27 January 2015

President Aquino confers Order of Sikatuna on outgoing Singapore envoy V. P. Hirubalan
President Benigno S. Aquino III conferred the Order of Sikatuna with the rank of Grand Cross, Gold Distinction on outgoing Ambassador of the Republic of Singapore to the Philippines Velupilla Ponnundurai Hirubalan in a simple ceremony at the Music Room of Malacañang Palace on Tuesday.

Accompanied by his wife, Mrs. Manoranchitham Hirubalan, VP Hirubalan accepted the award, which was given in recognition of his significant contributions in further strengthening and deepening bilateral relations between the Philippines and Singapore.

President Aquino also cited the veteran ambassador for the facilitation of Singapore’s humanitarian assistance to the Philippines during times of natural calamities, particularly Typhoon Pablo in December 2012, the Bohol earthquake in October 2013, Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013, and Typhoon Hagupit in December 2014.

Hirubalan, who has 17 years of diplomatic experience, was commended for his efforts in arranging high-level meetings between the leaders of the two countries, including the state visit to the Philippines of Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam on April 2 to 5 last year, and the working visit of President Aquino on November 18 to 19, 2014.

The envoy was also cited for his outstanding initiative in revitalizing the two countries’ bilateral relations through the convening of the 2nd Round of Informal Consultations on the Philippines-Singapore Action Plan on July 4, 2014, 10 years after its inaugural meeting in 2004.

President Aquino recognized Hirubalan’s efforts in encouraging his government to fully support various Philippine initiatives in the regional and multilateral arena.

He further cited him for his hard work in the continued enhancement of people-to-people ties between the two countries through Singapore’s offer of technical assistance under the auspices of the Singapore Cooperation Programme, the Temasek Foundation, and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

Hirubalan was posted to the Philippines on March 12, 2012, after stints in the Middle East, North Africa and the Singaporean Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Central Asia Directorate.

He also served as director of the ministry’s ASEAN Directorate in Southeast Asia, and ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kingdom of Bahrain and Sultanate of Oman.

After his diplomatic tour of duty in the Philippines, Hirubalan is set to assume his next post as Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Political Security Community on February 15, succeeding outgoing Deputy Secretary-General Nyan Lynn, who is from Myanmar.

He will assume the post for three years. PND (jb)

President Aquino meets with South Korean parliamentary delegation, Filipino-Korean Jasmine Lee
President Benigno S. Aquino III met with a delegation of the South Korean parliament, including Filipino-Korean Jasmine Bacurnay-Lee, the first naturalized Korean to get a seat in the National Assembly, during a courtesy call at the Music Room of Malacañang Palace on Tuesday.

Lee was joined by members of the Korean National Assembly Choi Kyu-sung, Lee Sang-jik, and Kim Yong Nam.

They were accompanied by Republic of Korea’s Ambassador to the Philippines Lee Hyuk.

Present on the Philippine side were Senate President Franklin Drilon, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Linglingay Lacanlale, Assistant Secretary for Asia and Pacific Affairs Minda Calaguian-Cruz, and Foreign Affairs Director Hans Mohaimin Siriban.

President Aquino has already met Lee on several occasions.

During his visit to Seoul, South Korea in 2013, the President conferred an Order of Lakandula on Lee for bringing pride to the country, being the first naturalized Korean to become a member of the South Korean parliament.

She was also cited for promoting multiculturalism and migrant women’s rights, as well as for her initiatives in civil society work and public service.

A mother of two, Lee, who grew up in Davao, made a name in South Korea while working as a TV panelist, actress, and public servant.

The meeting in Malacañang aimed to further promote bilateral economic relations between the Philippines and South Korea. PND (jb)

Palace calls on lawmakers to focus on goal of bringing lasting peace to Mindanao
The Palace on Tuesday urged legislators who have withdrawn their support from the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to focus on the goal of achieving lasting peace and stability in Mindanao.

“While recognizing the challenges posed by the violent incident in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, it is important to keep in mind the vital objective of attaining long-term peace, stability and progress in Mindanao,” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement.
Coloma was commenting on reports that two senators have withdrawn their authorship of the proposed BBL due to the encounter between police and fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last Sunday that led to the death of at least 43 members of the police’s Special Action Force (SAF).

The senators’ withdrawal of authorship would not guarantee a majority vote for the BBL in the Senate.

“Those who have expressed reservations about supporting the enactment of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law may wish to consider the adverse consequences of not pursuing the peace process, such as a possible return to the old order characterized by ‘warlordism’, lawlessness, misuse of public funds, and the near-total breakdown of governance,” Coloma added.

According to news reports, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano and Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito have withdrawn their authorship of the BBL over the Maguindanao incident.

The two were among 13 senators who signed as co-authors, making up a majority of the 24 senators to ensure the passage of the draft law.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., has also declared that he will stop Senate consultations related to the passage of the BBL.

Members of the SAF were on a law enforcement operation in Mamasapano to arrest suspected terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, on Sunday when the operation turned into an encounter with members of the MILF. PND (ag)

President Aquino signs Book of Condolences for late Saudi King Abdullah
President Aquino signed the Book of Condolences for the late Saudi King Abdullah at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Makati City Tuesday afternoon.

The President arrived at the Saudi Arabia embassy 6 p.m. and was received by Isaac Ibrahim Al-Orini, charge d’ affaires of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Linglingay Lacanlale, acting secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

After the signing of the Book of Condolences, the President stood in front of the picture of the late King Abdullah for a moment of prayer.

After that, the President was offered a small cup of traditional beverage as part of the Saudi Arabian tradition.

Born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on August 1, 1924, the late King Abdullah served as the head of Saudi Arabia’s government, first deputy prime minister and commander of National Guard.

After ascending to the throne in 2005, he initiated a range of major economic, social, educational and health projects that brought remarkable changes to the kingdom.

One of his greatest legacies is in the field of education when he sent thousands of young Saudis to study overseas.

The King also founded in 2008 the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, the country’s first co-educational campus.

On his policies on women, King Abdullah was the first Saudi monarch to appoint women to government positions. In 2003, he appointed 30 women to the Shura Council.

King Abdullah also promoted interfaith dialogue, making him the first Arab monarch and Saudi King to meet the pope.

He was also an advocate of constructive global cooperation and he fought actively against terrorism during his reign. PND (as)