of the rebel groups implicated in the death of 44 members of the police’s elite force during clashes in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25.

Valte said that “extreme care” is being undertaken “to make sure that civilians are not harmed in these operations.”

“Priority po ng ating military at ng ating mga kasamahan sa Sandatahang Lakas na walang nadadamay na mga sibilyan sa mga ganitong pagkakataon,” she said. PND (jm)

President Aquino receives ASEAN Law Association delegates in Malacañang
President Benigno S. Aquino III met with officials and delegates of the ASEAN Law Association (ALA) in Malacañang Palace on Friday.

The association’s Philippine delegation included Senate President Franklin Drilon, chairman of the ALA Foundation; Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, member of ALA’s governing council and Philippine National Committee; lawyer Avelino Cruz, president of ALA Philippines; former SC chief justice Artemio Panganiban, member of ALA’s governing council and Philippine National Committee; former senator Edgardo Angara, founding president of ALA;

Lawyer Alonzo Ancheta, member of ALA’s governing council; lawyer Regina Geraldez, treasurer of ALA Philippines; Lilia de Lima, director general of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority and member of ALA’s governing council; Teresita Herbosa, chairperson of the Securities and Exchange Commission; Dean Danilo Conception of the UP College of Law, member of ALA’s governing council; and lawyer Michael Toledo, head of the MVP Group of Companies media bureau and Philippine head of ALA’s Standing Committee on Legal Information.

Also at the courtesy call were Dr. H. Muhammad Hatta, president of ALA and Chief Justice of Indonesia; Swandy Halim, Secretary General of ALA; Dato Seri Paduka Haji Kifrawi bin Dato Paduka Haji Kifli, Chief Justice of Brunei Darussalam; Dr. Djenal Sidik Duraputra, head of the Indonesian delegation; Dato’ Lela Negara Tun Arifin Bin Zakaria, Chief Justice of Malaysia; Sundaresh Menon, Chief Justice of Singapore;

Justice Eakachai Chinnapongse, president of Thailand’s Court of Appeals; Prof. Le Minh Tam, Vice President of the Vietnam Lawyers Association and head of the Vietnamese delegation; Kyaw San, director general of the Union Attorney General’s Office of Myanmar; Justice You Ottara, Vice President of the Supreme Court of Cambodia; and Justice Khampa Sengdara, Vice President of Laos’ People’s Supreme Court.

The meeting between the President and the ALA delegates was arranged by Senator Drilon and lawyer Avelino Cruz, president of ALA Philippines. PND (as)