NEWS FEATURE: EARTH-SHAKING WELCOME FOR GMA IN ALBAY

LEGAZPI CITY, November 6, 2003 (STAR) You could say President Arroyo received an earthshaking welcome in Legazpi City in Albay when an intensity 2 earthquake hit the province yesterday morning.

Albay is the site of Mount Mayon, one of the most active volcanoes in the country. This time, however, volcanic activity was not the reason for the quake, which was triggered by the movement of tectonic plates along the fault system beneath the province.

Just minutes after the President arrived before noon at the Legazpi City airport from Tagbilaran City in Bohol, the earth started shaking.

At intensity 2, the earthquake is not easily detectable, except by people with a keen sense of movement. There was no reported damage to either public or private structures and no casualties were reported.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said the earthquake originated from an area along the Masbate segment of the Philippine fault zone at 10:38 a.m. It registered a magnitude of 4.8 on the open-ended Richter scale and was felt all the way to Legazpi City.

The epicenter of the temblor was pinpointed at 61 kilometers east of Masbate, Masbate, one of the provinces adjacent to the Bicol Region.

Despite her earth-shaking experience in Legazpi City, the President kept to her schedule of activities in the province and traveled by land.

Her first stop was an inspection of the Antonio Berces supermarket in Tabaco, Albay, which was gutted by fire. Tabaco is the home of Mt. Mayon.

She said "although Iím not Bicolano-blooded, Iím thankful to all of you that, in my two and a half years as President, you have given me the opportunity to serve you with all my heart and Iím thankful for your trust, especially in the areas where the Arroyo clan lived."

"Dios mabalos sa inyong gabos (Thank you and God bless all of you)," she said in Bicolano.

While she was in Iriga City for the multisectoral assembly at Salceda Center, the President disclosed that Bicol is one of the biggest beneficiaries of her first working visit to the United States in November 2001.

"It was when I received the $30 million funding from the World Bank, where the US has a big say on policies, for the Bicol River Basin project," she recalled.

"This is a multibillion-peso project," she said, adding that she hopes the project will soon "help the people here in Bicol, especially (since) it is where my husband grew up."

The President told the people of Bicol that the master plan and feasibility study for the project are now underway and will include the cities of Iriga and Naga and 13 municipalities in Albay and Camarines Sur. The project, she said, includes flood control and watershed conservation components.

Earthquake notwithstanding, the President slept in Bicol overnight. ó Marichu Villanueva


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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