Friday, February 8, 2013

Senators Survey in Philippines

This is the talk of the town after different surveying firms come up with conflicting statistics on who are gaining or losing in the senatorial race.

Whether it is true or not expect new faces and blood to show their way to the next Congress.

The country will vote on May 13 twelve senators who will enjoy six year-term and be part of the 16th Congress.

Among the new crop of candidates who are now landing in the magic 12 were Cynthia Villar, JV Ejercito, Jackie Enrile, Nancy Binay, Sonny Angara, Grace Poe and now it's Bam Aquino.

Sustaining the momentum is different because no one can be comfortable because the ranking is very shaky that you see your name in the magic 12 for now and a few weeks after, it's no longer there.

There are rumors that surveys are for sale and if you are not a subscriber of the surveying company, chances are your name is not included in the list of candidates or your name is in the last of the list. Surveying companies multiply during campaign to give credence to paying patrons to set trending and dictate pacing on whose gaining or losing popularity.

However, they cannot doctor the top three most popular candidates because it always showed in all surveys. But what about those who are new comers and those names can be found nowhere in the magic 12?

Consistently leading the pact are relectionists Chiz Escudero, Loren Legarda and Alan Cayetano.

Candidates themselves are surprised whenever they learned about the latest survey that they are already out after another surveying outfit claims he is among the magic 12.

In the past, accusations after accusations had been thrown by candidates to their opponents that they pay the surveying companies just to show that they are within striking distance.

Grace Poe is the latest recipients of SWS survey jumping from number 20 in the two last SWS survey now found herself in 11 slot replacing Nancy Binay who is now in 12th slot. The survey was conducted from January 17 to 19. Juan Miguel Zubiri also moved from 9th place to 7th place.

Former Las Pinas Rep. Cynthia Villar is the first recipient of a frog leap from 19.5 percent in September now enjoying 52.7 percent in November survey, the biggest gainer in Pulse Asia survey. She now holds 6th place.

Surprisingly, Nancy Binay, daughter of Vice President Jejomar Binay also posted surprises by posting 41.3 percent from previous 27.4 percent giving her solo in the 10th place of Pulse Asia survey.

StratPOLLS latest captivating survey shows that Bam Aquino, the first cousin of President Noynoy Aquino made a giant leap from number 19 to number 12.

StratPOLLS claims that the marked improvement registered by Aquino and Binay could be credited to "visibility" where all of the candidates for Senate seats had been barnstorming cities during the past weeks in the National Capital Region (Metro Manila) as well as vote-rich provinces in Luzon and the Visayas.

Course at Development Academy of the Philippines

Senior and middle government executives are required to take a special three to four- month course at the Development Academy of the Philippines before they are promoted.

Tony D. Kalaw Jr., DAP president, said the curriculum offered by the Academy under its Public Management Development Program is built round the three learning areas of Governance and Development, Strategic Public Management, and Personal Efficacy and Leadership.

Kalaw said the PMDP has gained the full support of the Aquino administration which issued Memorandum Circular No. 41 last Nov 19, 2012.

The Memo mandated all government agencies to send senior and middle executives to first undergo the three to four-month course to develop a core of development-oriented, competent, dedicated, and accountable government executives.

To know what extent the program has made, DAP asked the National Statistics Office to send its senior executives, nine of whom took the course at DAP.

In reply, Carmelita N. Ericta, NSO administrator and civil registrar general, said the training program has generated a culture of excellence that enhanced competencies, skills in problem solving, strategic thinking in looking at the bigger picture and find "not only solutions but (to aim for) sustainability of efforts" in the context of the agency's national mandate.

"It's high time government has a program that would produce a common culture of excellence especially among its senior officials," Ericta added.

She cited the marked improvement of the four NSO scholars as a result of the DAP training that enabled them to see the relationship of the office to the overall government picture, particularly on the importance of statistics to good government policy and problem solving.

Since the DAP-trained scholars re-entered NSO, Ericta noted that "great effects (have taken place) since NSO has problems which could not have been solved without the training."

She described NSO under her administration as in a period of transition "from the dark before the dawn."

Ericta, herself a statistician of the old school, envisions an NSO that will have to eventually be handed down to a younger and more technologically adept generation.

Commission on Elections and Smartmatic-TIM

The Supreme Court denied the petition for a temporary restraining order on the implementation of the contract of the winning bidder in the supply of CF cards for the May 13, 2013 midterm elections.

In a one-page en banc resolution, the SC denied the petition for certiorari, mandamus and prohibition with issuance of temporary restraining order filed by LDLA Marketing represented by Norlito Domantay against the Commission on Elections and Smartmatic-TIM.

Instead, the SC en banc ordered the respondents to file their respective comment within a "non-extendible period" of five days from notice.

Commission on Audit (COA) to examine Senate financial records

Senate minority leader Alan Peter Cayetano pushed Tuesday his proposal to open the Senate books for people's audit despite Senate's decision to allow the Commission on Audit (COA) to examine its financial records.

Cayetano filed Senate Resolution No. 934, calling for the Senate "to lead by example" by authorizing the conduct of a parallel audit of its budget accounts by a private auditing firm and the COA with a mandate to examine all its pertinent documents "for transparency and accountability."

In media interview, Cayetano said there is no legal impediment for the Senate paying the independent auditing firm to conduct parallel audit with the COA.

"Let me tell you, there is no moral, administrative or legal impediment for the Senate paying it," Cayetano said.

Last Monday, some of the senators agreed with the stand of the COA that it has been granted by the Constitution the power, authority and duty to COA to examine all accounts of the government.

"According to the Constitution, to determine the scope of the audit is exclusive to them but to audit is not exclusive to them," Cayetano said.

Cayetano explained just like in the past when the Senate allotted funds to investigate big personalities, the Senate can allot part of its funds to get private auditing firms to audit the Senate funds.

"We're doing it to show to the people that an institution which they trust can be trusted. And if they violated law, file a case and show to people that no one is above the law whether you are Senate president or senator," Cayetano said.

Cayetano, however, agreed with his colleagues that between private auditing firm and the COA, the findings of the government auditors are 'binding'.

"It is clear that COA is the official and legal but remember there is grave abuse of discretion," Cayetano said.

The minority leader added that if the private firm finds something wrong and the COA doesn't, "we can still bring it to the court or Ombudsman."

Automated election process in Philippines

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to address the issue on the automated election process.

In its pastoral letter issued on Tuesday, the CBCP said the issue on possible cheating alleged by different groups should be addressed to prevent inconsistencies in the result of the scheduled polls.

"If not properly addressed, the present automated election system can lead to wholesale cheating. The integrity of a pillar of our democracy--the election--is at stake," said the statement signed by CBCP President Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma.

The bishops' conference noted that electoral exercise is not a matter of getting the results fast but of trustworthiness and honesty.

"We call upon the Comelec to adequately address the issues and respond, place corrective measures if necessary, to the studies of technical experts to the alleged deficiencies of the present system and technology of automated elections. There can be no transparency in elections if the Comelec itself is not transparent," the statement added.

Palma explained that they are echoing the concerns of the people so that it will be properly addressed by the concern agency.

"We voice out the concern of many because we would wish and we want the elections as a process, will truly be credible. Until these guarantees are in placed, we will continue to be fearful," he said.

With this, he said they are planning to conduct another meeting before the poll body to discuss their election concerns.

Early this week, the Comelec had a meeting with the bishops at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila.

For his part, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the poll body has to make sure that the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines will not be used in cheating.

Jollibee in Singapore

Local food chain giant Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC) announced its vision to have 4,000 stores worldwide by 2020 as it opens it new branch in Singapore this year.

"This is a positive year, with the country's economic gains, we will continue to expand and set up branches until we reach our goal," Jollibee Vice President for Marketing Albert C. Cuadrante said in an interview.

Maxi Peralta, in charge of Jollibee's international operations, confided that a joint venture branch of Jollibee will be opened in Singapore at the first quarter this year.

During the first nine months in 2012, JFC opened 149 new stores nationwide and 61 new restaurants abroad. It has generated a net income attributable to equity holders of the Parent Company (JFC) of P882 million for the third quarter of 2012, 18.9 percent more than the P741 million profit generated at the same period in 2011.

Its system wide sales, a measure of all sales to consumers both from company-owned and franchised stores grew by 12.1 percent at P22, 416 million in 2012 compared to P19, 993million in 2011. Its revenues rose to P17, 324 million in 2012, from P15, 226 million in 2011

"We are not afraid to take risk. We are the only food chain in the country that opened a branch down in Basilan. And up north, our branch in Tuguegarao is among our most successful stores," Cuadrante said.

With a strong workforce of about 4,000 locally, Jollibee has 765 branches nationwide and 850 branches abroad of which ownership is split by fifty percent company-owned and fifty percent franchised.

Now on its 35th year, Jollibee announced during the Bulong Pulungan media forum at the Hotel Sofitel on Tuesday that part of this year-long anniversary celebration is the search for the best OFW family. Jollibee advocates stronger family ties and has for its anniversary theme "Dito ang sarap maging pamilya."

"Fostering family and creating bonding moments take center stage in our corporate social responsibility (CSR)," Cuadrante said stressing that "this year we are recognizing OFW families."

Exchange Rate Peso vs US Dollar

Correction made the peso appreciate against the dollar Tuesday.

The local currency gained P0.17 to close at 40.73 from Monday's 40.91 finish.

A trader said there "was a short covering" for the dollar, which is in line with the rebound of most Asian currencies against the US currency.

"There was also a downward pressure today because of high corporate demand," the trader said.

The trader said "it was a choppy trading day" referring to the wide trading range of 40.91 and 40.71. This after the peso opened at 40.85 Monday.

Volume of trade amounted to US$ 1.16 billion, slightly lower than the US$ 1.20 billion in the previous day.

Philippine stocks making profits

Philippine stocks continued its bull run on Tuesday, rising by 0.68 percent, and breaching for the first time the 6,200-point level, on good corporate earnings prospects and forecasts for stronger growth for the local economy.

The bellwether Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) edged higher by 42.31 points to 6,234.73 from Monday's 6,192.42. This was the index 11th record close this year.

The broader All Shares index also advanced 0.69 percent or 27.08 points to 3,929.26.

"It's corporate earnings season. Corporate earnings results encourage further buying. Market players are very optimistic," said First Grade Holdings managing director Astro del Castillo in an interview.

Del Castillo said credit rating firm Moody's high economic growth projection for the Philippines is also boosting the performance of the local bourse. The rating firm believes that the Philippine economy grew 6.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Government economic managers also projected that the economy posted 6.5 percent in the last quarter, bringing the average gross domestic product (GDP) at over 6 percent in 2012. The country will release the official figures on Thursday.

"There could be more record highs for the week depending on news in the local and foreign markets," Del Castillo added.

Tuesday's rally was mainly led by property sector that rose 1.37 percent to 2,478.53; industrial counter that increased 0.90 percent to 9,425.76; and holding firms sector that edged higher by 0.87 points to 5,506.21.

The sub-indices of services, mining and oil and financials counters posted moderate gains.

Collection of traffic data under Republic Act No. 10175

The Office of the Solicitor General Tuesday admitted before the Supreme Court collection of traffic data under Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 would include collection of electronic banking transactions.

During Tuesday's oral arguments, SC Associate Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo questioned Solicitor General Francis H. Jardeleza why Congress did not define what is a traffic data that can be collected without intervention from the courts.

Jardeleza said he does not know why it was not clearly defined.

Under Section 12 of R.A. 10175, traffic data "refers only to the communication's origin, destination, route, time, date, size, duration or type of underlying service but not content nor identities."

The same provision allows law enforcement authorities to collect these traffic data without need of court authorization.

"Power to collect traffic data is subject to abuse," Del Castillo said.

He asked "would the collection also include electronic banking transactions?"

Free WiFi in Cebu

Leading telecommunication services provider PLDT recently powered the Sinulog Festival in Cebu City by providing free premium WiFi access to Cebuanos and visitors as they celebrated the much-awaited festival.

"We are glad to showcase the vibrant and colorful Sinulog festival to the world by providing spectators free premium WiFi access that enabled them to share their photos and videos of the festival to their families and friends here and abroad," PLDT Cebu Customer Service Zone Head Bong C. Lintag, said.

The premium WiFi service covered the following Sinulog route: Gen. Maxilom Ave. across Jollibee Gorordo, Gen. Maxilom Ave. corner F. Sotto Drive, Gen. Maxilom Ave. Mango Squaremall, Old Fuente Police Station, Osmena Blvd. near CAP, PLDT Jones Office, Cebu Sports Complex Grandstand, Prov'l South Bus Terminal, N. Bacalso Ave. corner Alcantara St., Fronting USC corner Pelaez and P. Del Rosario Sts., Del Rosario corner Sikatuna, and Fronting Cebu City Hall.

PLDT's WiFi Zone also further enlivened the Life Dance Party attended by thousands of students and young adults at the Boardwalk Complex in Mandaue City, as well as the Ms. Sinulog 2013 contest at the Cebu Sports Complex Grandstand.

"The Sinulog WiFi was made possible by PLDT's Fibr, the ultra-fast fiber optic service that delivers up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) internet speed," Lintag said.

The free Internet access allowed participants to chronicle the events and post live photos and updates as they happened via Twitter, Facebook, or other social networking sites.

"We are happy to have been part of the Sinulog celebration by providing the city with our premium WiFi service. WiFi Zone complements the myDSL service at home, allowing customers to stay connected even outside their home," PLDT Vice President and Head of HOME Data Solutions Gary Dujali, said.

At the festivities, PLDT myDSL subscribers in Cebu simply had to register at to get their free username and password, or got a free trial card to access the WiFi Zone.

Non-subscribers used the cards provided by PLDT. The free trial WiFi Zone cards were distributed during the festivities at PLDT booths located in strategic areas of the city.

Ayala-led Manila Water Company, Inc

Making good on its pledge to provide not only safe and reliable water supply to its customers but also address their other needs, the Ayala-led Manila Water Company, Inc., concessionaire of the East Zone of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, has installed additional fire hydrants in Metro Manila's East Zone to provide ample water supply in times of emergencies.

Manila Water East Zone Business Operations Group Director Ferdinand Dela Cruz said they have installed close to 3,000 fire hydrants in its concession area, particularly in the cities of Makati, Marikina, Pasig, Quezon City, San Juan, Mandaluyong, Taguig and the municipality of Pateros and parts of Rizal province.

The installation of the additional fire hydrants, according to Dela Cruz, is part of the company's commitment to its customers and stakeholders, especially with the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) who use the facilities during fire incidents. Fire hydrants are installed every 300 meters for residential areas and at every 250-meter interval for commercial areas.

Meningococcemia disease in Marikina City

Health authorities have raised fears the fatal meningococcemia disease may spread quickly, after killing a four year-old-boy Monday night.

According to radio reports, a little over six hours after the boy was rushed to the Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center in Marikina City at 3:30 p.m., he died at 9:36 p.m, the same day.

His name was not specified -- in obvious protection of the boy -- but the report said he was from Rodriguez town in Rizal.

Meanwhile, National Epidemiology Center head, Enrique Tayag, said that after seeing symptoms of the disease, one should visit the hospital immediately.

"It is not so easy for meningococcemia to spread," Tayag said in Filipino in the radio report.

"You need intimate contact, such as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. It will not likely spread via casual contact such as taking the patient's temperature."

He added it is not highly contagious but can spread via direct contact of nose and mouth secretions from another sick person.

It can also spread if a sick person directly sneezes or coughs to another person's face.

About five percent of health persons harbor the bacteria as the disease stems from a bacteria found in the nose, mouth and throat of healthy persons, he said.

On the other hand, Dr. Nancy Nazaire-Bermal, Head of the Clinical Research and Dev't of Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, said that a patient with meningococcemia can have almost the same symptoms as one with influenza (flu) like high fever, cough and colds but the difference is a violacious polymorphic (comes in several shapes) rash that spreads rapidly.

As for the treatment, meningococcemia can be cured by antibiotics and can also be treated with penicillin but the timing should be once the symptom is there, said Bermal, who is also a practicing pediatrician.

"Prevention is vaccine and there is also prophylaxis for those close contact so that the disease will not spread to the body," Bermal added, emphasizing antibiotics should be guarded and prescribed by a doctor because it cannot be given to all.

Meanwhile, Dr. Dennis Quiambao, Medical and Gov't Affairs Manager of Sanofi Pasteur, a pharmaceutical company said that a patient with meningococcemia needs to be isolated not only because they can transmit the disease but they can be infected with other organisms that make them more susceptible to other diseases.

"Meningococcemia is fatal," Quiambao said.

"Especially (since) it goes into the bloodstream -- it can quickly take away the life of anyone within 24 hours."

However, Tayag said the death rate of meningococcemia is not that high -- only one in every 20 cases is fatal.

"For every fatality, 19 others survive," he said, but posted on his Twitter account that 10 percent of those who get ill die even with hospital care.

The last outbreak of meningococcemia happened in Baguio last 2005.

According to medical experts, meningococcemia is a bloodstream infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, a contagious bacterium and is spread from person to person via respiratory secretions.

Philippine Economic Growth in 2013

President Benigno Aquino III Tuesday said with the continuing strong economic performance, the country may exceed its growth target this year.

"I think all of us will be impressed (with the country's economic performance), which will be released in a few days' time," the President said in an interview with media at the sidelines of the 40th anniversary celebration of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) at its central office in Pasig City.

Aquino, however, refused to give details on how much will be the increase on the country's growth performance.

"Naka-embargo (pa) 'yung data. Before the official release, I cannot comment on it," he said.

But, the President said, "definitely, we will exceed the six percent target for this year according to the NEDA director general projection."

President Aquino cited NEDA's contribution to the country's strong economic performance in 2012.

"If we want to be sure that our efforts will yield the best results, our next moves must be calculated. The timeliness, accuracy, and relevance of the economic data you (NEDA) provide allows not only the national government, but the wider public, including investors, to make the decisions that will allow us to realize the vision defined in the Philippine Development Plan. We are counting on you," the President said in his speech.

President Aquino also thanked the NEDA for "ensuring that (the) official development assistance is used appropriately for the development of the Philippines," and "providing the national government with the data and analysis necessary for informed decisions."

The agency also provides evaluations and assessments of government's biggest proposed projects.

"Your work is invaluable in our quest to sustain our economic development," he said.

Aquino, however, stressed that much more needs to be done to ensure that sustainable economic growth.

"The data shows that the Philippine economy is growing. As it reveals the work we have put in and accounts for our successes, the data also reminds us of the need to ensure that this growth is sustainable and broad-based, so that we can sooner achieve our goal of inclusive growth," he noted.

Campaign rules on media coverage

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is set to conduct a meeting with media organizations on Jan 31 (Thursday) to discuss the contested campaign rules on media coverage for the midterm elections.

"The issues of revised airtime limits and the right to reply will primarily be discussed among others. So I invite all interested parties/groups, candidates and media entities to attend," Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr. said.

The poll body will hear the motion for reconsideration filed by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas and TV network GMA-7 regarding Comelec's resolution on campaign rules such as the limited airtime for candidates, the need to seek for approval from the poll body before guesting a candidate and the right to reply rule.

Earlier, the KBP said the 120-minute airtime limit for television and 180-minute limit for radio is "restrictive" while the right to reply rule is "unconstitutional."

On the other hand, GMA-7 contested the right to reply rule where candidates and political parties who feel slighted by their critics have the right to respond.

The network said it is worried that the provision might result in being swamped with demands for replies from various candidates.

Banning use of mobile phones while driving

The city government of Makati Tuesday reminded motorists that an ordinance banning the use of mobile phones while driving remains in effect.

Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay said the traffic ordinance that penalizes drivers who text while on the wheel seeks to protect lives and properties, including the life of the driver.

Binay said he has ordered an intensification of the drive against "texting" motorists saying these pose danger on the city's roads.

"We cannot allow unscrupulous drivers who have no regard for public safety to go unpunished for risking not only their lives, but the lives of others as well," he added.

Last year, the traffic enforcers of the Dept. of Public Safety (formerly MAPSA) nabbed a total 203 motorists for texting while driving, Mayor Binay said.

In its 2012 quarterly reports, the DPS said 52 violators were issued traffic violation tickets for violating the ordinance on the year's first quarter, 48 on the second quarter, 47 on the third, and 56 on the last quarter of the year.

The ordinance imposes a penalty of P250 per violation, and must be settled within five working days.

A surcharge of five percent or P12.50 per working day is charged after the allowed redemption period.

It was noted that most violators apprehended were private vehicle owners.

Aside from enforcers of the DPS, also deputized to go after "texting" motorists are personnel of the Makati Parking Authority, the Bantay Bayan and security guards of the Ayala Center Association.

Leading oil player Petron Corporation

Leading oil player Petron Corporation reported that it had terminated the contracts of 21 service station dealers for "dumping" activities.

The company said that it ended its partnerships with these service station dealers over a 12-month period from January 2012 to January 2013.

"Dumping" occurs when service stations obtain their fuel supply from other sources with questionable quality. These fuels are then passed off as Petron products to the detriment of the consuming public who unwittingly load their vehicles with sub-standard products.

"It is our duty to make sure the consuming public only gets Petron's top-of-the-line fuel and lubricant products whenever they go to a Petron station. We do not tolerate these illegal activities and we will continue to go after unscrupulous dealers within our network to ensure the integrity of the Petron brand," Vice-President for National Sales Archie B. Gupalor said.

Petron maintains over 2,000 service stations across the country as of 2012.

The company added that it discovered the dumping activities of these service station dealers after a thorough investigation backed by regular readings of the station's dispensing pumps, which showed that the quantity of products sold at the stations was greater than the quantity purchased by the dealers from Petron. Petron's pumps are equipped with monitoring systems to determine the volume dispensed. This is regularly checked by Petron representatives as part of the company's standard operating procedure.

To underscore the seriousness of its efforts to go after erring dealers, the company recently filed criminal charges against a dealer in Bogo City, Cebu. The Bogo City Prosecutor's Office found probable cause on allegations by Petron that the dealer committed criminal acts of trademark infringement, unfair competition, and false designation of origin punished under RA 8293, Petron said in a statement.

Sustainable source of income for poor families

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) ties up with Rags2Riches, (R2R) Inc., to train selected beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in Caloocan, Tondo and Quezon City on rug weaving as part of its effort to provide sustainable source of income for poor families and uplift their conditions in the society.

The DSWD and Rags2Riches has signed the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) dubbed as "Paghahabi Para sa Pantawid Pamilya Project" which coincides with DSWD's celebration of its 62nd Anniversary.

The agreement was set to run for one year focusing on enhancing the skills of some 25 4Ps beneficiaries in weaving and sewing.

It aims to eventually lead them to be suppliers of Rags2Riches merchandise to make them self-sufficient, productive, and with sustainable growth in income.

"The DSWD is committed to help 4Ps beneficiaries become self-reliant by enhancing their skills in livelihood enterprises," DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman said.

Under the project, participants will undergo four-day training on weaving. Then, they will start receiving job orders from R2R and eventually, they will be tapped as regular suppliers of the company.

On the other hand, Secretary Soliman said that beneficiaries who have skills in sewing may be employed by R2R while the products that they created can be purchased by the sewing company and become part of their merchandise.

Secretary Soliman emphasized that the project is part of the DSWD's Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) which ensures the sustainability of the beneficiaries' income even after they graduate from the 4P's"

The SLP is a community-based capacity building program that seeks to improve the program participants' socio-economic status. It equips program participants to actively contribute to production and labor markets by looking at available resources and accessible markets. It relies on multi-stakeholder partnerships and participatory community planning, implementation and monitoring.

Contributions of National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA)

President Benigno S. Aquino III acknowledged the contributions of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) in nation building as the agency celebrated Tuesday its 40th anniversary.

The Philippine economy is growing, the President said in his message during the celebration held at NEDA's head office in Pasig City.

The chief executive said that while the economy grows, NEDA must strive hard to attain sustainable and broad-based growth for the benefit of the Filipinos.

"We have much left to do, and NEDA will become an even more important partner in the years ahead. If we want to be sure that our efforts will yield the best results, our next moves must be calculated," he said.

"We are counting on you. Today, I am asking each one of you to strive for even better performance of your duties,"

To sustain this growth, the government must continue its efforts to level the playing field, weed out corruption, and step up the country's competitiveness in the global market.

The government will also continue to invest in human capital through education, health, and social services, he said adding the administration also identified key sectors for growth and have put in place initiatives that will facilitate growth.

The President said he is glad NEDA is truly dedicated to fulfilling its mandate and serving the people not based on political convenience or self-aggrandizement.

This is the reason why in 2010, NEDA translated the administration's commitments in its Social Contract with the Filipino People into specific strategies and programs.

NEDA formulated the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016, which set the administration's goals of achieving inclusive growth, creating employment opportunities, and reducing poverty, as well as the strategies it employs to realize important goals, the President said.

Reproductive Health law advocate Carlos Celdran

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said Tuesday it is respecting the conviction by a Manila City Metropolitan Trial Court on tour guide and Reproductive Health law advocate Carlos Celdran.

"For me the Court has spoken and we respect the Court. On our part, even long before we have forgiven him so whatever the Court decides we respect it," said CBCP President Archbishop Jose Palma in a Church-run forum in Manila Tuesday.

However, the Cebu prelate said he has not read the copy of MCMTC Branch 4 Judge Juan Bermejo decision as they have been preoccupied with the just concluded 106th Plenary Assembly at the Pope Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila.

He noted that they have forgiven Celdran even before the decision on the case filed Manila Cathedral rector Monsignor Nestor Cerbo came out.

"We respect the processes of the court and more than anything else love should prevail and we have already learned our lesson in the process. Respect should be given to every religion, respect the place and above all we should pray," Palma added.

He said the incident with the Manila tour guide was also a learning experience about respect.

On Monday, the Manila court found Celdran guilty of offending religious feelings which is covered by the Revised Penal Code Sec. 4 Art. 133.

Economic Success of the Philippines

The Philippines could fully succeed economically in the future if there is national unity and every Filipino makes individual commitments, President Benigno S. Aquino III said during the 40th anniversary celebration of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) on Tuesday.

The President, who arrived last weekend from attending the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Switzerland, recounted his experiences while in the European country.

There is a disparity in terms of the number of people between the Philippines and Switzerland, he said, noting that the latter even had to deal with a more hostile environment.

But despite the challenges, he said Switzerland has become a very rich country after striving hard to maximize the effects of its comparative advantage particularly in finance.

"Simple lang ---talagang mapaparating tayo sa paroroonan natin kung lahat tayo kumakayod at humahatak tungo sa isang direksyon, kung ibibigay natin ang kaya natin. Kung lalampasan natin ang akala nating kaya natin ay baka naman mapadali ang parating natin doon," the President said in his speech.

The use of timely and accurate government data is also important so that economic managers can formulate the right strategy and decision for the national good, he said.

"May kasabihan sa mahilig sa computer, 'Garbage in, garbage out.' Kapag mali ang datos, o hindi naaangkop ang lunas, lalong maaantala ang desisyon," he said.

The country also changed a lot since the administration took office more than two years ago, he said. Today, foreign investors are scrambling to put their businesses here. Several years ago, the Philippines wasn't even in their radar, the President said.