CABINET  MEETING  TO  TACKLE  LPG  SUPPLY,  RICE  PRICES
 

[PHOTO AT LEFT -  Housewives hit the seal of the Department of Energy with cooking utensils during a rally at the DOE main office in Taguig City yesterday. The protesters scored the government’s handling of the LPG shortage. MANNY MARCELO]

TAGUIG CITY, FEBRUARY 8, 2009 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - Malacañang reported yesterday that the increase in the prices of rice and other agricultural products and the shortage in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) will be on top of the agenda of the Cabinet meeting next week.

Secretary to the Cabinet Silvestre Bello III, whose office acts as the secretariat of Cabinet officials, said he recommended to President Arroyo that the pressing issues be taken up when she presides over the meeting after she arrives from her week-long trip to Switzerland, Italy, Bahrain and the US.

“First to be on the agenda of the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday will be the issues of LPG, job security, and the increase of prices of agricultural products, including the reported shortage of rice. These will be the frontline agenda,” Bello told reporters.

Mrs. Arroyo is scheduled to arrive on Sunday morning from Washington where she attended the National Prayer Breakfast. Prior to Washington, she addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and proceeded to Milan, Italy where she met with the Filipino community. She then visited Bahrain and witnessed the signing of economic agreements between the two countries.

Bello noted reports of a new round of increase in rice prices. He also said the Palace has been receiving complaints from consumers about rising food prices.

Mrs. Arroyo earlier gave assurances of a stable rice supply as the government would buy at least a million metric tons of rice.

Officials also said the status of the Arroyo administration’s emergency livelihood and employment program would be taken up in the Cabinet meeting.

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes came under fire from the public for failing to prevent an LPG shortage in the country despite his repeated avowals that there is a steady supply of cooking gas.

Reyes is also seeking more powers to enable him to address the shortage that was attributed to hoarding.

GMA’s US side trip a ‘costly hunt for a photo op’ TRIBUNE 02/08/2009

[PHOTO AT LEFT - President Arroyo and US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi listen to President Barack Obama speak at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. JANUARY 7, 2009 AP]

(Tribune News) A stalwart of the opposition yesterday scored President Arroyo for her decision to take an unscheduled “side trip” to the United States, which he said was a sheer “costly, taxpayer-funded hunt for a photo opportunity” with US President Barack Obama.

“At a time when thousands of Filipinos lose their jobs daily, Mrs. Arroyo spent public funds on the off chance that she will get to meet President Obama. It’s a very expensive hunt for a photo op, paid for with taxpayers’ money,” Makati City Mayor and United Opposition (UNO) president Jejomar Binay said.

Binay said after three tries, Mrs. Arroyo “should stop chasing US President Obama.”

“Even if she does get around to getting the much- sought after photo opportunity with the US president, the halo of purity will not rub off on her,” he said.

“No amount of face time with the new US President will reverse her unpopularity, and her administration’s tarnished international reputation as a violator of human rights and a den of corruption,” he added.

If the side trip accomplished anything, Binay said it allowed Mrs. Arroyo to evade questions on the findings of the World Bank implicating her husband in rigging bids for bank-funded road project.

Mrs. Arroyo flew to Washington D.C. Thursday on an unscheduled trip to attend the national prayer breakfast where Obama was the guest speaker. The much hyped meeting did not take place, as the US President left the venue immediately after his speech.

Binay had earlier said the Arroyo administration could face possible scrutiny of its human rights record by the Obama administration. Democratic administrations have traditionally tied a regime’s human rights record to the level of assistance extended by the US government, he said.

The World Bank report of high-level corruption linking Mrs. Arroyo’s husband will also be considered by the US, he added.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Arroyo’s allies in the House of Representatives came to the side of the President, saying her having again failed to meet Obama should not be made a big deal by the local media.

House Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Simeon Datumanong said it is not fair to belittle the US trip of the President for prayer of world leaders, including Mrs. Arroyo, just because she failed to meet Obama.

“A meeting with President Obama was a matter of chance. Why would the President be disappointed when her main agenda in going to the US was to attend the National Prayer Breakfast and it was done upon the invitation of US lawmakers?” Datumanong said.

He said afterall, there will be other chances for Mrs. Arroyo and Obama to meet in the future.

“She had meetings with former US Presidents in various instances, certainly she’ll formally meet President Obama in a more opportune time, place and event,” Datumanong said.

Cebu Rep. Antonio Cuenco also said Mrs. Arroyo’s non-meeting with Obama should not be turned into a big issue.

“It doesn’t make Ms. Arroyo a lesser President, so why the fuss?” Cuenco, chairman of the House committee on foreign affairs, said.

Like Datumanong, Cuenco said he believes Mrs. Arroyo and Obama will eventually meet each other since the Philippines is a strong ally of the United States.

Bulacan province Rep. Lorna Silverio, vice chairman of the House foreign affairs panel, also weighed in on the matter and took the cudgels for Mrs. Arroyo.

“So what if they didn’t get to meet for now? That’s a non-issue because Mrs. Arroyo went to the National Breakfast Prayer on invitation by US solons and that she saw the opportunity to push for pending bills in the US Congress, many of which aims to promote the welfare of the Filipino people,” she said.

Silverio said reports had said Obama arrived late at the event and left soon after delivering his speech, failing to meet with any head of state.

Silverio, also the chairman of the House committee on inter-parliamentary relations and diplomacy, said Mrs. Arroyo’s trip was significant and productive as she met US legislators and discussed important issues with them regarding economic policies, maintaining strong bilateral ties, the new paradigm on the peace negotiations in Mindanao, and the long-standing push for the Veterans’ Bill that would benefit Filipino war veterans who fought side by side with American troops during World War II.

“These accomplishments are the highlights of President Arroyo’s trip in the US. They should not be discounted at all,” she said.

Malacañang, for its part said even though Mrs. Arroyo failed to meet with Obama she was able to talk to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the sidelines of the National Breakfast Prayer in Washington.

According to deputy presidential spokesman Lorelei Fajardo, who went with the President in Washington, Mrs. Arroyo and Clinton agreed to strengthen the bilateral relations of the Philippines and the US under the new administration of Obama.

During their meeting Fajardo said Mrs. Arroyo extended an invitation to Clinton to visit the Philippines and the US official responded by saying she may take a sidetrip to the country if her schedule permits during her scheduled first Asian tour this year.

Clinton is set to go on a series of trips to Asian countries such as China, Malaysia and Indonesia.

In Washington, Mrs. Arroyo also met with Admiral Dennis Blair, Pacific Command commander, and discussed with him intelligence matters that concern both the US and Philippines.

Mrs. Arroyo made the US side trip after attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last Jan. 31 and coming from visiting the Filipino communities in Milan, Italy, in Saudi Arabia and in Bahrain.

Mrs. Arroyo and her delegation is expected to arrive back in Manila today. Charlie V. Manalo and Riza Recio

she will get to meet President Obama. It’s a very expensive hunt for a photo op, paid for with taxpayers’ money,” Makati City Mayor and United Opposition (UNO) president Jejomar Binay said.

Binay said after three tries, Mrs. Arroyo “should stop chasing US President Obama.”

“Even if she does get around to getting the much- sought after photo opportunity with the US president, the halo of purity will not rub off on her,” he said.

“No amount of face time with the new US President will reverse her unpopularity, and her administration’s tarnished international reputation as a violator of human rights and a den of corruption,” he added.

If the side trip accomplished anything, Binay said it allowed Mrs. Arroyo to evade questions on the findings of the World Bank implicating her husband in rigging bids for bank-funded road project.

Mrs. Arroyo flew to Washington D.C. Thursday on an unscheduled trip to attend the national prayer breakfast where Obama was the guest speaker. The much hyped meeting did not take place, as the US President left the venue immediately after his speech.

Binay had earlier said the Arroyo administration could face possible scrutiny of its human rights record by the Obama administration. Democratic administrations have traditionally tied a regime’s human rights record to the level of assistance extended by the US government, he said.

The World Bank report of high-level corruption linking Mrs. Arroyo’s husband will also be considered by the US, he added.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Arroyo’s allies in the House of Representatives came to the side of the President, saying her having again failed to meet Obama should not be made a big deal by the local media.

House Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Simeon Datumanong said it is not fair to belittle the US trip of the President for prayer of world leaders, including Mrs. Arroyo, just because she failed to meet Obama.

“A meeting with President Obama was a matter of chance. Why would the President be disappointed when her main agenda in going to the US was to attend the National Prayer Breakfast and it was done upon the invitation of US lawmakers?” Datumanong said.

He said afterall, there will be other chances for Mrs. Arroyo and Obama to meet in the future.

“She had meetings with former US Presidents in various instances, certainly she’ll formally meet President Obama in a more opportune time, place and event,” Datumanong said.

Cebu Rep. Antonio Cuenco also said Mrs. Arroyo’s non-meeting with Obama should not be turned into a big issue.

“It doesn’t make Ms. Arroyo a lesser President, so why the fuss?” Cuenco, chairman of the House committee on foreign affairs, said.

Like Datumanong, Cuenco said he believes Mrs. Arroyo and Obama will eventually meet each other since the Philippines is a strong ally of the United States.

Bulacan province Rep. Lorna Silverio, vice chairman of the House foreign affairs panel, also weighed in on the matter and took the cudgels for Mrs. Arroyo.

“So what if they didn’t get to meet for now? That’s a non-issue because Mrs. Arroyo went to the National Breakfast Prayer on invitation by US solons and that she saw the opportunity to push for pending bills in the US Congress, many of which aims to promote the welfare of the Filipino people,” she said.

Silverio said reports had said Obama arrived late at the event and left soon after delivering his speech, failing to meet with any head of state.

Silverio, also the chairman of the House committee on inter-parliamentary relations and diplomacy, said Mrs. Arroyo’s trip was significant and productive as she met US legislators and discussed important issues with them regarding economic policies, maintaining strong bilateral ties, the new paradigm on the peace negotiations in Mindanao, and the long-standing push for the Veterans’ Bill that would benefit Filipino war veterans who fought side by side with American troops during World War II.

“These accomplishments are the highlights of President Arroyo’s trip in the US. They should not be discounted at all,” she said.

Malacañang, for its part said even though Mrs. Arroyo failed to meet with Obama she was able to talk to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the sidelines of the National Breakfast Prayer in Washington.

According to deputy presidential spokesman Lorelei Fajardo, who went with the President in Washington, Mrs. Arroyo and Clinton agreed to strengthen the bilateral relations of the Philippines and the US under the new administration of Obama. Charlie V. Manalo and Riza Recio

During their meeting Fajardo said Mrs. Arroyo extended an invitation to Clinton to visit the Philippines and the US official responded by saying she may take a sidetrip to the country if her schedule permits during her scheduled first Asian tour this year.

Clinton is set to go on a series of trips to Asian countries such as China, Malaysia and Indonesia.

In Washington, Mrs. Arroyo also met with Admiral Dennis Blair, Pacific Command commander, and discussed with him intelligence matters that concern both the US and Philippines.

Mrs. Arroyo made the US side trip after attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last Jan. 31 and coming from visiting the Filipino communities in Milan, Italy, in Saudi Arabia and in Bahrain.

Mrs. Arroyo and her delegation is expected to arrive back in Manila today.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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