15 Jan 2016
  • President Aquino attends Gawad Kalinga’s 13th anniversary in Bulacan
  • President Aquino defends pension increase veto; says pensioners can get assistance through other means
  • President Aquino directs law enforcement agencies to help the COMELEC ensure peaceful, credible elections
  • President Aquino says administration bets’ survey numbers are consistent
  • President Aquino details how defense cooperation will ‘enhance’ Phl-U.S. relations
  • No credible terror threat in the Philippines following Jakarta attack, says President Aquino
  • President Aquino: Bulacan Water PPP Project, to secure province’s water supply

President Aquino attends Gawad Kalinga’s 13th anniversary in Bulacan
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Friday attended the opening ceremony of the 3rd Global Society Business Summit and Gawad Kalinga’s (GK) 13th anniversary in Bulacan, praising the organization for its contribution to national development.In his speech delivered at GK’s Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan, the President said the organization’s initiative is close to his heart as he noted the vibrant spirit of volunteerism among Filipino youth.

“Since 2003, GK has reached so many of our countrymen in need, building 2,500 communities in the Philippines, most of them in areas that are most vulnerable to calamity and conflict,” he said.

Expressing his fascination for locations such as the Enchanted Farm, he said he admires the idea that the farm serves as a university for social education, a destination for social tourism, and a hub for social business.

He thanked GK founder Tony Meloto and the social entrepreneurs, as well as the communities “who give meaning” to GK’s work.

Cooperation between the government and GK is not new, the President said, noting that his administration has several tie-ups with the organization, such as the Agri-Social Enterprise showcase of the Department of Agriculture in Enchanted Farm, which helps provide livelihood to farmers.

He also cited the partnership among the Department of Agrarian Reform, GK, and the Shell Foundation, which helps Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries by assisting them in formulating business plans, and in acquiring much needed farm equipment.

“All these initiatives reinforce the idea that business—and governance—driven by kindness makes the most sense,” President Aquino said.

“After all, when we help those who have the least—when we equip them with the skills they need to take advantage of the growing number of opportunities—we do more than empower them as individuals; we also empower them as consumers.”

These initiatives, he said, mean a lot to ordinary people, who get a chance to increase their income, live more dignified lives, and have a greater capacity to participate in the growing economy by buying products, riding public transport, and remitting more taxes that in turn empower the people more.

“What we see here is a virtuous cycle of vibrant economic growth and inclusivity—one that can guarantee that our nation’s economic growth continues far into the future, and is felt across the archipelago,” the Chief Executive said.

“Indeed, meeting with all of you in this farm reinforces my optimism about the future, and might I just add: Sometimes when we listen to supposedly learned people who have nothing but complaints on their agenda, it is really refreshing to go to areas like GK, where we have partners in doing positive changes for our people.”

President Aquino said that with the goodwill, kindness, and the talent of workers he has witnessed in the Enchanted Farm, he is certain that the Philippines is in good hands, even as he steps down from office this year.

Gawad Kalinga is a Philippine-based movement that aims to end poverty by first restoring the dignity of the poor.

The organization employs an integrated and holistic approach to empowerment with values formation and leadership development at its core.

Established in 2003, the foundation works with more than 2,000 communities and has been presented the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2006 and the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2012. PND (as)

President Aquino defends pension increase veto; says pensioners can get assistance through other means
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Friday defended his decision to veto the bill providing for an increase in the monthly pension of Social Security System (SSS) members, saying there are other ways pensioners could get support from the government.In an interview in Malolos, Bulacan, the President was asked to comment on the negative reactions from politicians and pensioners, some of whom called him heartless, callous, and lacking in compassion.

There have been criticisms that while he vetoed the proposal for the P2,000 across-the-board increase in the monthly SSS pension, SSS officials get hefty bonuses.

Addressing the issue on bonuses, he said the increase in bonuses goes through the Governance Commission for Government-Owned or -Controlled Corporations (GCG) and it is a long process.

However, the real question is whether the SSS has improved or not, he said, explaining that in the past few years until 2011, the SSS had incurred annual deficits.

“Mula 2012 hanggang sa kasalukuyan, naging positive na ‘yan, at kailangan mo ng positive dahil ‘di ba may babayaran kang multiples ‘nung ikinontribute. Hindi naman ang contribution lang ang pinaghahati sa lahat,” he pointed out.

On the additional support for pensioners expecting an increase in pensions, he said there are other government mechanisms to help the needy.

Citing an example, he said those who need maintenance medicine could get assistance from the Department of Health and PhilHealth.

Congress can also review the proposal that he vetoed, the President said.

“Pero ‘yung maliwanag, ang naipasa, dagdag na payout ng SSS na unang taon pa lang ng implementation ay mag-de-deficit na tayo ng between 16 to 26 billion pesos,” he said.

In defending his veto, President Aquino said it is his obligation as the leader of the country to ensure that the SSS fund does not go bankrupt as a result of unreasonable increases in pensions.

“Ang paniwala ko, bilang ama ng bayan, ‘di ba hindi naman ‘yon ‘yung tugunan mo lang ang kailangan ngayon,” he said.

“Kailangan mong mapagplanuhan ang darating na pangangailangan. So ‘heartless’ ako ngayon; kung sa 2027 nabangkarote ‘yan, ang 30 million or more (members)—by that time siyempre more than 30 million—ang magsasabi naman naging careless ako and heartless at the same time,” he said. PND (as)

President Aquino directs law enforcement agencies to help the COMELEC ensure peaceful, credible elections
President Benigno S. Aquino III has ordered the deputation of law enforcement agencies and instrumentalities of the government, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), to ensure peaceful and credible elections in May.

In Memorandum Order No. 86, signed last January 7, the President concurred with the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) resolution deputizing law enforcement agencies and instrumentalities of the government, including the AFP, to assist the COMELEC in ensuring “the free, orderly, honest, peaceful, and credible conduct” of the May 9 national and local elections.

“The foregoing law enforcement agencies and other concerned agencies are hereby directed to coordinate and cooperate with the COMELEC in the performance of their duties and functions,” the memorandum order stated.

The COMELEC, through its Resolution No. 10024 (s. 2015), requested the concurrence of the President in the deputation of law enforcement agencies in connection with the May 9 elections.

“Pursuant to Section 2 (4), Article IX-C of the Constitution, the COMELEC is empowered to deputize, with the concurrence of the President, law enforcement agencies and instrumentalities of the government, including AFP, for the exclusive purpose of ensuring free, orderly, honest, peaceful, and credible elections,” the memorandum order stated.

The memorandum order shall take effect immediately. PND (co)

President Aquino says administration bets’ survey numbers are consistent
President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Friday that the survey numbers of the administration’s presidential and vice presidential bets are consistent, a few weeks before the official campaign season.Vice President Jejomar Binay topped the Business World – Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey conducted from January 8 to 10 among 1,200 validated voters nationwide, getting the nod of 31 percent of the total respondents.

Statistically tied after Binay were Senator Grace Poe with 24 percent, the Liberal Party’s Manuel Roxas II with 21 percent, and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte with 20 percent.

For the vice presidential race, Senator Francis Joseph Escudero is at the top with 28 percent; Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. with 25 percent; Representative Leni Robredo with 17 percent; and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano with 14 percent.

During an interview in Bulacan, the President was asked if he was concerned about Vice President Binay and Senator Marcos gaining numbers.

“It’s a snapshot right now, so parang wala pa tayo sa talagang kampanya,” he said.

“Ang mga issues na dapat nilang tugunan ay hindi pa nila tinutugunan… Hindi naman ako pollster pero baka naman may parte na rin doon na walang naalalang negative sa kasalukuyan ‘yung mga natanong,” he said, adding that come campaign season and Election Day, candidates facing controversies could no longer evade those issues.

Noting the consistency of the administration candidates’ survey numbers, he said there is nowhere to go but up.

The President also said the administration wants to initiate a positive campaign that highlights the benefits of ‘Daang Matuwid’ to the people and the need for its continuity.

“Doon namin sana gusto dalhin ang talakayan: Kaya ba ninyong pantayan o higitan ang nagawa namin? Kung kaya ninyong higitan, ‘di kayo dapat ang mamuno sa atin,” he said.

“Kung hirap kayong ipaliwanag kung paano ninyo papantayan man lang, baka naman mas sigurado tayo sa mga kandidatong iminumungkahi namin na totoong magpapatuloy at magpapalawak ng benepisyong napala ng ating sambayanan.” PND (as)

President Aquino details how defense cooperation will ‘enhance’ PHL-U.S. relations
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Friday welcomed the recent decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the legality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States.

In his speech during the East-West Center Association (EWCA) International Conference at the Manila Hotel, President Aquino detailed how the two countries would benefit from the enhanced defense cooperation pact.

“The basic logic behind EDCA is interoperability, and anybody who is reasonable will see that this agreement is an enhancement of both our countries’ abilities, rather than a threat to anyone else,” he said.

“To my mind, EDCA has a very practical purpose for developing our own armed forces: All the modern hardware carries a significant price tag; yet with EDCA, we have a chance to try the cutting-edge equipment and see just how suitable they are to our needs, without having to buy them first.”

The Chief Executive underscored the need for both countries to become “familiar with each other’s resources, equipment, doctrines and limitations” to fulfill their long-standing commitment to defend each other “in times of need” as strategic allies.

“If we get to train with the US, a far more advanced force, we can learn from them the strengths and shortcomings in using such equipment, and we can even redefine and understand such under our own parameters. On the reverse side, the US gets to learn how to make do with fewer resources, which in a conflict situation is always a high probability if not an intense possibility,” he said.

Before more than 200 EWCA alumni, President Aquino expressed hope that the “highly-regarded experts” would see how “beneficial” EDCA is to both the Philippines and the US, saying that the agreement was “borne of consensus and a recognition of differences, of shared principles and aspirations and of a unified vision in building a safer, more productive environment for our peoples”.

The EWCA is an international network of professionals, whose mission is to promote better relations and understanding among people and nations of the US, Asia and the Pacific through cooperative study, research and dialogue.

With a vote of 10-4-1, the Supreme Court has upheld the legality of the EDCA, which allows the expansion of US presence in the country through access to local military bases.

The decision came amid China’s aggressive posture over disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea, also being claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

In his welcome remarks, Michael Klecheski, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Manila, hailed the High Court’s decision, saying the US “is now looking forward to implement” the EDCA.

He added that the US was “pleased” with the result of the two-plus-two meeting between Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and their US counterparts Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ash Carter, held in Washington last Tuesday. PND (jb)

No credible terror threat in the Philippines following Jakarta attack, says President Aquino
President Benigno S. Aquino III said Friday there is no credible threat in the Philippines following the bombings in Jakarta but security forces are working to thwart potential threats.

“The last report I read says walang credible threat,” the President told reporters during an interview in Bulacan when asked if there were threats or reports on possible terror attacks.

“May credible threat? Mayroon ba talagang tukoy na threat? Wala. May general threat? Oo. Hindi naman tayo immune sa nangyayaring problema ng extremism. Pero lahat nga ng ating mga ahensya sa law enforcement, sa intel ay talagang nakatutok doon sa problemang ito at pinipilit nating ma-thwart lahat ng potensyal na problema.”
He further said that he has asked for the profile of two individuals, a Filipino-Lebanese and a Filipino-Saudi Arabian, who claimed to be members of the Islamic State. The two are in the Middle East and have never resided in the Philippines.

The President noted the large Filipino population in the Middle East who may be exposed to radicalization.

“Siyempre, magiging prudent tayo dito na pipilitin nating makipag-ugnayan sa kanilang intelligence agencies at ang ating intelligence agents themselves ay binabantayan itong mga komunidad natin para makita nga kung nagkakaroon ng impluwensya itong ISIS,” he explained.

He also sought a close cooperation between security agencies and the public to secure the country’s 100 million population.

According to reports, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a four-hour siege in Jakarta that killed seven people, including five attackers. The daylight assault also injured 24 people. PND (as)

President Aquino: Bulacan Water PPP Project, to secure province’s water supply
President Aquino attended on Friday the signing of contract for the Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project, which will secure the province’s water supply.

The contract of Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) for the Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project will be the 12th Public-Private Partnership project awarded under the Aquino administration. It is also the first PPP project awarded by the administration in the water sector.

The goal of the P24.4 billion project is to supply potable water to 22 water districts in 21 municipalities and three cities in Bulacan.

“Magsusuplay ito ng tinatayang 388 milyong litro ng tubig kada araw mula sa Angat Dam. Ang bilang ng makikinabang dito, tinataya po sa 3 milyong residente ng Bulacan,” the President said in a speech in Malolos, Bulacan during the signing.

“Bukod naman sa pagtugon sa pangangailangan sa tubig ng inyong probinsiya, makakatulong din ang proyektong ito sa kalusugan ng mga Boss nating Bulakenyo.”

Because of the wider MWSS service, the use of deep well and groundwater aquifers will be reduced, which according to a study by the National Water Resources Board, are already contaminated by salt water.

The Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project is part of the government’s Water Security Legacy Program under the MWSS, which aims to address concerns in water infrastructure and water distribution.

The President also said that in 2012, the government completed the Water Utilization and Aqueduct Improvement Project Phase 2. And in July last year, the President said he inspected the rehabilitation of the Angat Dam and Dike.

The bidding for the Angat Water Transmission Improvement Project, is also ongoing and the government will soon start bidding out Kaliwa Dam, the President noted.

“Napakahalaga nga pong masiguro natin ang maayos na supply ng tubig sa bansa, lalo pa’t pinaghahandaan at tinutugunan natin sa kasalukuyan ang banta ng El Niño,” he said.

“Makakaasa po kayo, ginagawa po ng inyong gobyerno ang lahat upang magtuloy-tuloy ang serbisyo ng tubig para sa ating mamamayan.” PND (as)