October 27 2015

APEC News Release

President Aquino asks for balanced reporting from media
President Benigno S. Aquino III has asked the press to adhere to balanced reportage by writing not only negative stories but also good developments happening in the country.The President voiced his sentiments on sensationalized reporting by the Philippine media during the Annual Presidential Forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), held at the Solaire Resort and Casino on Tuesday.

“Let me emphasize that I never asked that media refrain from reporting negative news. All I asked for was a reasonable balance,” he said.

Inundating the media with negativism will only result in people losing hope, and this cannot generate positive action, he pointed out.

Citing the recent Typhoon Lando as an example, the President said a major Philippine broadsheet tweeted: “Government fails to achieve zero casualty”.

“A local reporter from another media outlet also tweeted that relief goods had arrived in Casiguran (Aurora) but that these goods had not yet been distributed. He closed by saying, ‘Bukas darating si PNoy!’ or ‘PNoy is arriving tomorrow!’ as if to imply that relief goods would be distributed only when I was there,” he said.

He recounted that both the government and the private sector moved heaven and earth to reach the affected communities and worked hard to provide assistance despite the bad weather.

“At a time of challenge for many Filipinos, it seemed to me as if the only interest of these particular members of the media was to sensationalize, to highlight tragedy, to point out supposed failures, and to make accusations,” he said.

President Aquino noted that during last year’s FOCAP forum, he told members of the foreign press that it is the media’s “responsibility to tell the whole, unadulterated truth”.

“Please continue speaking truth to power. You can be critical, and still contribute to growth, because constructive criticism is a great help to us,” he said.

“Expose corruption where it is found; bring injustice to our attention. You are well and free to do this because we will never suppress you; on the contrary, my administration will work with you to correct these wrongs,” he added.

The Chief Executive however said that it cannot be true that there are only negative things happening in the Philippines.

“I have met so many people who are embodiments of the good news and optimism surrounding the Philippines,” he said, giving as examples the recipients of the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer program who are currently enrolled in universities and technical-vocational institutions and who are grateful for the government’s pro-poor program, as well as beneficiaries of the PhilHealth program.

Many multinational companies also have high hopes for the Philippines, wanting to entrust their success to the Filipino people, he said.

“Economic growth has slowed, somewhat, this year, but the Philippine economy is still among the most resilient in the entire world—and the Filipino people are still positive about their job prospects,” he noted.

The President further said that the government is in the process of improving the country’s infrastructure, such as the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) 1, which is no longer considered the worst airport in the world.

The Iloilo, Mactan-Cebu, and Clark airports are now considered among the 30 best airports in Asia, he said, adding that although the country is visited by an average of 20 tropical cyclones annually, the government has been investing on technology and training to help experts accurately predict and prepare for weather disturbances.

“At the end of the day, the Filipino people will decide if I was true to my word: if I did my utmost to bring about positive transformation,” he said.

“I believe they will make the decision for all other sectors as well—including other government agencies and even sectors like yours.”

Concluding his speech, President Aquino repeated the appeal he made to the press at the beginning of his term.

“I make it again now—both as President and as someone looking forward to his return to private life: Yes, there is always massive room for improvement. Yes, there are some mistakes and missteps—but that does not mean there is no room for hope or optimism. That does not mean there is no room to celebrate successes, even the smallest ones. That is all I ask: to make room for the whole, truthful picture. That is the way in which you can fulfill your responsibility to society, to help spur growth and progress,” he said. PND (as)

U.S. Navy patrols in South China Sea not an issue, says President Aquino
President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Tuesday he sees no issue in the passage of a United States Navy destroyer near man-made islands in the South China Sea, so long as the warship stays within the limits of international waters and has no hostile intention.

The President made the comment on reports that an American warship was on its way to the South China Sea to test the principle of freedom of navigation, during the annual Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) forum, held at the Solaire Resort in Parañaque City.

President Aquino said his secretary of defense has informed him that there was no official announcement from the US regarding the particular voyage.

“But the position is, freedom of navigation has been expounded and propounded by all parties to the issues of the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea and everybody seems to be guaranteeing freedom of navigation,” he said.

“So I see no issue as to this US naval ship traversing under international law in waters that should be free to be traveled upon by any non-belligerent country.”

Asked if the government supports the US’ move in the contested territory, the Chief Executive said the Philippines has raised its concerns about the build-up of islands in the South China Sea.

“We have voiced our concern about the issues that confront the South China Sea in the sense that we have about 40 percent of world trade that has to traverse this particular body of water,” he said.

“We have expressed publicly on numerous occasions our concern that any movement through this particular body of water should not be hampered by any entity,” he said, adding that the Philippines has even gone to the extent of filing a case at the international arbitral tribunal to resolve the longstanding issue.

He pointed out that the general principle that freedom of navigation should not be impeded applies to everyone, and not just the Americans.

The President further said that the US could do more patrols in the area, so long as its activity conforms with international law and does not intend to provoke anyone.

Asked if the Philippines’ support for the US patrols would affect its case in the international tribunal, President Aquino said that expressing support for the established norms of international behavior should not negatively affect the country.

Changing the rules without any consultation, negotiation, or agreement is the wrong behavior to undertake, he added. PND (as)

President Aquino: Government is studying Australia’s proposal that the Philippines host refugees
President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Tuesday that the government has not yet agreed to Australia’s proposal that the Philippines accept refugees since the country cannot accommodate those who want permanent residency.

“There is no agreement. There is a proposal propounded by the Australian government and we are seriously considering it and studying the matter,” President Aquino said during the Annual Presidential Forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), held at the Solaire Resort in Parañaque City.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and his Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop, have discussed the matter on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

President Aquino recalled that the Philippines helped Indo-Chinese refugees by serving as a transit point for the displaced people.

“There was a general agreement that they would move on to third countries. We would be a transit point that will exist for probably two or three years. The engagement actually was 15 years and we had to take in several hundred thousands in that period of time, some of whom have actually become permanent residents in the country,” he said.

He however noted that the Philippines has a bigger population than Australia.

“We have challenges to meeting the needs of our people right now. We would want to assist but there are limitations as to how far we can assist,” the President said, pointing out that if Australia’s proposal requires the Philippines to be more than just a transit point, then “we are not in a capacity at this point to afford permanent residency for these people.”

Australia wants to send refugees who reach its shores to the Philippines under an arrangement.

It already has a multi-million dollar deal to resettle refugees from an Australia-run detention camp on the Pacific nation of Nauru to Cambodia. Only a few refugees have so far taken up the offer.

Some observers have noted the similarity in the situation of Cambodia and the Philippines, saying that refugees have to find education and secure jobs and they are unlikely to get those in the Philippines. PND (as)

Government economists gauging possible effects of El Niño to economy
The country’s economic managers are assessing the possible effects of the El Niño weather phenomenon and are finding ways to cushion its impact on the people, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Tuesday.

“I think the primary discussion has centered on El Niño and the potential effects it will have on the Philippine economy and our people’s lot,” President Aquino said during the Annual Presidential Forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), held at the Solaire Resort in Parañaque City.

“The mitigating actions that are necessary to address this very, very serious El Niño phenomenon has occupied the center stage in our discussions,” he added.

He said he will leave it to National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Arsenio Balisacan to come up with the prospects of the third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP).

The President noted that while Typhoon Lando inundated rice-producing areas in Central Luzon, resulting in the loss of crops, it also filled the dams in Luzon and this would help farmers cope with El Niño.

Asked if the government would import more rice to serve as a buffer against El Niño, he said the government has already approved the import of 500,000 metric tons of rice.

With the flooding caused by Typhoon Lando, the President said it is difficult to imagine the effects of El Niño come December, January and February.

“We would like to err on the side of caution. We want to ensure that there will be sufficient supplies of the staple at reasonable prices,” he said, adding that the government has yet to decide on whether it would augment the 500,000 metric tons of rice that it has approved. PND (as)

President Aquino vows to be ‘perfect host’ during APEC Leaders’ Summit in November
President Benigno S. Aquino III would like to be the perfect host to all of his Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) counterparts by trying to engage all 20 leaders in fruitful conversations on the sidelines of the APEC Leaders’ Summit to be held in Manila next month.

Speaking during the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines Forum at the Solaire Resort on Tuesday, President Aquino said he looks forward to meeting all the APEC leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he met privately in November last year in Beijing, during China’s hosting of the APEC Summit.

The 10-minute conversation took place amid tensions over the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)

According to the notes of the meeting, President Xi expressed his gratitude to his Filipino counterpart for taking part in the Beijing summit. He also vowed to support the Philippines’ hosting of APEC in 2015.

Xi also described as “regretful” the developments in the West Philippine Sea. He expressed hope that both sides “will return to previous engagements and constructive engagement and look forward to turning a new page”.

For his part, President Aquino responded by complimenting the warmth of the Chinese leader’s hospitality. He ended the conversation by thanking Xi for “the opportunity to start the process of a better relationship”.

During the FOCAP forum, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said the Philippines, as this year’s APEC host, has several initiatives in accordance with the goal of a more inclusive integration of the region.

The first is on the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) where Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo led the trade ministers in coming up with the Boracay Action Agenda, he pointed out.

“As you know, the MSMEs account for the bulk of employment, not just in the Philippines but across the region, and to really have true integration, we must bring these MSMEs into the fore,” said Secretary Purisima.

On the part of the finance ministers, he said the aim is to support the trade agenda.

“For the first time in the history of APEC, we came up with the Cebu Action Plan, which is really a roadmap on financial integration of the region,” the finance chief said.

Purisima further noted that Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan had led the discussion on structural reforms, considering that there are many structural issues across the region that need to be addressed.

He cited as an example Japan, where they still have the “third arrow” that has yet to be implemented.

The “Third Arrow” is Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s strategy to revitalize Japan. The first two “arrows” are massive monetary easing, which has helped push up asset prices, and fiscal spending to stimulate demand.

“And if you look across the region, that is mostly the case and they discussed that, there’s the disaster risk management meeting,” said Purisima.

“So there were a lot of discussions and that will be tackled by the leaders in a discussion to be led by the President to come up with the Manila Declaration.” (APEC Communications Group)

President Aquino: Congress must immediately pass Bangsamoro Basic Law
When it comes to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the ball is in the court of the Philippine Congress, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Tuesday. “We’d like to see the transition of authority and the new governance mode in the Bangsamoro actually taking root and actually delivering on the promise of better governance in that particular part of the country,” the President said during the Annual Presidential Forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), held at the Solaire Resort in Parañaque City.

“We have been lobbying with members of both chambers (of Congress) to have this measure passed, not just passed but passed quickly,” he said when asked if he thinks the BBL could still be approved within his term.

Once the BBL is passed, it has to be ratified in a referendum or a plebiscite before the Bangsamoro Transition Authority can exist, he said.

“You have to have the law passed, you have to have the law approved by our bosses,” he emphasized.

The President explained that if the BBL is passed late, for instance in February when the election ban takes effect, “you have a government in place that can do nothing — therefore (it) will demonstrate nothing, therefore (it) will doom the possibility of the solution having a chance to prove its worth”.

The BBL, supposed to be one of President Aquino’s major legacies, has been hampered by doubts among lawmakers, especially after the bloody Mamasapano, Maguindanao encounter that resulted in the death of 44 elite police commandos. PND (as)

President Aquino wants to take a break after his term
President Benigno S. Aquino III has said he will take a break and contemplate on how he could serve his people after stepping down from office next year.During the Annual Presidential Forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), held at the Solaire Resort in Parañaque City on Tuesday, President Aquino said running for a lower elective post is off the table for now.

“I really want to examine, once I get a little break, what is the best route to continue the advocacy of uplifting the lot of our countrymen,” he said, adding that he wants the people who continue to make sacrifices for him, to also have some break.

With eight months to go in his presidency, President Aquino was asked by the foreign press about his future plans.

Two of his predecessors remained in politics after serving the presidency — Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a member of the House of Representatives, while Joseph Estrada is serving as mayor of Manila. PND (as)

President Aquino: Filipinos will not allow Marcoses to return to power
President Benigno S. Aquino III said he does not believe that the Filipino people would allow the Marcoses to return to power several decades after they ousted a dictator.

“I have faith in my bosses, the Filipino people. There is nothing that has caused me to change the faith that they are able to discern,” he told members of the foreign press during a forum held at the Solaire Resort in Parañaque City on Tuesday.

With Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., son of former president Ferdinand Marcos, running for vice president in next year’s elections, President Aquino was asked to comment on the possible return of the Marcoses to power.

Asked if the Marcos family has something to apologize for after the martial rule of the late president Marcos, President Aquino said for a start, they have to admit that they have erred.

“The start of a solution is the admission of the problem or the correct identification of the problem. If they said, ‘We erred, we had this opportunity to turn this country great as our father promised, it did not happen. We apologize, we want to make amends,’ that I think would have been very, very acceptable. We are (a) forgiving people as a general rule,” the Chief Executive explained.

Instead, he said, the Marcoses have issued statements that “there is nothing to apologize for”.

The President recounted that his family and other members of their household suffered a lot during Martial Law.

His father, the late senator Benigno Aquino, Jr., was detained for years and was assassinated upon his return from the United States in August 1983.

President Aquino also said that a governess who took care of him, had been arrested several times, along with her husband, who was the family driver.

“They were both incarcerated and their only crime (was) they served in our household previous to Martial Law,” he said.

The Marcoses’ denial of what happened during Martial Law is no assurance that similar events would not occur in the future, according to the President.

“If there is denial of what happened, is there also a statement that there is no recognition that things have to be corrected down the line? And therefore, is there a promise that there will be no repetition of the same? Those are questions,” he said. PND (as)