MANILA,  July 29, 2004
President Arroyo abolished 16 agencies under her office yesterday and transferred their functions to bigger departments as part of a pledge to streamline the bureaucracy.

Among those abolished were the office of the presidential adviser on children’s affairs and an oversight committee on peacekeeping and development operations, Executive Secretary Albert Romulo said.

An advisory office dealing with the World Trade Organization and the ASEAN Free Trade Area, was also scrapped, Romulo said.

The President had earlier said she planned to abolish 30 agencies under the Office of the President (OP) and would order other executive departments to trim down their offices as well. She did not identify the agencies to be eventually abolished.

She promised Monday, in the first State of the Nation Address of her new term, to streamline the bureaucracy to make it more efficient so as to cut costs and tackle a ballooning fiscal deficit.

She also stressed that she had started "downsizing" the bureaucracy during her first three and a half years in office even when the previous Congress failed to pass into law the Palace-certified bill on re-engineering the government.

The President however created two new offices and two others are said to be in the pipeline.

Interviewed over the Iglesia ni Cristo-run Net 25 television station yesterday, she defended her move to create new offices while abolishing others.

"But net is reduction," Mrs. Arroyo said. "That’s why the law I ask of Congress is ‘Re-engineering the Government’ because some offices lack personnel while others have excess personnel," she added.

In the same interview, the President assured the country’s estimated 1.2 million government workers that the new law would not result in mass layoff.

"Those who would be removed from government will be given capital from retirement and turn them into entrepreneurs. I said in my SONA, we will encourage excess employees to become entrepreneurs," Mrs. Arroyo said.

She also pointed out that this measure is not inconsistent with her program to create six to 10 million new jobs in the next six years.

In an official statement issued at the Palace yesterday, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye explained the seeming contradictions of the President’s move to abolish certain offices while creating new ones.

"We are eliminating the layers of bureaucracy and the multiplicity of advisory posts," Bunye said. "The President wants straightforward work done along the simplest command line. This should result in greater cost and work efficiency."

But in the official list released by Bunye, it was apparent that most of the offices the President had abolished were those created by her predecessor, deposed President Joseph Estrada.

Meanwhile, the two new agencies she created were the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Jobs Creation (OPAJC), which will be headed by outgoing Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr., and the office of the Cabinet Officer for Provincial Office (COPE) with an 11-man staff headed by an official with a rank of Cabinet member who will be appointed soon. Speculations are rife that it would most likely be headed by presidential adviser on media and ecclesiastical affairs Conrado "Dodi" Limcaoco.

Meeting with the leaders of Congress at the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council last Tuesday at the Palace, Mrs. Arroyo also announced her plans to create a Malacañang Office of Constituency Affairs, which would be primarily tasked to reach out to the basic sectors as beneficiaries of the pro-poor programs and projects of the government in the next six years.

Bunye, however, clarified to Palace reporters that Mrs. Arroyo has not issued official appointments yet to any government official. — AFP, Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved