[PHOTO AT LEFT - SIGHTSEER: President Arroyo views the Santander Pebbles Beach on board a roll on-roll off vessel during a 30-minute trip from Tampi port in Negros Oriental to Bato port in Samboan, Cebu on the first day of a three-day visit to the Visayas. - Photo By Willy Perez ]

MALACANANG,  September 29, 2004 (OFFICE OF PRESS SECRETARY) An informal interaction with the media aboard a Ro-Ro (roll on, roll-off) boat from this city to the Bato port in Samboan, Cebu will highlight President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's three-day visit to Western Visayas starting today (Wednesday, Sept.29).

The President is arriving here this afternoon from Iligan City to inaugurate several projects under her Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH) program.

The 30-minute Ro-Ro ride from the Maayo Shipping Lines beach port in Bgy. Tampi, San Jose, Negros Oriental, will showcase the progress of her SRNH project, which links the country's islands through various seaboards for a cost-efficient delivery of goods and people.

It would be recalled that the President held a Cabinet meeting and press briefing when she launched the SRNH a year ago, tracing the Western seaboard route from Batangas City in Luzon to Dapitan in Mindanao via the islands of Panay, Negros, and Cebu.

The President will be coming here straight from Iligan and is expected to be welcomed at the Amlan Central School by Amlan Mayor Victoriano de la Cruz and at the Tampi Ro-Ro port by San Jose Mayor Nelson Ruiz, Negros Oriental Governor George Arnaiz and Central Visayas Army Commander Felix Guanzon.

From the Bato port in Samboan Cebu, the President will take a ceremonial drive through the Cebu South Road under the SRNH program.

The 122.988 km road project from Bato to Santander, Cebu via Barili-Carcar, involved the rehabilitation and improvement of roads, with funding from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC).

Expected to join the President in the ceremonial drive thru the Southern Cebu national highway are Samboan Mayor Peter John Calderon, Santander Mayor Wilson Wenceslao, Barili Mayor Roberto Alquizola and Carcar Mayor Mario Patricio Barcenas.

Cebu Congressmen Eduardo Gullas (first district), Simeon Kintanar (second district), and Antonio Yapha (third district), along with Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, will also join the President.

Tomorrow, the Chief Executive will lead the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Toledo-Naga road project, a 34.8 km major arterial road of the SRNH linking Cebu's western seaboard to Metro Cebu and the Cebu South road.

She is also scheduled to grace the turnover ceremony of Mirant Corporation's Project Beacon, a power project in Toledo which would complete the energization of 1000 more barangays in the country.

On Friday, the President will officially open the Bogo Bus Terminal project some 101 kms. north of Cebu City.

The station will provide a terminal for passengers and commuters bound for the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Danao and Talisay and the towns of San Remigio, Medellin, Daan Bantayan, Tambuelan and the 29 barangays of Bogo.

Eight kilometers further north, the President winds up her schedule for the day with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly-completed Hagnaya Port Passenger Terminal Building in San Remigio which will provide better service to passengers coming from the different towns of the province.

NSC back in business after 5-year slumber

ILIGAN CITY Ė President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today witnessed the turnover of the P1 billion Certificate of Inward Remittance of the Philippine National Bank (PNB) from Global Infrastructure Holdings, Ltd. (GIHL), formalizing the purchase of long-mothballed National Steel Corporation (NSC).

In a ceremonial turnover at the NSC lobby, the President, along with Senator Manuel Roxas II, witnessed the occasion as NSC-Liquidator Atty. Danilo Concepcion received the downpayment from Vinod Mittal, managing director of Ispat Group of India, the London-based arm of global steel giant GIHL, and Sushant Das, Global Steelworks president.

Atty. Concepcion handed over the P1-billion cheque to PNB president Lorenzo Tan, as the NSC awakens from five years of slumber.

"It is a good opportunity to greet everybody in todayís historic event, the bringing into life of the National Steel Corporation from its slumber on a day that Iligan City is celebrating the feast of its patron, St. Michael the Archangel," the President said.

She said the opening of NSC was a gauge to economic activity of Iligan.

According to Mittal, the P1 billion downpayment paves the way for the acquisition of Global Steelworks International, Inc., (GSII), the Philippine arm of GIHL, one of the biggest steel plants in Asia.

The first installment is part of the P13.25 billion winning bid with the remaining balance of P12.25 billion payable over the next eight years, Mittal added.

He said that the rehabilitation and operation of NSC started last January. Commercial production commenced in mid-May this year, with the dispatch of cold-rolled products to domestic customers.

It also set the stage for the exportation of approximately 6,000 tons of cold-rolled products to China, the biggest steel-consuming economy in the region.

Global Steelworks targeted to churn an annual production of 1.5 million metric tons of steel, which would generate about $750 million in revenues per year, based on the current average steel price of $500 a ton.

In her brief talk in the ceremony, the President acknowledged the important role played by the former Malaysian Prime Minister Mohammad Mahathir in helping to revive the plant after it ceased operations in 1999.

Senator Roxas remembered that it was the Presidentís initial approval that opens the door for the eventual restructuring of NSC as she also witnessed the formal signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) among the various stakeholders and creditors of the NSC in a simple ceremony held at MalacaŮang in November, 2002.

"The realization of the MOA signing was among the positive results from the bilateral meeting between President Arroyo and Malaysian Prime Minister Mohammad Mahathir during the Presidentís state visit to Kuala Lumpur in 2001," recalled Roxas then trade and industry Secretary.

Aside from the President, Roxas and PNB president Tan, also in attendance at the ceremony were Energy Secretary Vince Perez, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz, Vice Mayor Henry Dy and Lanao del Norte 1st District Representative Alipio Cirilo Badelles.

Upon the Presidentís arrival at the NSC lobby, she was greeted by some Indian women with traditional Hindu greetings after which she was given a garland.

The President was also given a replica of the Taj Mahal to show GIHLís deep appreciation for her presence in this historic event in Iligan City.

After a brief inspection of the plant, the President then prayed at the St. Michael the Archangel Cathedral here.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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