MANILA,  July 20, 2004 (STAR) The government wants to put the Filipino people first in an era of change and national renewal.

This, in a nutshell, is the theme of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), which she will deliver before a joint session of the 13th Congress next Monday, July 26.

In an update on the much-awaited SONA, the fourth since Pres. Arroyo took over the helm of government in 2001 and the first under her new mandate, Malacañang said the contents of the President’s address is still a work in progress.

The address is expected to outline five packages of executive and legislative proposals covering job creation and economic growth, anti-corruption and good governance, social justice and basic needs, education improvement and youth opportunity, and energy independence and savings.

The SONA, according to a Palace statement, will be preceded by an unveiling of proposed executive and legislative package for job creation and economic growth before a group of businessmen in Makati City on Thursday.

Further discussions on the five packages will be taken up during consecutive Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) meetings after the SONA.

In an effort to bring the proposals down to the people, pulong bayans or small town meetings, which proved quite a success during the last presidential campaign, are being planned by the government.

During the SONA, she is also expected to discuss the specifics of the10-point agenda she bared in her inaugural speech last June 30.

Among the fighting targets enumerated earlier by Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri, are to promote the business environment so there could be 10 million jobs for the next six years, reduce poverty incidence from 34 percent to 17 percent, increase investments from 19 percent in gross domestic product (GDP) ratio to 28 percent in the next two years.

The government also aims to stabilize the foreign exchange rate and bolster the international reserves from 38 billion US dollars to 60 billion dollars within two years, develop two million hectares of agricultural business land, and support two million entrepreneurs.

To strengthen and sustain the country’s global competitiveness, the government will try to reduce the cost of electricity, modernize infrastructure, and reduce red tape in all government agencies.

Palace defends Arroyo move for reconciliation  07/20 11:35:03 AM

Malacañang came to the defense of the reconciliation moves of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with opposition groups Tuesday.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio Bunye said that, "The President’s efforts to unite this country are for the Filipino people and not for political convenience."

"These efforts will be continuously pursued until such time that leaders of all opposition groups are encouraged to participate and do their share in moving this country forward," Bunye added.

He further said that, "We cannot talk about national development with a divided people, and we have faith in all Filipinos coming together behind the fight for change."

Earlier, evangelist Eduardo Villanueva confirmed reports of a meeting between him and Pres. Arroyo wherein he turned down an offer for him to be one of the President’s advisers.

However, the Palace denied Villanueva's claims as Bunye said the desire for "principled unity" is behind Pres. Arroyo’s attempts to reach out to her political opponents.

Villanueva, who heads the evangelical Jesus Is Lord (JIL) movement, used to be one of Pres. Arroyo’s staunchest supporters when she was swept into office in the aftermath of the EDSA II people power uprising in January 2001.

The two had a falling-out this year when Villanueva decided to run for president.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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