MANILA , MAY 29, 2010
(STAR) By Paolo Romero and Marvin Sy - President Arroyo is proposing to her successor, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, that they hold a joint meeting of members of the outgoing and incoming Cabinets to ensure a smooth transition and promote “healing and unity,” an official said yesterday.

Outgoing Social Welfare Secretary Celia Capadocia-Yangco said Mrs. Arroyo has readily agreed to the suggestion of the newly created Presidential Transition Coordination Team (PTCT) for her to hold a joint meeting with Aquino and incoming Cabinet officials.

“We don’t know whether this would prosper because it would depend on how the incoming administration will welcome this,” Yangco told a briefing at the Palace.

She said the advantage of holding such a meeting is that “there would be a very good transition and establishing rapport and a relation between the outgoing and the incoming so that in case there would be further questions, we know who are responsible.”

“It will really promote unity and the sense of healing and togetherness,” Yangco said.

Yangco, a 40-year career official at the Department of Social Welfare and Development, said she would go back to being an undersecretary once her successor – Corazon “Dinky” Soliman – returns to her old post as head of the agency.

She stressed that at the DSWD, there is only one co-terminus post that would be vacated once Mrs. Arroyo steps down on June 30, as the rest of the positions are filled by career officials.

“We don’t have to be partisan just because we come from different administrations. I’m talking from the perspective of career officials. There may be some changes because there is a new management but the basic programs are there,” Yangco said.

“So the joint Cabinet is also a very good demonstration to the people that leadership is a healing and uniting leadership and therefore our differences in the past must be set aside and let’s focus on what we should do, which is attending to the needs of the people,” she said.

Among the scenarios being envisioned in the joint meeting is Mrs. Arroyo presenting a report and suggesting what programs the Aquino administration could build upon, she said.

The President announced the creation of the transition team a day after the May 10 elections. It is chaired by Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza and co-chaired by Presidential Management Staff chief Elena Bautista-Horn.

Meanwhile, the old and dilapidated presidential residence on Arlegui Street in Malacañang is being repaired, apparently for the possibility that Aquino would reside there once he assumes office.

Bautista-Horn confirmed that renovations are ongoing at the residence but did not say what it was for.

The building served as the residence of Aquino’s mother, the late President Corazon Aquino.

Economic growth

In another development, President Arroyo said she has always been proud of what she has done for the Philippine economy and now that she is about to turn over the government to the next administration, all she could ask for is that her successor build on her economic policies.

In an interview at the sidelines of the International Negotiators Conference on the Mindanao Peace Process in Makati City yesterday, the President said it would be the responsibility of the next administration to sustain the growth of the economy, recorded at 7.3 percent during the first quarter of this year.

“We have to sustain the economic policies that we have done and build on them,” she said. “That will already be the responsibility of the next administration.”

The President has repeatedly boasted that her administration was able to achieve 38 consecutive quarters of growth even during the global financial crisis when several nations went into recession.

She said one of the keys to sustaining economic growth is to generate more revenues, specifically with the introduction of new tax measures.

“That’s very important to make sure we have revenues… to be able to sustain that (growth),” Mrs. Arroyo said.

Aquino declared in his campaign that he would not introduce new taxes and just focus on improving tax collection efficiency and eliminating smuggling to generate the necessary revenues.

His statement has drawn varied reactions from different sectors, including criticisms from analysts and economic managers who stressed the need to impose additional taxes to generate more revenue for the government.

In her previous statements, Mrs. Arroyo said she made the tough and unpopular decision of raising the value added tax rate a few years back from 10 percent to 12 percent because it had to be done.

She added that she sacrificed her popularity with that decision, but with an estimated P80 billion in new revenues generated from that single tax measure, “it was worth the sacrifice.”

Finance Secretary Margarito Teves has also pushed for new revenue enhancement measures, including another increase in the VAT rate to 15 percent to finance various expenditures of the government and bring down the budget deficit further.

Teves suggested that the next administration try its plan to generate the target revenues through tax administration efficiency and by curbing smuggling in its first six months.

If ever the targets are not met, Teves said they could try a combination of new revenue enhancement measures and explain to the people that this is needed and would be used in a very transparent manner.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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