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Philippine Embassy News Release 12 October 2011

Philippine Spratly proposal maintains regional peace

The Philippine proposal for the adoption of the Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and Cooperation (ZoPFF/C) to resolve the Spratly Islands dispute has been an effective way of maintaining peace in the controversial regime of islands, President Benigno Aquino III said on Wednesday.

In an open forum with the members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap) in Makati City, the President said there has been an agreement as far as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is concerned with regards to the Philippine proposal.

“But, again, the fundamental question with regards to China and the nine-dash line and the incompatibility with the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) is still there. And I think the focus should be that we are not escalating tensions to the point that conflict becomes a logical conclusion,” the President said addressing the question about the disputed West Philippine Sea.

“The adherents or all parties concerned to declaring a zone of peace is a very healthy development and refocuses everybody on how best to resolve this without resorting to any untoward violent incidents and that, I think, is an achievement by itself,” he added.

The ASEAN Maritime Legal Experts’ Meeting in Manila, held from September 22 to 23 this year, extensively discussed the Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and Cooperation initiative in the light of relevant international law principles on the regime of islands, maritime zones, and maritime delimitation.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the maritime legal experts affirmed the ASEAN’s commitment to the peaceful and rules-based approach to the resolution of disputes in the West Philippine Sea.

ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting tasked the ASEAN Senior Officials, with the assistance of maritime legal experts, to seriously study the ZoPFF/C proposed by the Philippines during their July meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

With regards to the Code of Conduct in the West Philippine Sea, the President said that things are moving in crafting generally accepted code for all parties.
ASEAN states and the People’s Republic of China agreed in November 2002 for the adoption of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

“Nine years after, at least this thing is moving. And we have committed to ASEAN centrality with regards to handling any multilateral talks. So I think we are on track. There is a need for consensus—we are a very diverse group of 10 countries that have various parochial concerns,” President Aquino said.

Commenting on bringing the West Philippine Sea issue before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas the Chief Executive said there’s a need for China to agree in joining the Philippines whether to bring it before the international body.

Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam all claim at least some part of the West Philippine Sea. The region is believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits and also a major sea lane of the world’s ship-borne trade.

Tensions between China, Vietnam and the Philippines heightened this year over the disputed West Philippine Sea claims.


Aquino approves P72-B stimulus package for infrastructure and reconstruction plans

President Benigno S. Aquino III has approved the P72-billion stimulus package for various infrastructure and reconstruction plans saying it will produce multiplier effect on the Philippine economy.

“The P72-billion will have its own multiplier effect and this pump primes the economy to that extent,” President Aquino said during an open forum with the officers and members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) on Wednesday at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Makati City.

In a bid to boost economic growth in the country, Aquino approved the P72-billion stimulus package for various infrastructure and reconstruction plans, including a support fund for local government units (LGUs). The President pointed out that the stimulus package aims to help reach the growth targets for 2011 and 2012.

However, Aquino acknowledged the fact that the country may be affected by the global economic meltdown.

“The global economic situation is changing practically daily. And one is not isolated from the world economy. Therefore, things that we do here domestically would impact on economy positively. But, at the same time, we are not sure exactly what the negative effects of the world’s economic turmoil will have on us since it is still a developing story,” the President said.

President Aquino said the LGU support fund amounting to P6.5 billion is part of the stimulus package. He said it will give an additional P10 billion to resettle and relocate informal settlers and families in danger zones.

The President said that of the total amount, the government will be allotting P5.5 billion on various infrastructure projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH); and P4.5 billion will go to the Metro Rail Transit and P1.868 billion will go to the Light Rail Transit (LRT).

The package will be spent on projects that will have high macroeconomic impact, and will help the poor.


Aquino government enhances entrepreneurial skills of ofws under P2 billion reintegration program

President Benigno S. Aquino III said his administration is focusing on enhancing the entrepreneurial skills of overseas Filipinos workers (OFWs) as well as their educational abilities to entice them to stay in the country through the government is P2-billion reintegration program.

“The state would have to be really focused on those who have the least in our society. Therefore, there’s heavy emphasis on microfinance to generate entrepreneurial abilities,” President Aquino said during an open forum with the members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap) in Makati City on Wednesday.

“But over and above that, we’re also training, investing in the education sector to be able to provide opportunities for even advanced studies present in the country rather than having the experts go to other countries like America or Europe to further their studies,” he said.

The government is reviewing that particular area so that Filipino researchers get the necessary endowments and research facilities to be able to conduct their studies here rather than going abroad for the benefit of foreigners rather than Filipinos.

To make capital available to Filipino entrepreneurs there are proposals to develop a bank for OFWs, the President said. He also mentioned small-scale business such as dairy production in Nueva Ecija using carabao milk that could be suitable for returning OFWs.

Last September, around 10,172 OFWs registered and expressed interest to avail of loans under the P2-billion national reintegration program of the government, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) reported.

According to OWWA, 17 of these loan applications worth P12,184,000 have already been approved and released by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) for various business undertakings.

Businesses funded under the reintegration program include hog fattening, duck egg production, vegetable growing, internet café, Nuat Thai food and body massage; and dental laboratory.

Under the program, OFWs can avail of loans ranging from P300,000 to P2,000,000. Availing loans is easy for OFWs because there are no conduits, no collateral, and loans have only 7.5 percent interest per annum and have also very liberal repayment period of up to seven years.


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