SEPTEMBER 4, 2006 (STAR) By Aurea Calica - President Arroyo intensified her call for an overhaul of the country’s political system, citing the growing business confidence in efforts to amend the Constitution.

"This confidence is founded on solid economic fundamentals and growing political stability," Mrs. Arroyo told the crowd celebrating the 110th founding anniversary of Nueva Ecija.

The President said the Charter change efforts represented the clear road map "for pushing the driving forces of economic growth and mitigating its impediments."

Earlier, the President called on the labor sector to join the people to support Charter change.

The Philippine Transport and General Workers Organization (PTGWO), in a resolution, expressed support to amend the Charter.

They said the efforts "would be an opportunity for the PTGWO to aggressively advocate for the foundations for aggressive politics, economic democracy and progress, and social revolution," and allow the country to respond to 21st century challenges.

Mrs. Arroyo along with Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye expressed support for the concerns of the business sectors on the so-called external factors that have contributed to "residual pessimism," amid the backdrop of skyrocketing oil prices and costs of basic commodities.

The President assured the administration would implement a mitigation strategy that would deal with the economic threat over the long haul.

"There is no way for the Philippines but up and forward," Bunye said.

Business optimism was down in the third quarter but sentiments are expected to improve in the last three months of 2006 as bigger remittances from overseas Filipino workers are seen to boost spending ahead of the Christmas season.

This was according to the Business Expectation Survey (BES) of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), which revealed the current confidence index of the business sector remained positive in the third quarter but comparatively lower than the same period last year.

The survey also showed the third quarter confidence index at 21.7 percent from the second quarter’s 31.6 percent. The confidence index is seen to rise to 40.9 percent in the fourth quarter, largely on higher spending.

The quarterly BES survey is a leading guide for business planning.

BSP deputy governor Diwa Gunigundo said business confidence was positive in the third quarter although it was tempered by "geopolitical issues clouding the horizon," particularly the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon and the resulting surge in international crude prices.

"Considering that they had those factors to think about, I think it’s a good indication that the business sector was still very optimistic about the fourth quarter," he said.

Aside from pushing for political reforms, Mrs. Arroyo also focused on developing the different super regions in the country to maximize its economic potentials.

The President distributed 150 tractors to farmers in Nueva Ecija and ordered the release of an initial P100 million for the San Roque Dam project.

"In this new revolution of change, I hope the people of Nueva Ecija will again succeed. And I hope the First Cry of Nueva Ecija will always serve as an inspiration for the freedom of our many countrymen from poverty," she said, referring to the victory of the Filipino revolutionaries against the Spanish occupiers in 1896.

Nueva Ecija was the first of the eight provinces of the country that rose up against the Spanish authority.

Mrs. Arroyo said the government plans to adopt its own energy exploration program as part of a long-term strategy to mitigate the impact of soaring oil prices in the world market.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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