JULY 16, 2006 (STAR) President Arroyo said yesterday now is the time for her to announce to Filipinos her plans to lay public investments in the country.

Mrs. Arroyo said the investments would improve their lives and serve as a reward for their sacrifices in bearing her tax reforms.

At the same time, Mrs. Arroyo vowed to continue pushing for Charter change "to facilitate the legislative process and open up the economy to responsible investments."

"When I make my state of the nation address on Monday (July 24), I will be explaining to the people that for purposes of putting public investments, we have divided the economy of the Philippines into four sub-economies or super regions we might call them, divided in accordance with their natural competitive advantage," the President said.

She said the northern Philippines and Mindanao would be marketed and developed for agri-business while Metro Luzon, the urban beltway around Metro Manila from Clark Field in Pampanga and Subic Bay in Zambales to Batangas port would be the center for service and industry.

Mrs. Arroyo said it was fitting that Metro Luzon be the urban center since it could compete with the rest of the metropolises in the world.

Central Philippines, composed of the Visayas, Palawan, Romblon, Bicol and the northern islands of Mindanao, would be the center of tourism, she said.

"And this is where we will be spending the new money that we are now receiving as part of our VAT (value added tax) dividends which Congress has passed and which our Filipinos in America and the United States supported," she said before Filipino-Americans, Filipino Canadians, Americans and Canadians touring the country. The tour was organized by Philippine ambassadors and consul generals in the US and Canada.

"And I thank you for your support for that difficult legislation," she said. The President reiterated that she would continue to seek constitutional reforms.

Meanwhile, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye brushed aside surveys showing the Filipinos were still not in favor of Cha-cha.

Bunye said the present degenerated system—characterized by political gridlock and squabbling — needs thorough overhaul in order to propel the country’s economy.

He reacted to published reports citing a non-commissioned opinion survey showing that half of the Filipinos population intend to vote "no" if a plebiscite to amend the "Constitution were held today."

"Surveys are one thing, the actual vote is another. As far as we can see, more and more people are now signing in for Charter Change compared to a year or even six months ago," Bunye said.

He urged anti-Charter Change groups to let the real public sentiment be heard through an actual vote.

Bunye pointed out that Charter Change is the best tool to sustain the economic and political stability in the country.

"The challenges of the new millennium and the arena of global competition demand change; and we believe the people are ready for it," he added. — Aurea Calica

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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