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PIA Press Release

PGMA cites role of prov'l governors in promoting RP's economic growth

PILI, Camarines Sur (14 February) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has expressed her recognition of the role of the provincial governors in the economic progress and unification of the country.

"Thank you for your support. Thank you for working together with me toward a First World Philippines in 20 years," the President said in her keynote speech at the 2nd General Assembly of the League of Provinces (LPP) at the Villa del Rey in this town Wednesday.

"I want to spend more time with you more often. We need the local government officials because there are many things that we need to do not only in terms of economic development but also in terms of political stability," she said.

Citing the progress in the government's pro-poor and anti-hunger program, the President said "the rate of poverty is down, employment is up, while education and health care services to the poor are vastly improved."

"We have a long way to go, but only through a strong economy can we improve the plight of the poor together. To that end, together we have turned the corner on our economy. This allows us to invest together in job creation, better healthcare and more educational opportunities. These are the keys to lifting up the poor," she stressed.

"Let us stay united and continue to work together for a Philippines that will be ready to be in the First World in 20 years. Congratulations for the biggest governors assembly ever," the President added.

She beamed that the economy has reached a new level of stability with some of the strongest macroeconomic fundamentals in three decades.

"Together we have aimed high. We have met the challenge. Seven years ago, no one thought we could get more revenues, cut down on tax cheats, strengthen the peso and move the stock market. No one thought we could bring our budget close to balance, lower our national debt and raise employment. But we have," she said.

The President said that the 2007 national government deficit was P9.4 billion, much lower than the deficit target ceiling of P63 billion. Total revenues amounted to P1.13 trillion, or P15.9 billion more than target, while interest payments declined 14 percent, allowing P36.5 billion in savings.

"We could have had a surplus or balanced budget if we wanted but we decided to take the opportunity of our good fiscal position to provide for higher spending especially for infrastructure to sustain a high growth in 2008. Funds were disbursed to government-owned and controlled corporations and government financial institutions for pump-priming activities and to allow additional contributions from them in 2008, including dividends back to the national government," she said.

The President also informed the governors that she has ordered a surge in infrastructure spending this year as "a firewall against the economic slowdown in the United States and as a springboard for further growth."

She noted that the "global economic situation is clearly a key issue for us. The more interconnected the world becomes, the more we need to manage the ups and downs of other nations' economic bubbles. This is certainly true with any further volatility in the US economy. The good news for the Philippines is that we have matured and diversified our economy so much the last few years that we are confident our economic turnaround is permanent and our economy resilient to major economic disruptions."

"We can afford to and should spend more for infrastructure - hopefully, P200 billion between the national government, the government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), and you, the local governments," she said.

"We aim to make our economic reforms permanent so that our nation is on a sustained path of economic growth and stability. We have turned the economy around and for the first time in a generation, we are investing hundreds of billions of pesos in human and physical infrastructure. Roads, bridges and airports as well as new schoolbuildings and scholarships and environmental protection are the central building blocks that are necessary for the long term prospects of our citizens," she added.

In her speech, the Chief Executive also noted that Moody's Investors Service upgraded the Philippines to positive last month for very good reasons.

"We have the fastest growth in a generation -- 7.3% for 2007. And we have a surge in foreign reserves twice as much and it is getting strong at a time our budget is almost in balance. And these foreign reserves come also because of our aggressive foreign policy which is essential to the lifeblood of the Philippines," she said.

"Nowhere is it more important than protecting and advancing the interests of our overseas workers. That is why we include a governors' representative in my trips abroad," she added. (OPS) [top]

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