Local Critics Worried by GMA’s Dev’t Plan for Central RP

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s critics in Negros Occidental have a different view of her development plan for Central Philippines, with most saying it will only worsen the “already acute exploitation and oppression of the people” and the “plunder” of the region’s rich resources.

Vol. VII, No. 23, July 15-21, 2007

President GMA addressing the officials from all over Central Philippines at the Bacolod-Silay airport (left; PIA photo); Bayan, LFS and Karapatan protesters (right) picketing front gate La Salle University where GMA was a guest of honor in the launching Friday of “Go Negosyo” and “E-Jeep” were dispersed by a hundred crowd dispersal forces of PNP (CIRMS photo)

SILAY City, Negros Occidental – “Sustained development” up to 2010, and one that will make the cluster islands in Central Philippines a “haven for business and tourists.”

This was the core development plan bared by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo before some Cabinet officials, governors of Central Philippines provinces, and Negros Occidental local officials, at the newly-constructed Bacolod-Silay airport during her recent airport site inspection here last July 13.

The development plan, Arroyo stressed, is a combination of construction of roads, bridges and airports, strengthening of “nautical highways,” and energy reliability and environmental protection. It will mobilize billions from the central government and foreign funding institutions, the President also said.

Blueprint of development

Roads and bridges infrastructures. Arroyo said that she plans to complete existing road and bridge construction in Palawan, Panay island, Iloilo, Guimaras and Negros island by 2009 to pave the way for the rapid entry and expanding investments and tourism. “55 percent of the tourists who entered the Philippines go to the Central Philippines, with Boracay now as one of the world’s top tourist destinations and Cebu as top destination for foreign tourists; I have readied the same plan for the rest of Central Philippines including Palawan and the Bicol peninsula,” she said.

Central nautical highway. Arroyo said that the linking of the clusters of islands in Central Philippines through modern ports and RORO (roll-on, roll-off) boats is important in expanding access to anywhere in the region, but also facilitate the efficient and steady transportation of goods locally produced.

For this, Arroyo said, the government will complete the linking of Cebu, Bohol, Leyte, Camiguin to Mindanao in the south, and the construction of modern Bogo port in northern Cebu to link it to Naval port in Biliran, Leyte and Esperanza port in Masbate, to Claveria in Burias island, and finally to the Bicol peninsula.

Airports. The construction of more airports and airstrips is another component in the development of Central Philippines.

Arroyo said the Iloilo International Airport in Sta. Barbara was just opened recently, while Kalibo has began the improvement of its existing airport and the construction this year of an P80-million ($1.75 million based on a $1:P45.75 exchange rate as of July 13) terminal building to achieve international standards. This, Arroyo said, would facilitate the influx of tourists to Boracay and neighboring destinations in Antique.

The newly-constructed Bacolod-Silay airport, which was built according to international standards, in Silay City will be operational in November. Also in Negros, the upgrading of the Dumaguete airport runway to attract more tourists and businesses – particularly the electronic companies who look up to the sufficient and stable power supply from the Palinpinon geothermal power plant – will be completed in April 2008. Kabankalan airport will also begin operations in October this year and will serve as gateway to the beaches of Sipalay and Hinobaan in the southernmost part of Negros.

Other projects being started are the Calicoan Airport in Eastern Samar, due for completion this year; San Vicente airstrip in Palawan and airport in Surigao, to be completed December this year; upgrading of Tacloban airport, to be completed in January 2008; Puerto Princesa airport terminal due in February 2008; completion of land acquisition in December 2007 for the Panglao international airport in Bohol; and construction of international airport in Daraga, Albay in 2008 to serve the whole Bicol peninsula.

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