MANILA, MARCH 17, 2008 (STAR) President Arroyo has ordered the fast-tracking of the completion of 148 priority infrastructure projects, including 27 public works in Mindanao, through a stronger public-private sector partnership, a top Malacañang official said.

Presidential Management Staff chief Secretary Cerge Remonde issued the statement during the 3rd National Government Infrastructure Forum (NGIF) in Davao City on Saturday attended by business leaders, local government units, donor communities and investors, development stakeholders and civil society.

He said there is an urgent need to “unite on good infrastructure” which entails a multi-sectoral effort involving both public and private sector to build good infrastructure projects to spur growth and development in Mindanao.

“President Arroyo is fast-tracking the successful implementation of 148 priority infrastructure projects, including the 27 projects in Mindanao,” he said, adding “a stronger public-private partnership is a key.”

The government has allocated some P200 billion in additional funding for infrastructure projects in the 2008 General Appropriations Act, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza, who is also development champion for Mindanao, made a presentation on the updates of priority infrastructure projects in the region.

Of the 27 projects in Mindanao, three projects have been completed including the Diosdado Macapagal Bridge in Butuan, the 210-MW clean coal plant in Phividec, and the 950-KV photovoltaic powerplant in Cagayan de Oro.

Dureza expressed optimism that Mindanao’s agribusiness industry will eventually exhibit a more bullish performance in the coming years.

He noted infrastructure projects are crucial in the physical integration of Mindanao which will optimize its potential as an Agri-Fishery Export Zone in the South.

Seven more projects in Mindanao will be completed this year, according to Remonde.

These projects are the Dinagat Island road and the airports in Zamboanga City, Butuan, Pagadian, Dipolog City, Ozamis City, Cotobato City and Laguindingan.

The government will also complete 271 small irrigation projects, which will provide water to 11,191 hectares of farmland and 33 farm-to-market (FMR) roads worth P252.59 million in Mindanao, Remonde said.

Remonde said Mrs. Arroyo has created the Pro-Performance System (PPS) to ensure the effective, efficient and transparent implementation of infrastructure projects.

The PPS Steering Committee is composed of Remonde, Ambassador Donald Dee, business representative; Ambassador Marita Magpili-Jimenez, representative for international development organizations; Dr. Vincent Fabella, NGO representative; Richard Nalupta, youth representative; Fr. Anton Pascual, religious representative; Ruperto Nicdao Jr., media representative; and Mayor Ramon Guico, Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines representative.

The PPS was cited by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) mission director Jon Lindborg as key to the many problems affecting important infrastructure projects.

Lindborg is among the business leaders and donor community members who are bullish and enthusiastic about the recent unprecedented developments and improvements in the country’s infrastructure projects, Remonde said.

He cited the administration’s Roll-on, Roll-off (Ro-Ro) network of roads and boat terminals as very beneficial for Filipinos.

USAID and other private corporations commended the government for what they called impressive developments in Mindanao and the country, Remonde said.

Remonde added that the outpouring of support and confidence for the government’s infrastructure development efforts and the country’s economic performance as a whole is very inspiring.

“The high positive note struck by our development partners and sectors augur well for the infrastructure program,” he said. “The spirit of partnership, unity and commitment on display makes a convincing argument that today is indeed the best time to invest in the Philippines.” – Paolo Romero

Bayombong bishop marks birthday sans GMA By Charlie Lagasca Monday, March 17, 2008

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya – Undoubtedly, Cagayan Valley’s most outspoken, and probably most influential Catholic cleric marked his 69th birthday yesterday, but without the usual fanfare befitting a presidential visit.

Bayombong Bishop Ramon Villena, a ranking official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, celebrated his birthday, which coincided with Palm Sunday, in the simplest manner, a stark contrast from previous years when national government officials, political leaders and other influential individuals visited him.

This was the first time in 12 years that President Arroyo skipped the bishop’s birthday, which she had graced since she was elected senator.

However, the President would reportedly make up for her absence yesterday by visiting the province on March 24, upon the invitation of Villena, perceived to be one of the Catholic bishops close to her.

The President is expected to grace a Church-led humanitarian mission here dedicated to Villena as part of his birthday celebration.

According to the Philippine Information Agency here, the President, during her one-day visit, will also inspect the ongoing rehabilitation of the Bagabag airport and drop by the mountain town of Kayapa, the region’s vegetable bowl.

A former co-chairman of the CBCP, Villena was appointed by Mrs. Arroyo as chairman of the Regional Development Council for Cagayan Valley.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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