GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Meeting up with local government officials and businessmen.
This was how General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera described the visit today of US Ambassador Philip Goldberg.
Goldberg arrived here on board a US embassy airplane and quickly proceeded to the General Santos City Fish Port Complex before making a courtesy call to the office of the city mayor.
The 30-minute meeting was off limits to the media with only Mayor Rivera, Vice Mayor Shirlyn Bañas, City Administrator Arnel Zapatos and City Legal Officer Armand Clarin holding conference with Glodberg and 3 other embassy officials.
He did not field questions from the media who waited at the city hall lobby.
“The ambassador wanted to personally see General Santos City after reading and hearing about our place,” the city mayor said.
Rivera said the visit was also a result of an invitation he extended to the US Ambassador when they were introduced together at a function of the American Chamber of Commerce and Industry several months ago.
Goldberg also had a luncheon meeting with members of the General Santos City Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Greenleaf Hotel.
He later told the local station of ABS-CBN that the US is upbeat on the potential of Mindanao in agriculture and mining but also expressed concerns over delays and obstacles in obtaining licenses and permits for mining companies.
The US ambassador likewise said grants and aids from the American government are now geared towards areas in Mindanao recovering from armed conflict.
“In a way,” banker Orman Manansala said, “we have become victim of our own success.”
General Santos was recipient of one of the largest grants from the US government by way of funding the construction of the city’s airport facilities.
It was part of the international pledging session during the early years of the Cory Aquino administration.
Construction of the airport began in 1993 and was finished in 1996.
Built at the cost of US$47.6 million largely funded by USAID, it was inaugurated for commercial flights shortly thereafter.