BALANGIGA, EASTERN SAMAR, SEPTEMBER 30, 2008 (OFFICE OF PRESS SECRETARY) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said today the government is committed to improve the public works facilities in the province as well as that of the whole Central Philippines in an effort to boost tourism in the region. In her speech during the commemoration of the 107th Balangiga Encounter Day here, the President said the government will prioritize tourism investments in Central Philippines as she had spelled out in her earlier State of the Nation Address (SONA).

President Arroyo said Samar, which is part of Central Philippines, has the competitive edge in tourism with its natural wonders and the natural warmth of its people.

As a way to attract local and foreign tourists, the country’s tourism plan ensures that infrastructure projects like roads and airports are well provided, the President said.

Recognizing these needs, the President said there are infrastructure links programmed for Samar province like the rehabilitation of the Maharlika Road portion in Samar, and the Wright-Taft-Borongan Road from the Maharlika Road to Eastern Samar.

To bring more tourists to the province’s surfing paradise, she cited the need to improve the Borongan-Guiuan Road.

With a regular Manila-Borongan Flight by SeaAir, the President said the government is also upgrading the Guian airport. “We hope that the international and domestic tourism circles will soon refer to Borongan as ‘Boro’ the way they refer to Boracay as ‘Bora,’” the President added.

The President also underscored the need to rehabilitate the Basey- Maydolong Road to make Eastern Samar more accessible to the Tacloban International Airport; even as road improvements in the Arteche-Lapinig and Jipapad-Lapinig are under way.

However, the Chief Executive lamented that the communist rebels impede the progress and development of a number of rural areas in the province.

And if Samar is to become a tourism destination, she stressed, “we have to put a stop to their ideological nonsense and their criminal acts once and for all. It is either get rid of them now, or get rid of them later. Whatever happens, they must be stopped.”

She added that she already instructed National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales to organize the Leyte and Samar Island Peace and Security Council.

“As we improve the security of the region that has known some degree of violence, we are able to quickly move to develop the economy of those areas,” the President said.

Despite bad weather, Samarenos warmly welcomed the President, the first-ever Chief Executive to attend the Balangiga Encounter Day celebration.

“This was the single biggest Filipino victory against the U.S. Army during the Philippine-American War,” the President enthused as she joined Samarenos in paying tribute to their great forefathers who sacrificed their lives in 1901.

The President, however, stressed that at present, Philippine-U.S. relations are "strong, growing and mature."

She added that the RP-US relationship is enhanced by the millions of Americans of Philippine heritage, and the hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens who live and work in the Philippines.

“The U.S. and the Philippines remain steadfast allies and friends in a time of global tensions and economic uncertainty,” she added.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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