MANILA, July 9, 2005
 (STAR) The business sector is torn between joining the growing clamor for President Arroyo’s resignation or standing behind her as she weathers the political storm.

The Makati Business Club (MBC) and the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FEIP) asked the President to "relinquish her position" for the sake of the common will, national unity and moving forward.

"It is with a heavy heart that we ask the President to relinquish her position as President of the Republic of the Philippines," MBC chairman Ricardo Romulo and FEIP president Melito Salazar Jr. said.

Both groups favor a transition following the constitutional process, which means Vice President Noli de Castro must take over.

But the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) and the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FFCCCI), on the other hand, stopped short of asking the President to resign.

Though respecting the decision of key Cabinet members who have tendered their resignations, the ECOP remained adamant in its support for the President and the constitutional process.

"Who are we to call for the President’s resignation? The decision to step down is hers alone," ECOP president Rene Soriano said in an interview.

Soriano noted that employers are basically apolitical people whose main concern is to continue their business operations, whatever the country’s prevailing political and economic crisis.

But if there is change in government, Soriano said, the employers are hoping that such a transfer of power does not result in a power vacuum and an economic crisis.

Businessmen belonging to the FFCCI also remained firmly neutral in their stand on the current political crisis.

The federation announced on Thursday it would continue to support the Arroyo administration, pending a constitutionally defined process that would prove the President guilty of committing an illegal act.

Federation president Francis Chua said yesterday it remained a "wait-and-see" situation for them. They are more concerned, he said, about how all the political bickering will impact the economy.

James Chua, president of the Bacolod Filipino-Chinese Chamber, said it would be better for the entire country if the political problems were resolved immediately.

"These political woes are undermining the efforts of both the government and the private sector to improve our economy," he added.

The federation, which has a network of 170 member organizations nationwide, met with Negros Occidental Gov. Joseph Marañon recently to discuss the province’s investment portfolio in agriculture, industry and tourism.

Another group of businessmen, the National Alliance of Filipino Businessmen, also expressed belief that the resignation of the President was the solution to the present crisis.

"The rule of law should continue to be our guiding light, if it is indeed the path of progress that we want to take," Hendric Hermida, national secretary-general of the alliance, said in a statement released to the media.

While favoring calls for the President to step down, the MBC and the FEIP, however, cautioned that all moves for political change must take place within the context of the Constitution.

The two groups admitted that their decision to join calls for the President to step down came with the resignation of key Cabinet members who had represented the core of Mrs. Arroyo’s social and economic team, which they deemed as "a key loss to the government."

The MBC and FEIP also believe that the mass resignations "illustrate loss of confidence in the President and her ability to advance economic and social development programs."

Meanwhile, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) called on the nation’s leaders to "demonstrate statesmanship" in handling the crisis and act "in the interest of future generations of Filipinos."

"We acknowledge that the President has achieved commendable progress in many of her programs. And to preserve her legacy, she must now act with statesmanship and relinquish the presidency to her constitutionally-mandated successor," it said in a statement.

The MAP cited that the country has a poor and expanding population that must be fed, educated and integrated into the economy through jobs, an external environment that is difficult and made more acute with high oil prices. The events of the past weeks, in its view, seriously impaired the ability of the President to address the nation’s problems. — With reports from Mayen Jaymalin, Antonietta Lopez

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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