NOY'S CORNER THIS PAST WEEK...
(MINI-READS followed by FULL REPORTS below)

PNoy SPEECH AT 4th EUROMONEY PHL INVESTMENT FORUM


PRESIDENT AQUINO SPEAKING AT THE FORUM ---Every year, without fail, I receive an invitation to speak at this forum, and every year, without fail, I accept. The first Philippines Investment Forum took place about a year and a half into my presidency. Since then, this has become a valuable opportunity for me to share the progress our country has made. Here, we have been able to trace the success story that is the Philippine economy. There has been so much good news these past few years, and yet, this good news has often been relegated to the back pages of our broadsheets. I must admit: our campaign to change the mindset that negativism sells is still a work in progress. While it is true that we have had our share of setbacks and challenges; we also have an impressive number of achievements under our belt. This is why I have made it a point to spread the good news, and why I am always thankful for those who stay balanced and constructive: pointing out areas in which we can improve, while also acknowledging our progress. CONTINUE READING THE SPEECH IN FULL...

ALSO: Aquino laments people losing sight of PH successes


AQUINO AT THE 4th EURO PH FORUM  MANILA, Philippines–He used no alliterations like referring to jaded journalists as “nattering nabobs of negativism” as one former American official had said of his critics. But President Aquino’s message was not off the mark. Aquino on Tuesday said that under his administration, “there has been so much good news and yet this good news has often been relegated to the back pages of our broadsheets.”  Aquino said the “campaign to change the mindset that negativism sells is still a work in progress.”  Speaking before the Philippines Investment Forum at a Makati hotel, he said that “while it is true that we have had our share of setbacks and challenges, we also have an impressive number of achievements under our belt.”  “This is why, I have made a point to spread the good news, and why I am always thankful for those who stay balanced and constructive, pointing out areas in which we can improve while also acknowledging our progress,” he said.  He reported, among other things, that “2014 was a banner year for FDI (foreign direct investment) reaching an all-time high of $6.2 billion, 65.9 percent higher than what we received in 2013.”  READ MORE...

ALSO Pulse Asia: Aquino no longer most approved, trusted top official


Senate President Franklin Drilon is now the most approved and most trusted top government official, replacing President Benigno Aquino III.
AJ Bolando 
MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III is no longer the most approved and most trusted top official after suffering the biggest ratings decline among the five highest government executives, according to the new Pulse Asia survey released on Thursday. Results of the March 2015 survey showed that Aquino is now behind Senate President Franklin Drilon and Vice President Jejomar Binay, who saw slight changes in their ratings. Four months ago, Aquino was the most approved and most trusted government executive.  "President Aquino experiences significant changes in his performance and trust ratings between November 2014 and March 2015; the other top government officials of the country register minimal movements in their national ratings," Pulse Asia said.  Drilon's approval rating increased to 49 percent from 47 percent in November while his trust rating also went up to 44 percent from 42 percent. Binay's approval score went up from 45 percent to 46 percent while his trust rating fell from 44 percent to 42 percent. READ MORE...

ALSO STANDARD EDITORIAL: Telling all, seeing nothing
(For once, we tend to agree with the President. Given the paucity of his concrete achievements in the last four years, we really haven’t seen anything yet.)



President Aquino is expected to face the new batch of graduates of the Philippine National Police Academy today, the same school that produced six of the 44 members of the Special Action Force who died in Mamasapano, Maguindanao two months ago. Mr. Aquino has told some media organizations that this would be the last time he would ever speak on the controversial police operation that killed a Malaysian terrorist but claimed the lives of the SAF commandoes and five civilians as well as some members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The focus of his speech, Mr. Aquino said, would be his own questions regarding what happened in Mamasapano, given the information available to him at that time. “That’s how I want to be judged,” he added. Some anticipate that he would “tell all” about Mamasapano – although we have learned from experience that “all” eventually turned out to be only “some” as the President’s version of events evolved as he went along. READ MORRE...

ALSO PHILSTAR OPINION by Efren Cruz: It’s the economy


EFREN S.CRUZ 
It is not the media commentators, including columnists, nor the front pages that will ultimately determine the issues which will most influence the 2016 elections. In fact, based on my recent discussions with political and NGO leaders on the ground and the results of the recent Pulse Asia surveys, the most urgent concerns of the electorate have not been changed by recent events in Mindanao. Political seers and surveys show that the most important issues remain to be economic in nature. These concerns have remained unchanged from last year up to the latest Pulse Asia survey in March. The five most important concerns are controlling inflation, increasing wages, reducing poverty, creating more jobs and fighting graft and corruption. I would surmise that graft and corruption is a major issue because it is perceived as an obstacle to economic prosperity. The performance ratings of the administration on all these issues have also remained relatively unchanged over the past six months as shown in the different surveys. Local politicians, especially those outside Metro Manila, have confirmed this analysis. I remember the story of how Bill Clinton won the 1992 presidential elections in the United States. During the campaign, the Republicans started a heavily funded media campaign that focused on accusing Bill and Hillary Clinton of various scandals including immoral personal behavior. There are campaign stories that relate how the Clintons were sorely tempted to answer all those accusations. However, campaign handlers reminded him that negative media campaigns are part and parcel of politics, and that he must remain focused on the real issues of the campaign, which was mainly improving the economy. CONTINUE READING...

ALSO: Tagle, Ayala lead Aquino-formed peace council


A year after the historic signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, President Benigno Aquino III announced on Friday afternoon the creation of a council of leaders from different sectors of society, including the Catholic Church, to help the public understand the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Aquino, in an address to the nation in Malacañang, said that the independent conveners would be composed of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Howard Dee and Muslim Princess Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman. “They will gather other responsible and respected leaders to spearhead a National Peace Summit to deliberate on and discuss the BBL,” Aquino said. READ MORE...

ALSO: House leaders agree: P-Noy won’t be invited


Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
- It’s final: the House of Representatives will not invite President Aquino to its hearings on the Mamasapano incident on April 7 and 8. And if anyone would present a motion during the inquiry to invite the President, members from the majority will vote it down. Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has informed Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora that the House majority coalition will not allow an invitation to be issued for Aquino, Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said yesterday. “We met last Tuesday and we made it clear that the President will not be invited, that he has already made a sufficient explanation of his role in Mamasapano. The minority did not insist on having an invitation extended to the President,” he said. Aside from Belmonte, Gonzales and Zamora, others who attended the meeting were Carol Jane Lopez of party-list group You Against Corruption and Poverty, Celso Lobregat of Zamboanga City, Rodolfo Biazon of Muntinlupa, Jeffrey Ferrer of Negros Occidental and Jim Hataman-Salliman of Basilan. Ferrer and Salliman, as chairmen of the committees on public order and on peace and reconciliation, respectively, will jointly preside over the April hearings.READ MORE...

ALSO by Carmen Pedrosa:  Reply to the President


Carmen Pedrosa  
Bayanko, unlike other movements, has not called for the resignation of President Aquino. We wanted to leave the door open to dialogue. This column emphasized this in previous articles in Philippine STAR. That is why we feel constrained to answer two recent statements the president made that his government was open to “sincere” talks. We were pleasantly surprised when at the Philippine Military Academy graduation rites last March 15, he said, “If you are ready to talk sincerely, the State is open to reasonable and truthful dialogue.” In reply I again wrote in this column that “Bayanko welcomed this remark.”

He repeated this call recently in a luncheon he hosted for the men and women’s volleyball teams of Ateneo and La Salle at Malacanang.

He said, “Why don’t you look at what we are trying to do, and if we can improve, we are always ready to listen. And if we are wrong, please do point it out, we want to correct it.” He pointed specifically to the fight against corruption and poverty and said, “Let us stay together as a team.”

Now this is the language of humility. This is the language of reconciliation.

In a “sincere dialogue”, there will be much to talk about. As Alex Magno pointed out in his column, while the poverty rate improved under Ramos, Erap and GMA, it actually worsened under Cory and Noynoy.

The economy has done well, said Magno, thanks partly to the reforms undertaken by FVR and GMA like the Comprehensive Tax Reform and adoption of VAT.

Moreover, if the country’s credit rating has improved it is thanks to OFW remittances. On the other hand, the jobless rate is still one of the highest in Asean and foreign direct investments to the Philippines, a paltry $6 billion, represent less than two percent of the FDIs in the region. Vietnam receives ten times that amount.
 


READ FULL MEDIA NEWS REPORT:

President Benigno S. Aquino III's Speech at the '4th Euromoney Philippines Investment Forum', Rigodon Ballroom, The Peninsula Manila, Makati City

MANILA, MARCH 30, 2015 (www.pcoo.gov.ph) 24 March 2015 - Every year, without fail, I receive an invitation to speak at this forum, and every year, without fail, I accept. The first Philippines Investment Forum took place about a year and a half into my presidency.

Since then, this has become a valuable opportunity for me to share the progress our country has made. Here, we have been able to trace the success story that is the Philippine economy.

There has been so much good news these past few years, and yet, this good news has often been relegated to the back pages of our broadsheets. I must admit: our campaign to change the mindset that negativism sells is still a work in progress.

While it is true that we have had our share of setbacks and challenges; we also have an impressive number of achievements under our belt.

This is why I have made it a point to spread the good news, and why I am always thankful for those who stay balanced and constructive: pointing out areas in which we can improve, while also acknowledging our progress.

CONTINUE READING...
Mr. Shale gave a few examples of our success in his remarks earlier.

Perhaps I can also provide a little more data: 2014 was indeed a banner year for net FDIs, reaching an all-time high of $6.2 billion, 65.9 percent higher than what we received in 2013.

We have likewise posted impressive growth: from 2010 to 2013, the Philippines averaged a GDP growth of 6.3 percent.

Compare this to the previous three-year period, under my predecessor, where growth was just at 4.3 percent.

On top of this: even in spite of the lingering effects of Typhoon Haiyan and the uncertainty in the global economy, our country still posted a respectable 6.1-percent GDP growth figure last year.

The Philippines was likewise upgraded to investment grade by all three major credit ratings agencies in 2013, and has continued to receive upgrades since. We are indeed making history.

All these, and many other factors, have led to even greater optimism for our country’s prospects. Just to give you one example: Bloomberg recently reported, I’m told, that the Philippines is forecasted to be the world’s second fastest growing economy in 2015.

The tremendous amount of confidence the global community has developed for the Philippines is incredibly gratifying, especially considering that, not too long ago, we were known as the “Sick Man of Asia.”

However, our administration remains hard at work so that we can maximize every opportunity available to us, and I think many of you will agree with me when I say: 'You ain’t seen nothing yet.'

Infrastructure is one of the sectors that has greatly benefited from our drive to become more competitive.

Through the efforts of our Department of Public Works and Highways, corruption has been vastly minimized, if not eradicated, and projects are now regularly completed ahead of time and under budget, including those started by past administrations.

The good news is that the DPWH’s budget has more than tripled: from P165 billion in 2010, to almost P570 billion in 2015.

We can expect this to grow even more, as our goal is to have infrastructure spending comprise five percent of GDP by 2016.

We are also pursuing another path towards accelerating infrastructure development in the Philippines, namely, the public-private partnerships program [PPP].

Thanks to the good work of those in the Public Private Partnership Center, we have proved to be exceedingly efficient in executing PPP projects. If you will allow me to make a quick comparison:

The past three administrations combined were only able to complete six solicited PPP projects. On the other hand, under our administration, nine projects have been awarded; 16 are in the process of being bid out; and more than 30 other projects are under various stages of development.

Another sector we have focused on is that of power, which, for the longest time, has been rather complicated, to say the least. Rest assured: we share your concern.

Right now, the Philippines has a total dependable capacity of 15,665 MW, which is—or should be—sufficient to meet our highest projected demand level of 10,222 MW for 2015.

But we cannot be content with this, especially with the potential power supply gap in Luzon this summer, due to the threat of El Niño and rehabilitation of the Malampaya gas field.

Government has been pursuing an entire menu of options to address this projected shortfall. We are expediting the rehabilitation of the 300 MW Malaya Thermal Power Plant Unit 1 to help augment power supply in Luzon.

We are also requesting the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines to optimize the dispatch of hydropower plants, which will generate additional energy supply during peak hours. Partnerships with the private sector have also proved useful:

Under the Interruptible Load Program, as of January 2015, 252 participants have signed up to use their own generators and de-load a total of 688.67 megawatts during times when power supply is too tight.

The good news is that a total of 48 committed incoming power projects with 4,693.6 megawatts of power are expected to come online between now and 2018.

Out of these 48 power plants, 21 will be from renewable energy, in line with our goal of diversifying our energy mix and building a power supply that is as clean and reasonably priced as possible.

As you can see, we are determined to continue treading green pathways to development, and to maintain our status as one of the driving forces for clean energy in the region.

As I have said before, our vulnerabilities to climate risk should not keep us from exerting maximum efforts in pursuing non-conventional sources of energy. We are hopeful that the rest of the world will see the value in such a strategy.

These kinds of efforts are even more crucial, in light of the realization of the ASEAN Economic Community [AEC], expected to take place further this year. ASEAN is a formidable economic force.

At a time where many countries in the world are experiencing economic uncertainty, it has remained one of the world’s fastest growing regions. On top of this, one must consider its size: If ASEAN were just one country, it would be a 2.4-trillion dollar economy.

This is precisely why, as ASEAN integration takes full effect, the Philippines is taking every possible measure to take on a more dynamic economic role in the region.

Our compliance rate in the AEC scorecard in terms of our commitments to AEC 2015 is now at around 86 percent. I have already signed crucial laws that will help us meet our financial integration commitments, including an Act Strengthening the Insurance Industry and the Act Allowing the Full Entry of Foreign Banks in the Philippines.

Moving forward, we will continue expanding the range of financial tools available in our country, so we can maximize the advantages of integration.

Widening the range of financial options in the country also helps another key sector: that of micro, small, and medium enterprises [MSMEs]. An empowered MSME sector is one of the main foundations of a healthy economy:

It enables us to establish economic dynamos in even the most remote parts of the nation; it creates opportunities, giving our countrymen yet another path through which they can take hold of their destinies.

Ultimately, it can become one of the strongest and most direct tools towards inclusive growth, and thus, we want MSMEs to take on a leading role in our country’s growth story.

This is why we have been working overtime to provide MSMEs the wherewithal to compete and succeed in an increasingly global market.

For instance, our SME Roving Academy has conducted more than 1,871 training sessions focused on skills training, product pricing and costing, business planning, entrepreneurship development, and financial management, among many others.

To date, these have helped more than 85,000 potential and established entrepreneurs.

Last year, I also signed the Go Negosyo Act along with its implementing rules and regulations. Through these, we have started putting up what we call “Negosyo Centers,” or business centers, that will offer MSMEs a full range of services, including business registration processing, training sessions and seminars, and the establishment of market linkages.

By the end of this year, we intend on putting up 100 of these establishments across the archipelago.

Rest assured, our administration will do everything in its power to build on our economic momentum by continuing to invest in the Filipino people. In the past four years and eight months, we have gained the fiscal space necessary to double the budget of our Department of Education, more than triple the budget of our Department of Health, and increase the budget of our Department of Social Welfare and Development by more than seven times, all without raising taxes, apart from the sin tax.

We have begun to see the results of our investments in our people. In fact, this year, we will witness the fruits of our decision to expand the DSWD’s conditional cash transfer program to include families with high-school aged children.

According to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, high school graduates earn 40 percent more than a person who only graduates from grade school.

Under the expanded CCT program, the first batch of children in assisted families will be graduating from high school this month, which will help lay the foundations for a better future for them.

As I have stated time and again, our greatest resource is our people, and we will continue to channel funds to programs that have the twin effects of creating a skilled, talented, and healthy work force that can attract more investors, and more importantly, of allowing our people to retake control of their destinies.

Today, as all of us in this hall look to the future, there is indeed much reason for optimism. By nearly all available measures—be it GDP, global competitiveness rankings, or credit ratings—the Philippines is poised for even more success.

There is, however, one aspect of our country that has yet to be sufficiently measured, and that is the limitless potential of our people, who have been the lifeblood of our success.

These past few years, our people have proven themselves to the world. But having been exposed to the skill, talent, loyalty, and resilience of so many of our countrymen, I know that we have only scratched the surface. I am thankful that all of you are here today, whether it is those who have already invested in this country, or those who have just taken the first step.

To those who are here to take a closer look at the Philippines, I invite you: Bet on the Filipino people, and discover for yourself how it’s more fun and more profitable to do business in the Philippines. If, on the other hand, you decline this invitation, perhaps I may pose a question, how confident are you that you will never say: we missed such a good opportunity?

Together, I am convinced that we can work to accelerate this country’s performance, and propel it to even greater heights.

Thank you for your kind attention. Good day.


INQUIRER

Aquino laments people losing sight of PH successes Jerry E. Esplanada @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 5:01 AM | Wednesday, March 25th, 2015


AQUINO AT THE 4th EURO PHL FORUM

MANILA, Philippines–He used no alliterations like referring to jaded journalists as “nattering nabobs of negativism” as one former American official had said of his critics.

But President Aquino’s message was not off the mark.

Aquino on Tuesday said that under his administration, “there has been so much good news and yet this good news has often been relegated to the back pages of our broadsheets.”

Aquino said the “campaign to change the mindset that negativism sells is still a work in progress.”

Speaking before the Philippines Investment Forum at a Makati hotel, he said that “while it is true that we have had our share of setbacks and challenges, we also have an impressive number of achievements under our belt.”

“This is why, I have made a point to spread the good news, and why I am always thankful for those who stay balanced and constructive, pointing out areas in which we can improve while also acknowledging our progress,” he said.

He reported, among other things, that “2014 was a banner year for FDI (foreign direct investment) reaching an all-time high of $6.2 billion,

65.9 percent higher than what we received in 2013.”

READ MORE...
“We have likewise posted impressive growth: From 2010 to 2013, the Philippines averaged a GDP (gross domestic product) growth of 6.3 percent. Compare this to the previous three-year period under my predecessor (former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) where growth was just at 4.3 percent.

Investment grade

“On top of this, even in spite of the lingering effects of Typhoon “Haiyan” (local name: Supertyphoon “Yolanda”) and the uncertainty in the Philippine economy, our country still posted a respectable 6.1-percent GDP growth figure last year,” he said.

The Philippines was “likewise upgraded to investment grade by all three major credit ratings agencies in 2013 and has continued to receive upgrades since,” he further said.

“We are indeed making history. All these and many other factors have led to even greater optimism for our country’s prospects. Just to give you one example: Bloomberg recently reported, I’m told, that the Philippines is forecast to be the world’s second-fastest-growing economy in 2015,” he said.

‘You ain’t seen nothing yet’

The President noted that “the tremendous amount of confidence the global community has developed for the Philippines is incredibly gratifying, especially considering that not too long ago, we were known as the ‘sick man of Asia.’”

However, he said his administration “remains hard at work so that we can maximize every opportunity available to us and I think many of you will agree with me when I say, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

He cited infrastructure as “one of the sectors that have greatly benefited from our drive to become more competitive.”

“Through the efforts of our Department of Public Works and Highways, corruption has been vastly minimized, if not eradicated and projects are now regularly completed ahead of time and under budget, including those started by past administrations,” he said.

The government, he also said, was “also pursuing another path toward accelerating infrastructure development, namely the public-private partnership program.”

Another sector the administration has focused on is power, which “for the longest time has been rather complicated, to say the least.”

“Right now, the Philippines has a total dependable capacity of 15,665 megawatts (MW), which is or should be sufficient enough to meet our highest projected demand level of 10,222 MW for 2015. But we cannot be content with this, especially with the potential power supply gap in Luzon this summer,” he said.

‘Reason for optimism’

But there is good news. “A total of 48 incoming power projects with 4,693.6 MW of power are expected to come online between now and 2018,” he said.

At the same time, he assured the government “will do everything in its power to build on our economic momentum by continuing to invest in the Filipino people.”

“In the past four years and eight months, we have gained the fiscal space to double the budget of our Department of Education, more than triple the budget of our Department of Health and increase the budget of our Department of Social Welfare and Development by more than seven times, all without raising taxes, apart from the sin tax,” he said.

The President said: “There is indeed much reason for optimism. By nearly all available measures, be it GDP, competitiveness rankings or credit ratings, the Philippines is poised for even more successes.”


PHILSTAR

Pulse Asia: Aquino no longer most approved, trusted top official By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated March 26, 2015 - 6:33pm


Senate President Franklin Drilon is now the most approved and most trusted top government official, replacing President Benigno Aquino III. AJ Bolando

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III is no longer the most approved and most trusted top official after suffering the biggest ratings decline among the five highest government executives, according to the new Pulse Asia survey released on Thursday.

Results of the March 2015 survey showed that Aquino is now behind Senate President Franklin Drilon and Vice President Jejomar Binay, who saw slight changes in their ratings.

Four months ago, Aquino was the most approved and most trusted government executive.

"President Aquino experiences significant changes in his performance and trust ratings between November 2014 and March 2015; the other top government officials of the country register minimal movements in their national ratings," Pulse Asia said.

Drilon's approval rating increased to 49 percent from 47 percent in November while his trust rating also went up to 44 percent from 42 percent.

Binay's approval score went up from 45 percent to 46 percent while his trust rating fell from 44 percent to 42 percent.

READ MORE...
A Pulse Asia survey released last week showed that Aquino's approval rating plummeted from 59 percent in November to 38 percent this month while his trust rating nosedived from 56 percent to 36 percent in the same period.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's approval and trust ratings dropped from 37 percent to 29 percent and from 33 percent to 27 percent, respectively.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte is the least approved and trusted top government executive. His approval rating declined from 34 percent to 27 percent while his trust score dipped from 31 percent to 23 percent.

Pulse Asia noted that the leading government officials of the country are unable to obtain majority approval and trust ratings for the first quarter of 2015.

Sought for comment, Malacañang shrugged off claims that the big decline in approval and trust ratings would be a concern for Aquino.

"The president is firmly determined to fulfill his promises to his Bosses, the Filipino people," Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement sent through e-mail.

"In all his actions and decisions he abides by his sworn duties and serves in accordance with his judgment on what is best for the nation, regardless of the ebb and flow of public sentiment and popularity ratings," Coloma added.


MANILA STANDARD EDITORIAL

Telling all, seeing nothing By Manila Standard Today | Mar. 26, 2015 at 12:01am



President Aquino is expected to face the new batch of graduates of the Philippine National Police Academy today, the same school that produced six of the 44 members of the Special Action Force who died in Mamasapano, Maguindanao two months ago.

Mr. Aquino has told some media organizations that this would be the last time he would ever speak on the controversial police operation that killed a Malaysian terrorist but claimed the lives of the SAF commandoes and five civilians as well as some members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The focus of his speech, Mr. Aquino said, would be his own questions regarding what happened in Mamasapano, given the information available to him at that time. “That’s how I want to be judged,” he added.

Some anticipate that he would “tell all” about Mamasapano – although we have learned from experience that “all” eventually turned out to be only “some” as the President’s version of events evolved as he went along.

READ MORE...
In fact, a survey said that eight out of 10 Filipinos felt that the President’s explanation of Mamasapano was not enough.

The President’s address also comes on the heels of the release of yet another survey—Pulse Asia’s Survey on Urgent National Concerns. Mr. Aquino, who won the 2010 elections on a platform of good governance and reform, failed to obtain majority approval ratings on his performance in 12 key issues—responding to the needs of those affected by calamities (net 31%), stopping the destruction and abuse of our environment (net 26%), defending the integrity of Philippine territory against foreigners (net 20%), fighting criminality (net 20%), enforcing the law on all, whether influential or ordinary people (net 12%), increasing peace in the country (net 11%), fighting graft and corruption in government (net 9%), creating more jobs (net 7%), improving/increasing the pay of workers (0).

Significantly, on two urgent issues—reducing the poverty of many Filipinos and controlling inflation—President Aquino registered negative approval ratings of both -12%

We wonder whether he would at all refer to this latest finding, explaining away and bashing critics anew, or whether he would dismiss these numbers as he normally plays down issues that paint him in a bad light. All he said was that he would push governance, create jobs and fight poverty in the last 15 months of his presidency.

In fact, at an investors’ forum held Tuesday in Makati City, Mr. Aquino appeared jolly and upbeat, recounting the supposed economic gains realized under his administration and tracing “the success story that is the Philippine economy.”

Promising more economic gains, the President told the forum participants: “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

For once, we tend to agree with the President. Given the paucity of his concrete achievements in the last fou years, we really haven’t seen anything yet.


PHILSTAR OPINION

It’s the economy BREAKTHROUGH By Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 26, 2015 - 12:00am


EFREN S.CRUZ

It is not the media commentators, including columnists, nor the front pages that will ultimately determine the issues which will most influence the 2016 elections. In fact, based on my recent discussions with political and NGO leaders on the ground and the results of the recent Pulse Asia surveys, the most urgent concerns of the electorate have not been changed by recent events in Mindanao.

Political seers and surveys show that the most important issues remain to be economic in nature. These concerns have remained unchanged from last year up to the latest Pulse Asia survey in March. The five most important concerns are controlling inflation, increasing wages, reducing poverty, creating more jobs and fighting graft and corruption. I would surmise that graft and corruption is a major issue because it is perceived as an obstacle to economic prosperity.

The performance ratings of the administration on all these issues have also remained relatively unchanged over the past six months as shown in the different surveys. Local politicians, especially those outside Metro Manila, have confirmed this analysis.

I remember the story of how Bill Clinton won the 1992 presidential elections in the United States. During the campaign, the Republicans started a heavily funded media campaign that focused on accusing Bill and Hillary Clinton of various scandals including immoral personal behavior. There are campaign stories that relate how the Clintons were sorely tempted to answer all those accusations.

However, campaign handlers reminded him that negative media campaigns are part and parcel of politics, and that he must remain focused on the real issues of the campaign, which was mainly improving the economy.

CONTINUE READING...
The campaign managers of Clinton decided to put up posters to remind the candidate to remain focused and not be distracted. The posters had a simple message that said: “It’s the Economy, Stupid.”

There’s a similar pattern in the story of President Obama, who inherited an economy that was almost destroyed by his predecessor. In 2008, the world suffered a financial meltdown and was on the verge of another Great Depression. After Obama took over, he instituted reforms that were constantly attacked by his political enemies. Today, the United States is again enjoying the highest economic growth rate among developed countries. Unemployment is being reduced and millions of new jobs have been created.

Last year, the Democratic Party lost in the midterm elections in spite of the economic recovery taking place. The Republicans again resorted to negative campaigning. There were stories that Obama was not born in the United States and was actually a Muslim. The USA is the only rich country without universal health care. Obama’s affordable health care plan was attacked as being socialist. The Democratic Party was unable to present a convincing narrative to the American people that the economy was actually improving and that life was getting better.

The Republicans were able to divert the issues to social issues and away from the economic recovery. Obama has also been accused of being soft on terrorism because of his efforts to negotiate a nuclear weapon control settlement with Iran, a country which Republicans say cannot be trusted and should be bombed as a way of preventing war. Even in United States there are voices that say war and violence are the pathways to peace.

Here in the Philippines, there are groups that will automatically oppose almost anything the President will try to do. The so-called militant left, with its bankrupt Marxist ideology, have filed several impeachment complaints despite the fact that they know there is no way it will prosper. But their goal is simply media mileage. The negative campaigns will continue to escalate because the presidential campaign period is approaching.

The reality is that the Philippine economic miracle is much more appreciated by foreign media and observers than by local media. We are the “second” fastest growing economy in Asia, but there are accusations that we can do better. There have been more Public-Private Projects awarded or ready for bidding in the last four years than in the past three administrations. But there are still criticisms that the PPP is not going fast enough.

There have also been criticisms of the performance of the Cabinet. It is true that these critics may have been justified in a few cases like Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Alan Purisima. However, this Cabinet is composed – predominantly – of capable, energetic and honest personalities.

Rogelio Singson has minimized corruption in DPWH and has built roads and bridges that actually exist. Br. Armin Luistro has the courage and the foresight to finally start us on the road to world class education. Virgilio de los Reyes has handled agrarian reform, including the Hacienda Luisita case, with efficiency and diplomacy that has provided badly needed leadership in a once graft ridden department. Dinky Soliman has expanded the Conditional Cash Transfer in a program that is transforming lives at the grassroots level. Then there is Leila de Lima of Justice, Cesar Purisima of Finance, Voltaire Gazmin of Defense, and several others whose contribution to restoring the rule of law and expanding economic opportunity will someday be hailed as legacies of this administration.

During the presidency of P-Noy, the Philippines has been transformed from being the sick man of Asia into what Bloomberg News calls “Southeast Asia’s Strong Man.” This will be remembered, especially by future generations, as one of the greatest legacies of President Noynoy Aquino.


INQUIRER

Tagle, Ayala lead Aquino-formed peace council Nestor Corrales @NCorralesINQ INQUIRER.net 3:49 PM | Friday, March 27th, 2015

A year after the historic signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, President Benigno Aquino III announced on Friday afternoon the creation of a council of leaders from different sectors of society, including the Catholic Church, to help the public understand the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

READ: Facts about the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro

Aquino, in an address to the nation in Malacañang, said that the independent conveners would be composed of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Howard Dee and Muslim Princess Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman.

“They will gather other responsible and respected leaders to spearhead a National Peace Summit to deliberate on and discuss the BBL,” Aquino said.

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"“They will dissect the proposed law in a calm and reasonable manner that will not incite anger and hopelessness.”

He said the council would write a report that would be made public, so that everyone may be informed and more Filipinos may understand the BBL.

“In this manner, we will be able to advance a reasonable decision as regards the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” he said.

He said the BBL is the most important legislative measure of his administration, adding that the BBL culminated the 17 years of peace negotiations between the government and the MILF and would pave the way for a Bangsamoro autonomous political entity.

The President said the passage of the proposed BBL would not only be for the legacy of his term but for the next generation as well.

“I do not pursue peace just to add to my legacy. What we are pursuing is a genuine peace that truly addresses the roots of the problems that led to violence,” he said.

“At this point in our history, I say to all of you: The BBL will make this a reality.”

The draft BBL has been disparaged by lawmakers, including those that initially endorsed it like Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, because of its supposed unconstitutionality and being lopsided in favor of the MILF.

READ: Bangsamoro law support in Congress suffers setback

The BBL is the key piece of legislation that needs to be passed for the creation of a Bangsamoro autonomous region, described as the realization of the Moro people’s desire for self-determination.

The MILF has been blamed for the bloodbath but the rebel group had said its men only defended themselves, not knowing that there was a police operation in their area.

The Mamasapano debacle left dead 44 SAF commandos, 17 rebels, and five civilians, including a young girl. With a report from Nikko Dizon | ID/RC


PHILSTAR

House leaders agree: P-Noy won’t be invited By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 29, 2015 - 12:00am


Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.


MANILA, Philippines - It’s final: the House of Representatives will not invite President Aquino to its hearings on the Mamasapano incident on April 7 and 8.

And if anyone would present a motion during the inquiry to invite the President, members from the majority will vote it down.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has informed Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora that the House majority coalition will not allow an invitation to be issued for Aquino, Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said yesterday.

“We met last Tuesday and we made it clear that the President will not be invited, that he has already made a sufficient explanation of his role in Mamasapano. The minority did not insist on having an invitation extended to the President,” he said.

Aside from Belmonte, Gonzales and Zamora, others who attended the meeting were Carol Jane Lopez of party-list group You Against Corruption and Poverty, Celso Lobregat of Zamboanga City, Rodolfo Biazon of Muntinlupa, Jeffrey Ferrer of Negros Occidental and Jim Hataman-Salliman of Basilan.

Ferrer and Salliman, as chairmen of the committees on public order and on peace and reconciliation, respectively, will jointly preside over the April hearings.

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Gonzales said he expects that some militant party-list representatives would still insist on having the two committees invite Aquino.

“But any motion to that effect would be voted down,” he said.

Last weekend, Belmonte sent a text message to reporters: “Remember, we have had two exhaustive inquiries already. This is just to wrap up. Certainly, we have no intention of inviting him (Aquino) to the inquiry, but would welcome any information he would give.”

The Speaker was reacting to the proposal of Lopez, who belongs to Zamora’s minority group, for the hearing committees to invite Aquino.

Gonzales said it was also agreed during last Tuesday’s meeting that the April hearings would not touch on what the Senate and the PNP Board of Inquiry (BOI) have already investigated.

“It was the consensus that we should not waste time on things that the Senate and the BOI have tackled. The committees should take off from the Senate and BOI reports,” he said.

He said Ferrer and Salliman had promised that they would conduct orderly proceedings.

Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Dasmariñas City in Cavite said he supports the decision of House leaders to block any invitation for Aquino to appear in the Mamasapano inquiry.

“We should respect the President’s wish. He declared in his Philippine National Police Academy speech on Thursday that that would be the last time he would speak on the issue. We should respect that,” he said.

He said he also supports the agreement for the hearing committees to focus on what the Senate and BOI inquiries have not covered.

Since the Senate and the BOI have tackled most issues, committee members should zero in on gaps in their reports, he added.

Ulterior motive

Barzaga also accused those asking President Aquino to apologize for the Mamasapano incident of having ulterior motives.

“Clearly, there’s malice behind his call. Their ulterior motive is to destroy the administration using the death of 44 policemen in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25,” he said.

“Their call for an apology is not only malicious but misplaced, because the issue being raised against the President is not even graft-related,” he said.

He said some of those suggesting that Aquino say sorry “have been affected by the administration’s campaign against corruption.”

“They have been exposed as having stolen money from public coffers, as having pocketed public funds,” he added without naming names.

Aquino’s critics renewed their call for an apology after the President’s Thursday speech at the Philippine National Police Academy in Cavite.

In his speech, the President reiterated that he was taking responsibility for the Mamasapano incident but stopped short of saying sorry.

Barzaga said Aquino was “very sincere and direct to the point” in his speech

“Once more, the President took responsibility. He declared he would bring this tragedy with him until his final day. He spoke the truth – the sadness brought about by the deaths of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers could never be remedied by any speech or report,” he said.

The speech also showed Aquino’s human side when he asked for the public’s understanding for what happened in Mamasapano, he said.

He pointed out that the President’s acceptance of responsibility did not mean that he was admitting liability.

“The President is responsible, as Chief Executive, for the workings of government but he cannot be held liable for every error committed in the bureaucracy – from a simple typo error in a memo to the mistakes of those directly serving under him,” he stressed.

He added that the SAF mission to carry out a presidential directive for the capture of three suspected terrorists “was a success in the sense that the police killed their principal target.”

SAF commandos killed suspected Malaysian terrorist-bomb maker Zulkifli bir Hir, alias Marwan, but lost 44 men in ensuing firefights with guerillas belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and its breakaway faction, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Barzaga joined fellow administration allies in calling for a closure to the Mamasapano incident.

He said Aquino’s critics would be beating a dead horse if they continue to harp on the issue.

Earlier, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said he could not understand why some people still want the President to say sorry despite his taking responsibility for what happened in Mamasapano.

“He reiterated on Thursday that as the nation’s leader, he was the one ultimately responsible for the SAF mission and its results. He asked for understanding for whatever lapses he made, as he is only human like the rest of us. He also reiterated that the incident would forever be on his conscience,” he said.

“What more do we want from him? Do we want him to say sorry and beg for forgiveness? I think his critics just want to humiliate him,” he said.


PHILSTAR OPINION

Reply to the President FROM A DISTANCE By Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 29, 2015 - 12:00am


Carmen Pedrosa  

Bayanko, unlike other movements, has not called for the resignation of President Aquino. We wanted to leave the door open to dialogue. This column emphasized this in previous articles in Philippine STAR.

That is why we feel constrained to answer two recent statements the president made that his government was open to “sincere” talks.

We were pleasantly surprised when at the Philippine Military Academy graduation rites last March 15, he said, “If you are ready to talk sincerely, the State is open to reasonable and truthful dialogue.” In reply I again wrote in this column that “Bayanko welcomed this remark.”

He repeated this call recently in a luncheon he hosted for the men and women’s volleyball teams of Ateneo and La Salle at Malacanang.

He said, “Why don’t you look at what we are trying to do, and if we can improve, we are always ready to listen. And if we are wrong, please do point it out, we want to correct it.” He pointed specifically to the fight against corruption and poverty and said, “Let us stay together as a team.”

Now this is the language of humility. This is the language of reconciliation.

In a “sincere dialogue”, there will be much to talk about. As Alex Magno pointed out in his column, while the poverty rate improved under Ramos, Erap and GMA, it actually worsened under Cory and Noynoy.

The economy has done well, said Magno, thanks partly to the reforms undertaken by FVR and GMA like the Comprehensive Tax Reform and adoption of VAT.

Moreover, if the country’s credit rating has improved it is thanks to OFW remittances. On the other hand, the jobless rate is still one of the highest in Asean and foreign direct investments to the Philippines, a paltry $6 billion, represent less than two percent of the FDIs in the region. Vietnam receives ten times that amount.

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There is also the issue of the Bangsamoro Basic Law which Bayanko, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, the Association of Generals and Flag Officers of the armed forces, and many Filipinos oppose.

“The failure to reinforce the beleaguered SAF44 is criminal and goes against our sacred code as soldiers,” said Gen. Rodrigo Gutang, president of the Veteran Generals and Flag Officers Federation. “They were sacrificed to save the outrageous peace process that would railroad the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

Bayanko’s position is a Bangsamoro federal state must be locked into a new Constitution where no federal state can unilaterally break out of the Republic without the consent by plebiscite of all Filipino voters. It must also be inclusive of all ethnic groups.

MILF’s Mohagher Iqbal said they would continue with the peace process even if they don’t get the BBL. In earlier messages to us, they said they would support a Bangsamoro federal state within a parliamentary federal system. The multi-billion financial package they expect to receive as a windfall from the peace process is the inducement they won’t go back to war.

The total mismanagement of the Mamasapano operation and the BBL led to the sharp drop in President Aquino’s popularity in the latest Pulse Asia survey, from 59 percent in November 2014 to 38 percent this month.

Our forefathers had in mind a parliamentary republic as the form of government. The 1899 Malolos Constitution, called “Constitucion politica,” was written in Spanish following the declaration of independence from Spain and was enacted and ratified by the Malolos Congress in Bulacan.

The 1935 Constitution was approved and adopted by the Commonwealth of the Philippines. It was largely modeled after the US Constitution to meet the approval of the US government. So it was imposed on us.

The 1973 Constitution was supposed to introduce a parliamentary form of government. It was promulgated after Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law. The president was meant to be elected as a symbolic and purely ceremonial head of state with the executive power being lodged in the prime minister, but this was amended by the Citizen Assemblies in 1976 to allow the president to become prime minister to exercise legislative powers until martial law was lifted.

The false parliamentary system was further amended in 1981 into a French-style semi-presidential system. The prime minister became a mere head of Cabinet with no real powers. His job was just to assist the president in the exercise of his powers and functions. The Marcos Constitution was really an authoritarian presidential system.

The 1987 Constitution was originally drafted as a parliamentary system, but it lost by one vote in the final debate. The result is a presidential form. Hence it has many contradictions.

Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister of Singapore, wrote, “In November 1992, I visited (Fidel Ramos). In private, Ramos said he agreed with me that British parliamentary-type constitutions worked better because the majority party in the legislature was also the government. Publicly, he had to differ.”

Mr. President, here is Bayanko’s constructive suggestion. As we have been saying all along, the problem of corruption and poverty is due to the rotten political system that needs to be changed. The system is dominated by rich oligarchs and family dynasties. It has left out the marginalized sectors of society who have no say in the national decision-making process despite being the majority.

Are you prepared to support constitutional change towards a parliamentary system that will give greater representation to the marginalized and a federal system that will give greater autonomy to the regions and provinces than just limiting it to the MILF?

Mr. President, the ball is in your court.

Bayanko’s partners are preparing an extensive program to disseminate information on a parliamentary federal system.

The latest addition to the Executive Committee of our coalition is Ruben Torres.

A graduate of the University of the Philippines, he was a prominent student activist during and after martial law. He served as Secretary of Labor from 1990-92 under President Corazon C. Aquino and as Executive Secretary from 1995-98 under President Fidel V. Ramos.

He was instrumental in brokering a peace accord with the Muslim rebels in Mindanao.

Today he is the vice president of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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