APRIL 17, 2007 (STAR) President Arroyo had her longest conversation with her husband First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo yesterday, two days after his respirator was removed, and as expected, the discussion was largely about super featherweight champ Manny Pacquiao’s victory over Mexican opponent Jorge Solis.

The President also said in a chance interview with Malacañang reporters yesterday that her husband could be out of St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) within the week.

"They’re (doctors) hoping within the week," an upbeat and obviously relieved Mrs. Arroyo said.

Dr. Juliet Gopez-Cervantes, main attending physician of the presidential spouse, said Mr. Arroyo is now having "active bedside rehabilitation" as he was already sitting up and able to voluntarily move his arms and legs.

Cervantes added the First Gentleman will be allowed to stand up today, and gradually walk in the coming days.

Mr. Arroyo, she said, was taken off dialysis yesterday.

In her first roundtable discussion since the Holy Week, the President said that she spoke with the First Gentleman for 15 minutes yesterday morning, just before she left the hospital to attend to her appointments.

The President said that although the First Gentleman was still groggy, he was happy to hear about Pacquiao’s victory and how the Filipino people were able to unite behind the boxer.

Mrs. Arroyo said that she told him about the result of Pacquiao’s fight with Solis and how the game Mexican was knocked out in the 8th round.

She said that after one or two sentences about a different subject, her husband went back to Pacquiao’s victory and repeatedly said "8th round, 8th round" referring to the knockout.

However, doctors still disallowed a visit to Mr. Arroyo by the Filipino boxing idol.

According to Cervantes, they are closely watching the blood pressure of the First Gentleman and trying to avoid circumstances that would bring excitement to Mr. Arroyo, as "stimulus" like Pacquiao could result in his blood pressure shooting up.

"We can’t allow the First Gentleman to see Pacquiao yet because we don’t want him to get excited. Even a peek from Pacquiao might alter the blood pressure of the First Gentleman," Cervantes said.

"Actually, we advise that for the coming three months bawal ma-excite si First Gentleman," she also said.

Mr. Arroyo was not allowed by his doctors to watch Pacquiao’s Sunday morning fight because of concerns that he might get too excited or disappointed about the bout and cause his blood pressure to spike up.

"It was not allowed because he cannot get excited, and anyway there was no TV in the recovery room," the President said.

"We spoke for about 15 minutes because he no longer had his respirator. Thank God that he could speak now," Mrs. Arroyo said in Filipino.

Before the President’s chat with her husband yesterday, the First Family’s conversations with the First Gentleman were brief as he usually went back to sleep a few minutes after waking up.

The First Gentleman has long been a supporter of Philippine sports and an avid fan of Pacquiao.

After her 15-minute conversation with the First Gentleman yesterday, Mrs. Arroyo proceeded to Malacañang for a roundtable discussion on the International Monetary Fund’s forecast on the Philippine economy.

The President immediately proceeded to Sampaloc, Manila for a visit and informal interaction with the local officials after the roundtable discussion.

Both activities were regularly done by the President and were only suspended last week when the condition of the First Gentleman was still uncertain.

The President was visibly happy during the roundtable discussion yesterday and this was noticed by most of the reporters covering the presidential beat.

During her discussion with Socio-economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri and Alfonso, Cavite councilwoman Cynthia Bawag, the President gave thanks to God on two instances, something that she does not normally do in these talks.

Usually, the reporters would avoid asking the President sensitive questions, as she is known to show her displeasure in not so subtle ways.

Yesterday was a different story, however, as she happily took questions from the media after the roundtable interview while walking back to her office.

When asked if she lost any weight from worrying over the First Gentleman, the President said that her weight remained the same and that she checked it herself yesterday.

The President also revealed she had revised a planned five-day visit to China this week and will now stay only up to Friday before returning to her husband’s bedside.

"It will be now cut down to April 20-21 and only in Boao," she said, referring to a resort on Hainan island where she will speak at an annual forum.

The President was to have visited five cities during her trip but she will now fly straight to Hainan where she hopes to sign a number of agreements.

Mrs. Arroyo said she was expected to attract investment pledges of about two billion dollars, but did not elaborate.

Meanwhile, Cervantes reported in her latest medical bulletin on the condition of the First Gentleman that he is still on antibiotics even if there is still no active sign of infection. She added that Mr. Arroyo continues to be "afebrile" or "consistently has no fever."

Doctors are also gradually building up Mr. Arroyo’s nutrition even as he is maintained under "enteral feeding" or feeding through the nasogastric tube (NGT).

Cervantes said that Mr. Arroyo is under a "heart’s delight diet," which consists mostly of "tenderized or osterized food" rich in protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals but with less oil.

"He is now taking sips of fluids," she said. "At this point, however, besides being vigilant with risks of infection, we also closely have to monitor him for other complications."

"Overall, he is recovering faster than expected," she said. — Marvin Sy, Katherine G. Adraneda, Gian Carlo Tauro, AFP

GMA: Shortened China trip won’t affect investment deals By Marvin Sy The Philippine Star 04/17/2007

President Arroyo said yesterday that her shortened trip to China would not have any impact on the billion dollar investment agreements awaiting her signature over there.

Interviewed during a roundtable discussion at Malacañang yesterday, the President said that all of the agreements she is supposed to sign in various cities and provinces of China would have to be done in Boao, Hainan province this Saturday.

Mrs. Arroyo is the main speaker in the annual Boao Forum for Asia to be held April 20 to 22.

Initially, the President was supposed to stay for around five days in China to attend the Boao Forum and to visit four other cities/provinces.

After speaking at the Boao Forum, the President was supposed to visit Chengdou, Chongqing, Shanghai and Shenzen.

Trade Secretary Peter Favila earlier disclosed that the trip would result in the signing of at least $2 billion in investments by China in the Philippines.

Mrs. Arroyo said that her trip would now be just for April 20 to 21.

With the flight to China estimated to be around four hours, the President would be arriving in China on Friday evening and then leave the following day after her speech and meetings.

"So all the agreements that may have to be signed in other areas, because I was supposed to visit five cities, if it would be all right to the signatories (of the agreements), we could just do this in Boao," the President said.

In any case, Mrs. Arroyo noted that negotiations between the two sides are always accelerated whenever there is a visit by the Chief of State.

Favila said that the Philippine government officials and their Chinese counterparts are reviewing which of the agreements would be signed by the President this Saturday.

He said that Mrs. Arroyo wants to have more hard investments from China this time around instead of just official development assistance for projects as in the past.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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