Apr 082014
Workers from first Bukidnon Electric Cooperatives (FIBECO) repair power lines damaged by super typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban City (November 26). (MNS photo)

Workers from first Bukidnon Electric Cooperatives (FIBECO) repair power lines damaged by super typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban City (November 26). (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – Malacañang on Saturday said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources may schedule consultations with other stakeholders concerning the no-build zone policy, which prohibits the construction of structures within 40 meters from the shoreline, in areas affected by super Typhoon Yolanda.

In an interview on state-run dzRB radio, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte also assured the people the DENR is aware of the concerns raised by several groups.

“We continue to work with the stakeholders to find a policy, or at least to settle [concerns over the rule].  Ang sa amin po kasi ay safety nung ating mga kababayan ‘yung pinakaimportante at kung papaano tayo mag-a-adjust para masiguradong talagang safe… lalo ‘yung nasa mga low-lying coastal areas,” she said.

“So we’ll flag the DENR for this and perhaps they can set for consultations if possible for other stakeholders that have concerns on the ‘No-Build Zone’ policy,” she added.

German Development Cooperation (GIZ) chief advisor on disaster risk management Olaf Neussner was quoted in an earlier report as saying the 40-meter no-build zone is not enough to ensure safety from a tsunami or a storm surge.

“You have seen that Yolanda in some places went for more than a kilometer [inland],” he said. “So obviously 40 meters does not help very much.”

Neussner said the topography of certain areas should have been considered in the delineation of the no-build zones.

“It is really hard to generalize…. It really depends on the area. In many areas, 40 meters is clearly not enough if you want to be safe from tsunami or storm surge,” he said. (MNS)

Mar 272014
Palace welcomes House panel adopting its suggestions on FOI bill

President Benigno S. Aquino III presides over the Cabinet Meeting at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room of the Malacañan Palace on Wednesday (September 04, 2013). In photo are Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr.,Department of Finance Cesar Purisima and , Education Secretary Armin Luistro. (MNS photo) MANILA (Mabuhay) – Malacañang on Saturday welcomed the decision of a House of Representatives panel to adopt its suggestions on the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill to speed up its passage. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in an interview on state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan that Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) undersecretary Manuel Quezon III has already met with proponents from the Lower House to explain Malacañang’s position. Valte noted that Malacañang had also previously worked with representatives in the 15th Congress on the FOI bill. “…Sa kagandahang palad naman po in the 15th Congress, the Palace proposal was also adopted by the Technical Working Group of the Committee on Public Information,” she said. “And even po sa Senate noon, noong 15th Congress, these proposals were also adopted by the Committee under Senator Gringo Honasan,” she added. For this Congress, Valte said that Malacañang was pleased that its members were open to provisions or proposals from the Executive branch. “Kasi naniniwala po tayo na ‘yung mga provisions po na ‘yon ay naa-address po niya ng buo ‘yung mga concerns ng Pangulong Aquino tungkol po doon sa paghabol ng burukrasya kapag nagkaroon na po ng Read More …

Feb 212014
Palace: Govt a step closer to acquiring korean jet fighters

The Philippines is one step closer to beefing up its air defense capability following Malacañang’s approval of the payment mode for them, a Palace official said Saturday. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Palace’s approval usually means President Benigno Aquino III’s questions about the transaction had been addressed. “Usually po ‘pag ganyan, that means na-iron out na po ‘yung mga kinks or at least the President’s questions had been sufficiently answered by the department,” Valte said on government-run dzRB radio. Earlier reports indicated the Philippine government is seeking to acquire 12 fighter jets from South Korea. The Philippines had been trying to improve its military capability in the wake of territorial disputes in parts of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). In past months, Philippine forces had figured in tense moments with Chinese vessels in some of the disputed areas. Manila has sought arbitration and a rules-based approach to settle the row. — LBG, GMA News

Jan 032014
Palace: No ‘magic wand’ to solve rising power costs

There is no “magic wand” that could be waved to solve the problem on high power costs, a Malacañang official said Friday. “There’s something that can be done but within the bounds of the law,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte at a press briefing Friday. “So while you believe that the executive has so much power, perceived power, we are limited by what the law says.” Valte specifically cited Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001, which she said prevents the government from being a power generator. “People keep asking ‘why don’t you build your own power plants?’ Because of the law that we have, we can’t. Government can’t do that. You can’t put money into that because it’s prohibited,” Valte said. “So we try to work within what is present to address these concerns and these issues. The President has already given instructions to the relevant agencies to see what we can do,” she added. But asked if President Benigno Aquino III will personally push for amendments to the law, Valte said they will still have to look at the proposed amendments.   “Perhaps it’s a matter of finding the right proposal that the President will throw his weight behind,” she said. “Which is why we’ve said that we welcome any initiatives to amend or at least to put forth amendments from our legislators to the EPIRA Law,” she added. The Palace likewise remained cool to the idea of convening the Legislative Read More …

Nov 292013
Palace: COA looking into auditors tagged in anomalies

The Commission on Audit (COA) has been looking into its own auditors who are being tagged in anomalies, including the alleged systematic misuse of pork barrel funds, a Malacañang official said Friday. “From what I understand, given the past pronouncements of the COA chair herself, the COA is self-aware and that they have also started looking into the possibility that some auditors or resident auditors may be part of the crimes that have happened,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said at a press conference. She was responding to queries on the need for a house cleaning in COA following the announcement that 12 resident COA auditors are among the 34 respondents in the malversation, direct bribery and graft and corrupt practices complaint to be filed before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the pork barrel scam. Aside from this, COA had also been criticized over the agency’s use of funds from the Aquino administration’s controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) for the purchase of service vehicles. Valte, however, said Budget Sec. Butch Abad had already clarified that the money that was used to pay for the vehicles was sourced from the savings of COA itself. She also clarified that they cannot give orders to COA, and that any internal investigation is initiated by the agency. “The viability of giving COA orders would be misplaced at this point, given that the Commission on Audit is an independent constitutional commission,” she said. — Kimberly Jane Tan/KBK, GMA News

Nov 022013
Palace: Preparations ongoing for last-quarter LEDAC meet

Preparations are ongoing for a prospective last-quarter meeting of the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), Malacañang said Saturday. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said a technical working group is preparing to present to President Benigno Aquino II the final proposals of the Cabinet clusters. “The TWG is still working to present to the President the number, at least the final proposals from the different Cabinet clusters. From the last update, na-consolidate na po nila yung listahan at kailangan na lang pong iharap sa Pangulong Aquino for his approval and then the LEDAC will be scheduled,” she said on government-run dzRB radio. LEDAC’s functions include determining and recommending socio-economic development goals, and providing policy advice to the President. It is also mandated to integrate legislative agenda with the national development plan; and recommend to the President and Congress sources of revenues and measures to reduce unnecessary expenditures in government. The LEDAC page on the National Economic and Development Authority said Republic Act 7640 provides that the Council shall meet at least once every quarter but it may be convened by the President to special meetings as may be necessary. Also, it said only two LEDAC meetings were held during the Aquino administration – on Feb. 28 and Aug. 16, both in 2011. It said there was no LEDAC meeting in 2012, and none so far this year. — LBG, GMA News

Nov 022013
Palace downplays Dec 6 'deadline' to get rid of 'pork'

Malacañang on Saturday downplayed a so-called Dec. 6 deadline for President Benigno Aquino to get rid of discretionary or “pork” funds, saying he and his administration will push the proper things at the “correct time.” Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte also said the Palace will continue answering questions on the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program, which Palace critics had dubbed as another form of pork barrel funds. “The president and the administration will push for the correct things at the correct time,” she said on government-run dzRB radio. She was referring to the Dec. 6 deadline by the #ScrapPork Network for Aquino to “destroy the barrier” that blocks his supposed “straight path.” The Dec. 6 date comes 100 days after a massive anti-pork gathering at the Luneta in Manila last Aug. 26. Organizers hinted at gatherings by anti-pork advocates on that day. Valte said the Department of Justice already filed plunder cases against personalities linked to the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam involving the use of fake non-government organizations to siphon funds from lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations. She said the DOJ is set to file charges against another batch of personalities linked to the mess. “The instructions of the president would be to make sure (the cases) will stand scrutiny and (lead to) a conviction,” she added. Meanwhile, Valte said the government will continue “answering” questions on the controversial DAP, which some had branded as another form of pork barrel as it gives lawmakers leeway to identify what projects to Read More …

Oct 262013
Govt provided P189.5M to Zambo City crisis victims — Valte

The government has so far provided some P189.52 million in assistance to residents of Zamboanga City affected by the fighting between government and Moro National Liberation Front forces last September, Malacañang said Saturday. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government will continue addressing the needs of the affected families. A Palace statement quoted her as saying the P189,520,762 includes food assistance, non-food items, financial assistance for transportation, medical costs or expenses, burial, and cash-for-work programs. On the other hand, she said the Department of Social Welfare and Development still provides psychosocial and critical incident stress debriefing to those affected. She added DSWD also set up special Day Care Centers and Child and Women-Friendly Spaces in the evacuation centers, including Supervised Neighborhood Play to ease the children’s anxiety. For its part, the Department of Public Works and Highways is conducting clearing operations in areas affected by the fighting. The Palace said the government is readying P3.9 billion in funds to speed up rehabilitation and reconstruction, and has drafted a rehabilitation plan which takes into account the relocation, housing, shelter, livelihood, and other assistance for those affected. — LBG, GMA News

Oct 252013
Palace: P2.3-B quick response funds still available for emergencies

After extending assistance to victims of recent calamities including last week’s magnitude-7.2 quake in Central Visayas, the government still has some P2.3 billion in quick response funds for emergencies, Malacañang said Saturday. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the standby funds are with the implementing agencies tasked to provide speedy assistance in areas hit by disasters. “Quick response funds are standby allocations that are part of the budget of the departments … for them to provide quick assistance in areas struck by disaster,” she said on government-run dzRB radio. She said a breakdown of the amount includes: – Office of Civil Defense, P554 million– Department of National Defense Office of the Secretary, P326 million– Department of Agriculture, P196 million– Department of Social Welfare and Development, P200 million– Department of Public Works and Highways, P600 million Valte also reassured residents in Bohol, the area hit hardest by the Oct. 15 quake, that the government continues to mobilize funds to help them. “Meron tayong sapat na pondo (We have enough funds),” she said. Also, she thanked the international community for the aid they have sent to the quake victims. “Nagpapasalamat tayo sa ating kaibigan na hindi nag-atubiling tumugon sa panawagan ng United Nations para tumulong sa kababayan natin (We thank our friends who did not hesitate to respond to the call of the United Nations to help our fellow Filipinos),” Valte said. — LBG, GMA News

Oct 252013
Palace: Quake, disaster preparedness should start at home

Bartolome Bautista, deputy director of Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), points to the epicenter of the magnitude 6.8 earthquake which hit central Philippines on Monday Feb. 6, 2012 during a news conference at suburban Quezon city, northeast of Manila, Philippines. Officials said the quake in central Philippines killed at least five people as it destroyed buildings, triggered landslides that buried dozens of houses, trapping residents and listed 29 more as missing. (MNS photo) MANILA (Mabuhay) – After the deadly magnitude-7.2 quake that devastated Central Visayas, Malacañang on Saturday pushed for quake preparedness measures at the community and family levels. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said families should draw up and review their own measures, saying disaster preparedness starts at home. “We highly encourage everybody to review your family’s disaster preparedness measures. Kung lahat tayo maihanda ang pamilya natin, malaking bagay ‘yan,” she said on government-run dzRB radio. Her call came amid reports that the West Valley Fault Line could move every 200 to 400 years, with the last major movement occurring 200 years ago. So far, she said the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has been distributing geo-hazard maps to local governments. “Ang pinakamagandang panangga rito, ihanda natin ang ating pamilya,” she said. In the meantime, she urged the public to make sure their homes are structurally sound. She also said government preparedness measures “will be for naught if citizens do not cooperate.” “If we can take care of our families and contribute to the preparedness of Read More …