May 31, 2006 (STAR) To enable the country to take advantage of a possible billion-dollar source of revenue, President Arroyo declared yesterday the retirement industry as the administration’s latest flagship project and appointed former Philippine National Police chief Edgar Aglipay as its "czar."

The President made the declaration during the Cabinet meeting at Malacañang where Aglipay, chairman of the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA), presented a plan to lure the fast-rising number of retirees from developed countries to these shores.

If fully developed, Aglipay stressed the country’s retirement industry could generate $18 billion to $56 billion annually aside from generating at least four million jobs.

He said the trend would reverse the migration of Filipino health workers abroad.

"There is a retiree tsunami impacting all industrialized countries," Aglipay said.

"There is a big market out there to capture... an aging population and a decrease in the fertility rate."

Aglipay said the retirement industry has been growing "by leaps and bounds" over recent years due to changes in global demographics.

Mrs. Arroyo also tasked Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. to study Aglipay’s proposal and the possibility of allocating funds in the development of retirement homes for the poor.

Although the PRA has been set up since 1986, Aglipay noted it has only attracted a total of 12,500 retirees while Malaysia and Thailand have managed to attract 20,000 each year.

A study by the Healthcare Coalition Institute was presented during the Cabinet meeting.

It showed that the Philippines has the capacity to support between one to three million expatriate retirees with the potential of bringing in an average of $1,500 a month or a total of $18 billion to $56 billion a year.

Aglipay explained many retirees prefer to go to other countries since their pensions might not be enough to sustain them in their respective homelands. — Paolo Romero

GMA wants quake-prone buildings repaired By Paolo Romero The Philippine Star 05/31/2006

President Arroyo ordered yesterday Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz to immediately conduct repair and rehabilitation works on school buildings found to be prone to damage and collapse in the event of strong earthquakes.

The President issued the directive in light of a recent report by the Task Force on Building Inspection of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) that at least 60 buildings in Metro Manila are earthquake hazards.

During a lull in the proceedings of the 12th Cabinet and National Economic and Development Authority Board meeting in Malacañang, Cruz told reporters that Mrs. Arroyo asked him to prioritize the rehabilitation of school buildings in time for the opening of classes next month.

Cruz, who is also the chairman of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), said he would get in touch with the department heads of the DPWH so that they could immediately map out a plan of action on how to tackle the Mrs. Arroyo’s directive effectively.

Among the schools the President wants immediately rehabilitated are: the Cecilio Apostol Elementary School in Caloocan City, the Malabon Elementary School in Malabon City, the Araullo High School in Manila, the Bagong Ilog Elementary School in Pasig City and the Batasan Hills Elementary School in Quezon City.

Aside from this, she said she wants retro-fitting and rehabilitation works done on the Philsports Arena (formerly Ultra), the Philippine Orthopedic Center, the Department of Education building, the Philippine Children’s Hospital and the Land Transportation Office building.

Cruz said the President had also directed his agency to intensify the conduct of earthquake drills in schools, offices and other public places to equip the students, employees and the common man on earthquake preparedness measures.

Meanwhile, the Asian Development Bank yesterday offered $60 million in grant and loans to help rebuild Indonesian regions devastated by an earthquake last week.

The Manila-based bank said $10 million of the amount would be in grant and the rest would be in low-interest loans which Indonesia could use to help rehabilitate the earthquake-ravaged areas of Yogyakarta and Central Java.

ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda visited the quake-hit regions and assured Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of the bank’s support, a bank statement said.

"We will help Indonesia with whatever it takes and provide more resources to help the people rebuild their lives and livelihoods," the bank quoted Kuroda as having told Yudhoyono in Yogyakarta. — AP

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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