Herminio Coloma

Palace to review setup of 3-headed media group

Palace to review setup of 3-headed media group
By Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—It has finally hit the Palace that its three-headed communications group must put its act together.

Secretary Ricky Carandang of the Presidential Communications and Strategic Development Office said Cabinet officials would meet on Thursday to discuss ways on how to communicate more effectively the government’s programs.

“We felt the need to tighten the way that we communicate to the public what we’ve been doing,” Carandang said in a news briefing in Malacañang.

“Many things that we’ve done over the last several months have not gotten the emphasis that we feel they deserve,” he added.

Carandang admitted that breaking up the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) under his office and Secretary Herminio Coloma’s Presidential Communications and Operations Office was a factor in failing to get the desired results.

There’s also presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.

“We needed to get our act together as far as communications is concerned,” Carandang said.

Birthing pains

“We broke up the (OPS) and Secretary Coloma and I have occupied these two offices. It’s a new structure so it has taken some time to get used to it,” he said. “I think perhaps those birthing pains contributed to the lack of the message getting through to certain sectors.”

Carandang believes the message of the administration against corruption and for economic progress must have been successfully relayed to the public given what he called an improvement in President Benigno Aquino III’s acceptance ratings.

“I wouldn’t say that the message is not getting through. I’m saying that the message could probably be told with more consistency and perhaps a little bit more flair,” Carandang said.

Noy slams APEC allies over travel advisories

Noy slams APEC allies over travel advisories
By Aurea Calica
The Philippine Star

YOKOHAMA – President Aquino appeared in fighting form before other heads of state during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit here, lashing out at his counterparts for recent adverse travel advisories on the Philippines.

Mr. Aquino was particularly irked by the travel advisories coming from countries that he said are supposed to be allies of the Philippines.

He said the advisories had been issued amid efforts of his government to encourage investors to come to the country.

Mr. Aquino, who attended the APEC CEO Summit here along with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, was the one who got the most attention from businessmen, as several questions were thrown at him over how they could invest in the Philippines in the light of the adverse travel advisories.

Mr. Aquino and the New Zealand leader were joined by business and industry leaders led by Asian Development Bank (ADB) president Haruhiko Kuroda, DHL CEO Hermann Ude and All Nippon Airways Co. Ltd. chairman Yoji Ohashi, who is also vice chairman of Nippon Keidanren.

Mr. Aquino and Key were separated by a coffee table and delivered their speeches before the question and answer portion.

Mr. Aquino sternly answered the question on travel warnings against the Philippines, which elicited laughter from the crowd.

Key, for his part, seemed to have reddened  serious and blushed while Mr. Aquino voiced his displeasure over the advisories. New Zealand was among six countries that warned against travel to the Philippines, citing imminent terror attack.

Host nation Japan the other day joined the other nations that issued adverse travel advisory against the Philippines, but this time, warning against robbery and kidnappings.

Mr. Aquino lamented that other countries should be more considerate to their allies vis-à-vis their responsibility to warn and protect their own citizens.

Mr. Aquino though thanked the businessman during the forum for bringing up the issue of adverse travel warnings. He said the Philippines “unfortunately is not one of the tourism powerhouses yet.”

“We have three million visitors a year, some of our neighboring countries would have as high as 22 million visitors. Unfortunately, with the terror advisories recently we were singled out as a place to avoid,” Mr. Aquino told the forum.

“Unfortunately for us, there seems to be standards when they issue these alerts. There are countries that have experienced terrorist attacks directed at tourists (and) that area placed in a category lower than the Philippines in terms of terrorist alerts,” he said.

Mr. Aquino said there are countries that have harbored terrorists who attacked other countries but they are not included in the list of travel alerts.

“We don’t understand why, on the basis of a report that actually talked about a threat that was very dissimilar to previous Islamic, fundamentalist, jihadist attacks, suddenly gains so much credence that’s enough to issue all of these alerts that unfortunately were played up by our media,” he explained.

Mr. Aquino was acerbic in his comments, eliciting laughter from the crowd, particularly when he questioned the “sincerity of our allies” in issuing the adverse advisories.

He said the travel warnings came even as the Philippines is preparing a tourism campaign on Nov. 15.

“One has to suspect the sincerity of some of our allies,” he said. “We have made our displeasure known to their ambassadors.”

Mr. Aquino told the forum that the Philippine government had implemented a new procedure that would validate any information on security threats.

“We have a new procedure put in place. You know the basis of the information given to our government came in the form of SMS (short messaging system) and it was more, in the best light it can be said, it was taken so that they will not be accused of not doing anything,” Mr. Aquino said.

“But in terms of validating the data, it seems there is no effort at all to validate and this negatively impacted on our country’s efforts and again one has to wonder why such a thing came from allies,” he added.

‘Is not unusual’

Malacañang, for its part, said the latest travel advisory issued by Japan against the Philippines “is not unusual and extraordinary.”

“These are just precautionary measures. We respect our Japanese friends on this,” Presidential Communications and Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma said.

Coloma stressed the responsibility of the Japanese government to ensure the safety of its citizens.

He said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is regularly holding dialogues with embassies for a “clearer understanding” of foreign governments.

“We want to know what their concerns are,” Coloma said.

What makes the Japanese travel advisory different, Coloma noted, was that text was written in Nippongo, which means only Japanese people can understand it.

“There is no English or international version,” Coloma said. “The travel advisory was written in Japanese.”

Coloma also noted the Japanese travel advisory did not mention any possibility of terror attack in the Philippines.

Japanese Ambassador Makoto Katsura explained the advisory was merely a reminder for their nationals visiting the country to take the usual precautions against criminal elements.

The travel advisory, Katsura said, is being issued by the embassy regularly, particularly in the last months of the year when a significant number of Japanese tourists travel to the Philippines.

“So we just ask them to take safety measures against any security concerns like robbery and kidnapping,” he said.

Katsura pointed out his government’s advisory was “completely different in nature” to those issued by the United States, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Canada and France.

The six nations came out with their respective advisories one after the other within a matter of days, all of which warned of an imminent terrorist attack.

Security forces confirmed they were aware of the report of a terrorist threat on the country but stressed the information should be validated.

Officials said this was the same information used by the six nations when they issued their advisories against the Philippines.

Matsura clarified the advisory did not discourage their citizens from traveling to the Philippines. What it did was only to remind Japanese citizens to “take safety measures against any security concerns like robbery and kidnapping.”

“Our advice is quite different from them. We just remind them of the possible security (risks). We advise them to take precautionary measures,” Matsura said.

Matsura said the Japanese embassy had no idea about the information used by the six nations to issue the travel warnings.

President Aquino lamented that foreign countries did not share information with the Philippines that eventually led to the spate of adverse travel advisories.

He said the six countries did not even bother to coordinate with their Philippine counterparts on intelligence matters to check if the reported terror threats were real and accurate.

The US embassy issued a statement explaining the latest travel advisory against the Philippines carried only “slight changes.”

The British government also clarified it did not issue any new advisory to its nationals but only a revised travel advisory.

The Australian and New Zealand embassies also responded in similar tones. With Delon Porcalla, Danny Dangcalan

Aquino is just a tweet/SMS/ PM/chat away

Aquino is just a tweet/SMS/ PM/chat away
By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

WANT TO SEND President Aquino a message of concern, a suggestion, or a quick note to say hi?

Just tweet it.

The Presidential Communications Group will set up Twitter and Facebook accounts to receive and respond—in real time—to feedback from the people, an official said yesterday.

Of course, the group, which will take over the job of the Press Secretary, will still receive feedback by text, or through TV, radio or newspapers.

“We will have a website. We will set up Facebook and Twitter accounts. Of course, we will set up a system to receive SMS (short message service). We will harness all channels of communication—both traditional and nontraditional media—to ensure an active flow of information,” Communications Group member Herminio “Sonny” Coloma said in a forum over government-run dzRB.

The bottom line is for the government to come up with quick solutions and respond promptly to concerns, he added.

2-way communication

Mr. Aquino has organized the Communications Group to take the place of the Press Secretary with two main functions: Articulate his policies and respond to feedback from the public.

He had envisioned the group to mount a “21st century” version of late populist President Ramon Magsaysay’s interaction with Filipinos in the ’50s.

The group has yet to hit the ground as Mr. Aquino has not issued the executive order spelling out its functions, composition and structure.

Coloma, a former BusinessWorld columnist, being tapped to handle the group’s media operations, gave the press a glimpse of the Communications Group’s work.

“The two-way communication will prevail… not just one coming from the President or Malacañang. We will seek to get inputs, opinions and suggestions from the people so they will become active participants in governance,” he said.

This, he said, was in contrast to the traditional job of the Press Secretary who would face the press or issue statements on behalf of the President.

OPS will not be dissolved

While Coloma would handle the media operations, former ANC news anchor Ricky Carandang would be in charge of communications or “messaging,” Malacañang sources had said.

The entry of the Communications Group would lead to changes in the organizational units, but would not lead to the dissolution of the Office of the Press Secretary.

“This is not going to be abolished,” Coloma said.

The Philippine Information Agency and government-run TV networks NBN 4, IBC 13, and RPN 9, and radio dzRB (Radyo ng Bayan) would be operating under the Communications Group.