25 March 2015

Aquino attends gathering of ‘Sari-Sari’ Store Training program participants
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday morning attended a gathering of 5,000 women who have undergone the Sari-Sari Store Training and Access to Resources (STAR) program, a partnership between the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and Coca-Cola Philippines.

The event, held at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, is a fitting end to the celebration of this year’s National Women’s Month.

In his speech, President Aquino acknowledged the role of Filipino women in shaping the nation’s future and the need for their “economic emancipation.”

“Ang punto ng TESDA-Coke Sari-Sari Store Training and Access to Resources Program o STAR ay ang bigyang-lakas at oportunidad ang libo-libong women microentrepreneurs na makiambag sa lalong pagpapaunlad ng kanilang pamayanan; maghatid ng higit na ginhawa sa kani-kanilang pamilya; at isulong pa ang makabuluhang transpormasyon ng ating ekonomiya,” he told the women, who were from Metro Manila and neighboring provinces.

The President said the STAR program provides female sari-sari store owners access to additional capital and alternative financial services; guides them in planning and managing their businesses; promotes gender sensitivity in homes and in the community; provides peer mentoring; and links them up to a business network.

“Sa ganitong sari-sari store, nakikita ang sigla ng kalakalan; dito rin sumisibol ang mga ugnayan na nagsisilbing tulay para sa lalong pagyabong ng negosyo,” he said.

Paying tribute to women entrepreneurs, the President said they are no longer merely partners of men in earning a living.

“Sila na mismo ang nagsisilbing tanglaw ng kaunlaran at pag-asa para sa kanilang mga pamayanan. Totoo po, dahil sa ating pag-uugnayan: Panalo ang kababaihan; panalo ang merkado at lokal na komersiyo; panalo ang sambayanang Pilipino,” he said.

He also thanked Coca-Cola Philippines for its initiative to empower women.

“Sa araw na ito, narito tayo, dahil tinutulungan ng TESDA at Coca-Cola ang napakaraming women microentrepreneurs sa kalakhang bansa, at nagpapasalamat tayo sa Coca-Cola, para sa patuloy nilang pagpanig at pagtaya sa Pilipino,” he said.

According to TESDA Director General Joel Villanueva, some 34,258 people from 43 locations across the country have benefitted from the partnership between the government and the private sector.

Coca-Cola Philippines President Diego Granizo meanwhile said that the STAR program is part of the company’s global initiative to economically empower some 5 million women by the year 2020. PND (ag)

Palace commends Health Department for effective anti-tuberculosis fight
The Palace has vowed to continue providing Filipinos quality health care under the administration’s universal health care program, especially after the Department of Health (DOH) was recognized for its successful campaign against tuberculosis (TB).

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said the Palace recognizes the award given by the United States government to the Philippines for its effective fight against tuberculosis.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) granted the “TB Champion” award to the DOH as part of the observance of World Tuberculosis Day on Tuesday (March 24).

The USAID each year recognizes individuals, organizations or institutions that have become instrumental to the achievement of global TB targets.

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. accepted the award on behalf of the country, in Washington DC on Tuesday.

“The award recognizes the DOH’s exemplary and leadership commitment in the fight against TB in the country,” Secretary Coloma said.

“According to Health Secretary Janette Loreto-Garin, the DOH has been implementing programs and strategies that effectively treated drug resistant TB, and allowed for greater coverage of TB patients nationwide.”

The DOH reported that as early as 2012, the country has already achieved its 2015 Millennium Development Goal in fighting TB, making the country one of seven among 22 high-burdened countries to do so.

“We shall continue to provide quality health service to our citizens, especially the poor, consistent with the government’s Universal Health Care for Filipinos program,” Coloma added.

The DOH has reported a marked decline in the incidence of TB in the country since it launched the Directly Observed Treatment Short Course (DOTS) strategy in 1996. As of 2013, cases and deaths due to TB dropped by more than 50 percent from the 1990 baseline.

In 2011, the DOH introduced rapid diagnostic tools, such as the Line Probe Assay, Mycobacterium Growth Indicator Tube and GeneXpert, to improve and reduce the turnaround time of multi-drug resistant TB diagnosis.

There has also been a continuous expansion of services for drug-resistant TB cases to at least one treatment or satellite center per province and highly urbanized city, according to the DOH.

The success of the country’s fight against TB was attributed to the implementation of the DOTS strategy, management of the multi-drug resistant TB, initiation of public-private mix DOTS, implementation of TB in children program, and the enhancement of the DOTS through the adoption of the STOP TB strategy endorsed by the World Health Organization.

Tuberculosis ranked as the 8th leading cause of sickness in the country based on 2010 data, and the 6th leading cause of death, according to data from the 2009 Philippine Health Statistics.

At present, the Philippines is 8th among 22 TB high-burdened countries in the world in terms of TB cases. PND (as)

President Aquino appoints lawyer Michael Aguinaldo as new Commission on Audit Chief
The Palace announced on Wednesday the appointment of Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs Michael Aguinaldo as new Chairman of the Commission on Audit (COA), replacing Grace Pulido-Tan.

“We are pleased to announce that President Aquino has appointed Atty. Michael G. Aguinaldo as Chairman of the Commission on Audit. The appointment was made yesterday, March 24, 2015,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a statement.

Aguinaldo has been serving as Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs since May 2011, handling legal affairs for the Office of the President. His job included the formulation of operational policies and standards to provide effective legal and legislative assistance and services to the organizational units of the Office of the President and different departments.

Also part of his work were to render legal opinions on matters referred by the President; review and prepare decisions on appeals from resolutions, orders and actions of different departments; and submit recommendations on proposed bills.

Aguinaldo has been a faculty member of the Ateneo de Manila University School of Law since 1994. He also had teaching stints in De La Salle University and the FEU-La Salle JD-MBA Joint Degree Program.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from De La Salle University in September 1987; his law degree from the Ateneo de Manila University School of Law in April 1992; and his special degree in International Economic Law from the University of Michigan in May 1997. He placed seventh in the Philippine Bar Examination in May 1993.

Aguinaldo’s term as COA chief expires on February 2, 2022. PND (as)

Palace hopes MILF report would shed light on Mamasapano incident
Malacañang said it hopes the investigation report submitted by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to the Senate would help the country’s quest for truth regarding the Mamasapano incident.

“This report, as well as those of the PNP (Philippine National Police) Board of Inquiry and the Senate, provide different views and perspectives on the incident that would hopefully contribute to the process of determining responsibility and accountability, such that the ends of justice may be served,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said on Wednesday.

“The Department of Justice has initiated an investigation and will take appropriate legal action,” he added.

In its 35-page report given to the Senate, the MILF justified their move to fight back police commandos who had fired at them first on January 25 while on a mission to arrest high-value terrorist suspects.

Without prior coordination as required under ceasefire guidelines, a gun battle was “inevitable,” it was stated in the report done by the MILF Special Investigative Commission.

The MILF also maintained that they did not coddle Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and local terrorist Abdul Basit Usman. It acknowledged the failure of two base commands to detect the presence of Marwan and Usman in areas near their communities.The rebel group said they should file a protest against the Special Action Force (SAF) for breaking the ceasefire when the latter failed to coordinate its operation through the established protocols of the ceasefire mechanism.

Philippine authorities claim that 44 SAF commandos and 18 MILF fighters were killed in the clash in Mamasapano in Maguindanao province.

The MILF meanwhile said that 17 of its combatants died in the incident, along with at least three civilians. PND (as)