[PHOTO AT LEFT - President Arroyo enjoys a mocha-flavored iced coffee served to her by students of the Honorio MC Lopez Institute in Tondo, Manila yesterday. | DAVAO CITY , Philippines]

DAVAO, FEBRUARY 7, 2010 (STAR) By Edith Regalado - President Arroyo has vowed to turn over to the next administration a new Philippines that is more prepared to meet the challenges of the future.

“I am determined to turn over to a new government a new Philippines ready for the challenge of bringing the nation to the verge of the First World in 20 years,” said Mrs. Arroyo, who arrived here Wednesday night on a four-city swing to promote the Cyber Corridor program.

She visited the cities of Iloilo, Bacolod and Cebu earlier in the day before arriving in Davao City at around 7 p.m.

The President also met with military commanders at the Task Force Davao headquarters and with Pastor Apollo Quiboloy of the Jesus Christ The Name Above Every Name congregation before flying back to Manila at 10:30 p.m.

She said the more than 500,000 jobs generated in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector would be part of her legacy when she steps down on June 30.

“I’d like to (point out) how we have worked hard for a strong and stable economy, renewed global engagement, major investments in health care and education and dramatic improvement in human and physical infrastructure,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

She cited efforts to make the country the top BPO center of the world, from just 2,000 workers in 2001 to the current 500,000 employed by various ICT centers nationwide.

“From $24 million in 2001, our BPO (business process outsourcing) industry has grown to earn $7.3 billion in 2009, not far behind India’s $9 billion,” she said.

The President said her administration invested in strategic digital infrastructure, formulated the appropriate policy, created the legal environment, and developed human capital to develop the local BPO industry.

She also encouraged the establishment of broadband services in cities and identified growth areas, created the Commission on ICT that is guided by the market with minimal government interference, and also invested in technical education and skills development by providing schools with computers and Internet connection.

“We invested in technical, vocational, and skills training three times more than that of three previous administrations combined. A very large portion of this investment went to scholarships for call center training,” she said.

The President said the government has laid down the groundwork that would pave the way for more foreign investments in the country.

She cited Davao as part of the Cyber Corridor, along with nine other cities dubbed as “new wave cities.”

“Davao has the largest talent pool in the country. Davao also has the youngest pool of BPO workers, which is a big come-on among investors,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said the President’s tour of the Cyber Corridor was successful in getting her message across that the information and communication technology sector, led by the BPO industry, is booming.

“We believe we’re succeeding in getting the message across, starting with the Cyber Corridor tour. How do we measure it? I’m not aware that we’re commissioning any survey to measure the impact,” Olivar said, adding that surveys don’t mean much to the Palace anyway since the President and her administration have not fared well in surveys.

Arroyo has suffered from poor satisfaction and performance ratings in surveys in spite of efforts to present her accomplishments since she took over the presidency in 2001.

In the Cyber Corridor tour, which started in Pampanga, the President repeatedly stated that the BPO sector started from scratch.

“The 500,000 jobs created in ICT, with 446,000 in the BPO industry, are the digital portion of the overall legacy the President will leave behind,” Olivar said.

Olivar believes this will not be reflected in the surveys on the President and her administration.

He expressed hope that Mrs. Arroyo would be appreciated more when she is no longer President, when the public starts to see what she accomplished during her administration.

GMA allies hit disqualification case

Administration supporters Reps. Danilo Suarez of Quezon and Rodolfo Albano III of Isabela predicted the dismissal of the disqualification case filed in the Supreme Court (SC) by a party-list representative against Mrs. Arroyo’s candidacy for a congressional seat in the second district of Pampanga.

Suarez said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) had earlier junked the disqualification case filed by party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros of Akbayan, saying it lacked a legal and factual basis.

“It (petition) was thrown out by the Comelec for lack of basis. There is nothing new in the petition filed before the SC, hence it’s doubtful it will pass the SC’s scrutiny,” said Suarez, chairman of the House committee on oversight.

Albano said Mrs. Arroyo should not be faulted or criticized for the infrastructure projects she has provided to her district in Pampanga.

“It’s her responsibility not only to the people of Pampanga but also to all Filipinos to serve and help them as chief executive of our country. There are many districts in the country that have been earmarked for more appropriations for vital infrastructure projects,” he said.

Hontiveros said in a statement that Mrs. Arroyo’s candidacy in Pampanga offends “the time-honored principle of fair play in our democracy and assails the spirit and text of our Constitution.”

“A local candidate is only allowed to spend P1.50 per voter, while GMA spent P459 million in infrastructure projects in her district last year alone,” she said.

“A congressional candidate cannot have campaign posters bigger than two feet by three feet, but GMA can produce - using government funds - tarpaulins that are half as wide as Commonwealth Avenue (in Quezon City),” she added.

Three presidential candidates took turns yesterday in assailing the Arroyo administration for corruption, private armies and the deteriorating quality of the country’s education.

In the “Pinoy Media Congress” organized by ABS-CBN and the Philippine Association of Communication Educators at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in Sta. Mesa, Manila, Sen. Richard Gordon, spiritual leader Bro. Eddie Villanueva and environmentalist Nick Perlas vowed not to commit the mistakes of Mrs. Arroyo during her nine years in Malacañang.

Gordon said a government that pardons a president who committed corruption loses its effectiveness and integrity to fight graft.

Gordon was apparently referring to former President Joseph Estrada who was convicted of plunder but pardoned by Mrs. Arroyo even before he was able to serve his sentence.

With the corruption besetting the country, he said investors are driven away. Because of this, the delivery of basic services like education suffers.

Villanueva said the government has neglected education as evidenced by the minimal budget allocated for state universities like the PUP from where he graduated.

Villanueva said that when he becomes president, he would put up “state-of-the-art colleges with a modern library in every province.”

Perlas said many Filipinos are poor because of corrupt government officials.

“Corruption cannot be a norm in this country, this should not be allowed,” Perlas said. - With Delon Porcalla, Marvin Sy and Sheila Crisostomo

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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