Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Arroyo adviser for Central Luzon eyed as new SBMA head

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT-Malacañang is reportedly considering Renato Diaz,
presidential adviser for Central Luzon, for the post vacated by resigned Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Chair Francisco Licuanan III, a Palace source said on Tuesday.

But Diaz, in a phone interview, said he has yet to receive any official word on this plan.

He said he would accept the post if it was given to him by President Macapagal-Arroyo.

"Yes, I would because I'm committed to the development of the area," he told the Inquirer.

Subic and Clark, Diaz said, are premium sites for growth, a magnet for investments and tourism. "We have to make it work," he said.

Diaz, a former Nueva Ecija representative, served as presidential adviser for North Luzon from February 2001 to August 2004. He has since been named adviser for Central Luzon where Subic and Clark are located.

But another Palace source said Diaz was "not being considered" to the SBMA.

"He is trying hard to get

politicians to endorse him," said the source, who holds a Cabinet position.

Aside from Diaz, Rodolfo "Inky" Reyes is also on the list of possible appointees to the SBMA, another Malacañang source said.

Reyes used to be deputy administrator and chief of staff when Sen. Richard Gordon headed the SBMA from 1992 to 1998.

There was no word if Armand Arreza, former SBMA finance manager, who was recently appointed to the SBMA board, was also on the list.

Gordon had recommended Arreza to the SBMA board, but the senator's alleged lobbying for the appointment of people identified with him reportedly prompted Licuanan's resignation.

Zambales Vice Gov. Ramon Lacbain II urged Ms Arroyo to choose a "qualified candidate" from the province where the 12,000-hectare Subic freeport, a former American naval base is located.

"If she has not yet appointed an SBMA chair and administrator, I strongly appeal to her to appoint a qualified Zambale¤o who is neither from the Gordon nor Magsaysay camp," Lacbain said.

He said past SBMA chairmen, Gordon and former Rep. Felicito Payumo, hailed from Olongapo City and Bataan, respectively. The freeport straddles these areas.

Lacbain suggested former Executive Secretary Ruben Torres; Philip Camara, a development worker, banker and currently, the private sector representative for tourism at the regional development council; Edwin Mendaros, a real estate developer and banker; and Luis Abueva, a civil society leader.

Businessmen here and top officials of Zambales said they would welcome any appointee.

Jimmy Vicente, secretary general of the Automotive Rebuilders Association of Subic (Aris), said investors prefer appointees who are not identified with any politician to replace Licuanan and SBMA Administrator Alfredo Antonio. Tonette Orejas, Allan Macatuno and Carmela Reyes, PDI Central Luzon Desk

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