June 23, 2004  (STAR) INSIDE CEBU By Bobit S. Avila  -  I met the glowing and beaming President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) as she entered the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral where she was the principal sponsor in the 50th golden wedding anniversary of outgoing Cebu Gov. Pablo Garcia. Later in the evening, she spoke before the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (CCCII) Grand Chamber Awards night at the Waterfront Hotel, thanking the Cebuanos for giving her a rightful six-year term in Malacañang.

An extremely grateful President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo expressed her thanks to the Cebu business leaders not once, but four times. Indeed, Cebu has always played the role of the opposition to any incumbent President since the Americans gave us independence on July 4, 1946, and this is the first time ever that Cebu sided with an incumbent President. Since we are among the "thousand fathers" who ensured GMA’s victory, Cebu is now getting the bulk of the presidential largesse.

During her last meeting with the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, she told us that she would be transferring the headquarters of the Department of Tourism to Cebu and again, this was confirmed to me no less than by delighted Tourism Secretary Roberto "Obet" Pagdanganan, who said the site of the tourism headquarters will be Kawit Island... or what’s left of Kawit. Yes, Kawit Island is now the 300-hectare South Reclamation.

The President also announced that finally the Port of Cebu is International Ship & Port Security Code (ISPS) compliant, to which the Cebu businessmen responded with a resounding applause. Then the President pulled a surprise when she announced that the Korean Power Corp. (Kepco) was going to set up a 200-megawatt power plant right here in Cebu with an investment of $200 million, which to my mind is the first biggest power plant investment under her new administration. Of course, this news doesn’t necessarily mean cheap electricity, but constant and available power which Cebu needs. That means goodbye to brownouts, which we have been suffering.

Finally, the grateful Ate Glo came up with another startling news — that she would build a "Malacañang of the South." While the idea is not exactly novel — after all, there was a "Malacañang Ti Amianan" in Ilocos Norte during the Marcos years — but then if I recall, the Malacanãng of the North was something of a vacation home for the Marcoses when they visited their hometown in Ilocos Norte. In Tacloban, Leyte, Imelda had the "Sto. Niño Shrine" which also doubled as the Malacañang of the South.

Knowing what a workaholic Ate Glo is, I would like to believe that having a Malacañang of the South would make Cebu a major government center and increase the number of domestic travelers to Cebu, especially government functionaries who need the attention of the President. This is good news for the people in the Visayas and Mindanao because trips to Manila have become prohibitive, while trips to Cebu aren’t that expensive.

If you want to know, there’s a strategic side to having a Malacañang of the South. If and when there’s trouble in the nation’s capital and in a worse-case scenario, anarchists or coup plotters take over Malacañang, there is always another official residence for the President to use, thus keeping the Republic intact and able to fight back those that seek to destroy our democracy.

So Cebu gets things that other provinces could only dream of. Now should we gloat and bask in our glory as one of the thousand fathers recognized throughout the country as having given the President her victory? That the President spoke proudly about the political maturity of the Cebuano is something many of us are proud of. But don’t you think we do have a great opportunity to achieve more than what we are getting?

Sure, we’re getting a lot of infrastructure benefits and yes, Cebu will experience more tourist arrivals and people from the South will be dropping by. But what can Cebu really show to be a good example to other Filipinos? We should now demand from all Cebuanos to clean up their neighborhoods of all the filth and garbage lying around instead of waiting for the garbage collectors to pass by and pick them up. What about traffic discipline? Well, I just hope that Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. president Robert Go makes good his pledge to ask the President to prioritize the Metro Cebu Traffic Authority (MCTA) which when implemented would certainly instill discipline among our very undisciplined motorists.

Finally, what of our current system of governance? That President Arroyo must govern and come up with a lean and mean government means she would have to do a balancing act while making sure that the results of her reforms won’t result in another military coup. Again, let me make my point that the Philippines was akin to a brand new bus in 1946 with just a few passengers on board and we were then second only to Japan. Fifty-eight years later, we’ve become the laughingstock in Southeast Asia and our economy is at the bottom of the pit.

This is why we must federalize. President Arroyo should give the Filipino people a true and lasting legacy by promoting a better system of governance where federated states would have genuine and fiscal autonomy, not the imagined autonomy under the present Local Government Code.

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Remember the articles we wrote about debt-ridden Negros Navigation Corp.? Well, the latest we read about this company was that its parent company, Metro Pacific Corp. (MPC), would no longer infuse funds to bail out Nenaco which has an outstanding P2.5-billion debt. Wait! Isn’t this the same parent company that agreed to bail out the similarly debt-ridden Pilipino Telephone Co. (Piltel)? Since there’s no new cash coming into Nenaco, the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) should no longer allow this debt-ridden company to operate because it only reversed its decision in suspending Nenaco when the shipping company showed its schedule of financial capability proving it had cash. But now, things have changed... there’s no more money for this sinking ship!

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For e-mail responses to this article, write to Bobit Avila’s columns can also be accessed through He also hosts a weekly talk show, "Straight from the Sky," shown every Monday, at 8 p.m., only in Metro Cebu on Channel 15 of SkyCable.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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