JANUARY 3, 2007 (STAR) By Charlie Lagasca - "Thank you for making our dream a reality. Thank you for the road, Madame President."

With these words, a 75-year-old woman expressed her gratitude to President Arroyo for the completion of the Aritao-Baguio stretch of the Nueva Vizcaya-Benguet road, which she formally opened to the public yesterday.

"I have pledged to finish this 30-year-old project as a part of the implementation of my vision in connecting the regions of Cagayan Valley and the Cordillera into a North Luzon Super Region," she replied.

Residents of Barangay Pingkian in the mountain town of Kayapa welcomed the President in what was her first official working day for 2007.

The Pingkian folk were joined by natives from the villages of Pingkian, Baan, Binalian, Babadi, Latbang, Cabanglasan, Mapayao and other far-flung mountain barangays who had to trek for an average of two hours just to catch a glimpse of the President inaugurating the Nueva Vizcaya section of the P2-billion, 107-kilometer Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya-Baguio-Benguet Road.

In the native Iluko dialect, the President said the highway is part of her efforts to boost the economic development of provinces through the creation of "super regions."

Accompanying the President were First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, Public Works and Highways Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., Nueva Vizcaya Gov. Luisa Lloren-Cuaresma, and Rep. Rodolfo Agbayani.

Pípanga pols clash over GMA support By Ding Cervantes The Philippine Star 01/03/2007

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga ó Clashing supporters of President Arroyo in this home province of hers want either her intervention or the lack of it in the 2007 local elections.

This cityís mayor, Oscar Rodriquez, who belongs to Lakas-Christian, Muslim Democrats, the administration party, said MalacaŮang, through presidential political adviser Gabriel Claudio, is working out ways to settle conflicts among pro-administration politicians who have expressed plans to vie for the same positions in this yearís polls.

"There is a move for administration candidates to respect the principle of the equity of the incumbent. For me, this applies to all pro-administration parties," Rodriquez said.

Rep. Reynaldo Aquino, of the Kabalikat ng Mamamayang Pilipino (Kampi), a pro-administration party, however, said it would be better for the President not to intervene "since all of them support her anyway."

Aquino has made known his plan to run for mayor of this capital city against Rodriquez, who is said to be seeking a second term.

At the gubernatorial level, provincial board member Lilia Pineda, a known ally of the President but who is not affiliated with any party, has bared her plan to run against incumbent Gov. Mark Lapid, Lakas-CMD provincial chairman, who is also seeking a second term.

Bukidnon Rep. Jose Miguel Zubiri, Lakas-CMD party secretary-general, earlier told The STAR that they were working out ways to arrive at a coalition senatorial slate with Kampi and the Nationalist Peopleís Coalition (NPC).

At the local level, Zubiri said respect for the principle of the equity of the incumbent was being pushed to avoid conflicts among supporters of the President.

Aquino, however, said Kampi national officials were not inclined to forge any alliance with Lakas-CMD at least at the local level.

"It is possible that a coalition slate could be reached for the senatorial slate, but not at the local level," he said.

Aquino advised Pineda to join Kampi in her gubernatorial bid. "She can be adopted as the official gubernatorial bet of the party and it would be better for her to have a party when she runs for governor," he said.

The politically influential Pineda clan from Lubao, the Presidentís hometown, was reportedly irked by Lapidís failure to take in Lubao Mayor Dennis Pineda, Liliaís eldest son, as his vice gubernatorial candidate in favor of businessman Paul Laus, son of Clark Development Corp. president and chief executive officer Liberato Laus.

This has reportedly prompted the Pinedasí patriarch, Rodolfo "Bong" Pineda, to declare "war" against the Lapids.

The STAR tried to get the comment of the governorís father, Sen. Lito Lapid, on their conflict with the Pinedas, but he said he would rather keep mum on the controversy so as not to give the President more problems.

Last November, several mayors in the province, said to be supporting the Pinedas, bolted Lakas and joined Kampi, citing the need for better leadership at the provincial Capitol.

At a recent Lakas forum here, Zubiri cited the need for unity among the Presidentís supporters, saying "the force of the opposition might come out stronger," especially in the congressional races.

Zuburi described the last three years of the Arroyo administration as "crucial," saying the impeachment moves against the President would succeed should enough members of the opposition win seats in the House.

He admitted cracks looming at the local level, but said arrangements were being made with Rep. Luis Villafuerte, Kampi secretary-general, so that the "equity of the incumbent" principle would be respected.

Zubiri said the President still enjoys the solid support of local officials. "If she can use this machinery, administration candidates will win," he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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