VIEW FROM THE PALACE / GMA NO LONGER KEEN TO RECONCILE W/ FOES

MALACANANG
, March 13, 2006 (OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY) (For the week ending March 12, 2006)

During a meeting with the President last Saturday, a group of bishops made clear that they are not against mining per se. They are for responsible mining. But they voiced serious concerns on mining as it is being practised today. In the words of the bishops, how do we avoid another Lafayette situation? The President can only agree with them.

It can not be denied, however, that there have been more good experiences in mining. For instance, mining in the Cordilleras, such as those in Bankayan and Benguet, gave the communities livelihood, opportunities for good education and good infrastructure. In Masbate, after ceasing operation, the mining company provided remediation. Not only was water pollution avoided. What used to be the mining pit is now the communityís source of clean water.

The key, therefore, is sustainable development of our mineral resources. Properly harnessed, the mining sector can enhance job creation and poverty alleviation. Conservatively, investments in the industry are anticipated to reach $US6 billion over the next 10 years, generating as many as 200,000 new jobs.

But the Government, with the help of mining stakeholders, must strictly implement and enforce a range of initiatives to enhance the standards of environmental protection and enforcement, safety and social responsibility. These are already provided for in the Mining Act as well as in the Mineral Action Plan (MAP), which was formulated by concerned agencies in 2004 to help guide the revitalization of the mining sector.

The Mineral Action Plan specifically provides clear protocols on environmental and ecological issues and programs.

Under the Mineral Action Plan, mine viability and environmental assessment guidelines for the remediation/rehabilitation or redevelopment of viable projects will be developed.

Specific initiatives include:

The establishment by the DENR of a Final Mine Rehabilitation and Decommissioning Fund by 2007, to ensure an integrated mine closure planning program.

The adoption of an Environmental Impact Assessment system, and the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program to integrate environmental parameters at every phase of the life of a mine and provide incentives for environmental management initiatives.

Under the Mining Act, mining companies must dedicate at least 10 per cent of capital expenditures to fund initial environmental expenses and 3-5 per cent of direct mining and milling costs for annual environmental programs.

Recent regulations include the institution of a system of mandatory environmental insurance coverage through a performance bond and Environmental Pollution, Impairment and Clean-up Liability Insurance.

*****

Kudos to DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes who led a successful delegation of government and private sector representatives to the annual conference of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada held in Toronto from March 4-8.

For the first time, the Philippines had a booth at the conference Trade Show and a whole-day presentation on the various mining projects in the Philippines, both of which generated an enthusiastic response from participants from all over the world.

Judging from the number of delegates who stopped by the Philippine booth and who attended the presentation and the networking cocktails that followed, there is clearly keen interest in the mining investing opportunities in the Philippines.

The strong support for mining of the government, represented by the DENR and the newly-created Minerals Development Council, is obviously reassuring to existing and potential investors, that they are not the least bothered by the political noise in recent days.

*****

Our website administrator reported an upsurge of hits on www.gov.ph, where we posted last week ĎPaglaban sa Kataksilan: 1017. The documentary provides an inside story on the events leading to the issuance of Proclamation 1017. For easier viewing, we have also uploaded the documentary on www.ops.gov.ph.

Note: You may email us at totingbunye2000@yahoo.com

GMA no longer too keen on reconciliation with foes The Philippine Star 03/13/2006

President Arroyo expressed confidence that former President Fidel Ramos and the business sector still supported her administration amid the endless political turmoil besetting her leadership. At the same time, the President declared she would no longer go out of her way to push for reconciliation with critics pressing for her resignation.

"I believe that he (Ramos) cares for the country and I count on his support," Mrs. Arroyo said during an exclusive interview with The STAR columnist Babe Romualdez at MalacaŮangís Music Room last Saturday.

The President admitted giving up on former President Corazon Aquino who had joined the opposition last year in asking her to step down. Both Ramos and Aquino criticized the Presidentís declaration of a state of national emergency through Proclamation No. 1017 to quell the latest supposed coup attempt. Ramos said the emergency decree was an "overkill."

Mrs. Arroyo noted that Aquino herself declared a state of emergency during the bloodiest coup attempt against her administration in 1989. "She also rejected all calls for her to resign, and a lot of blood was shed in some of those coups (during the Aquino administration)," the President said.

The President declined to compare herself with her predecessors and took the opportunity to clarify that she did not consider herself the "best person" to lead the nation. She said her statements during a recent press conference with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines were taken out of context. "I was talking about the transition from the presidential to the parliamentary form of government," Mrs. Arroyo said. "What I said was that I was the best president to lead this transition, from presidential to parliamentary, because Iím already here."

The Chief Executive said that at this point in our countryís political history, "I have the duty and obligation to address these challenges in a way that will give the people a better future."

Ramos chided Mrs. Arroyo for issuing the statement and replied it was the "opinion of only one person."

In the same interview, the President declared she will never shut the door on her erstwhile allies and critics. "I am always open to reconciliation. Itís just that I canít spend all my time chasing the bully around the school yard, but Iím always open to reconciliation, the door is always open," she said. Mrs. Arroyo said she is still hopeful to have the opportunity to reconcile with her critics. "Iíd be very grateful if thereís an opportunity. But as I said I have to focus right now on what is to be done and that is improving the lives of the people," she said.

Amid the seemingly endless attacks against her and tensions created by talks of a brewing coup, Mrs. Arroyo said she is trying to stay focused on her job while keeping herself physically fit to face up to the challenges of everyday stress. "I get my seven hour of sleep, but certainly I am impatient about the pace of progress weíre making. I know the people are impatient, I am impatient, too. Thatís why I have this sense of urgency," the President said.

Bad faith

Mrs. Arroyo also said she would not want to waste her time and energy in going after the businessmen who allegedly financed the coup plot to unseat her. She said she would rather exert efforts to extend the ties with the businessmen who have supported her administration and initiatives.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, however, said the investigation into the involvement of some civilians and businessmen into the failed coup last February would still continue. Aside from the businessmen critical of the administration, the government is also focusing on reports that deposed President Joseph Estrada made illicit donations through a foundation to finance a group of soldiers on their misadventure. "It maybe a coincidence but authorities will look into these," Ermita said.

Presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor, who is leading the government reconciliation efforts particularly with the Estrada camp, himself admitted getting tired of his role extending the hand of reconciliation to the opposition. Defensor said he could sense that most of them are not acting in good faith and were even involved in the destabilization moves against the administration. Rather than waste the time and effort to reconcile with the opposition, Defensor said the President and her Cabinet are now focusing on improving the economy and faster delivery of basic services to the people.

Confidence

Amid the political storm still hanging overhead, business confidence and the economy remain stable.

Mrs. Arroyo said the economy not only managed to "weather the state of emergency" but survived it beyond dire expectations. "Imagine, during the period of emergency, that was when we had the highest jump in the stock market, in the peso value in many months. But nonetheless, whatís important is for us now to focus on the economy," she said.

Last Friday, the President cited her being the guest of honor at the christening of one of the 14 new planes bought by Cebu Pacific Air Inc. which represented $650 million investment in re-fleeting. "And just the day before Friday, I had a telecast roundtable to happily announce a P650 million (investment) by the same group, the Gokongweis, who bought into the privatization of the Manila Gas real estate property. Not to mention their investment in telecommunication, and thatís just one family," she said. She cited the big investments by several taipans in her administration.

"The family of Henry Sy has had their biggest expansions during my administration and the Ayalas have gone very, very strong, bounced back strongly on real estate and telecommunication, also during my administration," Mrs. Arroyo said. "Thatís just talking about the taipans, but letís go to the other side - the three million entrepreneurs that we are really on track. And I hope we will be able to feature the stories of these many entrepreneurs," she said.

The President cited the case of a woman in Marikina City who borrowed P5,000 in 2002 to buy a pedicab and ended up owning a fleet of pedicabs and tricycles. She said the thrust of her administration is to help and encourage entrepreneurship. "What about the ones investing in the stock market last year, we had record highs. So you have some of these noisy, shrill businessmen, youíre right, you look at each one of them, youíll be able to find a motivation but I donít wan to dwell into that," Mrs. Arroyo said. ó Aurea Calica


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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