[BIG FISH: President Arroyo leads the ceremonial stocking of bangus or milkfish breeders in a spawning tank of the Philippine Bangus Center in Bonoan, Binloc, Dagupan City yesterday. With the President are Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. (second from right) and Director Malcolm Sarmiento of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. - Revoli Cortez]

MALACANANG, December 27, 2003 (OPS) Dagupenos got a fiesta bounty while one of Pangasinanís most illustrious sons, Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr. received a surprise birthday gift from no less than President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when she inaugurated the San Fernando Fish Market and the National Bangus Production Center here today.

A P10-million assistance for the establishment of a fish processing plant at the Philippine Bangus Center was ordered released by the President in line with her efforts to expand the cityís capability to supply the country with Dagupan fish.

"A good fiesta gift for the people of Dagupan and a good birthday gift for Speaker de Venecia," Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo said, describing de Venecia as a "partner in progress and in changing the countryís landscape."

The Speaker, who celebrates his birthday on Dec. 26, was called "Bayani ng Constitutional Democracy" by the Chief Executive during a speech that followed the unveiling of the marker of the Fish Market.

It has been the yearly ritual of the President to pass by Dagupan on the way to her annual vacation in Baguio which she cancelled this year in deference to the people of Southern Leyte and Caraga which were recently hit by deadly landslides.

"But I canít do away with the Dagupan portion because of this inauguration. Because bangus is the leading product of Dagupan, itís the product that made Joe de Venecia go to school. Now we are expanding Dagupanís capability to feed the people of the Philippines with Dagupan bangus," the President said.

She said she has ordered Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo to stop the importation of fish fry, and instead make Dagupan the fish fry center of the Philippines.

"Sa Dagupan na lang bibili ng fish fry ang buong Pilipinas (The whole Philippines will now buy fish fry in Dagupan)," she said.

The P10 million she gave to Dagupan mayor Benjie Lim is only part of the P50 million government contribution to the fish processing center .

Aside from Lim and Lorenzo, joining the President in the inauguration were Dagupan Vice Mayor Aldrin Fernandez and other local officials.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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