YEAR OF THE MONKEY: NATION ON A ROLL IN 2004 - PALACE

MALACANANG, January 2, 2004
(STAR) By Marichu Villanueva - Malacañang predicted yesterday that 2004, the year of the monkey in the Lunar calendar, will be good for the country if no anti-government uprising takes place.

"If there will be no (more) destabilization, we will be on a roll in 2004," said Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye. "We ended the year 2003 with a bang."

Bunye said the country’s economy picked up in terms of rapid growth rates in investments and exports during the past year.

"Our stock market hit the highest record as we’ve monitored it," he said.

Quoting official figures, Bunye said exports went up by as much as 22 percent, while investments grew by 26 percent.

"As such, we’re the sixth fastest growing economy in the Asia-Pacific region," he said.

Bunye also highlighted President Arroyo’s successful campaign against illegal drugs, kidnap-for-ransom gangs and terrorists.

"We had a good year in the anti-drugs, in the anti-kidnap, in the anti-terrorism, and the fight against the Abu Sayyaf bandits," he said.

"We got the big ones like (Fathur) Rohman al-Ghozi, who escaped, and Abu Sayyaf leader (Galib Andang, alias) Commander Robot," he said.

Al-Ghozi, a confessed financier of the Rizal Day 2000 bombings in Metro Manila, escaped from his Camp Crame jail along with two suspected Abu Sayyaf leaders last July 14. He was killed in an encounter with soldiers in North Cotabato last Oct. 12.

Andang, leader of the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers who took 21 mostly foreign hostages from the Sipadan resort in Malaysia in April 2000, was captured by soldiers in Zamboanga del Sur last Dec. 7.

Bunye said Filipinos can look forward to better times as the country faces national and local elections in May.

"As far as we can see it, things are looking up," he said. "What we’re saying is 2003 was a (good) year, and 2004 will definitely be a better year."


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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