(STAR) By Paolo Romero - The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a resolution initiated by the Philippines and Pakistan for member-states to take steps to promote inter-religious and intercultural dialogue, tolerance and understanding, Malacañang said yesterday.

Ambassador to the UN Hilario Davide Jr. said in addition to the Philippines and Pakistan, 76 other member-states, including China, Japan and Russia, co-sponsored the resolution, up from the 56 member-states that co-sponsored the resolution last year and the 24 that co-sponsored the original resolution in 2004.

“Although it is the fifth resolution tabled by the Philippines and adopted by consensus by the General Assembly since 2004, the 2008 resolution is specially significant because it formally took note for the first time of the four major interfaith initiatives of the Philippines, outside the ambit of the United Nations,” he said.

Davide said these are the Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and the Tripartite Forum on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace at the international level and the Asia-Europe Interfaith Dialogue Forum and the Asia-Pacific Interfaith Dialogue for Peace and Harmony at the regional level.

“The resolution planted the seed for the eventual declaration of a United Nations Decade on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace from 2011 to 2020,” he said.

“It also encouraged member-states to consider the idea of an enhanced process of dialogue among world religions.”

Ambassador Leslie Gatan, deputy permanent representative, said these new elements were obtained after hard-fought negotiations steered by diplomats at the Philippine mission.

GMA orders cleanup of NPO Updated November 17, 2008 12:00 AM

(STAR) President Arroyo has ordered a thorough cleanup of the National Printing Office after Press Secretary Jesus Dureza discovered that the printing of ballots and other official papers has been overpriced.

The NPO is under the Office of the Press Secretary.

Dureza reported to Mrs. Arroyo that he started reviewing the NPO’s internal workings to “institute reforms” based on her instructions that he should clean up the agency.

“Less than two months after he assumed his post as press secretary in mid-June this year, Dureza reported to Mrs. Arroyo the result of the investigation he ordered on the goings-on in the NPO which he described as ‘notoriously known as a hotbed of corruption,’” read a Malacañang statement.

Dureza said following his investigation, he ordered the reduction of the printing cost of a ballot from P27.18 to P4.50.

“I was shocked to know, at the start of my work, that I was immediately confronted with a brazen attempt by some group to push for a highly excessive, overpriced and anomalous contract in the printing of ARMM ballots for the Aug. 11elections,” he said, referring to Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao polls.

Dureza said his “timely and decisive intervention” saved the government about P30 million, which he described as a “whopping… anomalous overprice.” – Paolo Romero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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