[PHOTO - President Aquino (center) shares a light moment with Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala (right), chairman of Ayala Corporation and Teresita Sy-Coson, chairman of Banco De Oro-Unibank, at the trading floor of the Philippine Stock Exchange in Makati on Tuesday. Aquino rang the bell to open the market which reached a historic closing level of above 5,000 points last Friday.]

MANILA, MARCH 7, 2012 (ABS-CBN) Philippine trading began on a jubilant atmosphere on Tuesday morning after the Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi), the barometer of the country's economic health, hit a historic high of 5,030.80 points at the close of trading hours on Monday.

No less than President Benigno S. Aquino III spearheaded this historic and joyous occasion by ringing the bell at the trading floor of the PSE in Ayala Avenue, Makati City to formally open the stock market's business day.

The President was joined in expressing the nation's exuberance during the historic event by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, PSE chairman Jose Pardo and PSE director Eusebio Tanco.

In his welcome remarks, Pardo said this robust performance of the PSEi was a direct result of the optimism the country’s investors see and feel about the Philippines under President Aquino's administration.

“This historic rise of the index is a strong testament to the growing investor interest in the Philippines, the continued strengthening of our macro-economic fundamentals, positive outlook on the growth of our listed companies and more importantly, confidence in the administration's good governance drive, among others, have been catching the attention of investors in both local and global markets,” Pardo said.

He added that since President Aquino took over the reigns of government in 2010, the PSEi's historic rise “marks the 11th time this year and the 19th time under the present administration that the index has set new highs.”

“Since the first day of the President's administration or in a matter of only 20 months, this index has already climbed by 52 percent,” Pardo stressed.

He vowed to work towards inviting more investors to invest in the Philippines in order to improve the index's performance to breach the 6,000 point mark.

“Moving past the 5,000 (mark) signals the beginning of our journey to what I understand, Mr. President, was your requested commitment from our (PSE) Director (Eusebio) Eusi Tanco for the index to breach, not the 5,000 (mark) but the 6,000 level,” Pardo said.


Double talk.

Bayan Muna president Satur Ocampo accuses President Benigno Aquino of endangering the peace talks.

A LEFTIST leader accused President Benigno Aquino III on Sunday of “hallucinating” on the whereabouts, ideology and political plans of Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison and said the “double-talk” would damage the peace process.

“Never had Joma indicated any interest to join any government after Marcos, or to run in any electoral exercise after such governments,” said Satur Ocampo, Bayan Muna president and a co-founder of the National Democratic Front, the umbrella group of communist organizations.

“He might well be hallucinating,” Ocampo said of Mr. Aquino, who had said Friday that Sison, who is in self-imposed exile in The Netherlands, could run in the 2013 elections.

“I wonder where he got such an idea.”

Ocampo also slammed President Aquino for engaging in peace talks while launching his own counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, aimed at thinning the ranks of the New People’s Army.

“The peace talks have stalled since June 2011 but he hasn’t lifted a finger to prod it,” Ocampo said.

“Instead, he pursues the counterinsurgency drive ... with the questionable goal to reduce the NPA to irrelevance by 2013.”

House Deputy Minority Leader and Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay, meanwhile, twitted Mr. Aquino for acting like a spokesman for the communists. She also said it was premature for him to talk about the elections when his administration had not done anything substantial to address the country’s pressing problems.

But an administration ally, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr., defended Mr. Aquino, saying his statement was a way of luring Sison to return and give up the armed struggle to join the political process.

“It was actually a harmless, off-the-cuff speculation,” Baguilat said.

Military officials said it would be better for Sison to join the elections than continue waging an armed struggle that had already lasted for 43 years, the longest communist insurgency in Asia.

Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil-Military Operations Rear Admiral Miguel Jose Rodriguez said Sison’s return would be “a good sign” and could end the armed struggle.

“Their entry into politics is democracy in action and people can judge them by their votes rather by fear of being liquidated by hit squads,” Rodriguez said of the communists.

Brig. Gen. Rolando Tenefrancia, head of the Armed Forces’ Civil Relations Service, said he also saw nothing wrong if Sison ran in 2013.

“Under our democratic processes anybody can run in any elective position for as long as they are qualified under our existing laws,” he said.

“If he [Sison] is qualified under our laws, it is better for him to be aboveground and go through the legal process than be underground and pursue armed struggle.”

Tenefrancia also said the NPA, although still a force to reckon with, had seen its numbers decline over the years from a peak of 24,000 combatants in the 1980s to about 4,000 now.

Anti-communist leader Rep. Pastor Alcover, who claimed last week that Sison was already in the country, said his running in 2013 was preparation for the dropping of all criminal charges against him or some form of Executive clemency.

The Palace denied his claims.


House resolution approving bombproof car for Noy lauded By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) Updated March 06, 2012 12:00 AM

[PHOTO COURTESY OF THE - The administration’s allies in the House on Sunday demanded that the Budget Department earmark funds to buy a bulletproof and bombproof car to replace the flood-damaged unit being used by President Benigno Aquino III.]

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang lauded yesterday the decision of the leadership of the House of Representatives under Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to approve the budget for the acquisition of a bombproof and bulletproof car for President Aquino.

“We welcome the resolution of the House to provide the President with a more updated bulletproof car,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said, following news reports that nearly 200 lawmakers have signed the resolution.

Aquino had to forgo using the black bulletproof Mercedez-Benz presidential car that his predecessor Gloria Arroyo used, after reports that it conked out in one of Arroyo’s official trips, and upon the advice of automobile experts.

The same luxury car was submerged in floodwaters in September 2009 during the catastrophic tropical storm “Ondoy,” when the Pasig River, along which Malacañang complex is located, overflowed.

The three-vehicle official presidential fleet at Malacañang Palace – consisting of two Mercedes- Benz W221 S-Class limousines acquired in 1998 and a Mercedes-Benz S-Guard automobile bought in 2007- is “in a sorry state unfit for use by the Chief Executive,” the House resolution stated.

It noted that “the two 1998-model vehicles are already unreliable because of wear and tear, and the relatively newer one bought in 2007 has been beset with intermittent, computer-related engine failures ever since it was submerged in floodwaters during the onslaught of typhoon Ondoy.”

“The three vehicles’ dealer – CATS Motors Inc. – that is also in-charge of maintaining these cars, has given up on the 2007-acquired vehicle after repairing it six times since Ondoy’s attack, and already advised the Presidential Security Group (PSG) against deploying it for the President’s use as it could malfunction anytime,” the resolution added.

The PSG has revealed that it has stopped using the repair-prone 2007 limousine as primary or secondary backup vehicle for Aquino, from the time it conked out on the road during a presidential trip to Baguio City last year.

“The PSG can better protect the President if he were to use as official state car a new automobile equipped with the latest security features such as those being used right now by other heads of state,” it said.

“The governments of many countries, including most of those in our neighbor-states, have already upgraded the official vehicles of their leaders in consideration of the heightened global terrorist attacks that use IED bombs as one weapon of choice,” it added.

The House resolution cited the urgency for the government “to acquire a new state car equipped with the latest security features, so the PSG can better protect the President in the face of stepped-up attacks by international terrorists who use improvised explosive device (IED) bombs to assassinate their targeted dignitaries.”

The lawmakers said the Department of Budget and Management could realign funds from government savings for this long-needed acquisition of a state car for the President, which will also be used by visiting heads of state.

The lawmakers pointed out that “the President’s ‘no wang-wang’ (siren) policy and his strict orders for his security detail to stop their convoy whenever the traffic lights turn red has made the Chief Executive far more vulnerable to possible terrorist attacks.”

“Be it as it is hereby resolved, that Movement 188 urges the DBM to help beef up security measures for President Aquino in the face of heightening global terrorist attacks by setting aside funds from government savings for the acquisition of a bulletproof and bombproof presidential state car to replace the flood-damaged official vehicle that has been sidelined by the PSG for security reasons,” said the lawmakers comprising Movement 188, or those who signed to impeach Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Given that the security of the President should have paramount concern in view of his position as the highest elective official of the land, the lawmakers said “the advent of IED bombs used by international terrorists necessitates the use by the highest official of the land of a state car that is not only bulletproof but bombproof as well.”

They said IEDs were used in last year’s separate attacks on the convoy of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo in Cotabato City and that of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu in Tacurong City.

Nobody was hurt in the Robredo incident but local media reports bared that Maguindanao board member Russman Sinsuat Sr. and a passerby were killed when an IED in a parked Kia car exploded and hit the third car in Mangudadatu’s convoy.

Local police suspected that Basit Usman, who is on the US list of most wanted terrorists with a $1 million price on his head, was behind Robredo’s car bombing incident, as he is known to be a maker of IEDs.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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