, November 8, 2005
(STAR) By Paolo Romero - President Arroyo lashed out yesterday at sensationalist media reporting, which she said was drowning out the good news and has been exploited by her political opponents to create instability in the country.

In her speech at the business meeting of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and foreign chambers of commerce at the Hotel InterContinental in Makati City, the President said there were a lot of positive developments that have not been extensively covered by the media.

She also called on the business sector and the people to see through negative reporting and not to be affected by bad news, particularly on politics and the newly imposed expanded value-added tax (EVAT) law.

"Heaven knows the crisis of the moment or the headline of the day can be unsettling and discouraging," Mrs. Arroyo said. "Every molehill is treated like a mountain, every accusation is treated as truth, every piece of goodness is stepped on by the bad."

The President said she called for the meeting to allow the business leaders to "get together and take stock" as it "is difficult to see the progress of the nation on a day-to-day basis."

"Today, I want each one of us to take a step backward from the clamor of the moment and lift our sights up to what is really going on in the Philippines," she said.

The President’s speech came after she tagged a television reporter as aiding a suspected terrorist. The remarks also followed a statement from the Department of Justice that it was set to reveal the identities of financiers and media handlers of suspected terrorists in the country.

Mrs. Arroyo said one issue that has been exploited by her critics was the EVAT, which has long-term benefits for the country’s fiscal and economic strength.

She said opposition members have charged the tax would worsen the current economic state but the market reaction to the EVAT’s implementation early this month proved otherwise.

"The easy manipulation of this (EVAT) issue by the destabilizers, the media who further their agenda, is a case of Chicken Little screaming that the sky is falling. Well, the sky isn’t falling and that’s part of what we’re celebrating today," the President said.

She pointed out that immediately after the Supreme Court upheld the EVAT law as constitutional last October, the stock market rallied, the peso strengthened against the dollar and the prospects of credit rating upgrades on the country’s debt papers "dramatically improved."

Investment banks, like Nomura Securities, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, have indicated upgrades on Philippine bonds, she said.

She said the EVAT would provide more economic opportunity and job creation than any other single initiative her administration has implemented.

The government has stressed that most food items essential to the poor — including rice, vegetables, meat and fish — are not covered by EVAT.

The good news, Mrs. Arroyo said, is consumption activity is increasing and the Philippines "has embraced all things modern in so many ways."

She noted the country was the "texting capital of the world" and that the demand for mobile phones has skyrocketed with thousands of cellular phone sites starting up as prices have come down.

Another piece of good news, she said, was the creation of 100,000 new jobs in the business process outsourcing industry since she assumed office in 2001 and the increase in tourist arrivals.

"Further down the road, we expect our credit ratings to improve as the world looks toward a new vibrancy in our economy," she said. "All indicators are up. Business is on the road."

Meanwhile, at the Senate, one of Mrs. Arroyo’s staunchest allies said the oust-Arroyo movement was running out of funds to pursue its goal of regime change.

"Because the oust Arroyo movement has been going on for almost a year, the fiscal responsibilities of the leaders have become too burdensome. In other words, their contributors no longer want to give any money," Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said.

Santiago, who earlier warned that anti-government forces were planning a coup by yearend, said the move to oust the President is a "continuing process."

She said massive resources, both human and financial, are needed to stage a coup.

"It is very expensive to stage a coup... There are a lot of military people who have to be bribed, and a lot of civilian people (too)," she said.

Santiago doused claims that the support of the US government was critical for Mrs. Arroyo to stay in power.

"It is no longer critical as it was before because the United States has its own financial problems at the moment," she said, adding that US President George W. Bush is himself busy defending his decision to go to war in Iraq. — With Aurea Calica, Christina Mendez

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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