(STAR) By Marvin Sy - A magnitude 6.1 earthquake left President Arroyo speechless before teachers and students of the Florencio L. Vargas College in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan yesterday.

Midway through her speech on the North Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle (NLQA) super region, Mrs. Arroyo stopped when she felt the ground move.

“Oops, there’s an earthquake,” the President said in the middle of enumerating the accomplishments in the NLQA, of which Cagayan is a part.

The entire gymnasium fell silent for around five seconds and then they all gasped, including the President who let out a “wow,” at the strength of the earthquake.

“Let’s pray that it will not be anything like Chile or Haiti,” the President urged the audience, before continuing her speech.

Chile was hit by a magnitude 8.8 earthquake last Saturday, resulting in the deaths of over 700 people. Haiti, on the other hand, was struck by a 7.0 tremor where more than 200,000 people died.

President Arroyo was on the second leg of her NLQA super region tour yesterday, after visiting Baguio City and Nueva Ecija the day before.

The earthquake did not keep the President from going to her other appointments in Isabela, which focused on the effects of El Niño on crops and agriculture.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvolcs) said the tremor’s epicenter was traced at 130 kilometers northeast of Tuguegarao.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries, Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said.

He said that for the past two days, earthquakes of strong magnitude have been felt in some parts of the country but these have not caused any damage or casualties.

He said yesterday’s quake, which struck at 10:51 a.m., was felt at Intensity 5 in Aparri and Sta. Ana, Cagayan; Intensity 4 in Vigan, Ilocos Sur; and Intensity 3 in Tuguegarao City and Peñablanca, Cagayan; Batac, Laoag and Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte; and Palanan, Isabela.

Intensity 2 was felt in Santa, Ilocos Sur; Delfin Albano, Isabela and Intensity 1 in Metro Manila.

Solidum also clarified that the tremor was not related to the Chile earthquake.

The Philippines lies on the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire” where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions frequently occur. - With Charlie Lagasca


GMA to hold Cabinet meet in Sulu; she ain’t kidding BY JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR

PRESIDENT Arroyo yesterday announced that the next Cabinet meeting on Tuesday will be in Sulu to be followed by a press conference where she will present the new Cabinet appointees led by interim Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza.

"I’ll probably have a presscon with all my new appointees…Maybe in Sulu so that you will go," she teased reporters after the awarding ceremony in Malacañang of the Metrobank Foundation’s Search for The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers.

The Office of the President and the Office of the Press Secretary have yet to make the plans for the Cabinet meeting.

Mendoza replaced Eduardo Ermita who is running for congressman in Batangas.

Arroyo also appointed Solicitor General Alberto Agra as interim justice secretary vice Agnes Devanadera who is running for congresswoman in Quezon.

The other appointees were Agriculture Undersecretary Bernardo Fondevilla as interim secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) head Ma. Elena Bautista as new director general of the Presidential Management Staff, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) deputy director general Rogelio Pijuan as new Tesda chief.

They replaced Arthur Yap of DA, Hermogenes Esperon Jr. of PMS and Augusto Syjuco of Tesda who are seeking congressional seats in Bohol, Pangasinan and Iloilo.

Joaquin Lagonera, senior deputy executive secretary and head of the presidential legislative liaison office, replaced Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. who is running for congressman in Camarines Sur.

Deputy executive secretary Natividad Dizon is the new chief presidential legal counsel vice Raul Gonzalez who is seeking the mayoralty in Iloilo City.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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