01 June 2016

Government has comprehensive programs to deal with La Niña, says Palace
Malacañang on Wednesday assured that the government is already carrying out several measures to address the possible effects of the La Niña weather phenomenon, which is expected to hit the country this year.”As part of its overall strategy on climate change resiliency, government is implementing a comprehensive program on mitigating the harmful effects of the possible onset of the La Nina scenario,” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement.

“This covers agriculture, flood control and disaster risk reduction measures at the grassroots level.”

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has warned the public of the possibility of a La Niña event occurring later this year, after El Niño ends.

La Niña, the opposite of El Niño, is characterized by above normal rainfall, strong monsoon activity, and the formation of more tropical cyclones.

According to PAGASA, a strong El Niño is usually followed by an equally strong La Niña. Although El Niño is waning, PAGASA said it would continue to cause below normal rainfall and warmer air temperatures in the country in the next several months.

From 1997 to 1998, the country experienced a strong El Niño, which was followed by a La Niña in 1999 when many parts of the country experienced intense rainfall and flooding. PND (as)

President Aquino attends 118th anniversary of the Philippine Navy
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday attended the 118th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Navy (PN), which was highlighted by the simultaneous commissioning of the new landing dock (LD) vessel, the Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas (BRP) Tarlac and the christening of three new landing craft heavy (LCH) vessels at the Pier 13 South Harbor in Manila.

Upon arrival, the President was accorded full military honors by the Fleet Marine Battalion, headed by Capt. Mac Raul Racacho, with Navy Vice Admiral Caesar Taccad as the military host.

President Aquino then witnessed the commissioning ceremony of the four vessels before boarding the BRP Tarlac to inspect the mess hall on Deck 3, the admiral’s mess and VIP room on Deck 4, and the bridge and control room on Deck 5.

During the tour of the ship’s facilities, the President was accompanied by Vice Admiral Taccad, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Acting Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda.

After the tour, President Aquino was ushered to Deck 3 for the program proper. The Chief Executive was assisted by Vice Admiral Taccad, Secretary Gazmin and Lt. Gen. Miranda during the presentation of awards to the Navy’s outstanding officers, enlisted personnel, and civilian employees for serving with honor and excellence.

The awardees were Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao (Naval Operating Forces of the Year), Naval Education and Training Command (PN Support Command of the Year), Naval Intelligence and Security (PN Support Unit of the Year), Littoral Combat Force, Philippine Fleet (PN Fleet Force/Group of Year) and the 1st Marine Brigade, Philippine Marine Corps (Best Marine Brigade of the Year).

Also recognized were Lt. JG Reginald Balidoc and 1st Lt. Jereck Ian Duliguez (Military Merit Medal); Lt. Noel Aurellano, UO3 Oliver Nercuit, 1Lt. Renante Cabugnason and Cpl. Felipe Barbadillo (Gold Cross Medal); Commander Norman Biola (Meritorious Achievement Medal); Sgt. Ardel Soriano (PN Enlisted Personnel); and Esteban Bading (Model Civilian Employee of the Year) and Lorelie dela Cruz (Model Civilian Supervisor of the Year).

In his speech, President Aquino expressed his gratitude to the Philippine Navy for its unparalleled service to the Filipino people.

“Kasabay ng pagbibigay-lakas ng inyong gobyerno sa inyong hukbo, tinapatan din ninyo ang lahat ng ito ng wagas na serbisyo sa ating mga Boss, ang sambayanang Pilipino,” he said.

“Mula sa pagtutok sa ating panloob na seguridad; sa pinaigting na pagpapatrolya at pagbabantay sa ating teritoryo, partikular na sa West Philippine Sea; hanggang sa pag-agapay sa ating mga Boss, lalo na sa panahon ng sakuna at kalamidad. Sa patong-patong na problemang hinarap ng Pilipinas, patong-patong na dunong, husay, at tibay din ang inyong ipinamalas. Kaya nga, sa ngalan ng bawat Pilipinong araw-araw ninyong pinapanatag ang loob at inilalayo sa peligro: Maraming, maraming salamat po sa inyo,” the President said, taking note of the P60.14 billion allocated by the government for the AFP Modernization and Capability Upgrade Program.

“Para sa Navy, tangan na natin ngayon ang limang Naval Helicopters at tatlong Multi-Purpose Attack Craft. Bukod sa mga ito, paparating na rin ang iba pang assets, tulad ng dalawang Frigates, dalawang Anti-Submarine Warfare Capable na Helicopters, ang pangatlo nating Weather High Endurance Cutter,” he further said.

“Tinutukan din natin ang iba pa ninyong mga pangangailangan. Pinirmahan natin ang Executive Order No. 201 nitong Pebrero, na nagpataas ng inyong Monthly Hazard Pay, Provisional Allowance, at Officers’ Allowance. Isama pa natin ang inyong Monthly Combat Pay, Subsistence Allowance, at siyempre, ang AFP/PNP (Philippine National Police) Housing Program,” he added.

With 29 days left before his term ends, President Aquino said he is honored to have served as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

“Halos anim na taon din tayong nagsilbi bilang Ama ng Bayan, at inyo pong punong pangkalahatan. Hanggang sa mga huling araw ko, talagang hindi ko malilimutan ang panahong ito, kung saan tumindig ang Sandatahang Lakas ng Pilipinas, at nagpamalas ng di matatawarang serbisyo at malasakit sa kapwa at bayan. Tiwala naman ako: Kapag tumuloy tayo sa nasimulan nating landas, pihadong gaganda pa ang serbisyo sa inyo, at ang serbisyo ninyo sa ating bansa,” he said.

“Sa inyong lahat: Isang napakalaking karangalan ang pamunuan kayo. Isang karangalang magsilbi nang tapat at totoo sa ating dakilang lahi, ang sambayanang Pilipino.”

The event was also attended by Indonesian Ambassador to the Philippines Johny Lumintang, Philippine Air Force Chief Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina, PNP Chief Director General Ricardo Marquez, Philippine Coast Guard Commandant Rear Admiral William Melad, and Interior and Local Government Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento.

The P1.9-billion BRP Tarlac (LD 601), which is the first strategic sealift vessel of the Navy, was acquired through the AFP Modernization Program. It was named after one of the eight provinces that revolted against the Spaniards during the colonization period. Likewise, BRP Tarlac is the name of a former PN amphibious warfare vessel, the LT 500, a Landing Ship Tank that was decommissioned in June 1998.

Built by PT PAL Indonesia (Persero) in Surabaya, the design of BRP Tarlac was modelled after the Makassar-class Landing Platform Dock of the Indonesian Navy. The ship measures 123 meters in length and 21 meters in width, with a payload capacity of 2,800 tons. It has a maximum speed of 16 knots.

The three LCHs are the supplementary vessels procured by the government in conjunction with the two vessels of the same kind that were previously donated by the Australian government. The vessels were christened BRP Waray (LC288), the group of people who were hard hit by Typhoon Yolanda; Iwak (LC289), an ethnic group in Nueva Viscaya province with the least number of population; and Agta (LC290), an endangered tribe in Southern Luzon.

The new acquisitions are expected to boost the Navy’s capability in transporting personnel, equipment, and aid during humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations. The ships will also be useful in transporting troops from one operational area to another.

Meanwhile, Vice Admiral Taccad assured that the Navy is more than ready to keep fulfilling its role for national development through the continuing upgrade of its facilities and strengthening of personnel’s competency and commitment that all lead up to becoming the modern, formidable Navy capable of protecting the seas and securing the future. PND (jm)

New Customs modernization law to boost BOC’s capability and Philippines’ competitiveness
The newly signed Customs Modernization and Tariff Act will boost the capability of the Bureau of Customs and the overall competitiveness of the country in global trade, Malacañang said on Wednesday.

In a statement, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Republic Act No. 10863 “to boost the capability of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) as one of the top two revenue collecting agencies of the government.”

President Benigno S. Aquino III signed Republic Act No. 10863 on May 30.

It is a consolidation of House Bill No. 5525 and Senate Bill No. 2968 which was finally passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate on February 2, 2016.

“Moreover, the CMTA will boost the country’s overall competitiveness in global trade due to the adoption of technology and updating of regulatory frameworks that ‘…reduce opportunities for corruption and streamline client experience…’ with the BoC,” Coloma further noted.

Under the new law, the tax-exemption for gift-packages or Balikbayan Boxes was increased to P150,000 from P10,000 “to address the needs of Overseas Filipino Workers.”

Returning residents, or those nationals who have stayed in a foreign country for at least six months, shall have tax and duty exemption on personal and household effects provided that: it shall not be in commercial quantities and it is not intended for batter sale or for hire.

The value will also be limited to P350,000 for those who have stayed in a foreign country for at least 10 years and have not availed of the privilege within 10 years prior to arrival; P250,000 for those who have stayed in a foreign country for at least five years but not more than 10 years and have not availed of this privilege within five years prior to arrival; and P150,000 for those who have stayed in a foreign country for a period less than five years and have not availed of this privilege within six months prior to arrival.

Coloma said CMTA allows the country to “align customs management and tariff administration with the standards and practices of 140 other countries, who are signatories to the 1999 Kyoto Convention that promotes predictability and efficiency in international trade.”

In June 1999, the World Customs Organization (WCO) Council adopted the revised Kyoto Convention “as the blueprint for modern and efficient Customs procedures in the 21st century,” according to WCO. PND (kt)

Malacañang recognizes role of media, deplores assault on journalists
The Palace has disagreed with the contention that media killings may be justified if reporters and columnists are engaged in corruption, noting that everyone has the right to due process.

“We recognize the vital role played by journalists as purveyors of information in a democratic society. As citizens, they have a fundamental right to due process and equal protection of the laws of the land,” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

“Hence, we deplore the proposition that some journalists may have been assaulted or killed in view of their alleged involvement in media corruption. It is the duty of government to arrest, prosecute and punish those responsible for violence against members of the media.”

In a press conference in Davao City on Tuesday, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said slain journalists in the Philippines had been corrupt and had “done something” to warrant being killed.

Duterte, who will be sworn in as president on June 30, was responding to a question about how he would handle the killing of journalists in the country.

He said many slain journalists had accepted bribes or criticized people, who then retaliated through violent attacks.

Journalists who defamed others were not necessarily protected from such attacks, he said.

The Philippines ranks as the second-deadliest country for journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists has said, noting that at least 75 journalists have been killed in the country since 1992. PND (as)