Mindanao’s town mayors back GMA on NBN-ZTE controversy

Mayor Ramon Abalos, of Lambayong in Sultan Kudarat and president of LMP’s Mindanao cluster, said their over 400 members have signed a manifesto supporting the President. It was presented to Ms Arroyo after her keynote speech at the conference held at the Grand Regal Hotel here today.

Abalos pointed out that the manifesto was crafted following a series of consultations among mayors in various towns in Mindanao.
The LMP president described the President as a good and workaholic president who deserves to have his group’s support so she can continue the projects and programs for the development of Mindanao.
“Mindanao has a bright future under President Arroyo’s leadership and what we wanted is more development, especially in the depressed municipalities,” Abalos told reporters on the eve of the conference’s opening.
Abalos said the NBN-ZTE deal that concerned the present administration, whether is true or merely fabricated, must go through constitutional process and should directly be addressed in the proper forum.
But for Abalos, removing the President from her post is not the solution in resolving the NBN-ZTE multimillion-dollar controversy.
The call to oust the President, he stressed, could hamper the various programs and projects being implemented in different areas in Mindanao. “We cannot afford to delay the implementations of programs in our areas,” Abalos added.
He cited the success of implementations of Mindanao Rural Development Program (MRDP), Support to Agrarian Reform in Central Mindanao (STAR-CM) and Agrarian Reform Communities (ARC) that benefited and transformed the lives of constituents in Mindanao.
Abalos said some P200 million was poured in these programs that are now starting to give benefits to Mindanawons.
For Abalos, a solid support by the Mindanawon mayors for President Arroyo would bolster economic growth in the island.

In her speech, the President thanked the mayors for their support and announced that she has already ordered the increase of the internal revenue allotment to local governments to P210 billion, supposedly 17-percent higher than the previous allocation. She said she has earlier directed Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya to release the national government's arrears on the IRA.

Ms Arroyo clarified that the raise in IRA was due to the increased collection among the localities. "Because we have a bigger value added collection, we have also increased your allocation to P210 billion," she added.

The President said, too, that Malacañang has worked out a system that would ensure an automatic approval and release of the IRA.

She advised the mayors to directly allocate 20 percent of their respective municipalities’ allocation to develop their areas.

"I appeal to the local governments to comply with your promise to assure a lasting peace in Mindanao and I urge all localities, the towns and provinces, to lead the effort in economic development in your areas," the President said. (With reports)