, MAY 27, 2007 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - Despite an apparent opposition-controlled Senate, President Arroyo is looking forward to working with the new senators on urgent economic measures.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo “looks forward to working with the new members of the Senate to strengthen the nation politically and economically.”

Bunye said the recently concluded elections showed the Filipinos wanted political stability and the continuation of the President’s economic reforms that are generating more job opportunities.

“Central to meeting the demands of the Filipino people, the President and members of the Senate must move quickly to build on the economic gains already moving the nation forward at the fastest pace in a generation,” Bunye said.

Opposition lawmakers led by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said the realignment of political forces in the Senate would be in favor of the opposition when the 14th Congress starts on July 22.

Pimentel, however, admitted the opposition-led Senate, like in the past Congress, will still have to cooperate with Malacañang over the passage of important legislation, including the budget.

Pimentel, whose son Aquilino “Koko” III is still clinging to the last slot in the senatorial count, signified his interest to retain his position as Senate Minority Leader.

Pimentel added that re-electionist Sen. Manuel Villar will surely retain his position as Senate President.

He noted the looming revamp in the other positions in the Senate, which will mainly focus on the majority and minority because of the new members coming in.

Some major foreign financial institutions earlier warned that an opposition-dominated Congress would derail economic reforms of the administration and political instability might ensue due to the prospects of another impeachment attempt.

Mrs. Arroyo, in a speech during her visit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before the 13th Nikkei Forum in Tokyo, gave assurances that the opposition-dominated Senate is aware of the fragile economic and political security in the Philippines.

“Our elections have sent investors the message of political stability which ensures continuing economic reform... therefore, the path we have set for economic reforms has not been upset by partisan elections. The elections will not undo our economic progress,” Mrs. Arroyo told the Nikkei Forum.

“Filipinos demonstrated our political stability through peaceful, fair and free elections,” she said.

Pimentel, for his part, said the opposition was supportive of the administration during the 13th Congress.

But the Senate would “not necessarily” dance to the tune of the Palace, Pimentel said.

“You know very well the political developments in the Senate do not necessarily reflect the dominant position of the Palace relative to the entire country,” he said.

“The Senate will be a different battleground and the majority in the Senate need not necessarily be allied with the President. You will notice even in the last Congress, the budget of the administration was defended by (Senator) Frank (Franklin) Drilon. He was not a member of the administration clique here in the Senate,” Pimentel said. - With Christina Mendez

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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