spend  on  basics  before  luxuries,  gma  asks  public

MARCH 21, 2007 (STAR) By Marvin Sy - In the wake of the latest survey showing that hunger remained at a record high, President Arroyo asked Filipinos yesterday to spend their money on essentials rather than luxuries.

Apart from government action, the President said the spending patterns of the people should also be taken into consideration when addressing the issue of hunger.

"I ask our people to spend on the basics first before the luxuries so our children will have enough to eat," the President said in a statement. "All aspects must be dealt with so the whole citizenry can be healthy and productive."

Mrs. Arroyo sought to assure the public that addressing this high incidence of hunger in the country remains a priority of her administration.

With a "sense of urgency" is how the government takes reports of hunger incidence such as the latest survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS), the President said.

The government is always looking to "pinpoint the specific areas and communities where hunger may be rife so that effective intervention can be mounted," Mrs. Arroyo said.

"I shall continue to see to it that nobody is left behind in the social payback of economic growth and fighting hunger shall be a constant priority in strategic and immediate levels," she stressed.

According to the SWS survey, hunger incidence across the country was pegged at an average of 19 percent, with Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon experiencing hunger more now than during the previous survey conducted in November last year.

The SWS noted that hunger incidence has been at double-digit levels since June 2004.

On the strategic level, the President noted that the government is advancing agricultural production programs, broadening and speeding up the food distribution system and balancing out price disparities and fluctuations.

On the other hand, two incumbent senators seeking re-election in May this year urged the Arroyo government to work out a better alternative in addressing the hunger problem.

Senate President Manuel Villar and Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan said the government should stop bragging about the economic gains of the country because there is still a big number of Filipinos who are not able to eat three times a day. – With Christina Mendez

Twin bills amending BCDA Act signed The Philippine Star 03/21/2007

Clark Freeport – President Arroyo signed into law the twin bills amending the Bases Conversion Development Authority Act aimed at providing more investments and job opportunities within the freeport zones.

In simple ceremonies at the Clark Freeport in Pampanga, the President signed Republic Acts 9400 and 9399 before the investor-locators as well as other members of the business community.

BCDA president Narciso Abaya welcomed the signing of the two laws as a way to "propel the BCDA and its subsidiaries to greater accomplishments."

"Since 2005 when the Supreme Court ruled that the law creating the BCDA lacked the legal basis for granting tax incentives to our locators in John Hay and Clark Special Economic Zones, we have been operating under serious constraints," Abaya said.

He said that the signing of the two laws are "giant steps" toward achieving the President’s "8 by ’08" socioeconomic plan by enhancing investments and providing more job opportunities for Filipinos.

RA 9400 amends RA 7227 or the BCDA Act, by granting tax and duty incentives to the special ecozones in John Hay, Poro Point, Morong and Clark, similar to those enjoyed by the Subic Bay Freeport.

Senator Ralph Recto, the principal author and sponsor of the bill in the Senate, explained that the measure intends to cure an oversight made in the past and lays down and equitable system of tax incentives that is uniform to all ecozones and freeports.

"This bill does not only correct an error in the past but becomes a tool to draw in future investments," Recto said.

RA 9399, on the other hand, provides a one-time amnesty on tax and duties incurred by the investor-locators in the four special ecozones as a result of the 2005 SC ruling.

The new law provides that the affected investor-locators pay only a five percent tax on gross income in lieu of all local and national taxes.

Meanwhile, observers noted the conspicuous absence of Sen. Lito Lapid and his son Pampanga Gov. Mark Lapid in this "historic" affair.

Their absence bolstered talk that the Lapids have finally distanced themselves from Malacañang after the governor, a member of Lakas CMD, failed in his bid to be declared official coalition gubernatorial candidate in Pampanga where provincial board member Lilia Pineda is challenging him under the Kabalikat ng Mamamayang Pilipino (KAMPI). – Marvin Sy, Ding Cervantes

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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