A NEW DIRECTION: PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST IN ERA OF CHANGE & RENEWAL

MANILA,  July 21, 2004 (STAR) President Arroyo will bare the "new direction" where her administration intends to lead the Filipino people when she delivers her State of the Nation Address (SONA) before a joint session of Congress on Monday.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye disclosed yesterday that the Presidentís theme for her first SONA since getting a full six-year term in the last elections would be "A New Direction: Putting People First in an Era of Change and National Renewal."

"The President will try to convey the vision or program of government for an entire presidential tenure," Bunye said in a statement.

The draft of the SONA is "a work in progress," he said.

Bunye earlier said Mrs. Arroyo would set her administrationís "fighting targets" and will be contained in the SONA she will deliver at the joint opening of the 13th Congress at the Batasan Pambansa complex in Quezon City.

Bunye was apparently alluding to the six-point campaign promises made by the President in the last May 10 elections. It included creating six million to 10 million new jobs over the next six years and bringing electricity to some 1,300 barangays nationwide, among other projects.

Preceding the SONA, Bunye said, will be an unveiling of proposed executive and legislative package for job creation and economic growth before a group of businessmen in Makati City on Thursday.

Mrs. Arroyo is scheduled to appear before a luncheon meeting of various businessmenís groups led by the influential Makati Business Club at the Shangri-La Hotel.

Apart from job creation and economic growth, the five packages of executive and legislative proposals to be outlined by the President in her SONA will cover anti-corruption and good governance, social justice and basic needs, education improvement and youth opportunity, energy independence and savings, said Bunye.

Some of the legislative package involve the proposed shift to gross income taxation from the present net income taxation, indexation of "sin" taxes on cigarette and liquor products, and other tax-related bills to close the gap in revenue collections and address the governmentís budgetary deficit.

The President said over the weekend that she will unwrap a five-point "legislative package" in her SONA but that the details would only come when she convenes the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) a day after her SONA.

"Further discussions on the five packages will be taken up during consecutive Ledac meetings after the SONA," Bunye said.

The President has said this legislative package would serve as the "template" of her priorities in the common legislative agenda she will forge with Congress.

As previously announced by the President herself, Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo will hold town hall meetings, or pulong bayan "to bring the proposals down to the people" to better understand pertinent issues that concern them. ó Marichu Villanueva


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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