12 March 2015

Country’s employment rate up by 2.8 percent, Palace official says
The country has registered an employment rate of 93.4 percent, marking an increase of 2.8 percent since January last year, based on the 2015 January Labor Force Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), a Palace official said on Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement that the year-on-year addition of 1.04 million workers in the employment force put the total number of employed at 37.5 million.

He said the increase is almost four times the 281,000 jobs created during the January 2013-2014 period, which posted an annual growth of 0.8 percent.

He said that according to the January 2015 survey, employment grew across all classes of workers, except those in family-operated businesses.

“The survey also indicates that our year-on-year underemployment rate went down to 17.5 percent, from 19.5 percent in January 2014,” Lacierda noted.

The Palace official said these figures do not include data from Region 8 because survey results needed to be comparable to that of the previous period ending in January 2014. According to the PSA, no survey was conducted in the area last year due to the devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda.

“Since 2010, driven by our belief in good governance as good economics, the Aquino administration has continued to enact widespread reforms, which have increased public trust in government and spurred economic growth. This has led to a surge in investor interest in the country, beginning a virtuous cycle of empowerment and inclusive growth. The new opportunities generated by these investments have resulted in not just more jobs but also more meaningful livelihoods for our citizens, as indicated by the lower underemployment rate,” Lacierda said.

He said that amid concerns about increased global volatility and slower growth, the Philippines has continued to buck the trend and surpass expectations.

“Rest assured that the Aquino administration remains committed to pursuing even more growth for the country and to making sure that this translates to real benefits for the Filipino people. Moving forward, let us collectively work toward further entrenching our good governance reforms and making permanent the gains we have achieved,” Lacierda concluded. PND (jm)

Aquino administration to retain members of government peace panel, says Palace
President Benigno S. Aquino III will not change the composition of the government’s peace negotiating team despite a lawmaker’s call to replace the administration’s peace adviser and chief negotiator for peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a Palace official has said.Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, in a privilege speech on Wednesday, called on the President to change the members of the peace panel because of their apparent bias towards the MILF.

In a press briefing in Malacañang on Thursday, Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. however said that the President has no plan to replace the members of the peace panel.

“Naninindigan ang Pangulo hinggil sa kakayahan at integridad ng mga bumubuo ng ating peace panel—mula kay (Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) Secretary Teresita Deles at kay Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, bilang chairperson ng (peace) panel, at ang mga kasapi nito,” he told reporters.

Asked to comment on Cayetano’s allegations that the MILF coddled Marwan, one of the targets of the bloody Mamasapano clash last January 25, Coloma said the senator should submit his information to the Senate committee investigating the encounter.

“Ang mga impormasyon na mayroon siya tungkol doon sa umano’y pagkanlong ng MILF, doon sa allegation that the MILF coddled Marwan, should be referred to the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs that heard the different resource persons regarding the Mamasapano incident,” he said.

“At habang hindi pa naman naglalabas ng ulat Ang mga ito, maaari naman niyang ibigay iyon bilang input mismo sa pagsisiyasat ng Senado.”

Coloma noted that although Cayetano’s speech was mostly about his doubts on the sincerity of the MILF in the peace process, the Aquino administration remains committed to the peace talks.

He pointed out that the negotiation between the government and the MILF has been going through the right process in the past five years and was only interrupted by the Mamasapano incident.

With many investigating bodies looking into the deadly incident, the government is confident that the truth will come out, Coloma said.

“Kaya’t patuloy na naninindigan si Pangulong Aquino na kailangang ipagpatuloy ang pagdaloy ng prosesong pangkapayapaan dahil mahalaga ito sa pambansang interes ng Pilipinas,” he said.

Several bodies have launched their respective investigations of the incident — the Senate, the Philippine National Police’ Board of Inquiry, the Department of Justice, the International Monitoring Team (IMT), and the Commission on Human Rights.

The MILF is also doing its own probe, although an official said they will submit their report only to Malaysia, the facilitator for the peace talks.

A total of 44 members of the police’s Special Action Force perished in the Mamasapano clash. The MILF reported losing 18 combatants to the encounter. Several civilians were also reported to have died in the incident. PND (as)

Palace assures P48.8 million for ‘Yolanda’ victims is still intact
The Palace on Thursday assured that P48.8 million, meant for victims of Typhoon Yolanda but kept in banks under the account of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), remains intact.

The money is safe, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said, commenting on a Commission on Audit (COA) report that the amount, consisting of local and foreign donations for victims of the super typhoon, has been kept in banks by the OCD instead of spending it to help those in dire need of aid.

“Ang salapi ay ligtas doon sa bangko. Hindi po ito napariwara. Gagamitin naman po ito sa tamang dapat na paggamitan,” Secretary Coloma told reporters during the daily press briefing in Malacañang.

“Hintayin natin na sagutin ng mga kinauukulang ahensya ang COA finding. Hindi naman siguro tayo dapat magimbal o mag-alala diyan sa finding na iyan dahil patuloy namang tinututukan ng pamahalaan at ginagawa ang lahat ng nararapat hinggil sa pagtugon sa mga kagyat na pangangailangan ng mga pamilyang apektado ng ‘Yolanda’,” he said.

The government continues to extend assistance to the typhoon victims, he said, citing the food packs from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the permanent shelters being built by the National Housing Authority.

Coloma noted that on Thursday (March 12) afternoon, President Benigno S. Aquino III is slated to meet with several departments to go over the progress of rehabilitation efforts in areas affected by the typhoon.

The OCD is the implementing arm of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. PND (ag)