(OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo admitted today that her unwavering focus on governance to bring stability and peace to the country had cost her the popularity that every chief executive aspires for from the governed.

In an interview with BizNews Asia publisher Tony Lopez who asked her what her biggest achievement is after eight years in the presidency, the President said, “… It’s really up to history to judge.

“What I can say is that during my presidency, we've been focused on reforming the economy, we've been focused on generating investment, we've been focused on creating new and better infrastructures, we've been focused on building a social safety net, especially in healthcare, education and to bring stability and peace to the country.”

And at what cost? “Well, if you look at the cost, we've been able to have a very prudent fiscal situation.

“So, if ever, the cost is only to my popularity,” the President lamented.

She pointed out, however, that she had come to the presidency prepared for such situation as she had been well advised by her late father – former Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal – who had told her, “You don't enter public life to enjoy your self – you enter public life ready to serve the people, to sacrifice, to suffer if need be.”

Asked what her biggest presidential disappointment is so far, the President kept her heartaches to herself: “That, I keep to myself. Because, as I said, it's not the–-since one is prepared to sacrifice, and one is prepared to suffer, there's no need to wear one's heart (on one’s sleeve).”

Could she be suffering in silence? The stoic President Arroyo stressed: “Let's just put it this way. I am a very disciplined person so I will not … I do not… (waste time) on self pity.”

But disappointed she may be, the President is not letting the downs of the presidency weigh her down. Asked for the secret of her youthful looks that makes her “seem to be getting younger each day despite the burden,” the now 61-year-old President unveiled her fountain of youth:

“Hard work, faith – very strong faith -- and discipline in my regimen.”

The regimen of 16 hours of work everyday? “No, it's not what you count in work, it's what you count to give yourself stamina.

“Seven hours of sleep, three-times-a-week exercise, keeping my schedule disciplined so that I don't over fill my day with the less significant activities; and then my vitamins, my diet – it's a very healthy diet,” the President shared.

As to the very healthy diet, the Chief Executive pointed to the palace chefs: “It's made by the kitchen. They count calories and they give me the amount of food that they think I should eat.”

“… It's just the quantity, the moderation… It’s the calorie count. So, the kitchen takes care of that.”

The President added that it is also the Palace kitchen that concocted the low-calorie, low-cholesterol “heart’s delight” diet especially for First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo following his surgery a year and a half ago at St. Luke’s Hospital.

“When my husband went to St. Luke's for his surgery a year and a half ago, they gave him a diet called heart's delight. So, I'm sure that diet is available to anybody (who may be interested to try it). Heart’s delight. Well, it's good for the heart.”

PGMA is back from APEC Leaders’ Summit meet in Peru and visits to Colombia and U.S.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo returned to the country late Thursday night after a trip to Peru where she joined other world leaders in the 16th Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) Leaders’ Summit in Lima.

The President had also visited Colombia before proceeding to the United States to meet the Filipino community in Los Angeles en route to Manila.

The Philippine Airlines flight PR001 carrying the President and her delegation touched down at the Centennial Terminal of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) at around 10:30 last night (Nov. 13).

On hand to welcome the President were First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Armed Forces chief Alexander Yano and National Police head Jesus Versoza.

In an earlier statement, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said the President “returns home from the APEC summit in Peru confident that her strong advocacy for the less-developed economies in the midst of present-day financial challenges finds resonance amongst world leaders."

During the two-day meet (Nov. 22-23), the 21 APEC leaders agreed to hasten the conclusion of the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round of talks which seeks to promote freer trade.

They also signed a statement rejecting trade protectionism as they renewed their commitment to boost ties to cope with the global economic meltdown.

The APEC leaders also expressed support for small and medium enterprises as well as for institutions that could address the liquidity problems of nations hit by the financial turmoil.

After the summit, the President flew to Colombia for a visit during which she had a bilateral meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

The Chief Executive then flew to Los Angeles where she met with the Filipino community and executives of Ingram Micro, an international firm engaged in technology solutions and marketing.

The President also met with Teletech CEO Kenneth Tuchman and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa with whom she discussed matters of common interest, particularly the welfare of some one million Filipinos in Los Angeles.  

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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