19 Jan 2016

 President Aquino welcomes Thai Princess to Malacañang Palace
Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn paid a courtesy call on President Benigno S. Aquino III in Malacañang Palace on Monday.President Aquino exchanged pleasantries with Princess Sirindhorn, second daughter of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit of Thailand during a brief and simple ceremony at the Palace.

After the courtesy call, the President’s sisters Maria Elena “Ballsy” Aquino-Cruz and Aurora Corazon “Pinky” Aquino-Abellada hosted a dinner in honor of the Thai Princess.

In her brief message, Aquino-Cruz recalled her first encounter with Princess Sirindhorn when the latter visited Manila during the presidency of her late mother, Corazon Aquino, to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service.

“We saw firsthand your big and generous heart and, even then, we were inspired by the kindness and simplicity of Your Royal Highness,” Aquino-Cruz told the Thai Princess.

“This time you have come to visit the provinces of Leyte and Surigao. Your project with the Department of Education reveals your sincere compassion with the children and your high regard for education,” she added.

Education Secretary Armin Luistro was also present during the dinner.

Aquino-Cruz noted that Thailand has always been good to the Philippines, especially during times of disasters.

“In addition to the donations made by the government and the people of Thailand, I recall the significant contribution from Your Royal Highness to the Philippine Red Cross for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda),” she said.

She likewise acknowledged the “message of sympathy and heartfelt condolences” from His Majesty King Bhumibol and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

She then wished for the continued good health and happiness of the royal family and enduring friendship between the Philippines and Thailand “as we move closer and stronger as an ASEAN community working together for progress, peace and stability of the region”.

The Thai Princess’ visit to Malacañang on Monday was her third visit to the Philippines.

The first was in 1991 when she received the Ramon Magsaysay Award and the second was in 2009 when she paid an official visit to the Philippines.

Princess Sirindhorn is known for her philanthropic work and her patronage of culture and the arts. Her efforts have focused on education, children, and disaster relief. PND (jb)

Reports that guns used in Indonesia terror attack came from Phl have to be verified, says Palace official
Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. on Tuesday said there is a need to verify the information that the weapons used during the recent terrorist attack in Jakarta, Indonesia came from the Philippines.

Reports quoted Indonesian Police Spokesperson Anton Charliyan as saying that the guns were likely to have come from the Philippines based on information gathered from those arrested after the attack that killed eight people on Thursday.

Secretary Coloma said there is a regular exchange of information among member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“Hinihintay pa natin ang impormasyon galing sa ating security cluster at mga security forces. Meron namang regular na palitan ng impormasyon ang mga bansa ng ASEAN, lalo’t lalo na sa pagitan ng Pilipinas, Indonesia at Malaysia. Masinsin ang pakikipag-ugnayan ng ating mga security forces sa mga counterparts hinggil diyan. Kaya’t mas mainam na hintayin muna natin kung mayroon talagang beripikasyon ‘yan para hindi tayo gumagawa ng puro espekulasyon lamang,” he said during a press briefing at the Palace.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are still awaiting a formal report from their Indonesian counterparts.

National Police Chief Director General Ricardo Marquez said they will start checking once they receive the report. PND (jm)

President Aquino visits wake of Trade Union Congress founder in Cebu
(CEBU CITY, Cebu) President Benigno S. Aquino III on Tuesday personally extended his condolences to the family of Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) founder Democrito “Kito” Mendoza, who passed away last January 12.

President Aquino, together with Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras and House of Representatives Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, arrived here at 11:20 a.m.

Upon arrival, the President and his convoy went straight to the JSU-PSU Mariners’ Court, ALU Vimcontu Compound, Pier 1, Cebu City, where Mendoza’s remains lie in state.

The Chief Executive was met by Mendoza’s wife Marianita, former commissioner of the Social Security System, and son Raymond, who is the incumbent representative of TUCP. Thirteen other siblings of Raymond were present, along with his wife, Cotabato Governor Emmylou Talino-Mendoza.

The elder Mendoza died at a hospital here due to complications from pneumonia. He was 92.

Mendoza’s remains will be laid to rest in Barangay Poblacion in Liloan, Cebu on January 23.

He will be given full military honors as he served as military reservist with rank of full colonel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

He served as TUCP president for 38 years before resigning in 2011. He also served as chairman of the Associated Labor Unions (ALU)-TUCP and of the Vimcontu Broadcasting Corporation, which owns and operates the AM radio station dyLA in Cebu. PND (jb)

Palace assures transportation board would decide on reasonable minimum fare
Amid calls for a reduction in the P7.50 minimum fare, Malacañang on Tuesday expressed confidence that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) would come up with a reasonable fare for commuters.

“Makatitiyak tayo na ang pagpapasya ng LTFRB ay tungo sa pagkakaroon ng makatuwirang pagsingil sa pamasahe,” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said during a media briefing at the Palace.

According to reports, commuters have called for a lower minimum fare due to the consecutive rollbacks in fuel prices but transport groups do not welcome the call.

Oil companies on Monday announced another price rollback, with gasoline and diesel prices dropping by P1 and P1.45 per liter respectively, owing to low world oil prices.

Secretary Coloma said the LTFRB conducts public hearings regarding proposals to reduce public utility vehicle fares.

“Iyan ang tutukuyin ng LTFRB. Tumutupad sila sa kanilang tungkulin na tiyakin na ang singil sa pampublikong mga transportasyon ay makatuwiran at makatarungan kaya’t nagdaraos sila ng mga public hearings na kung saan tatanggap sila ng petisyon mula sa mga mamamayan at didinggin din ang panig ng mga affected transport operators,” he said.

Chair of the LTFRB, Winston Ginez, said the board would try to find a win-win solution for both commuters and public utility vehicle operators. PND (jm)

More local governments urged to join United Nations campaign on disaster risk reduction
Former United Nations (UN) official Margareta Wahlstrom hopes to encourage more local government units (LGUs) to join the United Nations’ (UN) international strategy for disaster reduction campaign.

The Swede finished her two terms as the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) last November and her leadership has resulted in more than 170 provinces, cities and municipalities joining the “Making Cities and Communities Resilient” campaign.

The province of Albay, the city of Makati and the municipality of San Francisco in Cebu’s Camotes Island are the role models of the UN campaign.

In 2011, San Francisco won the UN-backed Sasakawa Award and the US$25,000 top prize for its implementation of the “Purok system” where village members voluntarily contribute to an emergency fund for those in need after a disaster.

“We’ve already, during these four days, met two municipalities here in Metro Manila … We have one representative here who is what we call local champion, a former mayor, and he has made himself a champion to engage the cities and that’s the most effective way, of course. It’s when one city talks to another, one LGU talks to another, that’s when they actually get mobilized. So, what we would like to see is that this, of course, becomes a very strong national policy and that municipalities should follow the model of the ones that have already engaged,” Wahlstrom said during Tuesday’s press briefing in Malacañang.

Wahlstrom, who was appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2008, stressed the importance of assessing the vulnerability of the LGUs.

“What do they do? Well, first they assess their own vulnerabilities and then, of course, they have to do a plan, which is what I already mentioned, the plan is about to happen and the plan is not only about the disaster. It’s actually about what you do to mitigate the disasters, or understand your environmental risks, understand the risks of disasters be they your volcanoes, your watersheds, and the weather, of course. And then engage the entire population, be inclusive, then cities are better, LGUs are better prepared. And as I already mentioned, there are resources to be drawn up on,” she explained.

“Now, how do you measure progress? There is the strong wish to measure resilience. Making cities resilient, they want to know that if we work hard on our plan for five years, 10 years, are we more resilient? And that measurement, there is now an instrument available for cities to become much more aware of where they are on that scale of one to 10. So, local governments are important but communities and people are maybe even more important. I think this cannot really happen unless communities are fully mobilized,” said Walhstrom, who was replaced by Australian Robert Glasser.

Also present at the press briefing was National Climate Change Commission vice chairperson, Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” de Guzman, who said Wahlstrom has made seven missions to the Philippines since 2011.

“During these missions, she advocated for safe schools, resilient cities, build back better, improved early warning and preparedness, resilient business practices and improved understanding of disaster risks. She has also engaged Filipino champion parliamentarians, business leaders, provincial governors, and city and municipal mayors,” said de Guzman.

“Her engagement with parliamentarian champions in the Philippines also supported the strong legislative and policy framework for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in the Philippines, which she noted the number of times as an exemplary legislation in Asia. Her engagement with local governments in the Philippines has led to global introduction of the exceptional work by champion local governments in the Philippines, including in Albay and in Cebu, on such topics as promotion of zero casualty in Albay and the swift and resilient shift to recovery of Cebu province after Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda),” he added.

“Her advocacy and topics, such safe schools and hospitals, engaged the Department of Education and local governments on school safety assessment, disaster risk reduction in education and preparedness in schools. Her advocacy with the private sector resulted in the launch in the Philippines of the Risk-Sensitive Societies, or ARISE, with now more than 20 companies as members and working on topics such as improving business continuity planning, public private partnerships for pre-disaster planning, and disaster risk education for the private sector,” de Guzman said. PND (jm)