HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK ...

HOUSE PANEL APPROVES SPECIAL POWERS FOR NOY 

President Aquino is closer to getting his wish for emergency powers to address a looming power shortage in 2015, with the approval yesterday by the House committee on energy of a joint resolution granting him such powers. The committee, chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, voted 18-1 with one abstention to approve Joint Resolution 21. Malacañang praised the committee for its move and expressed hope that the Senate would decide favorably on a joint resolution. Senate energy committee chairman Sergio Osmeña III sees no need for the emergency powers, saying the chamber would prioritize approval of the national budget for next year over the joint resolution. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: PNoy vows fight vs ISIS 

PHOTO: Grisly. An image grab taken from a propaganda video released on Nov. 16 by al-Furqan Media allegedly shows members of the Islamic State jihadist group preparing the simultaneous beheading of at least 15 men described as Syrian military personnel. US aid worker, 18 others beheaded; Obama says it’s ‘an act of pure evil’  The Philippines has committed to help in the fight against the growing threat of the Islamic State, amid reports that the jihadists beheaded 19 people, including an American aid worker, which United States President Barack Obama decried as “an act of pure evil.”  On Tuesday, President Benigno Aquino III expressed the government’s commitment to help Turkey in its fight against IS to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu during a meeting at the Palace. Aquino noted that Turkey “faces the difficult challenge of addressing the threat of ISIS in the embattled town of Kobane in Syria near the Turkish border. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Major changes by Senate in 2015 budget eyed P91.82B to be realigned for education, health, rehabilitation, reconstruction  

The Senate will introduce major changes in the proposed P2.6-trillion national budget for 2015 as the Upper Chamber starts plenary debates on next year’s national expenditure program. Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Senate Finance Committee chairman, said there would be substantial amendments with about P91.82 billion worth of funds realigned to substantiate government allocations for education, health, nutrition, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. But Escudero assured none of these amendments would appear as pork barrel funds or the so-called Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF). “None of this will be pork in whatever name or form. There will be no earmarks sporting new titles,” Escudero stressed. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: P-Noy looking outside LP for standard bearer  

NOV 20 --The person President Aquino will endorse as successor may not necessarily come from his own party. In an interview late Tuesday with reporters who covered his trip to Singapore, Aquino said he is consulting other parties regarding the matter while the ruling Liberal Party (LP) is in the process of building a consensus on who should be its standard bearer in 2016. “Do you talk to the United Nationalist Alliance on the consensus? Not directly to UNA, but I did talk to somebody who came from UNA,” he said, referring to Vice President Jejomar Binay, who remains the frontrunner among the presidential hopefuls for 2016. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO in Singapore at Jollibee: Aquino, PH delegation go for comfort food

NOV 20 --PHOTO: President Aquino was received like a rock star by a small gathering of Filipinos, who cheered and clamored to take photos of him as he dined at the Orchard Road shopping mall outlet. ANN/Singapore Straits Times/KUA CHEE SIONG SINGAPORE—For a while, it seemed like he was at home. President Aquino had burger and fries with his delegation at the branch of Philippine fast-food giant Jollibee on the sixth floor of Lucky Plaza shopping mall here on Wednesday, arriving to cheers from knots of Filipinos eager to see their leader. Aquino wrapped up his two-day visit to Singapore in the company of some of the 180,000 Filipinos who work in the island city-state.

ALSO: PNoy sees big investments from Singapore

NOV 20 ---PHOTO: President Aquino shakes hands with The Economist Executive Editor and The World in 2015 Editor Daniel Franklin during the keynote interview and gala dinner at the Four Season Hotel of his working visit to Singapore Tuesday. MANILA - President Benigno Aquino on Wednesday announced that he was able to get billions of pesos worth of investment commitments from leaders of multinational companies he met in his 2-day trip in Singapore. Aquino went to Singapore to attend an event organized by "The Economist." He was the event's keynote speaker. Officials of around 300 companies attended the event. Aquino had business meetings with heads of several global companies who expressed interest in expanding in the Philippines. In his arrival speech, the President said an oil company expressed plans to put up an oil rig in the country. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO Opinion: PNoy - Reality check 

When Noynoy Aquino rose to power, he was warned that a sincere effort to stamp out corruption– one that will not be open to charges of political persecution or selective prosecution could wipe out the membership of Congress, decimate the ranks of local government executives and cripple the bureaucracy. Today President Aquino, with his touted vow to eliminate poverty by eliminating corruption, is having a reality check. Because P-Noy set the bar high, people expected officials of daang matuwid to be like Caesar’s wife. But how many members of his official family have been formally charged with corruption or plunder, or are under investigation for such offenses? The number has to be the highest ever. READ FULL COLUMN BY ANNA MARIE PAMINTUAN...
 


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House panel approves special powers for Noy


PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MANILA BULLETIN

MANILA, NOVEMBER 24, 2014 (PHILSTAR) By Paolo Romero - President Aquino is closer to getting his wish for emergency powers to address a looming power shortage in 2015, with the approval yesterday by the House committee on energy of a joint resolution granting him such powers.

The committee, chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, voted 18-1 with one abstention to approve Joint Resolution 21.

Malacañang praised the committee for its move and expressed hope that the Senate would decide favorably on a joint resolution.

Senate energy committee chairman Sergio Osmeña III sees no need for the emergency powers, saying the chamber would prioritize approval of the national budget for next year over the joint resolution.

In a letter, President Aquino asked Congress last September to grant him special powers after the Department of Energy (DOE) raised alarm over a power crisis in the summer of 2015.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora, Deputy Speaker Henedina Abad, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, 1-Care party-list Rep. Edgardo Masongsong, and Umali authored the House resolution.

Umali filed the House draft Thursday afternoon and referred it to the plenary Monday night. The chamber aims to pass the measure in plenary before the end of the month.

Committee deliberations on Aquino’s own draft started in late September and proceeded swiftly, with two public hearings and eight technical working group meetings.

The House leadership is expecting Aquino to certify the resolution as urgent so the chamber can approve it on second, third and final reading in one plenary session next week.

“We would like to assure the people that the intent here really is not to burden the consumers and for the government to assume the cost. So there will be no pass-on to the consumers,” Umali said during the hearing yesterday prior to the voting.

The lawmaker was referring to the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) under which large industrial and commercial establishments would disconnect from the grid and use their own generators during peak hours to free up power for use by households.

The government will reimburse firms participating in the ILP for fuel use and other operating costs, and their expenses will be exempted from value-added tax as an incentive.

Umali said he recently discussed the reimbursement tack with Aquino, who also expressed openness to the idea of tapping funds from the Malampaya gas project.

He said the estimated cost of the ILP should not exceed P200 million, which was far cheaper than leasing power barges – for as much as P12 billion – as what Malacañang had originally proposed.

The resolution also mandates the fast-tracking of committed projects and provides that energy conservation measures “shall be pursued vigorously in both public and private sectors.”

Implementation of the ILP and other measures is from March to July 2015 unless terminated earlier by Congress. The resolution also requires Aquino to submit a monthly report to Congress.

The panel has set the estimated shortfall in Luzon at 1,004 megawatts (MW).

“The committed (power) projects will be completed in the nick of time (March) so I’m worried if there’ll be delays,” Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla told lawmakers yesterday.

Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz said sanctions should be imposed on firms who fail to deliver on their ILP commitments.

No guarantee

Petilla admitted there is still no guarantee of a blackout-free summer next year under ILP as committed capacity as of Monday stood only at 176 MW.

“The ILP will only be part of the answer to the looming power shortages next summer. The program does not guarantee zero brownouts, as it will only be implemented during the red alert level of the power supply,” Petilla said.

A red alert status means there is severe power deficiency.

He said the energy department is still encouraging the participation of more establishments in the program.

“In every meeting, we need to ensure that they will understand our side and let them know how important this program is not only to their cause but to the people as well,” he said. “It’s a matter of explaining it well and ensuring that they will sign the participation papers at the end of the meeting.”

Petilla commended the 30 business establishments that have swiftly heeded calls to participate in the ILP.

Power distributor Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) also said it is in talks with potential customers with a combined capacity of 64 MW to add to the existing 176 MW committed ILP capacity.

“These would total 240 MW in all,” Lawrence Fernandez, head of Meralco’s Utility Economics said yesterday.

At Malacañang, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. also said they would continue to coordinate with lawmakers in threshing out ways to stave off a power crisis. He also said it’s still not too late for Congress to pass the resolution.

“What’s important is, everything required under specific circumstances is properly addressed because – as the President had said on many occasions – ‘the most expensive power is no power’,” he said in Filipino. – Iris Gonzales, Delon Porcalla


FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

PNoy vows fight vs ISIS By Joyce Pangco Panares | Nov. 18, 2014 at 12:01am


Grisly. An image grab taken from a propaganda video released on Nov. 16 by al-Furqan Media allegedly shows members of the Islamic State jihadist group preparing the simultaneous beheading of at least 15 men described as Syrian military personnel. AP

US aid worker, 18 others beheaded; Obama says it’s ‘an act of pure evil’

The Philippines has committed to help in the fight against the growing threat of the Islamic State, amid reports that the jihadists beheaded 19 people, including an American aid worker, which United States President Barack Obama decried as “an act of pure evil.”

On Tuesday, President Benigno Aquino III expressed the government’s commitment to help Turkey in its fight against IS to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu during a meeting at the Palace.

Aquino noted that Turkey “faces the difficult challenge of addressing the threat of ISIS in the embattled town of Kobane in Syria near the Turkish border.

“It is a threat that has brought great conflict to that nation and to many other nations beyond that vital region. The various pressures presented by extremism seek to test the resolve of Turkey,” the President said.

“Just as your people have partnered with us in advancing a just and lasting peace in Mindanao, allow me to say that it is my nation’s hope that we will be able to help Turkey as it confronts the persisting and emerging challenges of our time, such as the threat of ISIS. Rest assured, you will find a partner in the Filipino,” he added.

Aquino earlier created a technical working group to monitor and profile foreign fighters and terrorist groups.

Davutoglu, for his part, pledged his country’s full support behind the peace process, in particular the disarmament of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Davutoglu said he has directed senior Turkish diplomat Haydar Berk to focus on the disarmament process as chairman of the Independent Decommissioning Body.

“I have instructed him [Berk] to stay in the Philippines and if needed, don’t come back to Turkey until you finish this job,” the Turkish leader said, eliciting laughter from officials attending the luncheon.

Aquino and Davutoglu also witnessed the signing of an expanded air services agreement that will allow direct flights for the first time between the two countries.

Obama, meanwhile, confirmed the beheading of American aid worker Peter Kassig, who converted to Islam and took the name of Abdul Rahman after the ISIS released a video. The video showed the severed head of Kassig.

It also showed the gruesome simultaneous beheadings of at least 18 men described as Syrian military personnel, the latest in a series of mass executions and other atrocities carried out by IS in Syria and Iraq.

Obama said “actions such as beheadings represent no faith, least of all the Muslim faith which Abdul Rahman adopted as his own.”

Kassig, 26, is the sixth foreign captive executed by Islamic State and its sympathizers after the jihadist group seized large portions of northwestern Iraq and eastern Syria and declared an Islamic caliphate on the territory.

The video also recounts the growth of IslamicState from 2003, when its founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi began terrorist operations in Iraq.

“The Islamic State’s choice to show the entire beheading process of the Syrian pilots is another attempt to terrorize the American public from supporting its involvement in a war against IS,” SITE’s director, Rita Katz, said in a statement, using an acronym for Islamic State.

Cruder Video

The video is cruder than previous ones produced by the al-Qaeda breakaway group, according to two U.S. intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss preliminary conclusions. In the face of U.S. and allied airstrikes, Islamic State extremists may no longer be comfortable remaining in one place in the open desert as long as they did in previous videos, the officials said.

In addition to hostages, Islamic State also has executed hundreds of its foes in both Syria and Iraq.

“We are heartbroken to learn that our son, Abdul Rahman Peter Kassig, has lost his life as a result of his love for the Syrian people and his desire to ease their suffering,” Kassig’s family said in a statement posted on their Facebook page. “Our heart also goes out to the families of the Syrians who lost their lives, along with our son.”

Video Warning

After beheading British hostage Alan Henning, a 47-year-old working for a charity delivering aid to Syria, the Sunni Muslim militants had warned that Kassig would be next.

In the video released yesterday, a masked man accuses Obama of lying about the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. He also identifies his location as the town of Dabiq in northern Syria near the Turkish border.

“Here we are, burning the first American Crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive,” the masked man says on the video in addressing Obama, according to SITE.

Kassig, a former U.S. Army Ranger who served in Iraq, became interested in humanitarian relief work when he visited Beirut, Lebanon, as a student at Butler University in Indianapolis, according to an interview in Time magazine last year.

He began volunteering as a trauma medic for Syrian refugees in a Lebanese hospital and then created his own relief organization called SERA, or Special Emergency Response and Assistance, he said in the interview. The grassroots group, which worked in tandem with larger aid organizations, focused on providing food, medical supplies and clothing to those in need, he said.

“These were the selfless acts of an individual who cared deeply about the plight of the Syrian people,” Obama said.

Kassig was captured while traveling in Syria in October 2013.

“I certainly plan on continuing to try and serve those who are in need for as long as I live,” Kassig said in the Time interview.

Unlike in previous execution videos, the victim wasn’t shown making a statement prior to his death.

The absence of a confession or propaganda speech by Kassig suggests the former Ranger refused to cooperate with his captors, one of the U.S. officials said. Even if he had cooperated, Kassig would have been executed anyway, particularly since he had served in the U.S. military, the official said.

Islamic State and its supporters have executed citizens of the U.K., France and the U.S., including two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, British aid worker David Haines, and French tourist Herve Gourdel. They have called the killings reprisals for the armed campaign against them.

The beheadings helped galvanize international opposition to Islamic State, leading to the formation of a U.S.-led coalition that is carrying out airstrikes in support of Kurdish and Iraqi government forces combating the extremist group.

The latest murder appears to be another attempt by Islamic State to draw the U.S. into a direct military confrontation with Sunni extremists, a third U.S. official said.

The emotional and political impact of the beheading is also likely to fuel a policy debate within the Obama administration on two fronts: whether still more U.S. troops are needed and whether to concentrate primarily on defeating Islamic State or devoting some resources to ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as many Arab allies want, the official said.

Kassig, an Iraq war veteran, had risked his life to provide medical treatment and relief supplies to those suffering from Syria’s civil war.

He founded a group through which he trained some 150 civilians to provide medical aid to people in Syria. His group also gave food, cooking supplies, clothing and medicine to the needy.

During a trip to refugee camps outside the Lebanese capital Beirut in March 2012, he said he found a “shortage of everything except suffering.”

“Here, in this land, I have found my calling,” Kassig wrote in an email to friends, family and teachers at the time.

“I do not know much, every day that I am here I have more questions and less answers, but what I do know is that I have a chance to do something here, to take a stand. To make a difference.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry said that American government officials had worked alongside Kassig’s family to try to secure his release.

“During his time in captivity, his family, and the entire government, including his home state Senator Joe Donnelly, worked to avoid this tragic outcome,” the top US diplomat said.

Kassig was the fifth Western hostage killed by IS in recent months, after the two US reporters and two British aid workers were beheaded.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “horrified” by the “cold-blooded murder,” which French President Francois Hollande called a “crime against humanity”. With Bloomberg, AFP


FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Major changes in 2015 budget eyed P91.82B to be realigned for education, health, rehabilitation, reconstruction by Hannah Torregoza November 19, 2014 Share this:

The Senate will introduce major changes in the proposed P2.6-trillion national budget for 2015 as the Upper Chamber starts plenary debates on next year’s national expenditure program.

Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Senate Finance Committee chairman, said there would be substantial amendments with about P91.82 billion worth of funds realigned to substantiate government allocations for education, health, nutrition, rehabilitation, and reconstruction.

But Escudero assured none of these amendments would appear as pork barrel funds or the so-called Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF).

“None of this will be pork in whatever name or form. There will be no earmarks sporting new titles,” Escudero stressed.

The Senate has chosen to abolish the pork barrel fund system after several of its members were implicated in the pork barrel controversy.

Senate President Franklin Drilon vowed the Upper Chamber will exercise stringent measures to ensure the pork barrel system isn’t revived in next year’s financial plan and even prompted the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to make sure the system isn’t incorporated in next year’s expenditure program.

Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada are now facing plunder and corruption charges in connection with the PDAF scam. All three senators are now under the custody of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

SUBSTANTIAL IMPROVEMENTS

As the chief sponsor of the proposed 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA), Escudero vowed to make substantial improvements on the House-approved Palace budget proposal.

“If you’re asking me if the amendments we’re going to introduce are cosmetic, the answer is no. What we’ll do is reduce overhead, increase funding for frontline services,” Escudero said.

He said a careful and thorough scrutiny of lump sum funds under the 2015 budget bill gave the committee some “budget space” to realign funds and identify programs which allocations can be put to good use elsewhere.

Escudero assured though that “there will be no cuts that hurt” in the budget of government offices facing funding adjustments. He said most of the realignment would be done within the agency.

Escudero added that the revisions the Senate will propose would redound to the greater good and result in a better budget and ensure that it is compliant with the Supreme Court rulings on the PDAF and the Disbursement Allocation Program (DAP) funds.

“Remember this is a post-DAP, post-PDAF budget so the Palace should welcome efforts to validate if the provisions indeed follow the jurisprudence laid down by the High Court,” Escudero said.

Next year’s budget is about 15 percent higher than this year’s P2.264-trillion budget, an outlay equivalent to18.4 percent of the 2015 GDP.

WHERE BUDGET GOES

By sector, social services get the biggest share with P967.9 billion, followed by economic services, P700.2 billion; general public services, P423.1 billion; debt burden, P399.4 billion; and defense, P115.5 billion.

By recipient agency, the Department of Education leads the top 10 with P365.1 billion; Department of Public Works and Highways, P300.5 billion; Department of National Department, P144 billion; Department of Interior and Local Government, P141.4 billion; Department of Social Welfare and Development, P109 billion; Department of Health, P102.2 billion; Department of Agriculture (including budgetary support to NFA, PCA and NIA), P88.8 billion; Department of Transportation and Communications P59 billion; Department of environment and Natural Resources, P21.3 billion; and Department of Science and Technology, P19.4 billion.

By expenditure type, Personal Services (PS) is allocated P761 billion; Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE), P935 billion; Financial Expenses, P375 billion; and Capital Outlays (CO), P534 billion.


FROM PHILSTAR

P-Noy looking outside LP for standard bearer By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 20, 2014 - 12:00am 1 3 googleplus0 1


Consensus being sought on 2016 bet

MANILA, Philippines - The person President Aquino will endorse as successor may not necessarily come from his own party.

In an interview late Tuesday with reporters who covered his trip to Singapore, Aquino said he is consulting other parties regarding the matter while the ruling Liberal Party (LP) is in the process of building a consensus on who should be its standard bearer in 2016.

“Do you talk to the United Nationalist Alliance on the consensus? Not directly to UNA, but I did talk to somebody who came from UNA,” he said, referring to Vice President Jejomar Binay, who remains the frontrunner among the presidential hopefuls for 2016.

The President, who is also LP chairman, said he and Binay met on several occasions before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summits, at the height of the Senate probe into allegations of corruption against the Vice President. The two highest officials of the land talked at Malacañang’s Bahay Pangarap for a few hours.

“I don’t talk to Toby Tiangco or others. I did talk to the Vice President. So I cannot say that I did not talk to any of them,” Aquino said, referring to UNA spokesman Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco.

“I engage everybody who wants to talk to me, even those who are fond of giving unsolicited advice,” he said.

“Those who helped us in 2010, those who are helping us now, as well as those who came forward after 2010 to help us and declare their solidarity with our advocacy – those are the people we’re engaging with,” Aquino said.

“I take note of the their advice that I don’t solicit. If they bring up something, I tell them my opinion,” he said.

“We engage in political discussions, but we don’t discuss specific candidates,” he clarified, declining to reveal who he wants to endorse.

Some LP members have said Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II is still the party’s “sentimental” choice.

What is more important, Aquino said, is that the party is building a consensus to make sure its standard-bearer for 2016 is the top choice of its members.

“In our party, consensus is important. One cannot just talk about something that’s not yet agreed upon. So I am not at liberty to talk on behalf of LP, and if I talk on an individual basis, the time is not yet right,” he explained.

“Well, at the very least, the consensus-building processes are being conducted,” Aquino stressed.

LP is also seeking inputs from supporters as part of its selection process. The party’s primary objective is to ensure that reforms started under the Aquino administration are carried over to the next administration.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, has not given up on supporting Roxas’ presidential bid.

Drilon, LP vice-chairman, said he is not very comfortable supporting a bet from another political party.

“I am a partyman, and I would prefer a party-member. We do not lack talents in our party,” he said.

“If he expresses his interest, I will support him,” he said, referring to Roxas.

But Drilon said he has not discussed the issue with his partymates “precisely because we are so busy.”

The Senate president said he has not yet discussed the LP’s plans for 2016 with President Aquino.

“We’re so busy with so many things at the moment to have time for consultations. The President I’m sure is very busy and I can’t speak for the others, but I haven’t had the chance to have consultations with the President on the specific issues,” Drilon said. – Christina Mendez


FROM THE INQUIRER

Aquino, PH delegation go for comfort food Tarra Quismundo @inquirerdotnet


President Aquino was received like a rock star by a small gathering of Filipinos, who cheered and clamored to take photos of him as he dined at the Orchard Road shopping mall outlet. ANN/Singapore Straits Times/KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE—For a while, it seemed like he was at home.

President Aquino had burger and fries with his delegation at the branch of Philippine fast-food giant Jollibee on the sixth floor of Lucky Plaza shopping mall here on Wednesday, arriving to cheers from knots of Filipinos eager to see their leader.

Aquino wrapped up his two-day visit to Singapore in the company of some of the 180,000 Filipinos who work in the island city-state.

“I was nervous before he came. I felt cold as he was about to come up, and then I was OK,” said Katherine Riva Ramirez, the Jollibee crew member who took the President’s order.

Aquino had a cheeseburger meal with a soda, she said.

“Of course, I am happy about the arrival of the President,” said Janet Garcia, also among those manning the counters when Aquino arrived.

“I’m really glad he came here,” said another crew member, Madelyn Peregrino.

Aquino’s companions

Bringing along some members of his delegation, President Aquino arrived for lunch after 2 p.m., with some 300 customers packing the store.

Among those who arrived with the President were Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda and Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III.

Families and groups of friends having lunch stood on their seats to catch a glimpse and take photos of Aquino and his group, who ate their meals in a reserved area of the store.

Many of the customers did not know that VIPs were coming, and were only too glad to find that they came just as the President of the Philippines was coming to the restaurant.

Selfie with Aquino

“Actually, we were already here when we learned he was coming. So we stayed and waited for one and a half hours. Of course, we’re excited to see our President,” said housewife Lilibeth Bautista, whose family has been living in Singapore for seven years now.

For 30-year Singapore resident Zeny Leong, the visit was another opportunity to take a selfie with President Aquino.

She had an opportunity to be in a group photo with the President during his state visit here in 2011. This time, she managed to get Aquino in the frame all her own.

“Of course, I felt excited, wonderful, great, because I got to stand beside him. I said ‘Sir! Picture!’ I got blurred photos two times until we got one [right],” said Leong, a salon owner at Lucky Plaza, widely known as “The Filipino mall.”

The Jollibee branch, one of two in the city-state, opened in March 2013 to an excited queue of 35,000 customers, said John Nacional, Jollibee Singapore area manager.

“Of course, we are honored that President Aquino and his delegation have decided to drop by Jollibee Lucky Plaza to see us and together with our chair, Mr. Tony Tan Caktiong; we are looking forward to welcome him and have a quick store tour maybe and for the President to meet the hardworking Philippine members of Jollibee Singapore,” said Nacional in a statement sent ahead of the President’s visit.

Local employees

Jollibee Singapore’s employees were hired in the city in compliance with the local hiring policy.

“We are happy to say that 100 percent of our crew and 50 percent of our management were hired here in Singapore. So it’s a mix of Singaporeans, permanent residents and other residents holding special passes,” Nacional said.

Aquino made an example of Jollibee in his keynote interview with The Economist at The World in 2015 forum on Tuesday night.

“Jollibee started out as an ice-cream parlor and it’s now one of our biggest multinationals … I don’t remember exactly how many (branches in other) countries they have. So there are more and more opportunities that are coming up for very different, a lot of sectors,” Aquino said.

After about half an hour, the President and his delegation left for the airport to take a flight back to Manila.


FROM ABS-CBN

PNoy sees big investments from Singapore by Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News Posted at 11/19/2014 8:40 PM | Updated as of 11/19/2014 11:55 PM


President Aquino shakes hands with The Economist Executive Editor and The World in 2015 Editor Daniel Franklin during the keynote interview and gala dinner at the Four Season Hotel of his working visit to Singapore Tuesday.

MANILA - President Benigno Aquino on Wednesday announced that he was able to get billions of pesos worth of investment commitments from leaders of multinational companies he met in his 2-day trip in Singapore.

Aquino went to Singapore to attend an event organized by "The Economist." He was the event's keynote speaker.

Officials of around 300 companies attended the event.

Aquino had business meetings with heads of several global companies who expressed interest in expanding in the Philippines.

In his arrival speech, the President said an oil company expressed plans to put up an oil rig in the country.

He also mentioned Singapore Airlines, which will establish its third hangar in the Philippines that will cost around $21 million.

Aquino said Singapore Airlines is also studying the possibility of putting up two more hangars in the future.

He also mentioned two investment groups in Singapore that expressed interest in investing around $1 billion in the country.

Officials of a shipping company also talked to the President about expanding operations in the Philippines.

Aquino said this would mean more jobs and more opportunities for Filipino workers.

He said Singapore Airlines is impressed with its skilled Filipino workers, which number around 500.

Aquino said the challenge is maintaining the kind of trust that the international business community has on the government.

He hopes that his "tuwid na daan" program will bear more fruit in the future for the progress of the country.

Upon arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Wednesday night, the President was welcomed by the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as well as members of the Cabinet.

He said that his trip, which cost around P11.6 million, was successful


PHILSTAR OPINION

Reality check SKETCHES By Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 17, 2014 - 12:00am 7 245 googleplus0 1


By Ana Marie Pamintuan

When Noynoy Aquino rose to power, he was warned that a sincere effort to stamp out corruption– one that will not be open to charges of political persecution or selective prosecution could wipe out the membership of Congress, decimate the ranks of local government executives and cripple the bureaucracy.

Today President Aquino, with his touted vow to eliminate poverty by eliminating corruption, is having a reality check.

Because P-Noy set the bar high, people expected officials of daang matuwid to be like Caesar’s wife. But how many members of his official family have been formally charged with corruption or plunder, or are under investigation for such offenses? The number has to be the highest ever.

We’re still waiting for the indictment of administration allies listed in Commission on Audit reports or implicated by whistle-blowers in the pork barrel scam operated by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles. The COA listed nearly 200 senators and congressmen, most of them incumbent. Like the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) that keeps derailing, however, the pork barrel probe appears to have stopped at three opposition senators, one of whom had hoped to run for president in 2016.

And what ever happened to Napoles’ own “Napolist”? The Department of Justice initially seemed to believe it was worth pursuing.

On top of the scandal over the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel is the scandal over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), for which President Aquino himself may face criminal charges once he steps down and loses immunity from lawsuits.

Lawmakers who ousted Renato Corona as chief justice for corruption were themselves later implicated in the PDAF and DAP scandals. They continue to use their positions for partisan purposes and personal vendetta poorly disguised as inquiries in aid of unspecified legislation.

So far P-Noy has not been accused of personally enriching himself while in office. That Filipinos find this noteworthy of a president says a lot about the state of the nation.

But corruption is alive and well, whether in national agencies or local government units. LGUs depend on national government revenues but local executives want their turfs to be treated like independent republics. If the accusations are correct, local executives and supporters of daang matuwid’s Liberal Party even cornered a sweetheart deal and are behind MRT commuters’ woes.

With so many administration officials currently facing corruption complaints, Malacañang can only invoke the presumption of innocence and say that everyone is entitled to due process.

This allows P-Noy to keep his official family intact. Several times he has shown that he’s not the type who easily lets go of his officials, especially loyal friends.

The so-called P-Noy factor has boosted business confidence. But graft and unbridled influence peddling throughout the bureaucracy, unchecked by a weak and graft-prone judiciary, can undermine even a sincere anti-corruption campaign.

* * *

How to deal with the problem, short of making all top public officials face the firing squad, is a common topic of conversation these days.

In the past two years, a recurring macabre proposal is to bomb the Batasang Pambansa during the State of the Nation Address. But proponents fear that the resulting clean slate will last long enough only until the spouses, siblings and children of the dearly departed can take over the vacant posts.

It’s like zapping termites: even when the queen has been destroyed, the pests continue emerging, as long as there’s food to be had and the opportunity to get it.

What might work is eliminating the termites’ food sources or putting these out of reach.

In the case of public funds, obviously these can’t be eliminated, but government officials’ personal discretion in fund utilization can be drastically reduced. This is the aim in the elimination of the PDAF and DAP.

There are enough laws to provide checks and balances in fund utilization; what’s needed is effective enforcement. P-Noy can strengthen the COA and the Office of the Ombudsman. He can support legislation to give more teeth to the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

Lawmakers have been as cool toward such legislation as they have been to proposed laws on campaign finance reforms. Campaign contributions, which require only token accounting before the Commission on Elections, are among the roots of large-scale corruption.

P-Noy is surely aware of this, but maybe he believes pitching reforms to beneficiaries of the rotten system is an exercise in futility. He can humor us by at least going through the motions, and then identifying to his “bosses” the legislators who are most opposed to the proposal.

As I have written, there is no such creature as a lame duck president in this country where the position wields immense power. There’s still a lot that P-Noy can achieve by way of reforms in the remaining 19-and-a-half months of his term.

A substantial reduction in red tape can be a powerful legacy. Red tape is the reason ordinary folks are forced to pay grease money. This is also one of the reasons for public perceptions that even under the tuwid na daan, it’s still business as usual at Customs, the Port of Manila, LGUs and other agencies notorious for fixers and “facilitation fees.”

The reforms called for here are procedural. Mere administrative orders will do to simplify systems and requirements in executive offices. Reduce the number of steps, set deadlines for completing each step, and identify the individual in charge of each step, so that responsibility for logjams can be pinpointed, with specified consequences for poor performance.

LGUs have their own ordinances covering businesses, the practice of professions, and delivery of public services. But the national government has persuasive ways of pushing reforms in LGUs.

There’s little that P-Noy can do about inefficiency and corruption in the judiciary – another reason for the persistence of corruption. And he’s right – there is judicial overreach that has been unhealthy for this country.

But he can do his part by appointing more magistrates to ease the case backlog – there are still a lot of courtrooms without a judge – and improving the vetting system for his appointments. A seat or promotion in the judiciary cannot depend on connections or membership in a political party or religious group.

With several of his officials and allies implicated in plunder, P-Noy can avoid accusations of hypocrisy and shift the focus of his anti-corruption campaign from individual personalities to institutional weaknesses.

He still has enough time to make a difference. Victory in a close game is decided in the last two minutes


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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