, October 6, 2005
(OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today challenged members of the Senate to stop wasting their time on "mindless preoccupation with all things political" and instead attend to the business of serving the people such as creating jobs, building up the country’s rice stockpile, bringing health insurance to the poor and constructing more schools.

She also urged supporters of Charter Change to involve the people in the Cha-Cha process, and members of the business community to get the economy going, "be a part of the solution, not the problem."

The President issued the challenges to the three sectors in her address to the newly-elected officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) whom she inducted into office this morning at the Rizal Hall of Malacañang.

Inducted into office were ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, Vice Gov. Ansarudin Adiong, and 24 members of the Regional Legislative Assembly representing the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and the City of Marawi.

"The people are completely exhausted with politics when so much remains to be done in the nation and in that land of Mindanao. The people want a government that brings better service to them on a local basis, with more power in the provinces and that is why your autonomy is so important as a prototype of other autonomy," she told the new ARMM officials.

She pointed out the people want more accountability by the politicians and less power concentration in Metro Manila.

"The people are dissatisfied with the current form of government, though they are unsure of what type of government should replace it. They have fears, and rightly so, that there will be a rearranging of the deck chairs of the Titanic, but the boat will sink," she said.

"I am deeply concerned that the pressing issues of the people will be lost in a noise of our degenerated political system. I must repeat: we need a stronger, more responsive government to serve the people tomorrow, and we need a stronger, more caring solution to poverty today. We cannot abandon our commitment to solve the problems of the people as we go about salvaging and even salvaging institutions in this severely degenerated system," the President said.

She noted that the economy has withstood the buffeting of unprecedented oil price increases, because her administration has kept the fiscal house in order. "Our growth rate, so far this year is in fact higher than some of our more prosperous neighbors," she added.

The President paid tribute to the Philippines’ partners in the search for a permanent peace in Mindanao, notably Malaysia, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.

She stressed that the Mindanao peace process could not have gotten this far without the support of Libya that led to the Tripoli Agreement in 1976 and Saudi Arabia in the Jeddah Accord of 1987.

The guns have been silenced in Mindanao and the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are "negotiating a peace settlement with the facilitation of Malaysia forged in honor, dignity and just for all," she said.

Jakarta paved the way for the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Six and later, the OIC Eight signing of the Philippines-Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Final Peace Agreement of 1996.

The President said another overriding imperative is understanding among peoples through interfaith dialogues. "Interfaith dialogue is part of our comprehensive national development plan for peace and is our contribution to the United Nations," she said.

She said political change, economic stability, interfaith dialogue, the security of the country are all hallmarks of "survival in this age and time."

Among the major legislations the President is asking for the senators to act upon quickly are the 2006 General Appropriations Act (GAA) and an Anti-Terrorism Law.

She admitted that progress will not come about overnight. "But given time, we and the nation as a whole and you in the autonomous region will prevail over seemingly insurmountable odds."

"I say this with great affection and sentiments, because as a child growing up in Mindanao, in Lanao, I personally saw the plight of our countrymen in this land of promise. I consider it my filial duty and my duty now as your sister to work hard with you to fulfill that promise," the President noted.

She also thanked the new ARMM leadership for their support in the peace initiatives that her administration has been pushing in the Southern Philippines.

PGMA's Koronadal visit seen to inspire revival of dormant Central Mindanao cooperatives

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s visit to Koronadal City in South Cotabato on Friday is expected to inspire and help revive the cooperative movement in Central Mindanao.

The President will keynote the opening session of the two-day 6th Regional Cooperative Summit to be held at the Fit Mall Convention Center in Koronadal City.

Watanabe Roales, assistant regional director of the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) in Central Mindanao, said about 40 percent of the 4,612 cooperatives in Region 12 have either stopped operating or are currently undergoing rehabilitation.

Roales said some 500 to 700 stakeholders of the region's cooperative sector and representatives from local government units and non-government organizations are expected to attend the summit.

The summit's theme is "Cooperativism: The Peaceful Way of Liberating Mindanao from Poverty."

President Arroyo is expected to announce fresh policy directions and initiatives designed to further consolidate the government's continuing programs for the development of cooperatives in the country.

"The cooperative stakeholders will discuss their concerns and draw some strategies to improve their situation through the intervention of concerned sectors," Roales said.

The concerned sectors, Roales said, include the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Quedan and Rural Credit and Guarantee Corp. which would discuss some possible financing windows for the expansion and sustenance of the operations of cooperatives in the region.

Region 12 or Central Mindanao comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, (North) Cotabato and Sarangani and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Kidapawan, Cotabato and Tacurong.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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