MANILA — Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito on Monday lauded officials of the Presidential Communication Operations Office (PCOO), led by Secretary Martin Andanar, for instituting the necessary reforms to make the government news service, Philippine News Agency (PNA) regain the respect that it once commanded.
Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco of the Office of the President, who is supervising Undersecretary of PNA, reported the changes and improvements of government online news site to the Senate Committee on Finance during the hearing of the proposed 2019 PCOO budget.
Egco said the PNA website has regained its reach, registering an upward trend of website visits reaching 406,993 in late October 2018, as compared to only more than 11,000 website visits in April 2017.
“The use of fiber optic internet connection and the launch of its new website design contributed much to the big upward trend in its website visits,” he said.
Meanwhile, the renovation of its main office in Quezon City has provided its staff with a conducive working environment, Egco added.
“The PNA established three editorial layers in the processing of news prior to the website posting. The editorial staff was also reorganized for a more effective and efficient processing of news materials submitted by field reporters,” Egco said.
The News and Information Bureau (NIB), the mother unit of the PNA, also began the process of hiring highly qualified reporters and editors to replace the personnel who have retired or resigned.
The PNA has suffered a lack of qualified staff due to a hiring and promotion moratorium imposed during past administrations.
The hiring of multi-media skilled staff is also needed for its social media platforms and the PNA Newsroom, which are all part of its multi-media innovations instituted by Andanar.
“For the record, the PNA has no media presence when we first came in. From zero media presence in 2016, we have to establish a social media presence for the PNA,” Andanar said.
Besides having both Facebook and Twitter accounts, the PNA has its PNA Newsroom, a Monday to Friday webcast that gives a quick and comprehensive rundown of the day’s top stories.
The PNA Newsroom has recently launched the “Pros and Cons” talk show which is also aired on state run PTV-4, and “Business Matters” which regularly airs on Friday.
Andanar also instituted measures to provide a continuing training program for editors, writers and technical staff to enhance their skills.
Among the recent training provided included the Journalism Training and the Multi-Media Concepts Training in Moscow in partnership with Sputnik News Agency; Diplomacy Training in Ankara, Turkey; the China-Philippines Young Journalists Exchange program in Fujian Province in China; and the War Correspondents Training in Istanbul, Turkey.
“The PNA is also expanding its worldwide reach by fostering news cooperation and exchange with its foreign counterparts,” Egco said.
Already a member of the Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA), the PNA recently joined the Belt and Road news Alliance – and international news media organization composed of 65 founding members from 35 countries.
In the past two years, it has also entered into a memorandum of agreements (MOA) with China Radio International (February 2017); Yonhap News Agency of South Korea (March 2018); and Hungarian News Agency (August 2018).
Meanwhile, a new cooperation agreement between PNA and Sputnik News Agency is just awaiting signature, while a similar agreement with Anadolu News Agency of Turkey is currently being finalized.
Egco said while more training for reporters and editors are in the offing to further enhance their journalism skills, the PCOO is currently working to provide them with training on video production.
“This is to equip them with the basics of producing short video clips for the PNA Newsroom and the agency’s Facebook page,” he said.
Also, in the pipeline is the upgrading of equipment like laptops, cameras, desktops, and news webcast studio needs.
This would be accomplished through the PHP1.2 million capital outlay allocation in the NIB’s proposed 2019 budget.
The much-needed renovation of 19 PNA provincial bureaus is also in the pipeline.
Ejercito commended Andanar, Egco and NIB Director Virginia Arcilla-Agtay for their work in uplifting the government’s official news agency.
“Congratulations for the new look of the PNA. We are very happy that with your new look, you were able to increase your website visits by more than 40 times,” he said.
The chair of the Senate Finance Committee’s Sub-Committee “F” said that with its renewed strength and increasing social media presence, the agency would be able to better communicate President Rodrigo Duterte’s programs and policies to the public.
Aside from catering to the Presidency, Ejercito said he will strongly recommend that all the programs of government be submitted to the PNA for dissemination.
“There are many government programs, like housing and agriculture. All projects of every department should be submitted or updated regularly. Pag may bagong programa tayo, ipasok kaagad (If there’s a government new program, let’s immediately disseminate it),” Ejercito said.