PNoy speech at the signing of four pro-poor legislative measures

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His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
After signing four legislative measures: extending the implementation of the lifeline rate for electricity; extending the existence of the Joint Congressional Power Commission; allowing the employment of women night workers; and providing for mandatory immunization services for children
[As delivered at Rizal Hall, Malacañan Palace on June 21, 2011]
Our administration was voted into office because our people believed in the promise of change—the promise of being able to walk into a hospital and see a doctor when they or their children need to; the promise of being able to overcome the widespread poverty that has for so long crippled this nation; and the promise that our administration would create in this country a level playing field for people and businesses alike.
Today, with the help of our allies in Congress, and with the help of those involved in drafting and in getting these measures approved, I have signed these bills that will move us not one, but four steps closer to fulfilling these promises.
I signed the Mandatory Infants and Children Health Immunization act, which requires that all children under five years old be given basic immunization against vaccine-preventable diseases. Specifically, this bill provides for all infants to be given the birth dose of the Hepatitis-B vaccine within 24 hours of birth. Hepatitis-B can be a crippling disease as it can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer, among others. It is not fair that the vaccine against Hepatitis-B can only be afforded by a privileged few. We are doing this to give these children and their families more access to health care, which the more privileged among us often take for granted. For this, I want to thank House Representatives Susan Yap and Jun Abaya, as well as those of Senators Pia Cayetano and Chiz Escudero.
I also signed a bill to extend the lifeline rate for electricity, which lessens the burden of electricity bills on low-income families. The extension of this measure will allow the less fortunate among us to put more of their resources into feeding themselves, or into saving enough to pay hospital or medicine bills. In short, extending this lifeline rate allows those shackled by poverty to focus more of their resources into keeping themselves and their families alive, while also giving them access to electricity. So I want to congratulate House Representatives Henedina Abad, Rufus Rodriguez, Ben Evardone, as well as Senators Chiz Escudero, Serge Osmena, and the Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile for doing this for our less fortunate countrymen.
Fulfilling the promise of eliminating poverty cannot be done in one stroke; and these two measures, however seemingly minor they are, will certainly affect the lives of our people.
Today, we are also leveling the playing field both on the macro and micro levels. And this is why I also signed an act extending the period of existence of the Joint Congressional Power Commission. This commission was established ten years ago with the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, which sought to bring about reforms in the power sector. The JCPC was tasked to make sure that these reforms took place and to foster an environment of healthy competition in the sector. And now, ten years later, we still find it necessary to have a commission paying sufficient attention to this particular sector, and overseeing the continuing reforms. And thus we similarly find the continued existence of the JCPC necessary. For championing this extension, the Filipino people have House Representatives Arnulfo Fuentebella, Henedina Abad, and Senators Serge Osmena and Chiz Escudero to thank.
On the micro level, I signed an act allowing the employment of female night workers, an act which we classified as a priority bill in the last LEDAC. Right now, industries, specially our BPOs, who are hiring women workers to perform night work are first required to secure an exemption from the Department of Labor and Employment–and the strange thing is that this is not necessary in hiring male workers for the same assignment. We cannot have this type of legal technicality giving rise to sexual discrimination, especially in this day and age. And that is why we have moved as quickly as possible to amend this. The signing of this act is also an economic measure because many women in the BPO sector have been unduly prejudiced by this legal accident; and we must also do everything we can to protect our position as industry leaders. On behalf of the Filipino people, I would like to extend gratitude to House Representatives Rufus Rodriguez and Emil Ong, and Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Kiko Pangilinan for their diligent public service in drafting this bill.
These may be small steps forward, but they embody our intention to stay true to what we promised the Filipino people.
We are not satisfied yet. And these bills we are signing today do not mean we can rest. In fact, these bills symbolize the beginning of even more work, even more long nights of discussions and arguments, even more programs and support legislation to be instituted and passed all for the benefit of our people. These bills are only part of the foundation of the Philippines we want to build.
I know these issues are only a few problems out of many, but they serve as reminders of the small road bumps we will undoubtedly encounter as we tread the straight path for the next five, 10 or even 20 years. Let’s face it, today’s signing ceremony is not something you will see on the front pages of our newspapers—my signing of these measures will not automatically eradicate poverty and inequality altogether—but in their small ways, these bills make the lives of our citizens better. Today, for me, is just another day in public service, and our country asks of us to put in more of these shifts, to burn the midnight oil a bit more, to do the most we can to fulfill the hopes of our people. So now that these bills have been put into law, let’s get back to work.
Again, let me thank the entire composition of both chambers of Congress, and especially the hardworking, and never tiring, floor leaders. Thank you and good day.

Lacierda: PNoy SWS Ratings remains in the Very Good and very high

Social Weather Stations 4th Quarter Survey Results
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda:
On the June 2011 Social Weather Stations survey
[Released on June 21, 2011]
The Social Weather Stations’ (SWS) June 3-6 survey shows that while nationwide satisfaction ratings have slightly dipped (from 69% in March to 64% in June), the figure remains in the Very Good range and historically, very high. It is also noteworthy that the level of dissatisfaction did not increase nationally, remaining at 18 percent.
Across all classes (74% for ABC, 63% for D, 66% for E), in all regions (60% in Balance Luzon, 62% in NCR, 67% in Visayas, 71% in Mindanao), the satisfaction rating according to SWS’s own standards, is Very Good.
In fact, for the socioeconomic ABC classes and Mindanao, the administration has achieved a rating of Excellent.
We are not alone in pointing out that satisfaction and dissatisfaction ratings are separate numbers. Many in the media have also cautioned against relying on net ratings without dissecting the actual numbers on which net ratings are based. We trust that all who take the time to look at survey figures ponder the specific questions and the responses to each. These latest survey numbers should confound the pundits who have been drumbeating a “massive drop” in the President’s and the administration’s satisfaction ratings from March to June.
As the administration marks its first year in office, it is heartening to note that it continues to receive the support of the broad public. The administration has been working to clear the obstacles to good governance put in place by those with a vested interest in seeing the country fail. The foundations for inclusive growth are being laid firmly and the public is seeing the hard work being put in beginning to bear fruit.

Lacierda: PNoy grateful on Pulse Asia Ratings

Pulse Asia
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda:
On the Pulse Asia Ulat ng Bayan Survey results for the period of May 21 to June 4, 2011
[Released on June 22, 2011]
President Aquino’s performance and trust ratings remained at near-historical highs, as the recent Pulse Asia Ulat ng Bayan Survey recorded both numbers at 71 percentage points for the survey period of May 21 to June 4, 2011.
Given the margin of error of +/-3 percentage points, the President’s performance rating of 71 percentage points remains statistically unchanged from the previous rating of 74 percentage points recorded in March. An incremental decrease from a trust rating of 75 percentage points in March to 71 during the latest survey period was also reflected in the survey.
The latest Ulat ng Bayan numbers reflect wide-ranging support for the administration’s efforts to curb corruption, pursue inclusive growth, and provide basic services to the people. This, despite obvious attempts by the enemies of reform to stoke the fires of negativism. The President is grateful to the people for this vote of confidence, and remains committed to leading them on the straight and righteous path to equitable progress.

DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario met with United States Senator John McCain on the issue of sovereignty in the South China Sea

John McCain (R-AZ), United States Senator
The Philippine Embassy in Washington reported that Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario met with Senator John McCain, a senior Republican Senator from Arizona and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 21.
Secretary del Rosario expressed agreement with Senator McCain’s call for the United States to step up efforts in supporting Southeast Asian countries on the issue of sovereignty in the South China Sea.
At a dinner sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on June 20, Senator McCain said the United States should assist the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in developing and deploying an early warning system and coastal vessels in the areas being disputed.
He also emphasized the importance of diplomacy and a unified effort in helping ASEAN address differences with China. They both agreed that a multilateral approach is vital in resolving differences among the claimant nations. They also supported a rules-based regime and a binding agreement to preserve the peace in the region. Senator McCain added that the best way to prevent conflict is to build capabilities and undertake joint operations.
The Senator also reiterated the United States government’s support for the Philippines, which he considers the first democracy in Asia and a close treaty ally of the United States.
Secretary del Rosario highlighted the importance of trade cooperation between the two countries.
After a discussion on the Save Our Industries (SAVE Act) bill, Senator McCain expressed his readiness to be a cosponsor.
The SAVE Act will allow the entry to the US duty-free of Philippine apparel exports made of U.S.-made fabrics and reduced tariffs on those that use US-made yarns.
The SAVE Act would represent the first major trade initiative between the two countries in nearly 40 years.

DPWH Sec. Singson to assists in declogging Rio Grande de Mindanao

Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio L. Singson has ordered all available DPWH resources in Central Mindanao, including the national head office to provide assistance in the declogging activities especially near the mouth of Rio Grande.
The DPWH-President’s Bridge Program Office (PBPO) has mobilized its emergency response team—personnel armed with various types heavy equipment—to assist in the ongoing efforts to declog the Rio Grande de Mindanao of water lilies and other debris that have been causing flooding in Cotabato City and nearby areas.
Since last Saturday, trailer trucks from the PBPO Tagoloan Depot in Cagayan de Oro delivered one backhoe, one crane, and 12 barge components to bring the dredging fleet to Cotabato City. The dredging operation team has commenced the declogging yesterday morning.
As of last week, various military and civilian government personnel, both from the national and local level including various equipment were already on site to help in the clearing works being carried out by the DPWH Region 12 office, with two watermaster dredgers in operation. According to the DPWH, the clogged area is so massive that personnel are resorting to pulling out the water lilies manually.
The flooding that has been wrecking havoc in the area for the past week was caused by incessant rains and aggravated by clogging caused by water lilies and other debris from Liguasan Marsh down to Rio Grande de Mindanao. The debris have accumulated during the past week and is now estimated to be over 20 hectares in area and 4 meters in thickness.

DOE extends Lifeline Rate to ensure the poor will afford electricity services

The Department of Energy (DOE) fully supports the extension of the Lifeline Rate for marginalized power customers, as well as the extension of the term of the Joint Congressional Power Commission (JCPC), which were signed into law by President Benigno S. Aquino III yesterday, June 21, 2011 at Malacañan Palace.
In line with the President’s antipoverty programs, it is the position of the Department that the extension of the lifeline rate will ensure the poor and underprivileged sector would still be able to afford electricity services. The lifeline rate is a subsidized electricity rate given to low-income residential power customers who are not able to pay the full cost of electricity. The DOE endorsed the extension of the lifeline rate to ensure that 2.02 million households nationwide will continue receiving discounted electricity rates since the provision is set to expire on June 26, 2011. With the enactment of the law, marginalized users are ensured of low-priced electricity up to 2021.
Meanwhile, the DOE also supports the enactment of the law that has extended the term of JCPC for an additional 10 years. This will help ensure the continued partnership of the Executive department and the Legislative department in implementing the provisions of not only the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA) but the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 as well.
Representatives from the DOE, Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp., National Power Corp., National Electrification Administration, Philippine Electricity Market Corp., National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, Energy Development Corp., Manila Electric Company, Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, Philippine Electric Plant Owners Association, Center for Clean and Renewable Energy Development and a number of lifeliners from Tondo graced the said event.

Tropical Depresssion EGAY update as of 11:00 AM, June 20, 2011

Tropical Cyclone Warning: Tropical Depression "EGAY" Issued at 11:00 a.m., Monday, 20 June 2011
Tropical Depresssion "EGAY"has continued to moved away from the country.
Location of Center:
(as of 10:00 a.m.)
250 km Northwest of Aparri, Cagayan or
210 km West of Basco, Batanes 
Coordinates:20.1°N, 119.6°E
Strength:Maximum sustained winds of 55 kph near the center
Movement:West Northwest at 17 kph 
Forecast Positions/Outlook:Monday Evening:400 km Northwest of Aparri, Cagayan or
370 km West of Basco Batanes
Areas Having Public Storm Warning Signal
PSWS #LuzonVisayasMindanao
Signal No. 1
(45-60 kph winds)
Babuyan Group of Is.
Batanes Group of Is.
Ilocos Norte
Public Storm Warning Signals elsewhere now lowered.

Residents in low lying and mountainous areas under signal # 1 are alerted against possible flashfloods and landslides.

TD "EGAY" is expected to enhance the southwest monsoon and will bring rains over the western section of Luzon and of Visayas.

Meanwhile a Low Pressure Area (LPA) was estimated at 1020 km east of Southern Visayas (10.3N, 136.0E).

The public and the disaster coordinating councils concerned are advised to take appropriate actions and watch for the next bulletin to be issued at 5 PM today and the hourly updates. 

House proposed 20 percent tax on lotto winnings for education and housing

A lawmaker has proposed a 20 percent tax on lotto winnings or earnings, which shall be used for education and housing purposes.

Rep. Winston Castelo (2nd District, Quezon City), author of House Bill 4774, said it is the declared policy of the State to promote the general welfare hence, toward this end, benefits should be democratized to reach as many people and beneficiaries as possible in accordance with the law.

"Lotto draws gain for the government on one end and the betting universe on the other, if an awesome amount of money is won. The winner takes home such bagful of money that is sure to improve his lot, and that of his extended family, close relatives and associates. Sometimes, the winner also shares the blessings with a small circle of private individuals only known to him," Castelo said.

Castelo said the bill aims to institutionalize this mode of sharing the blessings gained by, for example, a single winner of a lotto pot or grand draw that could reach as high as a billion peso.

"The bill finds it proper, even reasonable, to tax at least 20 percent of these lotto winnings or earnings, of which 10 percent shall be used for education and 10 percent for housing purposes as the appropriate agencies of the government may so implement," said Castelo, a vice chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development.

Castelo further said people should also learn from lessons of the past, citing as an example the case of one grand draw winner whose lotto winnings and earnings were taxed in favor of a foreign government of which he is a citizen. 

The bill provides that there shall hereby be imposed a tax of 20 percent for every lotto winning or earning, 10 percent of which shall go to education and the other 10 percent for housing purposes consistent with the law.

The bill provides further that the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) shall ensure full implementation of the measure once enacted into law. 

Reflect on the life and teachings of Dr. Jose Rizal, said Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda:
Timeout for Rizal
[Released on June 20, 2011]
As instructed by the Executive Office, the National Library is open today to give our fellow citizens a rare chance to see the original copies of Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo” on display. The restoration of these priceless manuscripts, the founding documents of our nationhood, was made possible by a grant from the German government.
Also open to the public today are “Rizal in our midst: A homage to greatness,” at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and for stamp collectors, the Rizaliana exhibit at the Post Office Building, Liwasang Bonifacio, Manila.
We urge the public to take the opportunity to reflect on the life and teachings of our national hero today.

VP Binay: the Philippine government must protect the country’s interests against China

Map of the Spratly Islands.Vice President Jejomar C. Binay remains optimistic that the issue involving the Spratly Islands will not strain relations between Philippines and China, but stressed that the Philippine government must protect the country’s interests.

“Di naman dapat maging cause ng conflict ang Spratlys, pero di rin naman dapat tayo magpabaya sa ginagawa ng China,” Binay said in an interview upon his arrival from the United States for a two-week educational program on housing finance.

The Philippine Navy recently dispatched its biggest battleship to patrol over territorial waters around Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

BRP (Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas) Rajah Humabon was deployed after China sent its largest maritime patrol ship which is reportedly passing the disputed areas of Paracel and the Spratly island groups.

The Vice President said the Philippine government’s decision to send the Humabon was only to protect the interest of the country. However, he noted that the Spratlys issue could be settled in a peaceful manner.

“Sa palagay ko naman, mapag-uusapan ito at hindi naman hahantong sa hindi mabuting relasyon ng Pilipinas at China. Nag-uusap-usap naman ang mga pamahalaan d’yan,” Binay said.

Earlier this May, Vice Chairman Jiang Shusheng of the Standing Committee of the 11th National People’s Congress of the People's Republic of China expressed support to President Benigno Aquino’s call to settle the issue diplomatically.

During a courtesy visit at the Office of the Vice President, Jiang said Philippines and China should maintain a “friendly atmosphere” in handling the situation, keeping in mind the relationship between the two countries.

Asked if Filipino and Fil-Am communities in the US are alarmed over the tension in Spratlys, Binay said they are more concerned about the passage of the Save Our Industries Act in the US Congress.

The Act will allow the duty-free export into the US of apparel products made in the Philippines from US fabrics and is seen to revive the $2-billion clothing industry that employed at least 600,000 Filipino workers.

Meanwhile, Binay noted the US government’s declaration of support to the Philippines regarding the Spratlys issue.

“Sabi nila, kami ay tutulong. Kaya lang walang binigay na specifics. Para bang, bahala na kayo mag-interpret. Basta, kami ay tutulong. Hindi namin iiwanan ang Pilipinas,” he said.

President Aquino speech at the 57th Liberal International Congress

His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
[Delivered at Rizal Hall, Malacañan Palace, Manila on June 18, 2011]
The current global milieu has been described by some thinkers as “post-ideological,” and one would find it hard to argue with such a description. Schools of thought have come and gone; ideological frameworks meant to describe the world we live in—and to prescribe the best ways to survive and flourish—have gained popularity, then fallen by the wayside. While it cannot be denied that advances in human knowledge have provided us with comforts and allowed us to address some of the greater, more complex problems that humankind has had to face, I think we can all—as Liberal thinkers—agree that, by the moment, more and more questions arise, and answers can not always be at hand.
It is in this context that we find ourselves gathering as Liberals, in a world that gives greater value to a certain ideological dexterity; a nimbleness of thought that allows governments to respond quickly to crises, to foresee trends, and to utilize these trends for the benefit of the people. This of course requires the clarity of vision to recognize what is happening on the ground, and the humility to adjust accordingly.
The lines that have traditionally defined us, at least politically, have become blurred. While in some corners of the globe, liberals have for generations been a small but staunch opposition, in others they have banded with other parties in order to pursue their agenda. While on one hand we may have pushed for greater deregulation of industries, on the other we have called for governments to step in, in order to save an ailing economy.
And so the question persists: What does it mean to be a Liberal today? Our governments have all had to operate within different environments, and we’ve all had to adapt in order to face the challenges of our individual nations. Perhaps the question I must first answer, then, is: How am I as a Liberal?
My candidacy was organized along two tracks: there was the hard work and organization required of the Liberal Party, and there was the cooperation without undue integration of the many other groups and associations that wanted to help campaign so that the people’s mandate might be obtained.
As we have seen, there is plenty of room for both, whether in a campaign or in governance.
And when in the past, the ruling party in its quest to perpetuate itself in power recognized no limits and no other voice but its own, we now choose to be as consultative and inclusive as possible. When before the law was used to harass and silence those who brooked opposition, today we choose to consider the law as a means to engage others in discourse. When before, authority was used to quell hope, today we use it to realize hope.
In other words, in power, we choose to be different from those whom we replaced.
This is what we have constantly communicated to our people. Our blueprint for governance—our Social Contract with the Filipino people—acknowledges the dissatisfaction with the status quo that got us elected in the first place. Our policies have been crafted on the basis of firm lines of principle.
When I announced my candidacy for the presidency, I said my job is about the efficient allocation of resources. We made zero-based budgeting the basis of all our public spending. We refused to accept previous assumptions and went back to basics.
We also felt that only through a thorough reexamination of contracts and expenditures could we achieve the fiscal prudence that has allowed us, in April, to record our highest monthly surplus in 25 years. In turn, this has allowed us to ensure that we will have adequate resources for the administration of justice as well as programs such as conditional cash transfers for the poor.
And while these policies of my government are in response to the needs of our people here and now, they are also firmly in keeping with principles first laid down by our party when it was organized in 1946.
In essence, it is also what has called our people to rally along the “tuwid na daan”—the straight and righteous path. It is also what binds us all as Liberals, even in this so-called post-ideological century of ours: the respect for the individual’s rights and freedoms; the commitment to make growth inclusive and equitable, so that every man and woman may have the means to fulfill their fullest potential; and the unwavering compassion for those with little means to pursue their dreams.
We continue to be guided by these principles in every aspect of governance. Whether it was in my appeal to the Supreme Court to permit the Maguindanao Massacre trial to be televised, so our people may have an opportunity to witness justice served, and to understand the causes of impunity in our country; or whether it was in my pursuing a pocket open skies policy as part of our liberalization and deregulation efforts; or even in my recent signing of Executive Order 45, which allows our Department of Justice to take legal action in the case of monopolies and cartels—what we are pursuing are these broad things, unbound by narrow-minded dogma, but consistent with our obligation to pursue the greater good.
This is also why this Congress has chosen to locate Human Rights as parallel to Free Trade in the articulation of our theme: Because we believe that the latter must be pursued to ensure that the former is upheld. As I have mentioned once before, governments must ensure direction, so that the market might be used as a plow to cultivate the fields of social justice. In rhetorical terms, How can an individual enjoy the rights he has on paper, when from birth he has been denied the tools to take his destiny into his own hands?
Such a question continues to persist in my country, and in many of yours. Some of us have already obtained a mandate to address this, and as my people pray—and work—so that my nation may overcome its own set of challenges, so do I pray, and pledge my support, to the ultimate flourishing and concretization of our principles as liberals around the globe.
The Liberal Party of the Philippines joined Liberal International 23 years ago, the first to do so in Asia. In the span of a generation we have grown from a small band of believers to a multitude capable of passing laws and implementing them consistent with our agenda of equal opportunity, human dignity, and individual freedom. While in 1989 a mere handful of our stalwarts journeyed to Paris to reiterate our beliefs and gain entry into this global liberal family, today we host this Congress as the party that our people deemed worthy to lead them. And while this indicates that part of our journey has come full circle, by no means has it achieved its full potential.
And is that not what we gather here for—the achievement of our potentials as leaders, as parties, and as nations? This is the challenge that lies before all of us as committed party members and committed liberals—the same challenge that has been posed to the first people to bear the Liberal mandate.
May we continue to rise to this challenge. Thank you for honoring my party and my country by coming to Manila to hold this Congress.