DECEMBER 4, 2006 (STAR) In the wake of the mudslides that hit Bicol and with thousands missing or dead, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Monday ordered the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to fast-track the national hazard mapping program.

In a statemnt, Pres. Arroyo said, "I am directing the DENR to step up the national hazard mapping program to forewarn vulnerable communities and help increase the capability for local governments for early warning and action. The gulleys on the slopes of Mount Mayon that bear potential mudflows are a case in point."

"This is a time for unity and continuous action, as we pour in more troops, medical personnel and volunteers as well as dispatch more equipment in the search and retrieval operations and facilitate direct assistance to the victims," she urged.

She added, "We join the Filipino people in praying for that miracle of finding more survivors. We are no strangers to this kind of tragedy; and we have always been able to recover and become stronger. Nevertheless, such recurrent tragedies cannot but underscore the need for greater preparedness, operational effectiveness and predictive capacity."

The death and destruction in the wake of calamities can be minimized by organized and systematic human intervention, she noted and said that the country must not leave things to fatal luck when tools can be developed to prevent harm.

More than 1,000 people are either dead or missing after rivers of mud and volcanic ash triggered by a typhoon swamped villages in the Philippines, authorities said Monday.

In their morning update civil defence officials confirmed 425 dead from the mudslides around Mayon volcano in the eastern region of Bicol with 599 missing.

Because of this, the President declared yesterday a "state of national calamity" as hopes for finding survivors of typhoon-triggered mudslides in Albay vanished, with emergency workers fearing the death toll could exceed 1,000.

Doctors say Mike A fit to resume activities after ‘minor’ surgery By Paolo Romero The Philippine Star 12/04/2006

First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo is fit enough to resume his activities, including hosting the spouses of heads of state in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Cebu City next week, following an angioplasty to widen a clogged blood vessel at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City, doctors said yesterday.

An angioplasty is a procedure of widening an obstructed blood vessel using a balloon catheter.

Dr. Juliet Cervantes, President Arroyo’s personal physician, described the medical procedure on Mr. Arroyo as a "minor one."

"Everything went okay," she told reporters as she was leaving the hospital.

Mr. Arroyo can be discharged tomorrow and can accompany the President to Cebu later this week when the Asean summit and the East Asia summit kick off, Cervantes said.

Undersecretary Juris Soliman, Mr. Arroyo’s chief of staff, said in a telephone interview the President’s husband has a heavy workload parallel to the summits, particularly hosting the spouses of the attending heads of state.

Mr. Arroyo is busy gathering more support for the Filipino athletes participating in the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, she added.

Soliman said cardiologist Dr. Romeo Saavedra was the one who undertook the procedure that lasted less than an hour, starting at around 6:30 a.m.

"The procedure is minor that a root canal takes a much longer time," she said.

The angioplasty was done near Mr. Arroyo’s groin, Soliman said.

Cervantes said Mrs. Arroyo watched the procedure from a television monitor in an adjacent room, along with Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo.

The President did not appear worried throughout the procedure, and that "she was confident everything would work out well, and true enough everything went smoothly," she added.

Mr. Arroyo was sedated and was "half-asleep" during the procedure but conscious enough to listen to instructions and briefly talked with the cardiology team prior to the angioplasty, Cervantes said.

Representative Arroyo said his father was drowsy after the procedure and fell asleep while they were talking.

Soliman said Mrs. Arroyo, her son Diosdado "Dato" Arroyo, and her brother-in-law Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio Arroyo, were among those who spent the night at the hospital since Saturday to accompany the First Gentleman.

Meanwhile, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye described reports that the President’s health is failing as "malicious rumors" and "products of over-imaginative minds."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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