News early this week...

NOY'S LAST STOP FROM CALIFORNIA: GUNS, BURGERS AND JAZZ 

SEPT 27 ---PHOTO: Instagram photo shows police motorcycles parked outside a McDonald’s on Haight street in San Francisco, where President Aquino stopped for lunch. Inset shows the President with Jeff Downs, an employee of the Peninsula Gun Store in San Bruno. - President Aquino chose to finish his visit to the United States with burgers, guns and jazz.

On his final day in San Francisco last Thursday, the President’s motorcade stopped traffic when he decided to pause for lunch at a local McDonald’s. His entourage of San Francisco police officers, motorcycles and security SUVs almost blocked the street when they pulled over for lunch at the Haight branch of McDonald’s. The President also spent some time shopping for gun accessories at a gun store in San Bruno. Aquino is a gun enthusiast, and once told The STAR that he owned more than 20 guns. He did not add any guns to his collection in San Francisco, however, choosing instead to buy some gun accessories from Peninsula Guns. In a Facebook post, Jeff Downs, a worker at Peninsula Guns, posted a photo of President Aquino with the caption: “The randomness of gun sales. The president of the Philippines decided to stop by and buy some stuff. Really nice man!”

In an interview with ANC, Downs said Aquino “spent a decent amount of money.”  “He was really interested in the EO tech optics for rifles. I guess it’s really hard to get them in the Philippines so he was able to get them here. Members of his entourage were able to pick up some stuff too,” he said. Aquino bought gun optics, a range bag, eye and ear protection gear, and a safe, according to the ANC report. The President gave Downs, whose wife is Filipina, a custom iPhone 5 cover with the slogan “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.”  “He’s a very nice guy. He sat here and talked to us for about an hour. Took some pictures with us. He was very pleasant and very mild-mannered. A big enthusiast of firearms, you can tell by his knowledge. It was fun,” he said. President Aquino also browsed jazz CDs at Amoeba Music. He was in the US as part of a five-day tour. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO: Aquino assures emergency powers won't be abused 

SEPT 30---President Benigno Aquino III assured on Tuesday that the emergency powers he is seeking from Congress to prevent a looming energy crisis will not be abused. Speaking at the Energy Smart Philippines 2014 in Pasay City, Aquino said he asked Congress for a joint resolution authorizing the national government to contract additional generating capacity to ensure that the economy will remain strong during a power crisis.

"I am aware that investors in the energy sector are worried about these measures distorting the market, but let me assure you: government intervention is meant only to address the shortage. The sole goal of this initiative is to make sure our economy does not lose its momentum in the event of an energy shortage," Aquino said. Two weeks ago, Aquino formally asked Congress for authority to establish additional generating capacity to address the 300-megawatt (MW) projected deficit for the summer of 2015 in Luzon, and to generate another 300 MW in power reserves. Aquino cited the projection of the Department of Energy of a "critical electricity situation" next year due to the expected effects of the El Nino phenomenon and the scheduled maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya natural gas facility, among other things.

He invoked Section 71 of Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, which allows the government to contract additional generating capacity under terms and conditions to be approved by Congress. *READ MORE...

(ALSO) LP Stalwart Biazon to Aquino: Address corruption issues  

OCT 1 ---A stalwart of the Liberal Party yesterday called on President Aquino to address corruption as it is a major issue that would influence the 2016 national elections. According to Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon (photo), corruption has plagued the Office of the President and other government offices and that President Aquino should issue and implement a more significant campaign to eliminate the malady in government. “I think the major issue that will influence the election of 2016 will be the issue of corruption,” Biazon told reporters during the weekly media forum - Ugnayan sa Batasan — at the House of Representatives.

“I think our people are getting tired of corruption because never in the history of Philippine politics has corruption been attached to the highest office and offices of government, to the highest branches of the government - from the executive to the legislature and even the judiciary is not free from the issue of corruption,” Biazon said.
Biazon, a former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines before winning a Senate seat, told President Aquino that he has over a year to address corruption issues to give the people something to consider in choosing the next chief executive.

“Well, he still has one year and a half to implement this, that is why it is important for the people to consider those who are indicating that they would like to replace President Aquino, either within the president’s party or within the opposition party,” he said. Biazon said President Aquino should be given a chance to “correct things” before stepping down in 2016. “As I said, give him (President Aquino) a chance to adopt certain measures to eliminate those who are corrupt in the executive,” the Muntinlupa lawmaker said.* READ MORE...

ALSO: More Pinoys oppose second term for Aquino, Cha-cha - Pulse Asia 

OCT 2 ---Around six in 10 Filipinos are not in favor of President Benigno Aquino III running again for
the presidency after his term ends in 2016, a Pulse Asia survey revealed on Thursday. According to the latest poll, 62 percent of Filipinos oppose proposals for Aquino to seek a second term should the 1987 Constitution be amended to allow for the re-election of an incumbent chief executive. Pulse Asia said this is the majority sentiment across socio-economic classes (61 percent to 65 percent) and geographic areas (52 percent to 71 percent), with the Visayas being the exception. Opposition to the proposal is more evident in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon than in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Only 33 percent of Filipinos are supportive of a term extension for Aquino, Pulse Asia said. Cha-cha rejected  The newest survey also found out that for 62 percent of Filipinos, there is no need to amend the 1987 Constitution at the present time - with 32 percent opposed to charter change at any other time and 30 percent being open to the idea in the future. Pulse Asia said opposition to charter change now is the majority sentiment in each geographic area and socio-economic groups. On the other hand, 20 percent of Filipinos believe that the Constitution should be amended now while 18 percent are undecided. The latest poll also showed that big majorities of Filipinos reject two specific proposed amendments to the Constitution. About 70 percent are not in favor of limiting the powers of the Supreme Court to review decisions of the executive branch while 85 percent oppose foreign ownership of residential and industrial lands in the country. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Palace not giving up on term extension 

OCT 3 --Despite survey results showing public disapproval of Charter change and a term extension for President Aquino, Malacañang is not yet putting the issue to rest, saying it’s the voice of the people that should ultimately matter. “Isn’t it the responsibility of the President to respond to the voices and sentiments of the people that he serves?” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said. “This is a continuing process that the President has committed to undertake as part of his stewardship as the Chief Executive of the land,” Coloma added.

He said the Pulse Asia survey may simply be part of an ongoing process of determining the sentiments of the people on Cha-cha and on a possible reelection bid of Aquino. Coloma said they were doing round-the-clock monitoring of public opinion. Asked why the President would rather keep the issue hanging and give the people mixed signals, Coloma said free speech and debates were part of a healthy democracy and not one sector, even government, has the monopoly of opinion. “We should be comfortable in discussing issues like these and we should not get tired of tackling matters that have implications on the country’s future,” Coloma said. He stressed the President was not getting distracted and remained focused on fulfilling his social contract with the people.

He said even Cha-cha and term extension debates should be taken in the context of Aquino’s desire to sustain reforms and make them felt by everyone. “That’s what we are paying attention to, dedicated and determined (to do),” Coloma said. Based on the Pulse Asia survey, around six in 10 Filipinos are not in favor of a second term for Aquino if the 1987 Constitution were to amended to allow him to seek another term. The same survey showed 62 percent or a “sizeable majority” of Filipinos oppose Cha-cha. Asked about their reaction on the figures, Coloma said: “Tinatanggap namin ’yon nang mahinahon at walang sorpresa (We accept it calmly and without surprise).” “Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them,” he said. “Therefore, we take the position that the voice of the people ought to be heard; the voice of the people ought to be listened to as a basis for decision-making,” he added. * READ MORE...

ALSO: P53.9B for MRT buyout a waste of taxpayers’ money – senators  

OCT 2 --PHOTO: ‘GIMME!’ — Department of Budget and Management Secretary
Florencio Abad gestures as he justifies the proposed budget for his office at the hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance, headed by Senator Francis Escudero, yesterday. (Tony Pionilla)

Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero. chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Sergio R. Osmeña III, chairman of the Senate Banks Committee, yesterday said the proposed P53.9-billion budget to buy out the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) is a waste of taxpayers’ money. The two senators said this when Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad appeared before the Escudero committee to defend the DBM’s proposed P1.418-billion budget for 2015, which is P421 million higher than its current budget of P997.5 million. The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) planned to buyout MRTC in a bid to improve the poor services of MRT 3 that serves commuters from Quezon City to Pasay City.

Escudero said he really planned to delete the P53.9 billion in the “unprogrammed funds” of the proposed P2.6-trillion national budget for 2015 as requested by the DOTC. He, however, pointed out that President Aquino has already authorized the DBM to source out the funds from loans to enable the DOTC to “activate” the unprogrammed funds – which means the government can now access the P53.9 billion without going to Congress anymore. Escudero recalled that DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya had wanted to bid out to the private sector the “operations and maintenance” (O&M) of MRT3 after admitting earlier that the DOTC can do the O&M of the railway if government could not buy it. “The long and short of it is that Abaya wants to bid out the O&M and if they can do it, why do we still have to pay? The result is he can do it, why do we pay?” Escudero asked. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Noy gov’t did nothing to oversee MRT ops - Senate hearing  

OCT 2 --The government, even under the helm of President Aquino, has been remiss in overseeing the operations of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) as efforts to upgrade the mass railway system, even at no cost to the administration, were not acted upon. In the continuing hearing at the Senate yesterday, the private sector involved in the construction and operations of the MRT, the Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC), made at least four proposals and even offered a way out of the current ownership mess that had been blamed to have stalled the expansion and other development plans of the mass transport system.

This means abandoning the arbitration case pending in Singapore and plans of taking future legal actions. The statements given by former MRTC chairman Robert John Sobrepeña before the Senate public services subcommittee on transportation chaired by Sen. Grace Poe, ran in contradiction with the previous testimony given in the last hearing by Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, that there was a breach in the obligations to upgrade the MRT.

Abaya, it can be recalled told Senate probers last Sept. 1 that the government is set to pursue a complete takeover of the operations of MRT through a compromise in pending arbitration case even as the government eyes of taking legal action against MRTC.  Government is likely to bleed more money in buying out MRTC after the private sector partners in MRT told senators that the P53-billion equity by Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines would be “insufficient” in the planned government takeover as this will only cover 80 percent ownership, the remaining 20 percent representing other investors, is estimated to be around $200 million to $300 million.

“To extrapolate, that would be another $200 million to $300 million,” Sobrepeña said in answering a query from Sen. Sergio Osmeña III. Senators, however, are not sold to the idea of having to shell out tens of billions of taxpayers’ money just to take over the operations of MRT or even include the P53 billion in the proposed 2015 national budget for the supposed buyout. Besides, the buyout would not be possible unless the private owner in the MRT is offering to sell its shares to the government, which is what is provided in the build-lease-transfer (BLT) scheme, as noted to Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero. Poe also dismissed the likelihood of a government takeover being funded in 2015 proposed General Appropriations Act as the government officials haven’t justified the need or the urgency to pay the P53 billion. * READ MORE...

 ALSO: ‘Extortion in ports being addressed’ -Palace 

OCT 3 ---Malacañang assured companies and truckers yesterday that various actions are being taken to stop extortion or corruption at the Port of Manila. Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said one step being taken is the use of modern technology to make all processes “overwhelmingly transparent” and less susceptible to abuse. He added that he had received complaints that efforts to decongest the ports were also taken advantage of by unscrupulous individuals telling businessmen and truckers to “pay this and that” so they could immediately get their cargoes out. Almendras said an investigation is ongoing and that the government would make sure that those involved in any wrongdoing would be punished under the country’s laws.

“We must let all the importers know the truth,” he said. Almendras said other actions on the problem would include as simple as having bulletin board in the ports showing the names of the shipping lines and their allocations so their trucks could come in without paying P500 to P2,500 to extortionists. “There is a color coding. So that’s green, yellow, red. When it’s red, it means the total allocation for that particular shipping line is already full for that day or for that period. When it’s yellow, it means they still have 10 or 20. It’s defined there how many. When it’s green, it means the containers of shipping lines can still come in,” Almendras said. He stressed that importers need not pay and all they have to do is “check on these boards” and they would see the shipping lines holding their cargoes. “If you have any issues or complaints regarding that, please talk to the help desk of the terminal operators.” He said there is also a dispatch system that businessmen can follow for the scheduled pickup of their cargoes. “What we’re trying to avoid is for the trucks to queue up at ports waiting to get in.”  * READ MORE...

ALSO Tribune Opinion: Promises   

OCT 1--Since he assumed office in 2010, President Aquino, as of September this year, has traveled to more than 20 countries that included advanced economies like the United States, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Australia and Spain, among others. He has also visited China, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Russia, New Zealand, Australia, Myanmar, South Korea and Malaysia. It looks like President Noy is now beginning to enjoy his foreign tours. And every time Aquino came home from his foreign travels, Malacañang would tell the nation that his trips have been fruitful, as businesses were soon rushing in as a result of his selling effort.

Having returned from his 12-day trip to four countries in Europe and the United States after spending P46.7 million in taxpayers’ money — the European visit to Spain, Belgium, France and Germany was pegged at P31.9 million while the US travel amounted to P14.8 million — Aquino, in his speech, cited a few of the country’s gains from the 94 engagements he attended with different heads of states and business executives. Almost $2.35 billion worth of investments is expected, which will eventually create 33,850 jobs, he said. Malacañang also said the President has always focused on creating long-term investments for the country. “In exploring our energy options, President Aquino demonstrates that this administration’s focus goes beyond the present and extends to the future,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, in a statement, stressed. Before leaving the country, Aquino said he will target foreign investments and trade during his 10-day European tour from Sept. 13 to 23.

“I don’t want to tell you which investments we’re hoping to come in because, as the saying goes, it hasn’t happened yet and we don’t want to jinx it,” he stressed, adding he will promote the Philippines as an investment capital because of a well-trained and English speaking labor force. “Big investments will range from tourism to products like Information Technology,” said assistant Foreign Secretary Zeneida Angara Collinson, without giving details.
Critics, however, noted that the weak economies of European countries would not sustain this target. Reacting to Aquino’s European tour, businessman Peter Wallace was quoted as saying the President’s 30 trips to 17 countries in three years resulted only in the entry of $9 billion in foreign direct investments (FDI) to the Philippines. In the last three years, Wallace compared, China had $975 billion in FDI; Singapore had $175.4 billion; Indonesia had $56 billion; Malaysia had $36.4 billion; Thailand had $27.4 billion; and Vietnam had $24.7 billion.
* READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA NEWS REPORT:

Noy’s last stops: Guns, burgers and jazz


Instagram photo shows police motorcycles parked outside a McDonald’s on Haight street in San Francisco, where President Aquino stopped for lunch. Inset shows the President with Jeff Downs, an employee of the Peninsula Gun Store in San Bruno.

MANILA, OCTOBER 7, 2014 (PHILSTAR) By Tess Mcclure - President Aquino chose to finish his visit to the United States with burgers, guns and jazz.

On his final day in San Francisco last Thursday, the President’s motorcade stopped traffic when he decided to pause for lunch at a local McDonald’s.

His entourage of San Francisco police officers, motorcycles and security SUVs almost blocked the street when they pulled over for lunch at the Haight branch of McDonald’s.

The President also spent some time shopping for gun accessories at a gun store in San Bruno.

Aquino is a gun enthusiast, and once told The STAR that he owned more than 20 guns.

He did not add any guns to his collection in San Francisco, however, choosing instead to buy some gun accessories from Peninsula Guns.

In a Facebook post, Jeff Downs, a worker at Peninsula Guns, posted a photo of President Aquino with the caption: “The randomness of gun sales. The president of the Philippines decided to stop by and buy some stuff. Really nice man!”

In an interview with ANC, Downs said Aquino “spent a decent amount of money.”

“He was really interested in the EO tech optics for rifles. I guess it’s really hard to get them in the Philippines so he was able to get them here. Members of his entourage were able to pick up some stuff too,” he said.

Aquino bought gun optics, a range bag, eye and ear protection gear, and a safe, according to the ANC report.

The President gave Downs, whose wife is Filipina, a custom iPhone 5 cover with the slogan “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.”

“He’s a very nice guy. He sat here and talked to us for about an hour. Took some pictures with us. He was very pleasant and very mild-mannered. A big enthusiast of firearms, you can tell by his knowledge. It was fun,” he said.

President Aquino also browsed jazz CDs at Amoeba Music. He was in the US as part of a five-day tour.

Aquino assures emergency powers won't be abused By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated September 30, 2014 - 11:24am 2 58 googleplus0 2

Aquino assures emergency powers won't be abused By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated September 30, 2014 - 11:24am

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III assured on Tuesday that the emergency powers he is seeking from Congress to prevent a looming energy crisis will not be abused.

Speaking at the Energy Smart Philippines 2014 in Pasay City, Aquino said he asked Congress for a joint resolution authorizing the national government to contract additional generating capacity to ensure that the economy will remain strong during a power crisis.

"I am aware that investors in the energy sector are worried about these measures distorting the market, but let me assure you: government intervention is meant only to address the shortage. The sole goal of this initiative is to make sure our economy does not lose its momentum in the event of an energy shortage," Aquino said.

Two weeks ago, Aquino formally asked Congress for authority to establish additional generating capacity to address the 300-megawatt (MW) projected deficit for the summer of 2015 in Luzon, and to generate another 300 MW in power reserves.

Aquino cited the projection of the Department of Energy of a "critical electricity situation" next year due to the expected effects of the El Nino phenomenon and the scheduled maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya natural gas facility, among other things.

He invoked Section 71 of Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, which allows the government to contract additional generating capacity under terms and conditions to be approved by Congress.

* The President had warned that the expected power shortage will threaten the country's economy.

Militant party-list representatives had warned that emergency powers for the President might entail "sweetheart deals, corruption, take or pay and high electricity rates."

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said these are among the anomalies that happened after Congress granted then President Ramos special powers to solve the energy crisis.

“The President asked for emergency powers just like Republic Act 7648 during Ramos’ time and the essence of this power is to ask Congress for authority to enter into negotiated contracts for additional generating capacity,” he said.

READ: P-Noy defends need for emergency powers

In his speech on Tuesday, Aquino also assured the private sector stakeholders that the government remains committed to its national renewable energy program, which aims to add 9,931 megawatts of renewable energy-based capacity by 2030.

"Our country’s goal for the energy sector has always been clear: we want reliable power, preferably clean and reasonably priced," Aquino said.

"As early as now, it is of absolute importance that we continue exploring and investing in clean and renewable energy sources," he added.

FROM THE TRIBUNE

Biazon to Aquino: Address corruption issues Written by Gerry Baldo Wednesday, 01 October 2014 00:00


BIAZON

A stalwart of the Liberal Party yesterday called on President Aquino to address corruption as it is a major issue that would influence the 2016 national elections.

According to Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, corruption has plagued the Office of the President and other government offices and that President Aquino should issue and implement a more significant campaign to eliminate the malady in government.

“I think the major issue that will influence the election of 2016 will be the issue of corruption,” Biazon told reporters during the weekly media forum - Ugnayan sa Batasan — at the House of Representatives.

“I think our people are getting tired of corruption because never in the history of Philippine politics has corruption been attached to the highest office and offices of government, to the highest branches of the government - from the executive to the legislature and even the judiciary is not free from the issue of corruption,” Biazon said.

Biazon, a former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines before winning a Senate seat, told President Aquino that he has over a year to address corruption issues to give the people something to consider in choosing the next chief executive.

“Well, he still has one year and a half to implement this, that is why it is important for the people to consider those who are indicating that they would like to replace President Aquino, either within the president’s party or within the opposition party,” he said.

Biazon said President Aquino should be given a chance to “correct things” before stepping down in 2016.

“As I said, give him (President Aquino) a chance to adopt certain measures to eliminate those who are corrupt in the executive,” the Muntinlupa lawmaker said.

* Biazon, in an apparent admission that the government has failed to prosecute erring government officials, said that the President should be sincere in prosecuting those involved in corruption issues.

“I think the main thing is to hold those responsible, accountable to the people for whatever they do in the performance of their functions in government. Hold them accountable; this means really investigating these and jail those responsible,” he said.

On the allegations of corruption against Philippine National Police Chief Alan Purisima, Biazon said it is high time for President Aquino to listen to his “bosses.”

Biazon, however, in the course of the forum, contradicted himself by saying: “I am glad to say that the issue of corruption was not attached to President Aquino. President Aquino symbolizes the efforts of our people to eliminate corruption as the source of poverty, as the source of social injustice and the reason for the failure of the government to deliver basic services and basic needs of our people.”

Aquino is well-known for protecting his aides, allies and close friends and instantly absolves them even without any investigation done, and even when complaints are lodged against his aides and allies in the executive department.

Neither does the Ombudsman, Conchita Carpio-Morales move to investigate the complaints against Aquino’s aides and allies.

FROM PHILSTAR

More Pinoys oppose second term for Aquino, Cha-cha - Pulse Asia By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated October 2, 2014 - 10:28am 2 83 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Around six in 10 Filipinos are not in favor of President Benigno Aquino III running again for the presidency after his term ends in 2016, a Pulse Asia survey revealed on Thursday.

According to the latest poll, 62 percent of Filipinos oppose proposals for Aquino to seek a second term should the 1987 Constitution be amended to allow for the re-election of an incumbent chief executive.

Pulse Asia said this is the majority sentiment across socio-economic classes (61 percent to 65 percent) and geographic areas (52 percent to 71 percent), with the Visayas being the exception.

Opposition to the proposal is more evident in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon than in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Only 33 percent of Filipinos are supportive of a term extension for Aquino, Pulse Asia said.

Cha-cha rejected

The newest survey also found out that for 62 percent of Filipinos, there is no need to amend the 1987 Constitution at the present time - with 32 percent opposed to charter change at any other time and 30 percent being open to the idea in the future.

Pulse Asia said opposition to charter change now is the majority sentiment in each geographic area and socio-economic groups.

On the other hand, 20 percent of Filipinos believe that the Constitution should be amended now while 18 percent are undecided.

The latest poll also showed that big majorities of Filipinos reject two specific proposed amendments to the Constitution.

About 70 percent are not in favor of limiting the powers of the Supreme Court to review decisions of the executive branch while 85 percent oppose foreign ownership of residential and industrial lands in the country.

* The Pulse Asia survey was conducted from September 8 to 15, weeks after Aquino fueled speculations that he wanted to seek a second term with the declaration of his openness to Charter change.

Aquino and his spokespersons had been sending mixed signals on the issue, repeatedly saying that he will listen to the voice of his bosses - the Filipinos.

But the President had also clarified that he only wants constitutional amendments that will clip the powers of the Supreme Court.

Aquino had claimed that the high court has been overchecking the executive department, making it difficult for him to run the government.

His criticisms of the Supreme Court came after the Disbursement Acceleration Program of his administration was unanimously declared unconstitutional.

Palace not giving up on term extension By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 3, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Despite survey results showing public disapproval of Charter change and a term extension for President Aquino, Malacañang is not yet putting the issue to rest, saying it’s the voice of the people that should ultimately matter.

“Isn’t it the responsibility of the President to respond to the voices and sentiments of the people that he serves?” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

“This is a continuing process that the President has committed to undertake as part of his stewardship as the Chief Executive of the land,” Coloma added.

He said the Pulse Asia survey may simply be part of an ongoing process of determining the sentiments of the people on Cha-cha and on a possible reelection bid of Aquino.

Coloma said they were doing round-the-clock monitoring of public opinion.

Asked why the President would rather keep the issue hanging and give the people mixed signals, Coloma said free speech and debates were part of a healthy democracy and not one sector, even government, has the monopoly of opinion.

“We should be comfortable in discussing issues like these and we should not get tired of tackling matters that have implications on the country’s future,” Coloma said.

He stressed the President was not getting distracted and remained focused on fulfilling his social contract with the people.

He said even Cha-cha and term extension debates should be taken in the context of Aquino’s desire to sustain reforms and make them felt by everyone.

“That’s what we are paying attention to, dedicated and determined (to do),” Coloma said.

Based on the Pulse Asia survey, around six in 10 Filipinos are not in favor of a second term for Aquino if the 1987 Constitution were to amended to allow him to seek another term.

The same survey showed 62 percent or a “sizeable majority” of Filipinos oppose Cha-cha.

Asked about their reaction on the figures, Coloma said: “Tinatanggap namin ’yon nang mahinahon at walang sorpresa (We accept it calmly and without surprise).”

“Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them,” he said. “Therefore, we take the position that the voice of the people ought to be heard; the voice of the people ought to be listened to as a basis for decision-making,” he added.

* For the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), the Pulse Asia survey result should convince the administration of the futility of forcing on the people its “self serving” political and “foreign-dictated” economic agenda.

Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said the recent Pulse Asia survey showed that President Aquino’s use of the Cha-cha issue to cover up scandals involving officials is not working.

“The ‘second term’ agenda is being used to proclaim the nonexistent achievements of the government and cover-up the corruption scandals involving Aquino and his officials,” he said.

He also said it’s the big foreign business interests that are pushing for changes in the economic provisions of the Constitution.

“The worsening economic crisis has made Filipinos reject greater foreign control over our economy,” Reyes said.

Meanwhile, farmers belonging to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) will launch week-long protests this month against the administration’s effort to change the Constitution to allow the president to seek reelection.

FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

P53.9B for MRT buyout a waste of taxpayers’ money – senators MANILA BULLETIN by Mario Casayuran October 1, 2014 Share this:


‘GIMME!’ — Department of Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad gestures as he justifies the proposed budget for his office at the hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance, headed by Senator Francis Escudero, yesterday. (Tony Pionilla)

Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero. chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Sergio R. Osmeña III, chairman of the Senate Banks Committee, yesterday said the proposed P53.9-billion budget to buy out the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

The two senators said this when Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad appeared before the Escudero committee to defend the DBM’s proposed P1.418-billion budget for 2015, which is P421 million higher than its current budget of P997.5 million.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) planned to buyout MRTC in a bid to improve the poor services of MRT 3 that serves commuters from Quezon City to Pasay City.

Escudero said he really planned to delete the P53.9 billion in the “unprogrammed funds” of the proposed P2.6-trillion national budget for 2015 as requested by the DOTC.

He, however, pointed out that President Aquino has already authorized the DBM to source out the funds from loans to enable the DOTC to “activate” the unprogrammed funds – which means the government can now access the P53.9 billion without going to Congress anymore.

Escudero recalled that DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya had wanted to bid out to the private sector the “operations and maintenance” (O&M) of MRT3 after admitting earlier that the DOTC can do the O&M of the railway if government could not buy it.

“The long and short of it is that Abaya wants to bid out the O&M and if they can do it, why do we still have to pay? The result is he can do it, why do we pay?” Escudero asked.

* But Osmeña foresees a “long fight” ahead on the proposed equity buyout of MRT3, which could be “triggered not by the government but by the MRTC.”

“If they (MRTC) do not want to sell, you cannot force them to sell. The P40 billion to be paid to the DBP (Development Bank of the Philippines) and the Land Bank of the Philippines for buying the MRTC bonds – which was ‘an anomalous transaction in the first place’ – was overpriced, which can be used elsewhere,” he explained.

Osmeña said he will ask the Department of Finance (DOF) to cut the proposed P53 billion so we don’t make official the payment of kickback and be able to ramp up our expenditure on infrastructure.

Abad admitted that the senators’ opinions on the MRT3 are proving to be beyond his comprehension.

“The legal complications have been unraveling through time. When we initially discussed the inclusion of P53 billion in the unprogrammed funds the points raised by Secretary Abaya were not in fact on the table yet. This thing is developing as we go on,” he said.

FROM THE TRIBUNE

Noy gov’t did nothing to oversee MRT ops Written by Angie M. Rosales Thursday, 02 October 2014 00:00



The government, even under the helm of President Aquino, has been remiss in overseeing the operations of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) as efforts to upgrade the mass railway system, even at no cost to the administration, were not acted upon.

In the continuing hearing at the Senate yesterday, the private sector involved in the construction and operations of the MRT, the Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC), made at least four proposals and even offered a way out of the current ownership mess that had been blamed to have stalled the expansion and other development plans of the mass transport system.

This means abandoning the arbitration case pending in Singapore and plans of taking future legal actions.

The statements given by former MRTC chairman Robert John Sobrepeña before the Senate public services subcommittee on transportation chaired by Sen. Grace Poe, ran in contradiction with the previous testimony given in the last hearing by Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, that there was a breach in the obligations to upgrade the MRT.

Abaya, it can be recalled told Senate probers last Sept. 1 that the government is set to pursue a complete takeover of the operations of MRT through a compromise in pending arbitration case even as the government eyes of taking legal action against MRTC.

Government is likely to bleed more money in buying out MRTC after the private sector partners in MRT told senators that the P53-billion equity by Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines would be “insufficient” in the planned government takeover as this will only cover 80 percent ownership, the remaining 20 percent representing other investors, is estimated to be around $200 million to $300 million.

“To extrapolate, that would be another $200 million to $300 million,” Sobrepeña said in answering a query from Sen. Sergio Osmeña III.

Senators, however, are not sold to the idea of having to shell out tens of billions of taxpayers’ money just to take over the operations of MRT or even include the P53 billion in the proposed 2015 national budget for the supposed buyout.
Besides, the buyout would not be possible unless the private owner in the MRT is offering to sell its shares to the government, which is what is provided in the build-lease-transfer (BLT) scheme, as noted to Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero.

Poe also dismissed the likelihood of a government takeover being funded in 2015 proposed General Appropriations Act as the government officials haven’t justified the need or the urgency to pay the P53 billion.

* In the said hearing, Sobrepena said they have presented a series of proposals to the DoTC as early as 1999 for capacity expansion, including new coaches and upgrading of the system all the way to Monumento in Caloocan as envisioned under the BLT agreement.

“Our last proposal was in 2007. Since all of these were unacted upon, we reiterated again another proposal in 2007.

At this year, the DoTC began to question us as to why we were buying new cars. They had the idea that it will be cheaper if we bought second-hand trains in 2007. This took us aback. We refused to actually offer govt second-hand trains.

This led to a long impasse and discussions and letter-writing. I think we took a total of 15 letters to DoTC including refusing to buy second-hand trains. In frustration, we went into cooperation agreement with Metro Pacific (Investments Corp.) in 2011 since all of these proposals...for Metro Pacific to take the initiative to make an offer under a BOT (build-operate-transfer), a PPP (public-private partnership) proposal,” he said.

Abaya acknowledged the statements made by Sobrepena on the series of offers made since early 2000, yet mainained that there was also no response from MRTC then when the DoTC requested them to acquire new trains in 2007 and 2008.

“Til it came to the time of President, (the offer) in 2011, I think as described by Sobrepena is not anymore in accordance with the BLT. It’s a totally new proposal... and after doing the math and looking after the interest of our people, it wouldn’t put us in a better position because it extends further the concession agreement (by 15 years). So basically you have a fresh 25 rather than a 10 year to go before the concession is terminated.

Extortion in ports being addressed’ By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 3, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang assured companies and truckers yesterday that various actions are being taken to stop extortion or corruption at the Port of Manila.

Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said one step being taken is the use of modern technology to make all processes “overwhelmingly transparent” and less susceptible to abuse.

He added that he had received complaints that efforts to decongest the ports were also taken advantage of by unscrupulous individuals telling businessmen and truckers to “pay this and that” so they could immediately get their cargoes out.

Almendras said an investigation is ongoing and that the government would make sure that those involved in any wrongdoing would be punished under the country’s laws.

“We must let all the importers know the truth,” he said.

Almendras said other actions on the problem would include as simple as having bulletin board in the ports showing the names of the shipping lines and their allocations so their trucks could come in without paying P500 to P2,500 to extortionists.

“There is a color coding. So that’s green, yellow, red. When it’s red, it means the total allocation for that particular shipping line is already full for that day or for that period. When it’s yellow, it means they still have 10 or 20. It’s defined there how many. When it’s green, it means the containers of shipping lines can still come in,” Almendras said.

He stressed that importers need not pay and all they have to do is “check on these boards” and they would see the shipping lines holding their cargoes.

“If you have any issues or complaints regarding that, please talk to the help desk of the terminal operators.”

He said there is also a dispatch system that businessmen can follow for the scheduled pickup of their cargoes.

“What we’re trying to avoid is for the trucks to queue up at ports waiting to get in.”

* He said there were a lot of gimmicks and styles truckers would have to stop and these were being perpetrated by personalities both in and out of government.

He said aside from the two meetings they would call with importers to avoid confusion, they would also put up a website so they could have their containers’ number and check their status.

“You will see in that facility whether (the containers have been) cleared by the Customs…where they are so no one can tell you that… your container is stuck you have to pay before we release this.”

“So, you can see that. Our solution to the corruption and to the abuse is to create overwhelming transparency. That is why, we are calling a meeting with the importers so that the importers will be given the truth and they will know the actual status so they will not be fooled or made to believe various stories,” Almendras said.

He said they would give more updates once the other problems at the Port of Manila are addressed.

But he conceded that after some problems were solved, new ones would always crop up because of unscrupulous individuals involved in port operations.

OPINION FROM THE TRIBUNE

Promises Written by don cervantes Wednesday, 01 October 2014 00:00

Since he assumed office in 2010, President Aquino, as of September this year, has traveled to more than 20 countries that included advanced economies like the United States, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Australia and Spain, among others.

He has also visited China, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Russia, New Zealand, Australia, Myanmar, South Korea and Malaysia.

It looks like President Noy is now beginning to enjoy his foreign tours.

And every time Aquino came home from his foreign travels, Malacañang would tell the nation that his trips have been fruitful, as businesses were soon rushing in as a result of his selling effort.

Having returned from his 12-day trip to four countries in Europe and the United States after spending P46.7 million in taxpayers’ money — the European visit to Spain, Belgium, France and Germany was pegged at P31.9 million while the US travel amounted to P14.8 million — Aquino, in his speech, cited a few of the country’s gains from the 94 engagements he attended with different heads of states and business executives.

Almost $2.35 billion worth of investments is expected, which will eventually create 33,850 jobs, he said.

Malacañang also said the President has always focused on creating long-term investments for the country.

“In exploring our energy options, President Aquino demonstrates that this administration’s focus goes beyond the present and extends to the future,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, in a statement, stressed.

Before leaving the country, Aquino said he will target foreign investments and trade during his 10-day European tour from Sept. 13 to 23.

“I don’t want to tell you which investments we’re hoping to come in because, as the saying goes, it hasn’t happened yet and we don’t want to jinx it,” he stressed, adding he will promote the Philippines as an investment capital because of a well-trained and English speaking labor force.

“Big investments will range from tourism to products like Information Technology,” said assistant Foreign Secretary Zeneida Angara Collinson, without giving details.

Critics, however, noted that the weak economies of European countries would not sustain this target.

Reacting to Aquino’s European tour, businessman Peter Wallace was quoted as saying the President’s 30 trips to 17 countries in three years resulted only in the entry of $9 billion in foreign direct investments (FDI) to the Philippines.

In the last three years, Wallace compared, China had $975 billion in FDI; Singapore had $175.4 billion; Indonesia had $56 billion; Malaysia had $36.4 billion; Thailand had $27.4 billion; and Vietnam had $24.7 billion.

* Methinks that President Noy is using foreign travels such as this as a way to turn the page on unfavorable domestic news hounding his administration — the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program in particular , as they result in the media writing stories detailing the full aura of the Office of the President.

In addition, trips such as these cause out-sized coverage by the foreign press leading to a boost internationally.
He also gets the opportunity to hit his critics before the international audience.

Aquino spoke of hope and permanence of reform despite challenges that will continue to come under his administration.

He cited several challenges that the country has confronted and will always continue to be getting. According to the President, the first challenge was to restore integrity to government by making erring public officials or those who had exploited the system for personal gain held accountable.

Next is the need to pursue large-scale reforms in agencies linked with corrupt practices through the simplification of bidding procedures.

Back home, Malacañang also defended the President’s absence in the country at a time when a hands-on approach is most needed, one example of which was the onslaught of Tropical Storm Mario in Luzon and other parts of the Philippines.

President Aquino is committed to fulfilling all his international commitments, it stressed I believe this is not the proper approach on issues of national importance.

The so-called foreign “investors lining up” seems more like a passing wind. We don’t see it.

Where are these investors? If they are already here, perhaps they should make their presence felt by the masses hanging on promises and rising expectations.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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