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February 21, 2011
THE DAY’S TOP STORIES/ISSUES
1.About the Speaker
TRADE GROUPS SECURE HOUSE BACKING ON 23 KEY BILLS (The Daily
Tribune, page 8) The House of Representatives has committed to give priority to 23 bills
that seek to enhance the productivity and competitiveness of local businesses during a
meeting with the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) and Philippine Business Groups (PBG).
The meeting was held last week to discuss House priorities and the 23 economic
reform measures are among the 90 bills Congress will tackle until the end of the year,
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. told reporters.
Belmonte said the House Committee on Ways and Means (CWM) has on top of its
priority measures for study the present tax levies, including the three-percent CCT and 2.5-
percent tax on GPB, which certain sectors claim restrain the country’s promotion efforts.
Belmonte said the anti-smuggling provisions of the Tariff and Customs Code and the
modernization of the Bureau of Customs are also on top of the priority list.
CONGRESS, JFC AGREE TO HOLD REGULAR MEETINGS (The Manila Times,
page B5) The Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) together with 10 Philippine business groups and
the House of Representatives recently agree to hold regular meetings to accelerate passage of
legislative measures that will increase investment and jobs in the country.
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said Congress leaders and the business groups
are set to meet every three months to update the status on pending legislative measures. This
will be in addition to regular committee meetings which will invite resource persons from the
business groups in driving pending measures.
Belmonte said that even with Congress having its highest net-satisfaction rating in
more than 30 years, there remains an urgent need to encourage inputs from all stakeholders.
2. On the impeachment case vs Merceditas Gutierrez
MERCI IMPEACHMENT ‘ALL BUT ASSURED’ (Philippine Daily Inquirer, page A2)
Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez’s impeachment in the House of Representatives is ―all but
assured,‖ according to some legislators who are awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision on
her appeal to block the congressional move to oust her from office.
―I’m confident that whatever the findings of the justice committee, we will get the
one-third approval of the plenary,‖ said Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas in a text message.
Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla said getting the necessary 94 votes out of the 283-
strong House would be ―easy‖ considering President Benigno Benigno Aquino III’s influence
in the lower chamber.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said the President had made it clear that he wanted
Gutierrez out, and ―I don’t think the majority will fail him.‖
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has instructed the House justice committee, which is
handling the case, to wait until the high court rules on Gutierrez’s motion for reconsideration.
PALACE TO KEEP HANDS OFF GUTIERREZ IMPEACHMENT (The Philippine
Star, page 2) Malacañang will observe a hands-off policy regarding the impeachment of
Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, and the administration would let the members of the
House of Representatives decide on their own.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. clarified, however, that they would only proceed with
the hearings once the SC decision has become final and executory. Ombudsman Gutierrez
said she would file a motion for reconsideration.
3. On RH Bill
TWO CO-AUTHORS OF RH BILL WITHDRAW SUPPORT TO MEASURE (The
Daily Tribune, page 4) While proponents of the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill
claimed they were on the verge of passing it, two of the prominent co-authors of the bill had
either backed out or withdrawn their signatures from the measure.
According to Northern Samar Rep. Emil Ong, he is now withdrawing his support to
the proposal even as he expressed serious doubts on whether the country needs such a law.
Another co-author of the measure, Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Farinas, said his support
to the bill does not necessarily mean he will vote for the passage of the bill.
Fariñas said he signed the bill for the sake of allowing a free flow of discussions on
the issue so that the public can be enlightened. (Jumpstory in Malaya, page B1 – FUNDING
FOR CONDOMS? LEARN FROM US ‘MISTAKE,’ CBCP SAYS)
FUNDING FOR CONDOMS? LEARN FROM US ‘MISTAKE,’ CBCP SAYS (Malaya,
banner story) An official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines yesterday
asked lawmakers to avoid making the same "mistake" as that of the United States Congress
which approved funds for contraceptives and recently withdrew the funding.
Fr. Melvin Castro, head of the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Family and Life,
said lawmakers should stop supporting the reproductive health bill which requires
government funding for contraceptives.
"We ask our government and our legislators, let us not follow their (US lawmakers’)
mistakes of the past, and then only to realize we have to correct it in the future," Castro said.
On Saturday, the US House voted 240-185 to strike all federal funding for the
Planned Parenthood Federation of America after finding that the measure subsidizes "the
largest abortion provider in America." The amendment to the 2011 Federal Spending Bill,
introduced by Rep. Mike Pence, will go before the US Senate. (Similar story in Philippine
Daily Inquirer, page A3 – FOLLOW US LEAD IN REJECTING RH BILL, SOLONS
TOLD / Manila Bulletin, page 13 – SCRAP RH FUNDS NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO
LATE, SOLONS URGED)
4. On the proposed house arrest for Sen. Ping Lacson
SOLONS SLAM DE LIMA, BUCK HOUSE ARREST FOR LACSON (The Daily
Tribune, page 4) Congressmen yesterday crossed party lines and assailed a proposal of
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to place fugitive Sen. Panfilo Lacson under house arrest.
Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe and Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong said
instead of interfering with a legal decision which is under the jurisdiction of the Court of
Appeals (CA), De Lima should limit herself to prosecuting Lacson and supervise the conduct
of an honest-to-goodness manhunt for the senator.
For his part, opposition Rep. Ignacio Arroyo said the DoJ should be reminded that
until the warrant for Lacson’s arrest is lifted, De Lima should consider him a fugitive from
Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay aired strong doubts government is serious in
For his part, San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor ―JV‖ Ejercito dared Lacson to show up and
face the music. (Similar story in Manila Standard Today, page A6 - LEGISLATORS HIT
DE LIMA OFFER OF HOUSE ARREST FOR PING / The Manila Times, page A3 –
LAWMAKERS REJECT PROPOSAL FOR LACSON HOUSE ARREST / Manila
Bulletin, page 8 – SOLONS CRITICIZE ‘SPECIAL TREATMENT’)
5. On RP-Taiwan row
TAIPEI DEMANDS APOLOGY FROM MANILA DURING VISIT Presidential envoy
Manuel Roxas II leaves today for Taiwan in an attempt to mend ties (Manila Standard
Today, banner story) Taiwan Premier Wu Denyih demanded an official apology from the
Philippines for deporting 14 Taiwanese –suspected of running a scam targeting Chinese
nationals—to China instead of Taiwan on the eve of presidential chief troubleshooter Manuel
Roxas trip to the island to mend fences.
ROXAS GETS TAIWAN TASK To explain deportation issue as President’s personal
emissary (The Manila Times, banners story)
ROXAS GOES TO TAIWAN TODAY Mission from Aquino: Clear, resolve legal issue
(Malaya, banner story)
MECO HEAD’S APOLOGY DOESN’T BIND GOV’T – SOLON (The Daily Tribune,
front page) The recent apology issued by Manila Economic and Cultural Office (Meco)
chairman Amado Perez to Taiwan for the arrest and deportation of 14 of its nationals to
mainland China instead of Taiwan should not bind the government since it is not an official
as Perez does not have any legal personality to issue an official apology, Sen. Franklin Drilon
Drilon noted that Meco is not a consular office of the country but a mere government-
owned and controlled corporation (GOCC). Meco, nonetheless, is the de facto embassy of the
country to Taiwan only that the government recognizes the one-China policy that considers
Taiwan as a province of the mainland.
6. On the AFP corruption probe
DRILON SEES OMBUDSMAN COVER-UP IN GENERALS’ CASE (The Daily
Tribune, page 1) There’s a consistent pattern exhibited by the Ombudsman in covering up all
the misdeeds of at least two retired generals and former military comptroller facing serious
charges for alleged ill-gotten wealth, Sen. Franklin Drilon yesterday said.
In an interview with dzBB, Drilon’s statements were also in support of the
pronouncements made by President Aquino to put behind bars the Ombudsman’s special
prosecutors involved in Garcia’s plea bargain agreement, viewed by many as against the
interest of the government.
INTELLIGENCE FUND UTILIZATION UNDER OVERSIGHT SCRUTINY
(BusinessWorld, page S1/11) Continuing allegations of fund mismanagement in the Armed
Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has resulted in calls for stricter monitoring of unaudited
intelligence funds, with the Senate having restored this prerogative in the current budget.
Senator Francis Joseph G. Escudero, Committee on National Defense and Security
Chairman, said yesterday that ―the Senate activated and funded for 2011 an oversight
committee on intelligence funds.‖
7. On business issues
BOI-LISTED INVESTMENTS JUMP 183% TO P11.4 B (The Philippine Star, page B1)
The government is off to a good start in terms of attracting new investments as the Board of
Investments (BOI) approved a total of P11.4 billion worth of fresh capital as of Feb. 15 this
year, a 183-percent increase from a year ago level.
In an interview, BOI Executive Director Lucita P. Reyes said that for January until
Feb. 15, investments ballooned to P11.4 billion from P9.917 billion recorded in the same
period last year.
HIGHER CAPITALIZATION SET FOR THRIFT, RURAL BANKS (Manila Standard
Today, front page) The Bangko Sentral will this week raise the minimum capital required of
savings banks following a substantial increase in the capitalization of rural banks, deputy
Governor Nestor Espenilla said over the weekend.
―This is a part of our effort in strengthening the banking system,‖ he told reporters.
BANGKO SENTRAL SEES CONTINUED DOLLAR INFLOWS (Manila Standard
Today, page A1) The country will continue to receive a steady stream of dollars this year as
the higher interest rates continue to attract foreign funds and the Filipinos working abroad
send home as much as 8 percent more in remittances, the central bank said over the weekend.
Overall, the central bank expects the country’s gross internal reserves to reach $68
billion to $70 billion by the end of the year.
BSP FORECASTS FASTER ECONOMIC GROWTH IN 2011 (The Manila Times, page
B1) The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said economic growth would accelerate this year
on the back of solid macroeconomic fundamentals.
BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said the country’s gross domestic product (GDP)
could expand by 7 percent to 8 percent this year, or faster than the 35-year record growth of
7.3 percent in 2010.
15 CENTAVOS POWER RATE INCREASE SOUGHT (The Philippine Star, page 1)
Energy officials intend to seek an increase in the cost of electricity of up to 15 centavos per
kilowatt-hour (kwh) before the middle of next month.
Emmanuel Ledesma Jr., president of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities
Management Corp. (PSALM), has told the House Energy Committee that they would ask the
Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to approve an adjustment of 12 to 15 centavos before
The House committee on energy has discovered that the corporation Congress had
created to bail out Napocor is itself now mired in debt.
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, whose Resolution 106 has prompted the inquiry
into PSALM’s and Napocor’s finances, said he could not understand why PSALM still had
$15.82 billion in obligations, including those it inherited from Napocor.
8. Other stories
NOYNOY TENTATIVE, NAIVE ON EXECUTION HK online publication: Aquino can’t
make tough decisions (The Daily Tribune, banner story) President Aquino is again getting
noticed for his lack of resolve in confronting issues facing his administration this time on his
uncertain approach on the case of the three Filipinos up for execution in China as a result of
In an analysis titled ―The Philippines’ Tentative President,‖ Hong Kong-based online
publication Asia Sentinel called Aquino naive who surrendered Philippine democratic
principles without getting anything in return in reference to his decision for a snub of the
Nobel Prize award ceremony which included a peace award to a Chinese dissident.
It said Aquino’s preference for putting the politics of the heart before considered
views of the national interest has been classically illustrated by official intervention to try to
save the lives of three Filipinos facing the death penalty after being convicted of drug
smuggling in China.
The analysis piece also cited the Reproductive Health bill as another show of
unprincipled compromise in Aquino.
―While still putatively supporting the Reproductive Health legislation, Noynoy has
declined to give it priority and has proposed his own bill that stresses poverty reduction over
family planning. Given that the bill’s chances of passage – 13 years after originally proposed
– are poor in the first place, at the least this will delay help for the poor who want access to
contraception and related services and at worst delay the matter to give the Catholic Church
the time to twist the arms of enough congressmen to defeat it yet again,‖ it said.
An Agence France Presse report, meanwhile, said that Filipino expatriates are turning
to willing drug smugglers due to the lack of government action to provide jobs at home.
LTO CHIEF TIED TO CAR THEFT Police report tags Noy pal, 25 others (Philippine
Daily Inquirer, banner story) Virginia Torres, chief of the Land Transportation Office
(LTO), and 25 other LTO and police personnel are facing criminal and administrative charges
for allegedly facilitating the registration of stolen vehicles, the Philippine Daily Inquirer has
The charge against Torres, a shooting range buddy of President Benigno Aquino III
who appointed her LTO chief in July last year, was for violation of Article 171 of the Revised
Penal Code for falsification of a document by a public officer, according to the Espina report
to PNP Director General Raul Bacalzo.
79 PINOYS ON CHINA DEATH ROW 120 OFWs also facing death penalty in other
countries (The Philippine Star, banner story) Apart from the three whose execution has been
deferred, there are 79 other Filipinos awaiting their fate on China’s death row, an overseas
workers group said yesterday.
Migrante International said more than 120 other Filipino workers are also facing death
sentences in other countries.
GOV’T SEEKS DONOR SUPPORT Philippines development Forum scheduled this
Saturday (BusinessWorld, banner story) Aquino administration officials will meet with
international development partners this Saturday in a bid to muster support for the
government’s priority projects.
The Philippines Development Forum (PDF) -- an annual gathering of bureaucrats and
donor agency representatives as well as members of the business sector -- will tackle the
2011-2016 Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) and other government
PROTECTION OF OFW DOLLARS EYED (BusinessMirror, banner story) A legislator
has asked the country’s banking institutions to provide hedge facilities that would enable
overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families to convert their future US dollar
remittances into pesos at preset exchange rates, following forecasts of a stronger Philippine
The move, according to Party-list Rep. Arnel Ty of LPG Marketer’s Association
(LPGMA), is one practical way to help migrant workers and their families cope with the
rising peso, with the fewer pesos they will be getting for every dollar.
Lower remittance fees urged. Meanwhile, Liberal Party Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern
Samar will file on Monday a resolution urging President Aquino to direct the Department of
Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Finance, Bangko
Sentral and other concerned agencies to institute a program that would effectively lower the
cost of remittances from workers abroad and maximize the economic impact of remittances.
DONAIRE WINS 2 TITLES (Manila Bulletin, banner story) Filipino fighter Nonito
Donaire stopped Mexico's Fernando Montiel in the second round on Saturday (Sunday in
Manila) to take the World Boxing Council (WBC) and World Boxing Organization (WBO)
MALACAÑANG INVITES ARROYO TO EDSA I CELEBRATION (The Manila
Times, page A1) Former President and now Rep. Gloria Arroyo of Pampanga is welcomed to
take part in 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution 25th anniversary, but this does not mean
―reconciliation‖ with the Aquino administration, the Palace said Sunday.
Deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said over Radyo ng Bayan that President Benigno
Aquino 3rd would not mind if Mrs. Arroyo would join the EDSA celebration, noting that
EDSA ―does not belong to one family.‖
SAVE BILL REFILED AT US SENATE (The Manila Times, page B2) US legislation
meant to provide preferential duty treatment to certain Philippine garment exports has been
refilled in the US Senate, boosting Manila’s hopes to have it passed within the year.
DE LIMA ENDORSES REGISTRATION OF USERS OF PRE-PAID SIM CARDS
(Manila Bulletin, page 6) Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has endorsed a Senate bill that
would require buyers of pre-paid subscriber identification module (SIM) cards to provide
personal information and present official IDs to sellers in a move to discourage crimes like
kidnap-for-ransom, extortion, and robbery.
Introduced by Sen. Manuel Villar, Senate Bill No. 2644 would mandate all sellers of
pre-paid SIM cards to ask buyers to present government-issued identification cards and to
record their personal informal information. (Similar story in Manila Standard Today, page
A3 – VILLAR BILL TO REGULATE USE OF SIM)
9. About the HOUSE
LAWMAKERS URGE SINGSON TO QUIT (Manila Standard Today, page A3) Two
congressmen of Laguna called on Ilocos Sur Rep. Ronald Singson to resign and not wait for
his colleagues o expel him from the House of Representatives following his indictment for
drug trafficking in Hong Kong.
Reps. Dan Fernandez and Timmy Chipeco said that the only option left for him at this
point is to resign.
MENDOZA URGED TO ACCEPT PALACE JOB OFFER (The Manila times, page A3)
Former state auditor Heidi Mendoza should accept a possible job offer to serve the Aquino
administration, a party-list lawmaker said on Sunday.
Rep. Sherwin Tugna of the Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) made the
remark after Senate Minority Leader Allan Peter Cayetano asked Mendoza to consider
accepting a possible job offer from President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
HOUSE PUSHED TO PRIORITIZE LIBEL LAW AMENDMENTS (The Manila
Times, page A3) A lawmaker over the weekend called on the leadership of the House of
Representatives to prioritize a measure seeking to amend the law on libel to accommodate
issues on the posting or publication of libelous comments, remarks and other forms of
electronic communications and materials over the Internet.
Rep. Romeo Acop of Antipolo City made the call on Sunday, explaining that the law
on libel should guide the use of the Internet since the medium has become a potential avenue
for slanderous publications against individuals.
The lawmaker authored House Bill 4031 which seeks to penalize libelous statements
made over the Internet through the amendment of Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code
(RPC) containing provisions on the mediums where libel may be committed.
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS (Manila Bulletin, page 8) The House Committee
on Constitutional Amendments has been urged to speed up the consolidation of various
proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution to finally jumpstart the nationwide Charter
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone asked the committee, headed by Rep. Loreto S.
Campos to move forward the consolidation of amendments proposed by various stakeholders,
including constitutional experts.
LAWMAKER PROPOSES ‘LEMON LAW’ (The Philippine Star, page 3) Las Piñas City
Rep. Mark Villar has proposed the enactment of a ―lemon law‖ to protect buyers of defective
He said his Bill 1966 would strengthen consumer protection in the purchase of brand
new vehicles and provide for legal remedies to buyers of substandard units.
PACQUIAO EYED AS TOURISM POSTER BOY (The Philippine Star, page 8) Boxing
champion and congressman Manny Pacquiao may soon have another job—―tourism
The Department of Tourism (DOT) is eyeing the support of Pacquiao and other
popular celebrities to encourage more Filipinos to travel around the country.
REPRIEVE (The Philippine Star, page 14) There are 227 Filipinos detained on criminal
charges including drug trafficking in China, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
A group representing migrant workers counts 79 Filipinos facing death for various offenses
in China and another 41 in the Middle East. The Philippine government cannot send Vice
President Jejomar Binay to save all of them from execution or at least win a reprieve. For
most of the convicts, Philippine diplomats will just have to work overtime to win leniency.
BUYING TIME (The Philippine Daily Inquirer, page A14) The decision of the People’s
Supreme Court of China to postpone the executions of the three Filipinos convicted of drug
smuggling is unexpected but welcome. We do not know how long the stay of execution will
last, or whether the three death sentences will eventually be commuted to life imprisonment.
But it ought to be clear to anyone that the current Malacañang policy of assertive
appeasement—an approach which essentially means throwing ourselves at the mercy of
foreign governments—cannot last.
Binay’s impromptu visit to Beijing has bought Ramon Credo, Sally Villanueva and
Elizabeth Batain precious time, an admittedly small mercy with large personal consequences.
But it has also bought the Aquino administration some time too, to reconsider its approach to
the specific problem of Filipinos caught smuggling drugs abroad.
SAVING DRUG SMUGGLERS’ LIVES (Malaya, page A4) This might seem like the
height of insensitivity, but are we not frittering away the goodwill we enjoy among other
nations with our tendency to make representation at the highest diplomatic level every time
one of our countrymen gets into trouble?
We have to sort out our priorities. The way the government is responding to the recent
sentencing of drug mules in China, the impression made is that our highest national priority is
in saving lives, no matter the crime or the potential injury to the host country.
So what happens now every time one of the 100 or so Filipinos with pending drug
smuggling cases is sentenced to death? We send Vice President Jojo Binay to plead for
mercy? And would Beijing accommodate us every time, with the result that Filipino drug
smugglers may, in effect, commit the worst crimes in China’s books without suffering its
AN OMINOUS CRACK (The Daily Tribune, page 6) The military corruption issue is
turning out to be a major challenge for Noynoy Aquino and it may spell trouble if he
addresses it incorrectly and lets it air in the open for too long.
The responses of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) alumni to the ongoing
congressional investigations into revelations of widespread corruption in the military were
cryptic. They talk of a wedge that now exists within the alumni organization which taken in
another light are the brass of the military and police forces as a result of the investigations.
For generals to admit a rift within their ranks, the crack should already have grown
too big for comfort.
AWASH WITH DOLLARS (Manila Standard Today, page A4) The central bank can no
longer hold back the appreciation of the peso at the rate dollars are coming in.
The remittances sent by migrant Filipino workers, foreign investments, tourism
earnings, and the dollar revenues posted by exporters and the business process outsourcing
companies have been sending the country’s international reserves to record highs.
A rising peso reflects the strength of the Philippine economy. For the central bank, the
strong peso could be its best defense against inflation in the face of soaring food and crude
A BOLD FORECAST (The Manila Times, page A4) The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas
(BSP) forecast of a 7-percent to 8-percent growth in the country’s gross domestic product
(GDP) this year is the boldest official pronouncement yet of what’s in store for the domestic
economy this year.
Speaking before members of the country’s organization of business journalists, BSP
Gov. Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said GDP growth would come in faster than the 34-year
record of 7.3 percent last year given the uneven growth trajectories of the advanced
economies on the one hand, and their emerging peers on the other.
INTERNATIONAL MOTHER LANGUAGE DAY (Manila Bulletin page 10) All moves
to promote the dissemination of mother tongues encourage linguistic diversity and
multilingual education. They develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions
throughout the world and they inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance, and
CON-CON BEST WAY FOR CHA-CHA (BusinessMirror, page A6) It seems not too long
ago that we heard a former President of the Republic calling on Congress to start the great
debate on Charter change (Cha-cha), and now that exercise has begun.
A Constituent Assembly may be more economical and expedient compared to, say,
electing delegates to Constitutional Convention (Con-con), but economical and expedient do
not necessarily mean it is the best way.
If we are to change the Charter, we should heed the lessons of history and have
Congress call for a Constitutional Convention whose delegates would be freely elected
simultaneously during the May 2013 midterm elections. And in order to prevent a ―backdoor‖
Constituent Assembly, we should, as former Senator Ernesto Herrera suggests, ban
incumbent legislators as well as their immediate relatives from running as Constitutional
A Constitutional Convention whose delegates are chosen by the people through direct
balloting is the path of least resistance when it comes to Charter reform. It is the most
credible and perhaps the only acceptable path.
BUSINESS GROUPS, CONGRESS AGREE ON REGULAR MEETINGS (The Manila
Times, page B3) Caption: Photo shows House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte (second from
left) and deputy House Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella (extreme left) together with European
Chamber of Commerce President Hubert d’ Aboville (third from left) and American Chamber
of Commerce of the Philippines Director for External Affairs Robert Sears (extreme right)
during the recent meeting.
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Public Relations and Information Bureau (PRIB)