, December 29, 2005
 (STAR) Aside from working on her temper, President Arroyo has five wishes which she wants her government to focus on in 2006.

A government victory in the war on terror, taking up efforts to revise the Constitution, streamlining frontline services of the government, a review of environmental policies, and advancing peace talks with rebel groups are particularly on her mind.

"We will concentrate on these next year," the President stressed as she hosted a dinner for journalists at the Mansion House here Tuesday.

Mrs. Arroyo did not explain her plans for fighting militants or furthering peace talks but said there would be a review of government policies on the environment as floods have become more prevalent.

She said the government’s policy on land use and forests, as well as resource management will be studied to mitigate disasters such as flashfloods and landslides.

Looking relaxed and recharged after her mixed "work and play" time during her holiday visit here, the President declined to divulge her personal wishes for 2006.

She also sidestepped controversial issues during the "no-cameras" dinner she hosted with First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

When asked to comment on the likely filing of charges against four US marines for the alleged rape of a 22-year-old Filipina in Subic, Olongapo, the President simply said, "I will issue an official statement when appropriate."

Instead, Mrs. Arroyo stuck to business, discussing the government’s plans for the energy sector while chatting with journalists and Baguio City Mayor Braulio Yaranon both in fluent Iluko and Filipino and English about issues in the province and the rest of the Cordillera region, which she called her "second home."

The Philippines is an ally in the US-led war on terror and has struggled for years with bomb attacks and mass kidnappings carried out by local Muslim militants with alleged ties to the al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah networks.

The government is also pressing to seal a formal peace accord with Muslim separatist rebels in the south. However, peace talks with communist guerrillas have been stalled with the communists vowing to step up their attacks.

The President is also pushing for a plan to revise the 1987 Constitution to change the form of government from its US-style presidential system to parliamentary system. However, critics say this is just a ploy to entrench herself in power. — Artemio Dumlao, AFP

PGMA: RP economy faces rosy prospects (From the Office of the Press Secretary, Malacanang)

BAGUIO CITY – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said here today the Philippine economy faces happy prospects indeed in the next few years.

In her opening statement during Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita’s regular weekly press briefing held as a teleconference at the Mansion House here, the President said 2006 is a good year to look forward to because key economic indicators show the country’s economy is perking up and Filipinos have good reasons to be optimistic

The teleconference was participated in by members of the Malacanang Press Corps shooting their questions from Manila.

President Arroyo pointed out that the peso has been appreciating against the US dollar and registered its highest parity against the greenbuck at P53.03 at 3:20 p.m. today since it nosedived to P56.70 in July this year, making it the darling currency not only in Asia but in the world.

Coupled with the peso’s strong performance, the President said, is Spain’s recognition of the Philippines as a priority area of trade in Asia which becomes all the more significant because of Spain’s emergence as an influence to reckon with in the European Community.

She attributed the peso’s strong performance to the increased remittances by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and the hiked portfolio investments inflow, among others

The President noted that Spain, which still considers the Philippines as its daughter country over which it ruled for nearly 400 years until the late 1800’s, is now a world tourism leader and Europe’s greatest performing economy.

The President and her family are here for the holidays, but she keeps on her governance work even while on supposed vacation in this mountain resort city where they maintain an ancestral home.

Yesterday, she met with her key Cabinet officials and the military and the Philippine National Police whom she directed to undertake measures necessary to ensure that the upcoming New Year’s revelries will be relatively orderly with minimal accidents and casualties.

Today, she met again with her other Cabinet officials including Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Press Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye, Environment Secretary Mike Defensor and others for equally important consultations.

She said she would meet tonight with Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila and Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla. Other key Malacanang officials who are here include Secretaries Silvestre Afable, Renato Velasco, and Cerge Remonde, RTVM Director Milton Alingod and Undersecretary Rene Diaz.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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