OCTOBER 12, 2006 (STAR) Malacañang acknowledged yesterday the concerns raised by investors regarding bureaucratic red tape and inefficiency in government, and gave assurances that these would not "fall on deaf ears."

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the government would have to work harder even as it welcomed the increase of foreign direct investments as a vote of confidence in the administration’s economic reforms.

"We are working double time to sharpen governance to attract more investments through our aggressive campaign against grafters, the rationalization of the bureaucracy and the reduction of red tape at all levels," Bunye said.

The government is also undertaking a full-scale computerization of all government transactions to further reduce red tape and is implementing a robust e-procurement program, he added.

Bunye said the administration would appreciate and continue to anticipate constructive suggestions from the business sector that would help the government improve its operations.

Foreign businessmen have submitted the other day their complaints to the government on bureaucratic red tape and inefficiency to help the Philippines improve its competitiveness.

The foreign chambers of commerce consolidated their concerns and identified three areas they want the government to immediately act on. These are improving "bureaucratic paper work," value added tax refunds, the issuance of the tax credit certificates, and the processing of work permits and visas. — Aurea Calica

Arroyo orders gov't agencies to check power price manipulation 10/12 1:28:42 PM

President Gloria Arroyo on Thursday ordered the Department of Energy and concerned government agencies to ensure no price manipulations of power rates would occur.

The President issued this order in reaction to the statement of Albay Rep. Joey Salceda that power rates would go up because "price manipulation" in the so-called wholesale spot electricity market (WESM) increased prices by two-thirds.

Press Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye said in a statement that Pres. Arroyo had given this instruction to ensure that consumers will not be taken advantage of.

"Reports of price manipulation are unacceptable and should not go unpunished if culpabilities are established," Bunye said.

He added, "For the benefit of the people, this government will continue to find ways to stabilize power rates and ensure the protection of consumers, even as we map out preemptive measures against shortages or brownouts in the future."

The specter of higher power rates was raised as an oil consumer watchdog warned of rotating blackouts nationwide from Nov. 18 to Dec. 17, even as Malacañang gave assurances that "no one will be groping in the dark in the coming years."

Philippines to leave North Korea situation to UN 10/12 12:31:31 PM

The Philippines said Thursday that it will leave to the United Nations the matter of the recent nuclear testing of North Korea.

Press Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye said in a statement, "The Philippines entrusts to the UN Security Council the best options to deal with this issue."

"We are for the peace and stability in the region and it is our responsibility to support any and all efforts to deescalate the situation and to restore peace and stability in the region," Bunye said.

In the meantime, he said the Philippine government will take its own measures to protect Filipino nationals from the threat of harm.

The Philippines earlier announced it is readying contingency and evacuation plans for Filipino nationals in South Korea, as its northern neighbor continues to defy calls to stop developing nuclear weapons and conducting tests.

Gov’t prepares to evacuate Pinoys in South Korea The Philippine Star 10/12/2006

The government is readying contingency and evacuation plans for Filipino nationals in South Korea, as its northern neighbor continues to defy calls to stop developing nuclear weapons and conducting tests.

President Arroyo said yesterday it’s best to be prepared even as she urged overseas Filipino workers in South Korea and their families to keep calm and allow the diplomatic process to work concerning North Korea.

Learning from past lessons, Mrs. Arroyo said the government has preparations for every contingency that would require taking Filipino nationals out of harm’s way.

"We have contingency plans that act as a protective mantle over our nationals in all corners of the globe whose safety and security are our primary concern," the President said.

"It may still be premature to put evacuation plans in motion as far as Korea is concerned, but we have instructed the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) and the DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) to be ready and prepared at all times," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo said the government would want to be able to respond to the situation similar to when war broke out in Iraq and Lebanon.

She expressed hopes mechanisms of stability would bear upon the situation and that the United Nations Security Council would come up with a solution to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons project.

Earlier, Mrs. Arroyo said North Korea’s refusal to heed the world’s call to stop nuclear testing "hangs a Damocles sword above East Asia, threatening regional integration and places the prosperity of all people in this part of the world at risk."

The President noted that the Philippines was within "striking distance" of North Korea, and she condemned in strongest terms the testing last Sunday.

The government also joined the international community in urging the North Korean government to drop its development of weapons of mass destruction and to shift its focus on regional collaboration rather than intimidation.

The UNSC has weighed a US proposal to impose potentially crippling sanctions on North Korea because of its decision to set off an atomic explosion. — Aurea Calica

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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