June 12, 2006 (STAR) By Roel Pareño - Impressed by the medical facilities of the USNS Mercy and noting the widespread need of medical assistance by poor Filipinos, President Arroyo is considering turning the presidential ship Ang Pangulo into a floating hospital similar to the Mercy, an official said.

Mrs. Arroyo started to entertain the idea following her visit to the USNS Mercy in Jolo island and saw the value of having that kind facility, according to National Security Adviser Secretary Norberto Gonzales.

Gonzales, who accompanied the President, told newsmen at the Lantaka Hotel here how Mrs. Arroyo noticed there was an urgent need for medical attention specially in the far-flung areas accessible only by ship, like Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and other islands in the country

"I think she’s considering that maybe Ang Pangulo can be used as something similar, not necessarily in the same category (of the USNS Mercy)," Gonzales said.

While the US named the former oil tanker Mercy, local media here suggested the Ang Pangulo can be named as RPNS (Naval Ship) Gloria, which sounds like mercy.

But Gonzales refused to second-guess saying that the people can suggest the name of the Philippine version of the US Mercy.

However, Gonzales said that personally he will not be surprised if suddenly the Ang Pangulo becomes a hospital ship.

Allaying budgetary concerns, Gonzales assured that the government is capable of running one floating emergency hospital.

"If ever, I think what you will do is something that you are capable of sustaining it in small scale," Gonzales said.

Gonzales also said more non-government organizations can be tapped to help sustain the program even as he cited Filipinos as known for coming and responding to calls for assistance and help.

"I believe if Ang Pangulo becomes a medical ship we will not run out of medical volunteers," he said.

A mobile and floating clinic had been tried before in a small scale in the late 1980s but this was not sustained. Gonzales said he was not sure what went wrong.

GMA to make fresh appeal for unity, support on Independence Day By Paolo Romero The Philippine Star 06/12/2006

President Arroyo will make a fresh pitch for national unity, long-term political reforms as well as support "for all things Filipino" in leading the nation in the celebration of the country’s 108th Independence Day today, Malacañang said.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, for his part, said Independence Day should be marked as "a day of freedom and liberation which we must all cherish as a people."

"We hope that this will be an occasion for unity and not division, responsible protest and not muckraking, dignity and not putting down the sacrifice and heroism of our forebears," Bunye said.

"Our heroes of the revolution and the founders of our nation had a vision of faith and hope and we must sustain it for all time as we march to the ranks of the first world in the years to come," he said.

Government Mass Media Group head Secretary Cerge Remonde said Mrs. Arroyo is expected to renew her call for national unity and call anew on support for Charter change initiatives to implement fundamental political and economic reforms in the country.

Remonde said the President’s Independence Day message would revolve around the theme "Pagkakaisa Para Sa Matatag Na Republika (Unity for a Strong Republic)" as the country is slowly emerging from its political doldrums and achieving economic stability.

"The call for unity and team work and support for all things Filipino must be reiterated because our country is close to achieving lasting stability despite the external shocks and also the government was able to weather, and has emerged stronger, after the repeated destabilization attempts," he said.

Remonde called on Filipinos to put into good use the gains the country achieved by working together as a team under intense global competition.

"I think, (that) is what the President will also stress," Remonde said.

He said Mrs. Arroyo would also call on the people to take the occasion to honor our country’s heroes.

Remonde said the President would also likely touch on present-day "oppressors" and rally Filipinos to collectively fight poverty.

The President will lead the flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremonies at the Rizal Park, Manila in the morning to officially kick off the Independence Day festivities.

The flag-raising ceremony and floral offering at the Rizal monument will be replicated in other historical spots throughout the country as part of the Independence Day celebrations.

From the national monument of Dr. Jose Rizal, the President will proceed to the Quirino Grandstand, where she will deliver her Freedom Day message to the nation.

Other features of the Luneta festivities include the traditional military parade, a performance of the Kahilwayan Dance Troupe of Sta. Barbara, Iloilo with 100 drummers, and Declaration of Philippine Independence-Bayan Ko tableaux Barasoain Kalinangan of Bulacan.

Capping the presentations at the Quirino Grandstand is the Viva Republika Tableaux-Barasoain Kalinga Tagumpay Natin Lahat with 100 choir voices and 100 drummers.

After her speech, the President will also deliver a message to the diplomatic corps.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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