PMS head defends PGMA foreign trips
By Danny O Sagun
Dagupan City (24 June) -- The foreign travels of President Macapagal-Arroyo reap dividends for the country, the head of the Presidential Management Staff told a media forum Wednesday.
At the Enkwentro sa Lenox forum, Secretary Hermogenes Esperon, Jr stressed that the President does not travel abroad for nothing. He said that the foreign trips usually secure investments, trade agreements and other benefits that will give long-term benefits for the country especially on job generation.
He noted that the trips secure not only loans but also cement the good relations between the Philippines and the countries visited like the President's recent trip to Japan where loans and grant agreements were signed after the bilateral meeting between President Arroyo and Japan Prime Minister Taro Aso.
Two Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan agreements were signed: the Y14.6-billion (P7.7-billion) Agricultural Credit Support Project and the Y30.38-billion (P16.16-billion) Logistics Infrastructure Development Project under the 27th Yen Loan Package. The two ODA loans are up for implementation from 2009 to 2014 with maturity of 30 years inclusive of a 10-year grace period and interest rate of 1.4 percent per annum.
Esperon said that travels have purpose citing his own trip from Manila to Dagupan to attend the media forum. "Natural may gastos tulad ng pagpunta ko rito, but do you think na it is just a waste of time or money? I don't think so," he said. "They had better think about their own travels," he said addressing those who chide the President allegedly for spending people's money for what they call unnecessary foreign trips.
He said he knows how difficult really to prepare foreign trips having been a Presidential Security Group deputy commander during the time of former President Fidel V. Ramos and later as PSG commander during the Arroyo administration. "It is a back-breaking job," he said, adding that traveling abroad for hours is not that easy. "Satin lang na magbiyahe ng three hours papunta rito e mahirap na di lalo yong ilang oras na biyahe."
Esperon also told the weekly forum that the insurgency and separatist problems can be solved thru negotiations, peace talks and consultations for all concerned groups.
The PMS chief also gave updates on the ongoing big projects under the North Luzon Growth Area like the P4.5-billion re-regulating pond for the irrigation project component of the San Roque Multi-Purpose dam in San Manuel, the P4.2-billion Agno River flood control project under Phase 2, the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union expressway and other proposed projects like the regional airport in Pangasinan.
Esperon, who is said to be having a moist eye on the sixth congressional district, is the Cabinet Officer for Regional Development (COORD) for eastern Pangasinan and chair of the Pro-Performance Team that monitors mega projects in the entire country. (PIA Pangasinan) [top]