MANILA, DECEMBER 18, 2007 (STAR) The Sumilao farmers of Bukidnon finally had an audience with President Arroyo at Malacañang yesterday without new developments on their case, only “a feeling that a solution is in sight.”

This is the second time the farmers visited Malacañang and this time, they were able to talk to the President to air their sentiments about their land dispute case.

The controversial farmers walked all the way from Sumilao, Bukidnon to Manila to ask the government to stop the conversion into a hog farm of land that they are claiming.

The farmers arrived at the gates of Malacañang past noon and were met by Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye and Presidential Management Staff director general Cerge Remonde, who escorted them inside the Palace grounds.

Bunye said that six representatives of the farmers faced the President during their meeting, which lasted for an hour.

The farmers handed over to the President a copy of the letter from Manila Archbishop Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales supporting their position on the disputed property in Sumilao.

“Individually they relayed to the President their aspirations. It was a heart-to-heart meeting,” Bunye said.

He said that Bukidnon Gov. Jose Ma. Zubiri Jr., Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman and Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap were present during the meeting at Malacañang.

While Pangandaman had issued a status quo order on the case, which was remanded to the DAR by the courts, Bunye said Zubiri “supported the aspirations of the farmers.”

Yap offered to provide some interim solutions for the farmers, including improving the irrigation system for their agricultural land.

Bunye said the farmers wholeheartedly accepted Yap’s offer.

He said the President “gave full attention” to what they were saying.

“They expressed relief that after walking for several days they were finally able to enter Malacañang and meet with the President,” Bunye said.

“The way the discussion went, the attendees came out of that meeting with the feeling that a solution is in sight,” he added.

A separate meeting with a smaller group was arranged for last night to discuss a number of issues that were not discussed during the earlier meeting with the President.

“There was no disagreement on the issues. It’s a matter of just working out the details,” Bunye said. – Marvin Sy

GMA at St. Luke’s for checkup prior to engagements By Paolo Romero Tuesday, December 18, 2007

President Arroyo went through an unscheduled checkup at the St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) in Quezon City Sunday night after suffering from sore throat, but she pushed through with her public engagements yesterday.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the checkup was “routine” but it was triggered by some throat ailment she got shortly after her arrival from a 10-day trip to Madrid and London and an unscheduled visit to Kuwait.

He noted that everyone who attended the party she hosted for the Malacañang Press Corps at the Palace on Friday night noticed her hoarse voice.

“Maybe she just wanted to have a checkup, but this did not prevent her from attending to all her duties as scheduled,” Bunye said.

“I don’t think whatever she was feeling prevented her from doing all her scheduled activities,” he said.

He, however, said he was not privy to what the doctors might have advised her.

Presidential Security Group chief Brig. Gen. Romeo Prestoza said he was engaged in other duties on Sunday so he was not around when Mrs. Arroyo wanted to undergo a check-up.

He said his men did not report anything about the visit to SLMC so there was nothing remarkable in the check-up.

Mrs. Arroyo attended the orientation on infant and child feeding for medical directors and hospital chiefs at the Manila Hotel at 10 a.m., where she renewed her push for breastfeeding.

This was followed by an informal interaction with barangay officials and residents in Pasay City where she also distributed Christmas goods and scholarships.

In the afternoon, she met with farmers who marched from Sumilao, Bukidnon to press the government to help them reclaim their land awarded to them under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law.

Mrs. Arroyo made several trips to SLMC in the past couple of years for various ailments, including influenza and intestinal flu.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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