AQUINO WON'T CUT OVERSEAS TRIP SHORT DESPITE TYPHOON 'MARIO' 

SEPT 19 --President Benigno Aquino III is not inclined to cut short his foreign trip despite the impact of tropical storm “Mario,” which caused floods that disrupted classes and work in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.  Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the president is receiving updates from his cabinet members while he is out of the country. “The president is committed to fulfilling all his international commitments and while he is abroad, he continues to keep in touch with his official family,” Lacierda said on Friday in a text message to reporters.

Aquino is in Europe for a working visit that started last September 13 and will end on Saturday. The visit involved meetings with leaders, investors and Filipino communities in Spain, Belgium, France and Germany. After the eight-day trip, Aquino will fly to the United States to attend the United Nations Climate Summit to be held in New York on September 23. He is scheduled to return to the Philippines on September 25. Lacierda said Aquino is given regular updates about the typhoon. He said the president provides instructions to Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., who has been tasked to run the affairs of the Office of the President. Palace officials said Aquino wants to make sure that all agencies involved in disaster response are performing their roles. “The president wanted to make sure that all agencies are doing what they are supposed to do,” Ochoa said in a press briefing. “We are on top (of the situation). Everyone is complying,” he added.THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

(ALSO) NDRRMC: Mario leaves 11 dead, thousands still in evacuation centers

SEPT 21 --PHOTO; Free porridge at Manila evacuation center Free porridge at Manila evacuation center.
Personnel
at the Delpan Gymnasium on Saturday, Sept. 20, prepare to serve porridge for children displaced by floods in Manila in the wake of Storm Mario. Danny Pata As it continues to move away from the country, Tropical Storm Mario (Fung-Wong) claimed 11 lives, while thousands more are in temporary shelters, according to the latest data from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRMC) Sunday evening.

The NDRRMC also noted 12 people injured and two others are missing. More than 870,000 people were affected by the storm. Out of this number, some 161,000 are still in evacuation centers as close to 200 areas are still inundated. About 100 houses were wrecked, while some 800 homes were partially damaged. A total of 78 roads and six bridges are not passable as of Sunday evening. These are located in Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, and the National Capital Region. Incidents of landslides were also recorded during the onslaught of the tropical storm last Friday. Power back in Region IV ---The NDRRMC also noted that power has been fully restored in the Southern Tagalog region, though some areas in the Cordillera Administrative Region are still experiencing intermittent power supply.

Based on the latest government data, water levels in major dams and river basins remain below high critical level. State weather forecasters on Sunday afternoon said that Mario made landfall in Taiwan and is soon to move out of the Philippine Area of Responsibility. The tropical storm weakened slightl,y with maximum sustained winds of 85 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 100 kph. It is forecast to move north-northeast at 20 kph. Although no public storm warning signals are raised, fisherfolk with small sea craft are advised not to venture yet into the northern and western seaboards of Luzon. Some areas in northern Luzon and Valenzuela City in Metro Manila announced the suspension of classes on Monday. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO In Photo: 'Mario' reminds Metro Manila of 'Ondoy'; 'Mario' turns Metro Manila into 'waterworld' byAvatar

PHOTO SEPT 19 --PHOTO: Portrait of EDSA as a river. Take care everyone! #MarioPH | via @tontonico pic.twitter.com/5nHOgH64By. Torrential rains brought by tropical cyclone "Mario" on Friday as it sweeps through Luzon reminded Filipinos on social media of the severe flooding from typhoon "Ondoy" in 2009. As classes and work were suspended, residents had little left to do in their homes and resorted to posting photos on Twitter and Instagram of flooded streets and their homes.

Some netizens said the scenes on Friday morning are reminiscent of "Waterworld," a high-budget post-apocalyptic film in 1995 starting Kevin Costner that nevertheless flunked in the box office charts. ....VIEW MORE PHOTOS.

ALSO: 4 dead as ‘Mario’ continues to move away from PAR

SEPT 20 --PHOTO: 2 Children play with their cellphone, at an evacuation center after heavy monsoon rains
sp
awned by tropical storm Fung-Wong (local name Mario) flooded Marikina city, east of Manila, Philippines and most parts of the metropolis, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. AP Children play with their cellphone, at an evacuation center after heavy monsoon rains spawned by tropical storm Fung-Wong (local name Mario) flooded Marikina city, east of Manila, Philippines and most parts of the metropolis, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. AP

MANILA, Philippines—As Tropical Storm “Mario” continues its upward path out of the Philippine Area of Responsibility, it has left four people dead in its wake, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said Friday. In its 10 p.m. update, the NDRRMC said that two-year-old Althea Gaviola, 69-year-old Erlinda Centeno, 31-year-old Tomas Prino Barol and one-month-old baby Javier Jevania Mateo died during the onslaught of “Mario.”

According to the NDRRMC, Gaviola died of drowning in Bagong Silangan, Quezon City while an uprooted tree was the cause of the tragic death of Baby Javier. Barol, a resident of Barangay Villaflores, Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya was buried under mud and rocks and Centeno of Montalban Heights, Rodriguez, Rizal died due to head injuries after a fall. In the hourly update from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, the center of Tropical Storm “Mario” was estimated at 133 kilometers northwest of Laoag City, Ilocos Norte at 1:00 AM Saturday.

“Mario” packs maximum winds of 75 kilometers per hour and gusts of 90 kph. Apart from the four who died under “Mario,” NDRRMC said that five were also injured and one Ernesto Guevarra, 55-years-old, from Barangay Pasong Tamo, Quezon City is missing. Guevarra was last seen in Dario Creek. NDRRMC added that a total of 114,250 families or 513,361 people have been affected across Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Central Visayas and Metro Manila. Of those affected, 20,763 families or 83,077 people are inside 77 evacuation centers. Also, a total of 2,480 passengers were stranded as of 4 p.m. with 15 vessels, 254 rolling cargoes and seven motorized boats were stranded due to rough sea conditions according to the Coast Guard District Central Visayas and Coast Guard District Bicol. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.  

ALSO: 200,000 without power amid heavy rains, floods 

SEPT 20 --Non-stop rains left hundreds of thousands of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) customers without power on Friday. One eatery in Metro Manila had no choice but to close for the day. There are no customers because of the bad weather. The owner, Rustica Alano, instead prepared candles and flashlights, anticipating a power outage. "Kailangan na mag-ready dahil walang nakakapagsabi kung kalian titigil ang ulan, baka mamaya biglang magka-brownout mahihirapan kami,” said Alano.

On Friday afternoon, more than 200,000 households or nearly 4 percent of the entire customer base of the Meralco franchise area had no power supply due to massive floods. Areas affected were parts of Quezon City, Manila, Malabon, Valenzuela, Caloocan, Las Piñas, Marikina, Parañaque, Pasay, and Pasig in Metro Manila as well as portions of Batangas, Bulacan, Rizal, and Laguna. “Ito’y kinailangan po naming gawin para sa ganoon ay masiguro natin ‘yung kaligtasan ng komunidad at mga residente sa lugar,” said Meralco spokesman Joe Zaldarriaga.If the rains continue, Meralco said, more areas will likely be affected. It's a good thing that cellphone signals and the internet are still working. Globe Telecom said its network remains operational despite the continuous rains. "We have not monitored any service disruption in the affected areas and our network is fully operational,” the firm said. *READ MORE...

(ALSO) DPWH: Sorry, floods to recur till all 100 projects finished 

SEPT 20 --PHOTO: Commuters make their way through a flooded street after heavy monsoon rains spawned by tropical storm Fung-Wong (local name Mario) flooded Manila and most parts of the metropolis Friday, Sept 19, 2014 in the Philippines. AP. The flash floods that shut down Metropolitan Manila and nearby provinces on Friday will keep recurring until the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) can finish clearing the waterways, upgrading the pumping stations and unclogging the roadside drains in the National Capital Region, the government said.
Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said “all these interventions are already [going on, but] they cannot be [finished] overnight.”

In a text message to the Inquirer, the DPWH said it hoped the public would understand the situation. The Inquirer reported that of some 100 government flood-control projects funded by P4.96 billion from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), more than 60 had been completed while the rest were nearing completion. The projects, the development of which started in late 2012, are part of the DPWH’s ambitious flood-control master plan for Metro Manila and surrounding areas in Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon. At least 56 of the completed projects are in Metro Manila. *READ MORE...

ALSO: Aquino declares 2015 ‘banner year’ for PH 

SEPT 19 --PHOTO: Paris, FRANCE – President Benigno S. Aquino III and French President Francois Hollande delivers their statements during the Joint Press Statement at the Ground Floor of the Palais de L’Elysee. RYAN LIM/Malacañang Photo Bureau)PARIS—President Benigno Aquino III has declared 2015 as a “banner year” for the Philippines owing to its economic “turnaround” and in time for the Southeast Asian regional integration. “Given the unprecedented confidence enjoyed by our country, we expect 2015 to be a banner year,” he said in a speech at the French Institute of International Relations Thursday night (12:30 a.m. Friday) in Manila)

“After all, the factors that can allow us to build on our momentum are in place,” he added, citing the so-called “demographic sweet spot” that the country is expected to hit next year with a big proportion of the population entering working age. “We have been investing in our greatest resource—our people, resulting in an expanding, productive labor force now even more prepared to seize all the opportunities. We have a strategic location, and vast potential to be a crucial hub of trade, investments, and services.”

The President said the Philippines’ “economic turnaround” was “especially significant” with the formal integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations into “economic community” next year. Aquino said the integration would also open doors of opportunity to France and the rest of Europe. “This is a milestone in the evolution of Asean as we pursue the common prosperity of our peoples and foster the peace and stability fundamental to continued development,” he said. “This is a timely development. Given the recovery of markets in the Western Hemisphere, increased cooperation can only redound to a healthier global economy, and the promise of further growth and development for all.”  THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO: Voilà! Filipino-speaking monsieur surprises Aquino  

SEPT 20 --He stands 6-foot-4 (1.9 meters) and is a dead ringer for NBA superstar Kevin Durant. Not only that, he speaks fluent Filipino. One of the biggest surprises President Benigno Aquino III probably had during his European trip was meeting a towering, Filipino-speaking Frenchman named Wesley Romain. Romain, 26, raised his hand to ask a question during a forum organized by French Institute of International Relations here.

Mr. Aquino took notice as soon as the man walked toward the microphone. “Perhaps they can recruit you for the Philippine basketball team,” the President said in jest. But the real surprise came when the French guy replied, “Gusto ko pero hindi ako magaling (I would like to but I’m not good).” He went on to ask about “security sector reform and peace-building issues in the Philippines,” a question eventually lost on Mr. Aquino, who remained amazed with the Filipino-speaking Frenchman in an audience of French policy experts. Romain asked a second question, “Pwede bang kumuha ng isang picture sa inyo (Can I have a photograph with you)?”

“Paano ka natuto ng Tagalog (How did you learn Tagalog)?” Mr. Aquino asked and was told, “Kasi pusong Pinoy …. Estudyante ako sa Maynila, sa UP Diliman po (I’m a Filipino by heart …. I’m a former student at UP Diliman).”
Romain later told reporters that he was an exchange student of international studies at the University of the Philippines (UP) in 2011. He said he extended his stay and volunteered for various nongovernment organizations, such as Gawad Kalinga. The President said he would “of course” accommodate the request for a photo-op but was so distracted that he had to be reminded of Romain’s more important question. * READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORT HERE:

Aquino won't cut overseas trip short despite typhoon 'Mario'

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 22, 2014 (PHILSTAR) By Alexis Romero | Updated September 19, 2014  - President Benigno Aquino III is not inclined to cut short his foreign trip despite the impact of tropical storm “Mario,” which caused floods that disrupted classes and work in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the president is receiving updates from his cabinet members while he is out of the country.

“The president is committed to fulfilling all his international commitments and while he is abroad, he continues to keep in touch with his official family,” Lacierda said on Friday in a text message to reporters.

Aquino is in Europe for a working visit that started last September 13 and will end on Saturday. The visit involved meetings with leaders, investors and Filipino communities in Spain, Belgium, France and Germany.

After the eight-day trip, Aquino will fly to the United States to attend the United Nations Climate Summit to be held in New York on September 23. He is scheduled to return to the Philippines on September 25.

Lacierda said Aquino is given regular updates about the typhoon. He said the president provides instructions to Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., who has been tasked to run the affairs of the Office of the President.

Palace officials said Aquino wants to make sure that all agencies involved in disaster response are performing their roles.

“The president wanted to make sure that all agencies are doing what they are supposed to do,” Ochoa said in a press briefing.

“We are on top (of the situation). Everyone is complying,” he added.

FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

NDRRMC: Mario leaves 11 dead, thousands still in evacuation centers September 21, 2014 9:06pm 37 5 0 57


Free porridge at Manila evacuation center Free porridge at Manila evacuation center. Personnel at the Delpan Gymnasium on Saturday, Sept. 20, prepare to serve porridge for children displaced by floods in Manila in the wake of Storm Mario. Danny Pata

As it continues to move away from the country, Tropical Storm Mario (Fung-Wong) claimed 11 lives, while thousands more are in temporary shelters, according to the latest data from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRMC) Sunday evening.

The NDRRMC also noted 12 people injured and two others are missing.

More than 870,000 people were affected by the storm. Out of this number, some 161,000 are still in evacuation centers as close to 200 areas are still inundated.

About 100 houses were wrecked, while some 800 homes were partially damaged.

A total of 78 roads and six bridges are not passable as of Sunday evening. These are located in Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, and the National Capital Region.

Incidents of landslides were also recorded during the onslaught of the tropical storm last Friday.

Power back in Region IV

The NDRRMC also noted that power has been fully restored in the Southern Tagalog region, though some areas in the Cordillera Administrative Region are still experiencing intermittent power supply.

Based on the latest government data, water levels in major dams and river basins remain below high critical level.

State weather forecasters on Sunday afternoon said that Mario made landfall in Taiwan and is soon to move out of the Philippine Area of Responsibility. The tropical storm weakened slightl,y with maximum sustained winds of 85 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 100 kph. It is forecast to move north-northeast at 20 kph.

Although no public storm warning signals are raised, fisherfolk with small sea craft are advised not to venture yet into the northern and western seaboards of Luzon.

Some areas in northern Luzon and Valenzuela City in Metro Manila announced the suspension of classes on Monday. Click here for the full list. — Rouchelle R. Dinglasan/BM, GMA News

FROM PHISTAR

ALSO: 'Mario' reminds Metro Manila of 'Ondoy' By Camille Diola (philstar.com) | Updated September 19, 2014 - 10:17am 27 100 googleplus0 1


Flood water seen M. Roxas Street near the Marikina River on Friday a tropical cyclone "Mario" continues to pound Luzon. Project Moses/@nababaha

MANILA, Philippines — Torrential rains brought by tropical cyclone "Mario" on Friday as it sweeps through Luzon reminded Filipinos on social media of the severe flooding from typhoon "Ondoy" in 2009.

As classes and work were suspended, residents had little left to do in their homes and resorted to posting photos on Twitter and Instagram of flooded streets and their homes.

Some netizens said the scenes on Friday morning are reminiscent of "Waterworld," a high-budget post-apocalyptic film in 1995 starting Kevin Costner that nevertheless flunked in the box office charts.

View some of the best social media photos below:


Country homes cainta. flood level same as ondoy


Good morning from the waterworld that is #Manila. #BagyongMario #TyphoonMario #floodalert pic.twitter.com/PzmB6S8b32


Oh mario, tigil na please. #BagyongMarBagyongMarioc http://instagram.com/p/tG8oAEDTwR/


Portrait of EDSA as a river. Take care everyone! #MarioPH | via @tontonico pic.twitter.com/5nHOgH64By

'Mario' turns Metro Manila into 'waterworld' byAvatar for Philstar NewsPhilstar News@PhilstarNews

VIEW PHOTOSHOW AT: https://storify.com/PhilstarNews/mario-turns-metro-manila-into-waterworld

FROM THE INQUIRER

4 dead as ‘Mario’ continues to move away from PAR By Bong Lozada |INQUIRER.net3:11 am | Saturday, September 20th, 2014


2 Children play with their cellphone, at an evacuation center after heavy monsoon rains spawned by tropical storm Fung-Wong (local name Mario) flooded Marikina city, east of Manila, Philippines and most parts of the metropolis, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. AP Children play with their cellphone, at an evacuation center after heavy monsoon rains spawned by tropical storm Fung-Wong (local name Mario) flooded Marikina city, east of Manila, Philippines and most parts of the metropolis, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. AP

MANILA, Philippines—As Tropical Storm “Mario” continues its upward path out of the Philippine Area of Responsibility, it has left four people dead in its wake, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said Friday.

In its 10 p.m. update, the NDRRMC said that two-year-old Althea Gaviola, 69-year-old Erlinda Centeno, 31-year-old Tomas Prino Barol and one-month-old baby Javier Jevania Mateo died during the onslaught of “Mario.”

According to the NDRRMC, Gaviola died of drowning in Bagong Silangan, Quezon City while an uprooted tree was the cause of the tragic death of Baby Javier. Barol, a resident of Barangay Villaflores, Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya was buried under mud and rocks and Centeno of Montalban Heights, Rodriguez, Rizal died due to head injuries after a fall.

In the hourly update from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, the center of Tropical Storm “Mario” was estimated at 133 kilometers northwest of Laoag City, Ilocos Norte at 1:00 AM Saturday.

“Mario” packs maximum winds of 75 kilometers per hour and gusts of 90 kph. Apart from the four who died under “Mario,” NDRRMC said that five were also injured and one Ernesto Guevarra, 55-years-old, from Barangay Pasong Tamo, Quezon City is missing.

Guevarra was last seen in Dario Creek. NDRRMC added that a total of 114,250 families or 513,361 people have been affected across Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Central Visayas and Metro Manila.

Of those affected, 20,763 families or 83,077 people are inside 77 evacuation centers.

Also, a total of 2,480 passengers were stranded as of 4 p.m. with 15 vessels, 254 rolling cargoes and seven motorized boats were stranded due to rough sea conditions according to the Coast Guard District Central Visayas and Coast Guard District Bicol.

FROM ABS-CBN

200,000 without power amid heavy rains, floods By Alvin Elchico, ABS-CBN News Posted at 09/20/2014 12:52 AM | Updated as of 09/20/2014 12:55 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Non-stop rains left hundreds of thousands of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) customers without power on Friday.

One eatery in Metro Manila had no choice but to close for the day. There are no customers because of the bad weather.

The owner, Rustica Alano, instead prepared candles and flashlights, anticipating a power outage.

"Kailangan na mag-ready dahil walang nakakapagsabi kung kalian titigil ang ulan, baka mamaya biglang magka-brownout mahihirapan kami,” said Alano.

On Friday afternoon, more than 200,000 households or nearly 4 percent of the entire customer base of the Meralco franchise area had no power supply due to massive floods.

Areas affected were parts of Quezon City, Manila, Malabon, Valenzuela, Caloocan, Las Piñas, Marikina, Parañaque, Pasay, and Pasig in Metro Manila as well as portions of Batangas, Bulacan, Rizal, and Laguna.

“Ito’y kinailangan po naming gawin para sa ganoon ay masiguro natin ‘yung kaligtasan ng komunidad at mga residente sa lugar,” said Meralco spokesman Joe Zaldarriaga.

If the rains continue, Meralco said, more areas will likely be affected.

It's a good thing that cellphone signals and the internet are still working.

Globe Telecom said its network remains operational despite the continuous rains.

"We have not monitored any service disruption in the affected areas and our network is fully operational,” the firm said.

* PLDT, Smart and Sun’s network is also working fine, but the companies remind consumers to charge their phones and other gadgets while power is still up.

"Rains are still expected over the weekend so we encourage the public to keep their mobile phones, radios and emergency lights fully charged,” they said in a joint statement.

Meralco, meanwhile, assures customers it will be quick in restoring power as soon as floodwaters subside.

So far, the utility said no electric poles were toppled, or wires cut despite the heavy rains brought by tropical storm “Mario.”

FROM THE INQUIRER

DPWH: Sorry, floods to recur till all 100 projects finishedBy Jerry E. Esplanada |Philippine Daily Inquirer3:35 am | Saturday, September 20th, 2014


Commuters make their way through a flooded street after heavy monsoon rains spawned by tropical storm Fung-Wong (local name Mario) flooded Manila and most parts of the metropolis Friday, Sept 19, 2014 in the Philippines. AP

The flash floods that shut down Metropolitan Manila and nearby provinces on Friday will keep recurring until the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) can finish clearing the waterways, upgrading the pumping stations and unclogging the roadside drains in the National Capital Region, the government said.

Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said “all these interventions are already [going on, but] they cannot be [finished] overnight.”

In a text message to the Inquirer, the DPWH said it hoped the public would understand the situation.

The Inquirer reported that of some 100 government flood-control projects funded by P4.96 billion from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), more than 60 had been completed while the rest were nearing completion.

The projects, the development of which started in late 2012, are part of the DPWH’s ambitious flood-control master plan for Metro Manila and surrounding areas in Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon.

At least 56 of the completed projects are in Metro Manila.

* Singson had said that since most of the DAP-funded projects were either already completed or nearing completion, they would not be dropped despite a Supreme Court ruling that declared the DAP unconstitutional.

“[The projects] are already covered by contracts and funded,” Singson said.

But with the Supreme Court’s decision, Singson said he had to put on hold “projects not yet started.”

He did not identify those projects.

Sometime in November last year, the DPWH acknowledged that it received nearly P5 billion in DAP funds.

The agency disclosed that in 2012, it received an initial P3.94 billion in DAP money, followed by an additional P1.06 billion in August.

The completed DAP-funded flood-control projects include the Upper Marikina River improvement program, which cost P222.5 million; four projects under the Mangahan Floodway Program, P190 million; two projects under the Mangahan Floodway Dredging Program, P100 million; the Marikina River dredging project, P50 million, and the Manila Bay seawall strengthening project, P211.05 million.

Twenty-four of 46 projects under the Valenzuela-Obando-Meycauayan River Program, with a budget allocation of P1.53 billion, were also “already completed,” said a DPWH report, a copy of which was furnished the Inquirer.

Twelve of 18 projects covered by Phase 1 of the Kalookan-Malabon-Navotas Area Flood-Control Program, which had a funding of P600 million, were also finished.

Unlike the DAP-funded projects, more than 550 small infrastructure projects nationwide funded by the equally controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) have been suspended by the DPWH.

The projects, however, would be resumed “as soon as the agency secures funding from other government budgetary sources,” said Reynaldo Tagudando, director of the DPWH office in Metro Manila.

The Department of Budget and Management and the DPWH have “agreed to issue payments to contractors whose PDAF-funded projects are either partially or already completed,” Tagudando said.

He said the DPWH would “validate the claims of contractors who have been expecting payment for their completed work.”

In a ruling in late 2013, the Supreme Court declared the PDAF and all congressional provisions covering the use of pork barrel funds “in violation of the Constitution.”

The court also ruled that PDAF funds should be returned to the National Treasury.

Aquino declares 2015 ‘banner year’ for PH By Christian Esguerra |Phililppine Daily Inquirer5:54 pm | Friday, September 19th, 2014


Paris, FRANCE –  President Benigno S. Aquino III and French President Francois Hollande delivers their statements during the Joint Press Statement at the Ground Floor of the Palais de L’Elysee on Wednesday (September 17, 2014). (Photo by: Ryan Lim / Malacañang Photo Bureau)

PARIS—President Benigno Aquino III has declared 2015 as a “banner year” for the Philippines owing to its economic “turnaround” and in time for the Southeast Asian regional integration.

“Given the unprecedented confidence enjoyed by our country, we expect 2015 to be a banner year,” he said in a speech at the French Institute of International Relations Thursday night (12:30 a.m. Friday) in Manila)

“After all, the factors that can allow us to build on our momentum are in place,” he added, citing the so-called “demographic sweet spot” that the country is expected to hit next year with a big proportion of the population entering working age.

“We have been investing in our greatest resource—our people, resulting in an expanding, productive labor force now even more prepared to seize all the opportunities. We have a strategic location, and vast potential to be a crucial hub of trade, investments, and services.”

The President said the Philippines’ “economic turnaround” was “especially significant” with the formal integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations into “economic community” next year.

Aquino said the integration would also open doors of opportunity to France and the rest of Europe.

“This is a milestone in the evolution of Asean as we pursue the common prosperity of our peoples and foster the peace and stability fundamental to continued development,” he said.

“This is a timely development. Given the recovery of markets in the Western Hemisphere, increased cooperation can only redound to a healthier global economy, and the promise of further growth and development for all.”

Voilà! Filipino-speaking monsieur surprises AquinoBy Christian V. Esguerra |Philippine Daily Inquirer4:13 am | Saturday, September 20th, 2014


Filipino-speaking Frenchman named Wesley Romain.SNIPPED FROM INSTAGRAM FILE.

PARIS—He stands 6-foot-4 (1.9 meters) and is a dead ringer for NBA superstar Kevin Durant. Not only that, he speaks fluent Filipino.

One of the biggest surprises President Benigno Aquino III probably had during his European trip was meeting a towering, Filipino-speaking Frenchman named Wesley Romain.

Romain, 26, raised his hand to ask a question during a forum organized by French Institute of International Relations here.

Mr. Aquino took notice as soon as the man walked toward the microphone.

“Perhaps they can recruit you for the Philippine basketball team,” the President said in jest.

But the real surprise came when the French guy replied, “Gusto ko pero hindi ako magaling (I would like to but I’m not good).” He went on to ask about “security sector reform and peace-building issues in the Philippines,” a question eventually lost on Mr. Aquino, who remained amazed with the Filipino-speaking Frenchman in an audience of French policy experts.

Romain asked a second question, “Pwede bang kumuha ng isang picture sa inyo (Can I have a photograph with you)?”
“Paano ka natuto ng Tagalog (How did you learn Tagalog)?”

Mr. Aquino asked and was told, “Kasi pusong Pinoy …. Estudyante ako sa Maynila, sa UP Diliman po (I’m a Filipino by heart …. I’m a former student at UP Diliman).”

Romain later told reporters that he was an exchange student of international studies at the University of the Philippines (UP) in 2011. He said he extended his stay and volunteered for various nongovernment organizations, such as Gawad Kalinga.

The President said he would “of course” accommodate the request for a photo-op but was so distracted that he had to be reminded of Romain’s more important question.

* Mr. Aquino said the Philippines was “improving our capabilities to defend ourselves” but “we don’t want to neglect the better side again,” meaning investments in social services, such as health and education.

Asked about the peace efforts in Mindanao, Mr. Aquino said he was “very optimistic about what will happen in the Bangsamoro.”

“Mindanao, as you know, is our land of promise and our dream is to make that land of promise, promises fulfilled,” he said.

“Again, the international community has been helping. Britain, with its experience in northern Ireland, has given us very important inputs from the very hard principle level to the nitty-gritty of policing …. So we are fortunate that the world is sharing with us their experiences so that we do not reinvent the wheel and we do not make the same mistakes,” he added.

At the end of the conference, the moderator announced that the President would be ushered to the car waiting outside for his next engagement. Mr. Aquino told his host that there was still one thing he had to do, pointing to the Filipino-speaking French man in front of him.

Romain won’t be leaving without his selfie with the President.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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