OCTOBER 18, 2006 (STAR) President Arroyo signed into law yesterday the P46.4-billion supplemental budget and a P500-million standby fund for the repatriation of Filipinos in Lebanon.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said the budget would "put more teachers in school, more books in the hands of our children, and more people under pension coverage."

He said the usual signing ceremony at the Palace with lawmakers was waived so that the two laws can take effect in 15 days.

As Congress is also on a break, Andaya said it would be hard to round up the leaders of the two chambers and other legislators for the signing ceremonies.

The supplemental budget was pushed by Malacañang after Congress failed to pass the proposed national budget for this year. The supplemental appropriation or Republic Act 9358 was meant to pay for "non-postponable expenses."

The biggest chunk of the supplemental budget went to the Internal Revenue Allotment of local government units (LGUs) in the amount of P14.844 billion. Congress also approved the Palace proposal to make IRA automatically appropriated.

Moreover, the supplemental budget allowed the national government to pay in full the P670 million it owes LGUs in "national wealth" share from 1997 to 2003.

The Department of Education received P9.58 billion while state colleges and universities were given P500 million. Other departments that received equally big allocations were the Department of Agrarian Reform, P4.5 billion; Department of the Interior and Local Government, P1.375 billion; Department of Science and Technology, P200 million; Department of Social Welfare and Development, P269 billion; Department of Transportation and Communications, P1.608 billion; and the Commission on Elections, P730 million.

Some P763.69 million was allocated for the payment of arrears on benefits of some 8,956 World War II veterans and pensioners and P1.13 billion was set aside for health insurance premium payments to benefit 1.6 million families or eight million individuals.

The increase in the pay of the country’s 15,486 firemen and 6,899 jail guards was also funded by the supplemental budget while P4.92 billion was allocated for miscellaneous personnel benefit fund.

Also included in the supplemental budget was the calamity fund amounting to P1.117 billion — P867 million for Guimaras island and P250 million for the evacuation of residents in Albay during the Mayon volcano eruption.

Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs Gabriel Claudio said, "with revenues of the government firmly under control, there is greater confidence, justification and timeliness for the enactment of the supplemental budget."

"Government agencies will now have greater leverage in more aggressively pushing priority programs in infrastructure, social services, education, health and poverty alleviation even in the context of last year’s budget," Claudio said. — Paolo Romero, Aurea Calica

PGMA to Samareños: Work as one people, one province, one culture (STAR) OCTOBER 16, 2006

CALBAYOG CITY – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo urged today the people and local officials of the three Samar provinces to get cracking on the peace and order problem in the whole island, saying government development projects would not be enough to eradicate poverty unless the communist insurgency in the area is defeated.

She underscored the need for Samarenos to work closely with the military and police to restore peace and order to pave the way for real progress.

The President sounded the call to end the New People’s Army (NPA) rebellion at her meeting with Samar officials at the Calbayog airport terminal building, and again in her address during the celebration of the 58th Charter Day of this city at the Tiburcio Tancinco Memorial Institute of Science and Technology (TTMIST) gym in downtown Calbayog at noon today.

The Chief Executive arrived here this morning to attend the 58th Charter Day celebration of this lone city of Samar island. Among those who met her at the airport were Calbayog City Mayor Mel Sarmiento, Western Samar Gov. Mila Tan, Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone, Congressmen Reynaldo Uy of Western Samar, Harlin Castillo Abayon of Northern Samar, and Marcelino Libanan of Eastern Samar.

Among the major projects lined up for Samar island are the P2.2-billion Allen-Calbayog-Catbalogan-Calbiga section of the Maharlika Highway improvement project, the P170-million Guiuan-Ormoc-Calbayog-Borongan truckline and the upgrading of the Calbayog port.

The notice to proceed with the construction of the Allen-Calbayog-Catbalogan-Calbiga road upgrading project will be signed tomorrow (Tuesday), the President said.

Travel between the Northern Samar town of Allen through Calbayog and Catbalogan to Calbiga, also in Samar, which usually took about two and half-hours, now takes more than three hours because of the broken down condition of the highway.

The President said Samar can compete as a tourist destination with other leading tourist spots in the country, but peace and order must be fully restored first before tourists will come flocking to the island.

"Samar has many tourist attractions, some better than already existing tourist spots," she stressed. "Samar is waiting to be found as a tourist destination," but first the NPA has to be defeated, she added.

The President cited the experience of Bohol, which used to be shunned by tourists because of the then prevailing communist insurgency in that province.

Gleaned from the Bohol experience, good roads will not bring in tourists unless the NPA is defeated, she said, as she pointed out that tourists want to be fully assured of their safety.

Bohol is now one of the country’s leading tourist destinations along with Cebu, Palawan and Panay island, the site of the world-famous Boracay resort.

The President said she personally chose Lt. Gen. Cardoso Luna to head the Central Philippines command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which includes Region 8, and Maj. Gen. Rodrigo Maclang as commander of Samar-based 8th Infantry Division, because of their outstanding records in the government’s peace and order campaign.

The Chief Executive also urged leaders of Samar island -- from the congressmen, governors, board members, mayors down to the barangay officials -- to work as a team for the progress of the whole island.

She echoed Mayor Sarmiento’s call for unity among the leaders of Samar to work as a team for the good of the whole island.

"You should work as one people, one province, one culture," not as Northern Samar, Samar or Eastern Samar, she said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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