GMA pays tribute to North Luzon bishops
DUPAX DEL NORTE, Nueva Vizcaya–President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Monday finally got her chance to personally thank her closest allies from the Catholic church in Northern Luzon who have stood by her side amid the recent political storm that has hit her administration.
Speaking at the thanksgiving mass during the 69th birthday celebration of Bishop Ramon Villena of the Catholic diocese here, the President thanked three other Catholic prelates for their roles in maintaining peace and political stability in the country.
The President was here Monday to join Villena in the conduct of a medical mission and giving away of goods to tribal peoples here in upland Belance village here.
Aside from Villena, three other north Luzon bishops–Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan and Auxiliary Bishop Ricardo Baccay, both of the diocese of Cagayan, and Bishop Rodolfo Beltran of Mt. Province and Ifugao–for being “beacons of stability” amidst the country’s latest political crisis.
“The country has listened to the calls of our bishops, as well as of many other religious leaders for a peaceful and constitutional ways of resolving the political issues, to stop excessive politicking and to jointly address the important problem of poverty,” she said in the Iloco dialect.
Talamayan, Villena and Beltran were among the first bishops in the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to issue a statement calling for “communal action for deep reflection, discernment, sobriety and for the way of peace” at the height of another political crisis triggered by the ZTE controversy.
“I thank you for helping the people to unite, and let them start a new chapter of transformation and renewal. I believe that the country can achieve strength by addressing the long-standing problems which have caused the nation difficulties and instability,” she told the bishops.
As a way of thanksgiving, the President promised to further improve Nueva Vizcaya and the whole of Cagayan Valley, as a primary rice- and vegetable-producing region.
She reserved her highest praises for the celebrant Villena: “Not only is he a beacon of stability, but also a champion for the life of our people especially the poor. This is why he chose to celebrate his birthday here in Belance.”
She highlighted the significance of the region’s agriculture production by quoting the latest report from the National Food Authority that Cagayan Valley posted a “remarkable increase” in rice production in the first quarter of 2008.
In 2007, the world’s production of rice has gone down because of climate change, Arroyo said. Cagayan Valley produced 2.8 million metric tons of rice last year, 800 million tons in the first quarter.
“But in the first quarter of 2008 alone, rice production has reached 1.7 million metric tons already,” she said.
“Thank you very much for your contribution to the rest of the Philippines because 70 percent of your production was exported to the rest of the country. This proves that the people of Cagayan Valley have a very important contribution to the Philippine economy,” the President told a crowd gathered at the Saint Joseph the Worker church here.
She promised to further boost the potentials of Belance, touted as the province’s vegetable basket, through a noodle-making project she has launched using vegetables as raw material.
“We hope that we can tap the help of our farmers, and this would also be helpful for them because wheat is becoming expensive. Vegetables are less costly, and even more nutritious than meat noodles,” she said.