Friday, June 1, 2012

Madrid Protocol on Intellectual Property

By Gloria Jane Baylon

Ambassador Guy Ledoux of the European Union (EU) in Manila said on Wednesday the Philippines has many promising players in the creative industries who would get even more boost internationally with the country's accession in March to the Madrid Protocol on intellectual property

He welcomed the Philippines' accession to the Protocol, saying it would help companies secure their business rights through trademarks in key export markets and expand their reach, including to Europe, the largest regional economy.

Ledoux made the remarks as he addressed business groups, intellectual property lawyers, and other stakeholders at a seminar held at the Intellectual Property Office (IPOPHL) in nearby Taguig City on the benefits of the Madrid Protocol.

The Madrid Protocol is a system that facilitates the filing of trademarks in more than one country in just one application. The Philippines is the 85th country to ratify the Madrid Protocol and the event was marked in Manila with the visit here of the director-general of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Francis Gurry. WIPO is the UN specialized agency responsible for protection of intellectual property rights.

IPOPHL Director-General Ricardo Blancaflor anticipates numerous applications from trademark owners when it starts to accept international applications under the Madrid Protocol from July 25 this year.

Ledoux noted that Intellectual Property is a key to any modern economy. "The Philippines has many promising players in the creative industries. Making use of the registration of trademarks under the Madrid system can be a boost to this sector to more easily expand abroad."

The EU-Philippines Trade-Related Technical Assistance (TRTA) program, which has a stake in Philippine trademarks, supported the Taguig City event and an earlier one held in Cebu City. At both seminars, two international experts discussed how the Protocol works and how best to use it.

The TRTA is a four-year development cooperation project with a budget of P360 million aimed at supporting economic integration of the Philippines into the regional and international trading community for poverty alleviation.

Blancaflor stated: "Registration of trademarks by Philippine residents continues to be high at over 6,000 last year. Joining the regime can be seen as opening the door to Filipino trademark owners registering abroad."

IPO-Philippines said that accession to the protocol will provide Filipino brand owners with a cost effective and efficient mechanism to seek trademark protection not only locally but also in its major international trading partners that are already members of the Madrid Protocol.

In one single application, trademark can be protected in many other countries at the option of the owners.

Trademark registration fees would still be paid by owners to obtain protection in other countries but the cost is not as much if the application were to be filed separately in each and every country.

This international filing procedure should benefit Filipino companies in terms of lower financial cost of international trademark protection, ultimately contributing to enhanced competitiveness of Philippine products in the domestic and export market.

City Airport Terminal Project in Quezon City

Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) hopes to start the city airport terminal project in Quezon city to finish it within the year for passengers' convenience.

CIAC President and CEO Victor Jose I. Luciano said the city airport terminal for check-in point of people coming from Metro Manila going to Clark International Airport via shuttle buses, is expecting approval from the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

"We are convincing the DOTC on this project. We will put up a lounge where people can stay. We're looking at 50 buses to service the passengers, who will be charged P200 each," he said.

"We are still working on other details, but initially, we are looking at putting up the city terminal at the Trinoma, Mindanao Avenue or Quezon Avenue under a build- operate–transfer (BOT) scheme," he added.

The DOTC has set aside P120 million funding for this project. CIAC wants this terminal operational by year-end.

He added that the city terminal has drawn the interest of many investors including small owners.

Victory Liner had indicated interest to use the city airport terminal and deploy at least 50 buses that will transport passengers between Clark Airport and Manila.

"Clark will be happy to provide that alternate gateway to the Manila airport as what we do now. We're improving the facilities, we will be expanding this airport some more and improve our services. We're strengthening the connectivity between Manila and Clark and await that connector road connects NLEX and SLEX," he said.

Luciano assures the Department of Tourism (DOT) that CIAC is doing its part to attain the 10 million foreign tourist arrival target by 2016.

He said based on the business plan of airlines operating in Clark, he is confident that "the 10 million looks attainable."

Luciano announced the expansion of budget airlines, as tourism business in the country improves.

He said Seair- Tiger are expecting the delivery of three aircraft -- one in June, another in July and the third in September. The company plans to launch flights in Taipei, Japan and Korea, and also in Guam, once the country's aviation, reverted back to category 1.

Air Asia, on the other hand, is expecting the arrival of two airplanes; one in June and the other in September.

2012 GDP of Philippines Driven by Big Spending

Demonstrating its commitment to ramp up economic growth through efficient public spending, improved governance and key policy reforms, the Aquino administration posted a 6.4-percent rise in the country's real Growth Domestic Product (GDP) in the first quarter, up from the 4.9-percent rate reported in the same period in 2011.

"The remarkable increase in the country's GDP for the first quarter is proof that good governance — coupled with a dedicated reform platform and sound financial management — is not merely related to economic growth, but is instead intimately tied to it. These positive figures reaffirm exactly what this Administration has long believed in: kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap," Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad said.

According to Abad, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief Arsenio Balisacan confirmed that real GDP growth in the first quarter was driven further by accelerated government spending, particularly in public construction activities, which rose to 62.2 percent from the Q1 2011 figure of 37.9 percent. Overall, government consumption registered at a high 24 percent, a significant increase from last year's contraction of 15.8 percent.

"We are pleased to note that vigorous public spending in the first quarter of the year contributed greatly to GDP growth. In January this year, we undertook critical measures to fast-track public spending, beginning with early, comprehensive releases to all agencies. Strong budgetary support for infrastructure initiatives — spending for which had grown by 59 percent in the first quarter — was also crucial, as were the effects of the Disbursement Acceleration Plan (DAP) implemented in late 2011," Abad said.

First-quarter growth was further buttressed by government spending for key antipoverty and social programs, including the Conditional Cash Transfer program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), salary increases pushed by the Aquino administration under the Salary Standardization Law III, and priority programs for rice and other agricultural products.

Abad further noted that robust government consumption was fueled by speedy releases for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenditures (MOOE) and landmark budgetary reforms advanced by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

"Our reform-oriented budget management approach bolstered expenditure efficiencies in government. This involved the fine-tuning of budget execution rules to facilitate quicker spending and the disaggregation of lump-sum funds, among others. In addition, we continue to push for other groundbreaking reforms, such as bottom-up budgeting and treating the General Appropriations Act as a release document," Abad said.

He noted that the DBM will increase pressure on departments and agencies to accelerate the movement of obligations and disbursements. Unobligated funds for projects will be allotted instead to fast-moving projects to sustain the current expenditure pace.

"We expect to further boost the present momentum for government consumption through intervention measures for line agencies. This will allow us to clear bottlenecks in fund disbursements so that agencies can speed up the implementation of their programs and projects and meet their scheduled deadlines," Abad said.

"There is much to be optimistic about. The extraordinary growth of our economy in the first quarter augurs well for the rest of the fiscal year, especially in view of Moody's credit upgrade for the Philippines and recent successes in our anti-corruption campaign. We have little doubt that spending in the next three quarters will continue its strong trajectory, and that this—together with the Administration's antipoverty and good governance drive—will ultimately lead to direct, immediate, and sustainable benefits to all Filipinos," he added.

Preserve Water Resources of the Philippines

President Benigno S. Aquino III reaffirmed the government's commitment to preserve the country's water resources through the fulfillment of various programs which are being spearheaded by concerned agencies as he underscored the importance of unity and cooperation among the Filipino people to ensure its effective realization.

In his speech during the 1st Philippine International River Summit at the Eon Centennial Resort Hotel and Convention Center of the Tierra Village here on Friday, the President cited the various initiatives of the administration involving the government, the private sector and the citizenry which, he said, are geared towards sustainable national development.

"Rest assured your government is doing its share, apart from improving our efficiency in protecting and managing our water resources, we also have our national greening program which would have allowed us to plant 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares of land by the time I step down (from office)," the President said.

"The DENR has had much success in their Adapt an Estero/River program. Right now they are working with 272 different partners from the private sector who have adopted 186 different bodies of water. These partners of ours from the private sector have agreed to be guardians, so to speak, fulfilling an important role in reducing water pollution, increasing dredging activities and preserving our rivers and esteros," he said.

The President urged the people to spread the spirit of cooperation among themselves and support the government programs on environmental protection.

"Collaboration is key if we want to succeed… we already have partners in the national and local governments and in the private sector, and we have you who are here today. What we need to do now is to extend this partnership to each and every Filipino," he said.

"The DENR has taken the first step by proposing the observance of Philippine River Day every year on March 22 to increase awareness of our campaign to restore and preserve rivers all over the Philippines… such commemoration will give us a venue to unite our efforts to save our rivers and will bind us of our duty to the environment, a duty that must be fulfilled every day," he further said.

The Chief Executive also noted the adverse effects of daily human activities to the different bodies of water as he encouraged the public to be vigilant and cooperative in balancing their activities which will be favorable to the country's water resources.

"Our presence here today signifies that all of us, whether we are members of the government or members of civil society… whether we are Filipinos or foreigners, have taken on the shared responsibility of protecting our rivers. Knowing as we do that human activities have contributed to the degradation of this important resource, we can now take the necessary steps to correct our mistakes," the President said.

"We have been given a chance to learn from each other and this summit has shown us that there are ways for us to balance our needs with our wants, to make use of our rivers and other water resources without destroying or derailing them," he said.

Among those present during the event were other government officials that include Senator Franklin Drilon, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma Jr. and Transportation and Communications Secretary Manuel Roxas II.

Also in attendance were local government officials led by Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor, Iloilo City Representative Jerry Trenas and Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog.

The summit is part of the continuing efforts of the government to effectively manage the country's rivers and river basins.

The event, anchored on the theme "My River, My Life," focuses on the four major issues such as governance, biodiversity conservation and management, climate change, disaster risk management and quality water management.

Leading experts in the field of river management, aquatic biodiversity and global climate change from the United States, Canada, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and other Asian countries convened to discuss and share sustainable river basin management practices that can be replicated by other cities.

The Iloilo City river summit is the first ever Philippine initiative that seeks to provide a global platform for action on environmental, economic and social issues confronting rivers and river basins.

The global forum serves as a venue for leading experts, scientists, policy makers and local leaders to identify challenges, opportunities, issues, concerns and best practices for effective management and sustainable development of rivers, particularly focusing on rivers in the urban centers that are supportive to the attainment of sustainable cities.

Next Philippine Chief Justice Won't Be Corrupt

By Jelly F. Musico

Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano urged on Friday the Aquino administration to capitalize on the gains achieved by the Corona impeachment trial by striving to set a higher standard of transparency and accountability with the selection of a new chief justice whose integrity is beyond reproach. 

"The trial of Chief Justice (Renato) Corona is already over but the campaign for a higher standard of transparency and accountability in the government has only just begun," he said.

The senator urged government officials, members of civil societies and the stakeholders in the judiciary to sustain the momentum for major reforms in government as he emphasized that people's active participation is the key to real check and balance in government.

"As a nation, we should learn from the lessons and experiences we've shared during the impeachment trial in our continuing struggle not only to rid the system of graft and corruption that has become endemic in our society but to achieve equality in the eyes of law," he said.

The minority leader pointed out that the first step in achieving this goal is for the nation to urge President Benigno S. Aquino III to appoint a well-respected chief justice who enjoys high moral ascendancy in the judiciary and the legal profession.

"The chief justice stands for the foremost government institution tasked with the duty of upholding justice in the land. He or she should be seen as a personification of justice itself," he said.

Meanwhile, he reiterated his call to the President to require his appointees to sign waivers allowing their bank accounts to be placed under scrutiny if an official investigation involving the public servant warrants it.

"In the spirit of transparency and accountability, this process should be made the protocol in all government offices. Our search for truth and accountability must not be derailed simply because bank accounts cannot be scrutinized," he said.

He pointed out that the impeachment trial should serve as the starting point for the government to begin working on reforms needed by the judiciary.

"We need to eradicate the cancer in our society – different standards of justice for the poor and rich. What applies to the poor must also apply to the rich. Everyone must follow the rule of law, if not then none at all," he said.

Renato Corona Will Not Appeal Guilty Verdict

Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano lauded on Friday the decision of former Chief Justice Renato Corona not to appeal the decision of the Senate impeachment court finding him guilty of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution for his failure to disclose his entire assets in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) as required under the Constitution.

"I think it's admirable that they chose to favor the country this time and did not appeal the case anymore," Cayetano, one of the 20 senator-judges who rendered guilty verdict, said.

Cayetano said bringing the Senate verdict to the Supreme Court might result to a constitutional crisis since the Senate has the sole power to try and decide all impeachment cases.

"The mere fact that if the Supreme Court would instruct the impeachment court to answer could have started a constitutional crisis. I admire the defense team and the former chief justice for preventing that," Cayetano said.

Cayetano explained that the impeachment court "should not be answerable to any other tribunal in the country."

"So what they did was very admirable that although they felt they have the right to appeal and for us, they have none, the Supreme Court will eventually have to act on it one way or the other," he said.

Though he rendered guilty verdict, Cayetano commended Corona for signing a waiver authorizing the Senate and other concerned government institutions, particularly the Office of the Ombudsman, to examine his peso and dollar bank deposits.

"What he did is commendable," Cayetano said in his explanation of votes, adding "if you will look at his waiver, very encompassing. All accounts, including Central Bank."

Cayetano has even encouraged all the government officials to sign similar waiver to promote accountability and transparency based on the government's slogan 'Tuwid Na Daan' (right path).

Although the Senate has terminated its function as impeachment court, Cayetano clarified that Corona's waiver will remain valid "unless revoked."

Future of Tourism in Iloilo, Philippines

President Benigno Aquino III expressed his appreciation for the beauty of the Iloilo River Esplanade, citing that it could boost the tourism landscape of Iloilo City.

This was shared by Senator Franklin Drilon who joined the President, Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog and other local officials for a side trip to the 1.2-kilometer Esplanade Friday. The Esplanade was built through the senator's Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

The Iloilo River Esplanade is part of the Iloilo River Development Project of the city government here and supported by Senator Drilon. The project's initial phase costs around P58 million.

The project consists of the road widening of the TreƱas Boulevard from the diversion road to Carpenters Bridge. It also has a view deck, palm trees planted at its park, fountain, lamp post and a giant Dinagyang warrior which signifies the city's famous festival.

It will also provide a recreational space for walking, complete with stalls and restaurants, ease vehicular traffic since it is intended as a bike road and serves as fitness hub for fitness-conscious Ilonggos,

Fitness activities such as jogging and public aerobic classes will be available along the long open stretched especially during early morning and late afternoon.

The esplanade will also a good venue for photography enthusiasts who seek to capture the natural and scenic beauty of Iloilo River.

The esplanade, which is similar to the Singapore Quay, was designed by Architect Paolo Alcazaren who also worked on the said project.

Meanwhile, Drilon also said that Aquino congratulated city government officials for working hand in hand in the development of Iloilo City.

He said the President is looking forward to coming back to Iloilo City and enjoying the specialty foods of Ilonggos.

Also, Drilon cited that President Aquino committed to give additional fund for the housing projects for the people who will be affected by the Iloilo River Development Project.

He said they are doing their best to relocate the households situated in the danger zone of Iloilo River. He further added that relocating the residents near the river is necessary to clean the Iloilo River.

In a monitoring conducted by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the coliform level of Iloilo River is high but Drilon said that they are doing everything to continuously improve its water quality.

USA, UK to Help Philippines Against China

Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III said he expects to discuss the West Philippine Sea issue with United States President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron when he meets with the two leaders next week.

"I think it will be a general... (agenda). Pag-uusapan 'yung kondisyon sa West Philippine Sea," the President said in an interview here about his agenda with Obama in connection with the current standoff with China.

"I'm sure that when I visit the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron will also inquire us to the status. It is a body of water where quite a substantial amount of world trade has to pass through. So it's a matter of concern for everybody," he added.

If the situation in the West Philippine Sea changes, that will restrict the free flow of goods and services in that particular body of water, the President said.

Asked about his marching orders to Ambassador Sonia Brady, the newly designated ambassador to China, the President said Brady is well-versed about China, knows who to talk to and knows the system as well as the country's concerns.

The President expressed optimism that Brady's appointment will enhance the dialogue that the Philippines has been doing with China.

President Aquino will leave for the UK on Monday for a three-day official visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

It will be President Aquino's first visit to the United Kingdom since he assumed office in 2010.

The President will meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron for a bilateral meeting. They are also expected to discuss Philippines-UK political and economic cooperation, the UK's participation in the Philippine peace process, regional and international issues as well as anti-corruption and good governance practices by both countries.

While in London, the President will also meet with several British investors, take part in the tourism campaign of the Department of Tourism and will also meet with the Filipino community there.

International Flight to and From Iloilo

By Annabel J. Petinglay

President Benigno Aquino III has assured the Ilonggos of support in terms of infrastructure for making the New Iloilo Airport in Sta. Barbara-Cabatuan towns be able to cater to international flights

President Aquino, who is here Friday as keynote speaker of the 1st Philippine International River Summit closing program, further said that the government will find a way to sustain the airport as the gateway for international flights.

The Iloilo airport is being proposed to be opened to international flights October or November of this year with the Cebu Pacific Airlines already having manifested interest to launch regular flights from Hong Kong and Singapore and vice versa, according to Department of Tourism Regional Director Helen Catalbas.

It is also intended to serve as gateway for domestic flights from Puerto Princesa, General Santos, and Cagayan to Iloilo and then to the foreign countries Hong Kong and Singapore.

President Aquino said that once the Iloilo airport is opened to international flights it could help reach the targeted 10 million tourist arrivals by 2016 just before he steps down from office.

The President said that from the average three million tourist arrivals, it is being expected to increase to 4.8 million or 5 million this year with the first quarter tourist arrivals already registering more than 400,000.

Meanwhile, Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas said that as instructed by the President, they are now pursuing the "pocket open skies policy" for the for Iloilo airport so international flights could come in.

He further said that the Iloilo airport is now complete except for the actual direct international flights, which Ilonggo Sen. Franklin M. Drilon and other Ilonggo political leaders are now actively working on in terms of promotion.

He added that the summit is a good move in promoting in Iloilo as the international conference center so to attract tourist visitors to come, which would sustain the international flights.