14 May 2015

President Aquino orders Philippine flag flown at half mast on Ambassador Lucenario’s interment
President Benigno S. Aquino III has ordered that the Philippine flag be flown at half mast, from sunrise to sunset, in the Department of Foreign Affairs Main Office, its Foreign Service Posts and Regional Consular Offices, on the day of Ambassador Domingo Lucenario, Jr.’s burial on Saturday (May 16).The Chief Executive issued the order through Proclamation No. 1020, signed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. on Wednesday (May 13), as a sign of respect, honor and recognition for Ambassador Lucenario’s exemplary service to the country.

Lucenario served as Philippine envoy to Pakistan and was instrumental in maintaining relations with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgzstan, and Tajikistan.

He had been part of the diplomatic corps since 1986 and had served in various posts, particularly in Germany, Australia, Hong Kong. He was also former ambassador to various African countries.

In recognition of his dedication to public service, Lucenario was awarded the Order of Sikatuna, Order of Lakandula, and the Gawad Mabini.

The May 8 helicopter crash in Pakistan prematurely ended Lucenario’s life.

The incident also resulted in the death of Norway’s ambassador to Pakistan, the wives of the Indonesian and Malaysian ambassadors, two Pakistani pilots, and a Pakistani crew member. PND (jm)

President Aquino conferred honorary doctorate in humanities
President Benigno S. Aquino III was conferred a Doctor of Humanities degree (honoris causa) by the Tarlac State University (TSU) in a simple ceremony held on Thursday at Malacañang Palace’s Reception Hall.

The TSU award was in recognition of the President’s “great contribution to the fields of politics, good governance, international relations, leadership and management, which redound to the benefit of the Filipino people.”

He was also honored for his distinguished political career and service to the people as member of the House of Representatives (Second District of Tarlac province) from 1998 to 2007; member of the Philippine Senate from 2007 to 2010; and 15th president of the Republic of the Philippines.

The Chief Executive was cited for placing the Filipino people as the “boss” and foremost stakeholder in development plans and reform programs, for dedicating his life to leading the nation towards transformation, and for being a model of selfless service.

President Aquino was likewise honored for his “brand of good governance that has brought socio-economic development to all sectors of Philippine society, especially to those in the margins; for protecting and defending Filipino interests in the international arena, and for representing the country in foreign assemblies and conventions.”

His “executive agenda of promoting and upgrading the cause of education, in all its levels, particularly in higher and advanced education among state universities and colleges” and his bringing prestige to Tarlac for producing the chief executive of the Philippine government were also noted.

The President received his diploma from Commission on Higher Education Chairperson, Dr. Patricia Licuanan, who was assisted by TSU President, Dr. Myrna Mallari.

After the awarding of the diploma, the President was inducted to the TSU Alumni Association by the association’s president, Dr. Reynaldo Catacutan.

“I am indeed grateful to Tarlac State University for conferring on me this honorary degree in humanities, which is an incredibly meaningful gesture. After all, I am a son of Tarlac, and it warms my heart knowing that none other than my fellow Tarlaqueños recognize what the entire nation has achieved these past four years and eleven months,” President Aquino said in his speech.

As he emphasized the value of education, the President recalled what his father, the late senator Benigno Aquino, Jr., said.

“I can never forget what my father told me: education, once possessed, is yours for life. Knowledge will always enable us to build better lives for ourselves and our families; more importantly, it allows us to render service to our fellowmen,” he said.

President Aquino said he will continue serving the Filipino people until his term ends.

“Until the very last day of my term, I will continue working with my countrymen—who are my strength—towards building a greater Philippine nation… I will continue to show that, indeed, the Filipino is worth fighting for,” he concluded.

President Aquino is the second in his family to receive the doctoral degree in humanities after his uncle, former ambassador and former Tarlac governor Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr., was awarded the same degree in 2011.

Previous recipients of the honorary degree in humanities were Kim Seong Yong, president of the Citizens Corps Active in Disaster in South Korea; Tommy Ching Lung Kei, president, chairman and chief executive officer of De Luxe Bags, Philippines; Rev. Jungbong Kim, a Korean evangelical preacher and philanthropist; Chul Yung Chan, president of Yeungjin College; Amado Go, former board member of the Tarlac Provincial Council representing the Second District; and Albert Ma Hon Ning, chairman and managing director of Hongkong L.P. Gas Ltd.

Other past awardees were Alex Lee Ye Lick, chairman and chief executive officer of Hongkong Lifelong Education Organization Ltd., for Doctor of Laws; and Genaro Mendoza, former Tarlac City mayor, for Doctor of Public Administration.

The country’s first president, Emilio Aguinaldo, was the school’s first recipient of an honorary degree in 1998. The posthumous doctorate in public administration was conferred to Aguinaldo for establishing the Cientifico y Literaria Universidad de Filipinas (CLUF), which is recognized as the first Filipino and Asian State University. The CLUF is the precursor of the Tarlac State University. PND (jm)

Malacañang congratulates Social Welfare Secretary Soliman for World Bank recognition
The Palace congratulated Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon Soliman, who was recently recognized by the World Bank for her anti-poverty work and people empowerment.

“We congratulate DSWD Secretary Corazon ‘Dinky’ Soliman for being one of six leaders from government, civil society and the private sector worldwide, who were given recognition by the World Bank for their work ‘in promoting social accountability as a means to eradicate poverty and promote inclusive growth in their respective countries’,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement issued on Thursday.

This is the first time that the World Bank-Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) gave the regional awards and a lifetime award for social accountability.

According to World Bank Country Director Motoo Konishi, Secretary Soliman “translates the practice of social accountability and transparency into concrete strategic activities, which she implements with great commitment and passion.”

“Amid dissenting voices and criticisms, she opens the door for collaboration, participation and dialogue, inviting people to voice and discuss their concerns,” said Konishi.

Under Soliman’s leadership, civil society organizations have been involved in the implementation and monitoring of the conditional cash transfer program, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, and the DSWD and more than 50 civil society organizations have entered into a budget partnership agreement to monitor the budget of the department, he added.

In a statement, the World Bank said that as Chair of the Philippine Cabinet Cluster on Human Development and Poverty Reduction, Soliman helped promote collaboration among government agencies for poverty reduction.

These include the bottom-up budgeting approach where 300 to 400 of the poorest municipalities developed their own community-level poverty reduction and empowerment plans.

These plans were subsequently included in the rural development and conditional cash transfer budgets of six national agencies: the departments of social welfare, education, health, agriculture, agrarian reform, and environment, the World Bank said.

Soliman also mobilized regional development councils to work with local government units in ensuring the registration of the poor in the government’s national household targeting system database, it added.

In his statement, Coloma reported that last month, some 14,000 beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program graduated from high school in the National Capital Region.

These students were the first batch of high school graduates covered by the program.

The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program is one of the programs initiated by the government to sustain inclusive growth and uplift the lives of poor Filipinos.

The other recipients of the World Bank GPSA award were from Brazil, Ghana, Mexico, Bangladesh, Morocco, and Moldova.

The recognition was given during an official ceremony at the World Bank headquarters, which was hosted by Sanjay Pradhan, World Bank Vice President for Change, Leadership and Innovation. PND (as)

Malacañang vows strict factory inspections in aftermath of Valenzuela factory fire
The Palace said it is saddened by the huge loss of lives in a factory fire in Valenzuela on Wednesday, vowing to continue strict inspections of manufacturing companies to protect workers.

“We are saddened by the fire that gutted a factory in Valenzuela City yesterday that resulted in the death of many workers,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement issued on Thursday.

Secretary Coloma said they have been informed by Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz that, based on Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) records, Kentex, the firm involved in the fire, was assessed to have been compliant with occupational safety requirements as of September 2014.

“The DOLE is coordinating with the Bureau of Fire Protection in ascertaining if there had been violations of safety regulations, so that proper accountability may be established,” he said.

According to the department, Kentex is a unionized company, with an existing safety committee, and its workers are entitled to government mandated social security and workmen’s compensation benefits.

Moreover, in compliance with President Aquino’s directives, the DOLE has intensified its campaign on compliance with labor law standards, including the hiring of additional labor inspectors, Coloma added.

As a result, a total of 76,880 companies were inspected in 2014, compared to the average of 23,400 companies inspected during the previous decade, he reported.

Of those inspected, a total of 8,974 companies were found to have either closed or could not be located in the recorded address, while 67,906 underwent occupational health and safety (OSH) investigation.

Of those companies actually inspected, 44,041 companies were found to be compliant and 23,865 were required to take corrective action; 7,528 companies have since complied, bringing the number of compliant companies to 51,569 or 76 percent of all those inspected, Coloma added.

“The government is firmly determined to intensify inspection of factories to ensure strict compliance with occupational safety and health standards and prevent a repetition of the Kentex fire and similar disasters that pose grave danger to the safety and lives of Filipino workers,” he said. The Valenzuela fire left at least 70 factory workers dead. They were reportedly trapped inside the rubber slipper factory. More than 26 others have been reported missing and feared dead. PND (as)

Government remains open to discussing peace with communist rebels, says President Aquino
President Benigno S. Aquino III has reiterated that his administration remains open to peace talks with the communist rebels but noted that they must show sincerity before negotiations resume.

“Ang gobyerno parating bukas makipag-usap ng kapayapaan. Pero kailangan naman makita natin ang sinseridad,” the President told Bombo Radyo Philippines during an exclusive interview held in Malacañang on Wednesday.

Talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) bogged down after the latter sought the release of its consultants who are in government custody.

Aside from the issue on the consultants, President Aquino said the communist organization had offered a special track so that the talks could resume but it later backtracked.

He also recalled that a few months ago, he got reports from his peace adviser that instead of sticking to their list of major demands, the rebels made more unrealistic demands that were impossible to meet.

“Imbes na magkaroon lang ng pinakasentrong mga demands, pinalaki nang pinalaki nang pinalaki, parang sinabi na ring, ‘imposible itong mga demands na gugustuhin namin para hindi matuloy itong usapan’,” the President said.

“So, hinihintay lang natin ‘yung sinseridad nila para naman may patunguhan. Hindi iyong parang mekanismo lang para pakinabangan lang nila at hindi ng sambayanan. Kung maipapakita ‘yung sinseridad, bakit hindi tayo mag-umpisa ng usapan ulit?” he added. PND (as)

President Aquino pays respect to Ambassador Lucenario
President Benigno S. Aquino III paid his last respects to Ambassador Domingo Lucenario, Jr., who died in a helicopter crash in Pakistan.

The President, who was accompanied by Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras and Presidential Management Staff Chief Julia Abad, arrived at Lucenario’s wake at Arlington Chapel of the Heritage Park in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City at 5:50 p.m.

There the President met with the Ambassador’s wife, Atty. Nida Lucenario and their children: Marien, Domingo III, and Dominique, and offered a brief prayer before conversing with the family. Lucenario together with other foreign envoys were onboard a Pakistani military helicopter to inspect development projects in the mountainous northern region of Gilgit when the mishap happened.

Among the dead were the Norwegian ambassador to Pakistan, the wives of the Indonesian and Malaysian ambassadors, two Pakistani pilots, and a Pakistani crew member.

Ambassador Lucenario’s burial is scheduled on Saturday (May 16). PND (ag)