MANILA, JUNE 23, 2007 (STAR) By Marvin Sy - President Arroyo leaves today for a four-day trip to Singapore and Equatorial Guinea to strengthen economic relations and the possible signing of an oil exploration agreement. The President and her entourage leaves for Singapore in the afternoon on board a Philippine Airlines commercial flight.

In Singapore, the President will meet a select group of international political and business leaders attending the World Economic Forum on East Asia, a regional version of the Swiss-based WEF, to shape the region’s industry, economic and political agenda.

Malacañang revealed that the industry agenda of the June 24-25 forum would focus on a new generation of East Asian multinationals and the impact of cross-border investments. On the economic front, the forum would examine the durability of East Asia’s growth in the face of emerging global risks. With the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the political agenda will center on the design of its evolving regional architecture and its relationship with strategic partners such as India, Russia and the United States.

The President will also meet with SICPA Holdings executive co-chairman Maurice Amon and Renault Nissan chief executive officer Carlos Ghosn. The visit of the President to Singapore is meant to reciprocate the state visit of Singapore President S.R. Nathan to the Philippines last Feb. 13-16. The President seeks to expand Singapore’s investments in the Philippines by highlighting the good news about the economy.

With the Philippines finishing its term as chair of the ASEAN and Singapore taking its place, the President will also coordinate and consult with her counterpart on matters relevant to the regional grouping. The President is also set to meet with the Filipino community in Singapore at the Suntec Convention Hall. This will be followed by a reception hosted by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana.

On Monday, the President starts her state visit with welcome ceremonies and the signing of the visitor’s book at the Istana, followed by a meeting with President S. R. Nathan. In the afternoon, the President will meet with officials of Maersk after which she will deliver a speech at the coffee party of the Philippines-Singapore Business Council. Her state visit ends with a state dinner hosted by President S.R. Nathan at the Banquet Hall of the Istana.

On Tuesday, the President will head to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea for her one-day state visit. The President’s visit to the African state is meant to reciprocate the state visit of Equitorial Guinea’s president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo in May last year.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said there is a possibility of the President witnessing the signing of a joint venture agreement involving the PNOC-EDC for oil exploration in the country. “This is very significant considering that Equatorial Guinea is a major producer of oil, even bigger than Brunei as far as oil production is concerned,” Bunye said. Bunye noted that there are also around 2,500 Filipino professionals working in the country. Prior to leaving for the four-day trip, the President and her delegation were all required to be inoculated for malaria, hepatitis, yellow fever and dengue. It was revealed that the President received her last vaccine on Wednesday at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City. Bunye, who was supposed to accompany the President on her state visits, said that he had to stay behind because he missed his shots.

“I forgot all about the inoculation until the very last minute,” Bunye said.

GMA Cabinet rating negative since 2005 – SWS By Helen Flores Saturday, June 23, 2007

Public satisfaction with the Cabinet has been slightly negative since 2005, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) reported yesterday.

“Public satisfaction with the Cabinet as a whole has been slightly negative in all SWS surveys from the third quarter of 2005 to the first quarter of 2007,” the SWS said.

The report came amid persistent rumors of a Cabinet revamp and President Arroyo’s move on Wednesday to ease out Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) chief Jose Mario Buñag.

Buñag was among the few officials in the executive branch who obtained neutral public satisfaction with a net rating of –4 in June 2006.

The SWS’ February 2007 survey found that 32 percent of respondents were satisfied and 35 percent were dissatisfied with the Cabinet as a whole, for a close-to-neutral net satisfaction rating of –2, correctly rounded, hardly changing from the net –3 and net –5 of September 2006 and November 2006, the SWS said.

“The Cabinet’s net scores in the last three quarters were slightly better than net –5 to –10 obtained from August 2005 to June 2006, but lower than the net +12 at the start of President Arroyo’s second term,” the SWS said.

The SWS said the net rating of the Cabinet posted a record high of +27 in June 1997 and March 1999, and a record low of net –16 in November 1990.

“The Cabinet often gets lower ratings than the key government institutions,” the SWS said.

In the February 2007 survey, the Cabinet’s net satisfaction rating score of –2 was close to the –3 of the national administration, but much lower than the net +26 of the Senate, +11 of the House of Representatives and +16 of the Supreme Court, the SWS said.

SWS said officials heading the social welfare, health, education, tourism, foreign affairs and local government departments have tended to get positive marks from the public.

In SWS surveys conducted from 2004 to 2007, Cabinet members who got positive net ratings include former social welfare secretary Corazon Soliman (+39, August 2004), former Department of Health secretary Manuel Dayrit (+38, May 2005), incumbent DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III (+15, February 2007), Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Jesli Lapus (+13, February 2007), Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Joseph Ace Durano (+13, September 2006), former Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) secretary Delia Albert (+12, August 2004), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ronaldo Puno (+11, February 2007), and DFA Secretary Alberto Romulo (+10, May 2005).

Roughly neutral public satisfaction ratings were obtained by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Angelo Reyes (+5, September 2006), Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez (+2, February 2007), former Department of National Defense (DND) secretary Avelino Cruz Jr. (net 0, November 2006; –13, May 2005), former presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor (Net 0, March 2006), Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita (–1, November 2006), former Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas (–3, December 2004; +14, August 2004), former BIR commissioner Buñag (–4, June 2006), and Solicitor General Eduardo Nachura (–9, November 2006).

These single-digit figures are called “neutral” because they are not too different from zero, the SWS said.

On the other hand, the SWS said “clearly negative ratings have prevailed in the justice, trade and industry, energy, finance, press, and national security positions.”

Officials who received negative ratings include Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Raul Gonzalez (–10, March 2006; –2, August 2005), former Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) secretary Juan Santos (–10, May 2005), Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rafael Lotilla (–12, March 2006), former Department of Finance (DOF) secretary Cesar Purisima (–14, May 2005), Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye (–15, August 2005) and National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales (-17, December 2005).

The SWS surveys used face-to-face interviews of 1,200 voting-age adults.

The samples for all surveys were divided into random samples of 300 each in Metro Manila, the balance of Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

The SWS surveys have sampling error margins of plus or minus three percent for national percentages and plus or minus six percent for area percentages.

“The survey items in this report are not commissioned and were conducted on SWS’s own initiative. The Social Weather surveys are supported by subscribers, who have no proprietary rights over the data,” the SWS also said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved