DECEMBER 25, 2006 (STAR) Malacañang said yesterday Filipinos could expect a better year ahead, but also called on the public to work harder, with help from the government and the private sector.

"Our people have every reason to remain upbeat not just this Christmas but for the year to come as we are on full swing towards economic takeoff. The markets have been surging to record highs, investments are up, the purchasing power of the peso is steady and all indicators support a bullish 2007," Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said.

Presidential Management Staff chief Cerge Remonde, who is also tasked to oversee the microfinance and small- and medium-enterprises program of the government, said the administration would intensify its efforts to encourage people to get into business and entrepreneurship to improve their lives.

In a radio interview, Remonde said the government and the private sector would like every Filipino to shed the "Juan Tamad" attitude — referring to the character in a popular Filipino fable who preferred to wait for a guava to fall into his mouth rather than pick it from the tree.

Developing micro-finance, small- and medium-enterprises is a banner program of Mrs. Arroyo to alleviate poverty, he told dzRB.

Bunye noted that Filipinos and the rest of the world witnessed how the government acted decisively "to move the economy to bear social fruit in terms of better paying jobs, enhanced social services and a reduced incidence of hunger and poverty."

Remonde said President Arroyo would continue to "crack the whip" on all government officials to make sure that her programs were implemented especially those for the poor.

He said the government would also highlight the successes of some Filipinos who went into business to be able to encourage others to try getting into microfinance and small- and medium enterprises, too.

Remonde said he met with different representatives of the various agencies involved in the program, especially since surveys showed many Filipinos still considered themselves poor and unemployment remained high.

"There are many people who complain about how hard their lives are. But there are so many successes also in the microfinance (area) that we can highlight if only to inspire people that there is hope to rise from poverty," he said.

"The government and the private sector have enough programs for poverty alleviation for people who are willing to also work," Remonde noted.

Bunye said the government would continue to implement reforms and ensure that people would feel the gains of these.

Despite the series of typhoons that battered the country this year, the Philippines is expected to post a full-year growth of 5.5 percent, and 5.7 percent in 2007.

The four strong typhoons that hit the country recently, notably "Reming" that devastated the Bicol region, pulled down the gross domestic product (GNP) by 0.03 percentage point. — Aurea Calica

GMA okays P707-M Navy equipment deals By Jaime Laude The Philippine Star 12/24/2006

 President Arroyo, in her capacity as acting defense secretary, approved yesterday three equipment upgrade contracts totaling some P707 million.

The contracts will upgrade and put back in shape five gunboats and two aircraft of the Philippine Navy.

Defense Undersecretary for Operations Ricardo Blancaflor said President Arroyo approved the equipment upgrade contracts after a single-stage open competitive bidding was conducted in October and November last year and in March this year.

Single-stage open competitive bidding is usually done on a one-shot deal basis with the proceedings open to the public.

"The approval of the contracts came in the heels of a policy laid down by President Arroyo shortly after she took over last Nov. 30 as concurrent defense secretary, prescribing shortened procurement time for military acquisitions, without sacrificing transparency," Blancaflor said in a press statement.

But Blancaflor did not answer queries on whether an acting defense secretary is allowed to approve a contract exceeding P50 million.

"But the single-stage open competitive bidding is the usual public bidding we adopt. It is referred to as ‘single stage’ to differentiate it from the two-stage competitive bidding. The two-stage competitive bidding is used when the requirements are not clear and the procuring entity makes use of inputs from the prospective bidders to firm up the specs, terms of reference and scope of work," Blancaflor said in a text message.

Blancaflor said three Jacinto-Class patrol vessels amounting to P353.6 million; two Patrol Killer Medium gunboats worth P282 million; and the two Britten Norman Island aircraft worth P71.6 million, are covered by the contracts.

The patrol vessels will undergo major repairs at the FF Cruz Shipyard in Iloilo and are expected to be fully operational in 2008, while the two gunboats will be operational middle of next year after being repaired at the Santiago Shipyard and Shipbuilding Corp. in Cebu.

Once operational, the patrol vessels will be utilized by the Philippine Navy for its sustained naval seaborne operations and sovereign patrols, particularly in patrolling the Malampaya Natural Gas Project in Palawan.

The gunboats, on the other hand, are to be used by the Navy in its internal security operations and other related maritime operations.

Two Navy Islanders are also expected to be airworthy for maritime patrol in a year’s time after the restoration of the planes’ airframes, overhauling of engines, installation of communications and navigational, weather and search radars have been completed by Hawker Pacific Pte. Ltd.

President Arroyo is also set to approve three equipment acquisition contracts for the Philippine Army.

These are the acquisition of modern field communications to be used by the Armed Forces Joint Special Operations Group, Night Fighting Systems, Laser Aiming and Zeroing Device for the Army, and 134 engineering and transport vehicles from South Korea.

Mrs. Arroyo’s approval of the defense department’s multimillion-peso upgrade for the Navy is regarded by some as the second major decision she has made when she temporarily took over the top defense post following the resignation of Avelino Cruz Jr. last month.

Last Dec. 12, the President reorganized the defense department by abolishing several offices and replacing them with new ones.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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