, 2009 (STAR) By Jess Diaz - President Arroyo signed 16 Congress-approved bills into law while in the air, literally, flying home from her latest visit to the United States early last month.

She must have asked Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita to take out printed copies of the bills from a bag of documents while enjoying her meal on the plane.

A letter-transmittal sent to the House of Representatives last week by Joaquin Lagonera, senior deputy executive secretary and acting head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, showed that Mrs. Arroyo affixed her signature on the bills on Aug. 4.

She must have been on the plane to Manila that day. She arrived before 4 o’clock in the morning of Aug. 5. From the airport, she and some of her companions proceeded to the Manila Cathedral to condole with the family of the late President Corazon Aquino.

In returning home, Mrs. Arroyo and her large entourage originated from New York City, where they took a chartered flight to San Francisco, California, then on to Manila on board Philippine Airlines.

Due to the time difference between New York and Manila, the presidential party must have left the Big Apple on Aug. 3 and arrived home two days later.

The President’s US visit became controversial due to at least two expensive dinners she and her entourage enjoyed in New York and Washington.

The trouble with the laws she signed is that they do not affect large numbers of Filipinos. They are what congressmen call local bills. They actually serve the authors’ political purposes.

One of the 16 laws, Republic Act 9683 declares Sept. 18 of every year a special non-working holiday in the city of Bislig, Surigao del Sur.

Another, Republic Act 9684, renames the Tumana Bridge in Marikina City as Gil Fernando Bridge.

The third, Republic Act 9685, renames the New Washington Road in Aklan as Jaime Cardinal Sin Avenue.

The fourth names a portion of a road in Camarines Sur as Gov. Felix Alfelor Sr. National Highway.

Eleven of the laws seek to establish new or split existing engineering districts in Ifugao, Sorsogon, Cagayan de Oro City, Sultan Kudarat, Misamis Occidental, Albay, Cebu, Zamboanga Sibugay, Malabon and Navotas, Nueva Vizcaya, and Tarlac.

Funds are required for the establishment or splitting of these engineering districts. Thus, the titles of the laws include the phrase, “and appropriating funds therefore.”

Over the past two months, Mrs. Arroyo has signed several other local bills requiring the appropriation of taxpayers’ money. Some call for the establishment of hospitals and high schools.

Interviewed by The STAR last Wednesday, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said there are no funds in the proposed P1.5-trillion 2010 budget for these laws.

“It is Congress that will appropriate the necessary funds. But if they provide funds, they have to take away money from agencies since they cannot increase the President’s budget proposal,” he said.

Most likely, Andaya said the new statutes requiring appropriations would be added to the innumerable list of “unfunded laws.”

“It will require hundreds of billions of pesos to fund these laws, which we cannot afford to do,” he added.

GMA: Libya visit significant By Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) Updated September 01, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - President Arroyo’s visit to Libya may seem insignificant to most people, but she said her latest trip to this African nation would have far reaching benefits to the country.

The President, who left for Tripoli, Libya at around midnight yesterday, said her visit would promote the welfare of Filipino seafarers as well as the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Mrs. Arroyo and her “lean” delegation proceeded to Tripoli upon the invitation of Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi to attend the 40th anniversary of the Great Al Fateh Revolution.

The President will also attend the African Union’s Special Summit on the Settlement of Conflicts in Africa.

In her departure statement, the President said the summit aims to find ways to address peace and security issues affecting the African continent.

“Africa is increasingly important to the Philippines. The peace and stability of Africa directly impact on our energy security, but more importantly, on the safety and welfare of many of our overseas Filipinos, including our seafarers,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

Filipino seafarers, who make up a significant portion of the crew of most ships going through the Gulf of Aden in Somalia, have fallen victim to pirates that prey on vessels going through those waters.

While the incidents of piracy have fallen during the past few months, the President noted that this would most likely be revived and as such should be addressed immediately.

“The East African monsoon is almost over and we can expect a surge in pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia. Though many have been freed, over 200 Filipino seamen have suffered at the hands of pirates,” she said.

“We are vigorously working to protect our seafarers and this is an issue where Africa’s collective efforts to bring stability and order to the affected areas will be crucial,” the President added.

The summit was held yesterday and today the President will join “a select group of global leaders” to attend the ceremonies for the 40th anniversary of the Libyan Revolution.

Mrs. Arroyo noted that Libya has achieved a lot and has transformed into a nation that engages various countries across the globe, including the Philippines.

Diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Libya started in 1976 and the President noted that “we have stood with the Libyan people and they have stood by us.”

“In the 40 years since Libya’s Great Al Fateh Revolution, much has happened to transform Libya into the nation it is today; a nation eager to engage all others, a nation that has set aside its differences with others to bring greater harmony to global relations,” the President said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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