28 Jan 2016

Emperor Akihito commends strong leadership of President Aquino
Emperor Akihito of Japan praised President Aquino’s leadership resulting in the Philippines’ steady development as an active member of the Asian community.

“Your Excellency, under your sagacious and distinguished leadership, the Philippines is achieving steady development as a vital member of the Asian community,” Emperor Akihito said in his speech during the state banquet hosted in his honor in Malacanang on Wednesday.

“It was a great privilege to welcome you to Japan as a state guest in the early summer last year, and the Empress and I have many pleasant memories of your visit.”

The visiting emperor said he hopes his visit to the Philippines will deepen the mutual understanding and friendly relations between the people of Japan and the Philippines.

As both countries observe the 60th anniversary of the normalization of Philippine-Japan diplomatic relations, Emperor Akihito expressed his gratitude to the President for hosting the state banquet Wednesday evening.

The emperor recalled his first visit to the Philippines 54 years ago, being warmly welcomed by president Diosdado Macapagal and the first lady as they arrived.

Also during his 1962 visit, he said he met with former president Emilio Aguinaldo in Kawit, Cavite, and remembered standing in the balcony from which Philippine independence was declared in 1898 with the Filipino leader.

He also mentioned, the country’s national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, as a pioneer in forging strong ties between Japan and the Philippines.

While fighting for Philippine independence from Spain, Rizal stayed in Japan for one and a half month, deepening his understanding of the country, and even wrote about full-fledged relationship between Japan and the Philippines.

Last year, Japan marked the 70th anniversary of the end of the World War II, he said acknowledging the fierce fighting between American and Japanese forces in Philippine soil resulting in thousands of casualties.

“This is something we Japanese must never forget and we intend to engrave in our hearts throughout our visit,” he said.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko arrived in the Philippines on Tuesday for a five-day state visit. PND (as)

President Aquino thanks Emperor Akihito for maintaining close ties with Phl
President Benigno S. Aquino III expressed his gratitude to Japan’s Emperor Akihito as the Chief Executive hosted a state banquet in honor of the emperor and his wife, Empress Michiko, in Malacañang Palace on Wednesday evening.In his toast, President Aquino recalled how the Philippines and Japan overcame challenges “during the dark episodes in the history of our nations”.

“It is, however, upon this history that we have built a far more enduring relationship. Japan has been a consistent, able, and trustworthy partner, who has helped advance our people’s progress,” he said.

Citing examples, he said that in 2014, Japan was the Philippines’ top trading partner, and was the top source of the country’s active Official Development Assistance and Investment Promotion Agency-approved foreign investments.

Japan has likewise been “a vital partner in our peace process and the development of Mindanao”, as well as in the enhancement of the Philippines’ maritime and disaster management capabilities, he said.

“You have also been a staunch ally in advancing the rule of law in our region. For all this, and many more, I, on behalf of my countrymen, say: Domo arigato gozaimasu,” said President Aquino.

According to the President, it was his fourth time to meet Their Majesties, first when he accompanied his mother, the late president Corazon Aquino, on her visit to Japan in 1986, and the others were during his visits to Japan as President.

“In all my encounters with Your Majesties, I have always admired the simplicity, sincerity, and grace you demonstrate,” he said.

The five-day state visit of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko comes at an auspicious time as the Philippines and Japan celebrate their 60th year of diplomatic relations. PND (as)

Japanese Imperial couple visits historic garden in Intramuros
Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko on Thursday morning met with representatives of the Philippine Federation of Japan Alumni (PHILFEJA) at the ancient San Diego Garden, located along the walls of Intramuros in Manila.Escorted by Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Kazuhide Ishikawa, the Imperial couple arrived at the garden, popularly known as Baluarte de San Diego, at about 10:20 a.m. The garden was constructed in 1596 by Jesuit priest Antonio Sedeno.

Upon arrival, Their Majesties were introduced by PHILFEJA president Philip Sanvictores to the federation’s members — Filipinos who were scholars of the Japanese government (Monbusho Scholarship) as well as private companies in Japan.

For 30 minutes, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko shook hands and talked to all 57 PHILFEJA members who attended the event.

From Intramuros, Their Majesties proceeded to Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel for a meeting with members of the Japanese community in the Philippines.

Among those who were present were Yoshio Amano, president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines; Ines Mallari, president of the Federation Nikkei Jin Kai; Nami Iwashita, regional director of the International Children’s Action Network; Mitsuhiko Shimizu, president of the Japanese Association Manila; and Carlos Teraoka, former honorary general of the Japanese community in Baguio.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko also met with third-generation Filipino-Japanese descendants, who waved small Japanese flags at the hotel lobby. The descendants were attending the 9th National Convention of the Filipino-Japanese Descendants being held at the Diamond Hotel in Manila. PND (jm)

Palace welcomes Gross Domestic Product growth in fourth quarter of 2015
Malacañang on Thursday welcomed the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) report showing a 6.3 percent increase in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the fourth quarter of 2015.

“This morning, the National Economic and Development Authority announced that the country’s real GDP growth for the fourth quarter of 2015 accelerated to 6.3 percent, up from 6.1 percent last quarter. This is the highest quarterly growth rate for the year, and brings our full-year GDP to 5.8 percent,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement.

The Palace official said that according to the report, increased momentum during the second semester was supported by strong domestic demand—with government final consumption growing faster by 17.4 percent—as well as robust growth in the industry and services sectors, which posted growth rates of 6.8 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively. On the demand side, the report also noted the increasing role of investments in economic growth, with fixed capital contributing 4.9 percentage points to the fourth quarter GDP.

“With these latest figures, the six-year moving average of real GDP growth has now reached 6.2 percent—the highest in 38 years, since 1978,” Secretary Lacierda said.

He further noted that “compared to debt-fueled growth in the 1970s, the economy’s current performance is of higher quality, as it is supported by sound fundamentals and ongoing structural changes”.

“In his last SONA (State of the Nation Address), the President mentioned that from 2010 to 2014, the Philippines posted an average GDP rate of 6.2 percent, marking our fastest growth period in the past 40 years. For 2015, compared to other major developing economies in Asia, the Philippines is expected to rank fourth in terms of full-year growth, after India, China, and Vietnam,” Lacierda said.

“These encouraging results are in line with the government’s commitment to growth that is both inclusive and sustainable. Recent survey results affirm the positive changes that this growth has prompted in our Bosses’ lives, with the number of Filipinos who consider themselves poor and experience involuntary hunger falling, and personal optimism rising to its highest level in 28 years,” he added.

Lacierda assured that the government remains committed to promote national progress.

“Indeed, this year has seen good news for the Philippines coming one after the other, boding well for the rest of 2016. Rest assured that the government will continue working to promote national progress alongside better services for our citizens. During the next elections, when our people will once again decide the country’s future, it is our hope that voters will choose a leader who will keep to the Straight Path—one who will build on our recent progress and further accelerate it. As President Aquino said, so long as we continue along Daang Matuwid, we will be able to reach first world status within one generation—and thus improve not only our own lives but also those of our children and grandchildren,” Lacierda said. PND (jm)

Government more concerned with sustaining gains from reform programs, says Palace official
Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. on Thursday said the government is more concerned with sustaining gains from its reform programs.

The Palace official was reacting to a Transparency International report, which showed the Philippines sliding to 95th position in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2015, from 85th in 2014, 94th in 2013, and 105th in 2012.

According to the German-based watchdog that conducted the survey, the Philippines was among two-thirds of 168 countries that scored below 50, on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

The Philippines scored 35 in 2015, compared to 38 in 2014.

“We are confident that the reform programs that have been instituted by the government are strongly taking root and these gains will be sustained. Perceptions are based on various things but we are more concerned about sustaining the reality of a well-established framework for good governance,” Secretary Coloma said during a media briefing in Malacañang.

Noting that reality is more important than perception, the Palace official said that in the past five years, the government has instituted major reforms that have strengthened the country’s governance structure.

“We have initiated the heightened public accountability of government agencies through the mandatory requirement that all government agencies must maintain websites that are accessible to the public. These websites contain vital information on major decisions made by various departments and agencies of the government. Major procurement transactions, as well as how they have spent their budget,” Coloma explained.

According to the report, Denmark is still the least corrupt country with 91 points, followed by Finland (90), Sweden (89), New Zealand (88), The Netherlands (87), Norway (87), Switzerland (86), Singapore (85), and Canada (83). Germany, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom are tied in 10th place with 81 points each.

The Corruption Perceptions Index scores and ranks countries/territories based on how corrupt a country’s public sector is perceived to be. It is a composite index, a combination of surveys and assessments of corruption, collected by a variety of reputable institutions. PND (jm)

President Aquino only gave guidance in Mamasapano, says Palace official
Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. on Thursday said President Benigno S. Aquino III only guided former Special Action Force (SAF) Chief Getulio Napeñas during the deadly Mamasapano operation in Maguindanao last year.Secretary Coloma said the instruction given by the President to Napeñas to coordinate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) before the conduct of the operation was not intervention.

“Ang malinaw lang naman dito ay ang sumusunod: Una, inutusan siyang (Napeñas) mag-coordinate. Hindi pakikialam iyon. Iyon ay guidance na napakahalaga na nanggaling mismo sa Pangulo ng Pilipinas,” he told reporters during a press briefing in Malacañang.

“Hindi ko narinig si Director Napeñas mismo na nagsabi na itinuturing niyang pakikialam ito,” said the Palace official.

Napeñas led the January 25, 2015 operation, which succeeded in neutralizing Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir (Marwan) but resulted in the death of 44 SAF troopers.

Coloma also noted the testimony of Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Ricardo Marquez that the PNP Headquarters was not aware of the operation called Oplan Exodus.

“If you will recall, nag-testify si PNP Chief Director General Marquez that as then Director for Operations walang buong operation plan na nasa kamay ng national headquarters ng PNP. At sinabi din niya ang kanyang puna doon sa Oplan Exodus, walang malinaw na—well, walang mga patakaran o guidelines hinggil sa pag-abort na dapat naging bahagi ng contingency plan,” he said.

When asked to comment on the “stand down” order from President Aquino as claimed by Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Coloma replied, “Saksi ang bansa, tinanong ang lahat ng mga nandoon, lahat ng nandoong opisyal, lahat ng nandoon AFP at PNP at mismong si Director Napeñas mismo, iisa lang ang sagot nila: Walang ganoong order. Wala silang narinig at walang ganoong ibinigay at walang ganoong sinundan na order”.

“Kaya sa aking pananaw, bilang saksi doon sa pitong oras na pagsisiyasat kahapon, epektibong natugunan at napabulaanan ang mga alegasyon ni Senador Enrile sa pagdinig kahapon. Isama na rin natin ‘yung alegasyon ni Senador Marcos. Naisawalat ang kawalan ng kaalaman ni Director Napeñas sa tunay na sitwasyon ng kanyang mga tropa sa Mamasapano,” he added.

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile requested for the reopening of the Mamasapano incident investigation, claiming he has new evidence that would show the involvement of President Aquino in the deadly encounter. PND (jm)