GMA gives P2-B aid to Masbate poor folk

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday braved the communist-infested Placer town in Masbate as she bared of total of more than P2 billion in aid for the poor drawn from the proceeds of the expanded value added tax (EVAT) on oil.

The President made the announcement hours after suspected New People’s Army rebels ambushed a platoon of Army soldiers, about 3 kilometers away from the venue for the joint Cabinet meeting held at Masbate.

The President revealed of her multi billion worth aid for the opening at her opening statement at the start of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) Cabinet level meeting held at Placer of the same province, which is reputed for its farming and fishing grounds.

It was a historic visit, the first ever to be made by the President of the Philippines.

The President said the assistance included P1 billion power subsidy, Pl billion in loan fund for wives of public transport drivers and conductors and P500 million for the upgrading of hospitals and funding for calamity stricken provinces including the Panay Group of Islands.

The President said the funding would come from the windfall collection on VAT on oil for the second quarter, meaning April to June.

Budget chief Rolando Andaya estimated about P4 billion to be collected in excess revenues from VAT on oil in the second quarter.

The P2 billion poverty fund, the President said, is on top of the P4 billion earlier released in the first quarter for a total of over P6 billion, Andaya said.

But even before the President could reveal of the more than P2 billion aid for the poor, NPA rebels ambushed at about 7:45 a.m. Tuesday, July 15, Army platoon soldiers aboard a passenger van in Bagacay, Mobon town, about 90 kilometers away from Placer where the Cabinet meeting was held.

No casualties were reported from the ambush, according to Army 9th Infantry Division spokesman Maj. Christopher Morales.