, July 26, 2005
(OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY) It is not only President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who has manifested readiness to dance the "Cha-Cha."

Prominent people that include businessmen, politicians and local officials have also manifested their willingness to the Charter Change proposed by the President in her fifth State of the Nation Address today at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

Businessman Raul Concepcion agrees it is probably time to make drastic changes in the Constitution, particularly in the shift to parliamentary-federal type of government, noting the warm response to the President’s proposal as indicated by 35 thunderous applauses that interrupted the 23-minute SONA.

Concepcion expressed confidence that the changes proposed by President Arroyo will be positively accepted by the business community.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Parouk Hussin welcomed the call of the President for Charter Change to ensure empowering the people in the countryside.

"Well, it was a very impressive speech, direct to the point, short but reflective of the situation in our country right now. There is really no time for more divisions among us," the ARMM governor said.

Hussin agreed with the Chief Executive that the Philippines has lagged behind its neighboring countries because of the present Presidential form of government "that is not applicable to the present times."

House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. believes that there will be no serious challenge from among the lawmakers against the Cha-Cha.

He is also optimistic that the proposed amendments in the Constitution will be immediately tackled in the committee on constitutional reforms and eventually in the plenary for its final approval.

"It will be approved, nakita mo ba iyong halos walang nag-object doon (Cha-Cha) sa House of Representatives kanina? They were all jumping with joy," the Speaker added.

De Venecia is also hopeful that the warm applause by the people in the gallery would force the members of the Senate to change their minds and eventually support the President’s proposal.

Cabinet members in attendance were Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, Trade Secretary Peter Favila, Budget Chief Romulo Neri, Health Secretary Francisco Duque, Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz, Local Government Secretary Angelo Reyes, Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano, Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza, Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Chief Rigoberto Tiglao, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Merceditas Gutierrez, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, Environment Secretary Michael Defensor and Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye.

Others present were former President Fidel Ramos, Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., ARMM Gov. Hussin, Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., members of the Diplomatic Corps and officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Gov't committed to economic reform and fiscal discipline -- PGMA

The government will not waiver in its commitment to economic reform and fiscal discipline, whatever the political cost.

This, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo emphasized today in her annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City by way of assuring investors here and abroad that her administration is bent on pursuing its goals despite the ongoing political crisis.

"This story should work itself out as one about an economy as resilient and full of potential as its people are patient and hardworking, guided by a government that is able to pass a no-nonsense budget and make the tough decisions to put our fiscal house in order," the President said.

She was referring to the government’s titanic struggle to enact the three laws that comprise the biggest financial package in the country’s history – the Attrition Act of 2005 (R.A. 9335), Indexation of Excise Tax on Tobacco and Liquor (R.A. 9334), and Expanded Value Added Tax (E-VAT) Law (R.A. 9337).

"This is the one reform that will snap the chain that has bound our future to a profligate past and the debt-burdened present," she said.

This, the President added, will break the vicious cycle of financing development "by borrowing and having to borrow again just to service those loans."

"Indeed our story as a country on the verge of takeoff is real," the President said. "Analysts need only to look at our stock market, and even the peso-dollar exchange rate, to sense the strong anticipation of significant improvements, if only we would overcome the tendency to become our worst enemy."

The President was referring to the political system that has, according to her, become a hindrance to national progress.

"Over the years, our political system has degenerated to the extent that it is difficult for anyone to make any headway yet keep his hands clean," she said.

As a country on the verge of takeoff, the President said the economy grew more than 6 percent last year while four million jobs were created in the last four years.

There were also marked improvements, she said, in tax collections, infrastructure, housing construction, shelter, security for the urban poor and indigenous peoples, and rice productivity.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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