|Arroyo brings home 'gains' of 5-day working visit|
By She Caguimbal-Torres
A SEEMINGLY forlorn President Arroyo arrived alone and clad in black Tuesday morning at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport from her five-day working visit to New York, Vatican and Paris.
But the President, during her speech, claimed the trip was successful, productive and even full of opportunities and gains.
Arroyo arrived at 10:15 a.m. and walked down the ramp with neither escorts nor her husband after First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo proceeded to Spain en route to Dubai, where he would meet and assist 23 Filipinos who have been incarcerated for the past two years due to fraud. He is set to meet two princes of Dubai on Oct. 4 to seek help for the Filipinos.
The President was only met and escorted by AFP Chief of Staff General Narciso Abaya when she started shaking hands with Cabinet members and Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. who were waiting for her at the runway.
Among those who welcomed her were Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, incoming Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, incoming Defense Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Airport General Manager Edgardo Manda, Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Bayani Fernando and Agrarian Reform Secretary Roberto Pagdanganan.
Arroyo in a speech thanked Guingona, who was earlier reported to be at odds with the President due to some policy differences, for "taking care of the government while I was gone."
She also extended her gratitude to the members of her delegation like Senators Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Manuel Villar, and Congressmen Prospero Nograles (1st district, Davao City), Antonio Eduardo Nachura (2nd district, Western Samar), Abraham Kahlil Mitra (2nd district, Palawan), Rodolfo Bacani (4th district, Manila) and Cynthia Villar (lone district, Las Piņas) for helping her bring "the cause of peace, security and development to important venues and events" like the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization(Unesco).
"I look forward to our continuing close partnership with the legislature in mapping out and undertaking Philippine foreign policy," she said before proceeding to Malacaņang to meet the members of her cabinet to discuss and "exploit the opportunities we have gained" in the trip.
The gains include the consolidation of international support for the peace and development process in Mindanao; firm global consensus against terrorism and transnational crime; growing confidence in the country's political stability and our economy; surge in dynamism within the global community of Filipinos; and greater political empowerment.
The President said even her meeting with Pope John Paul II in Vatican yielded positive results as it renewed and strengthened her commitment to wage peace and help poor Filipinos uplift and empower themselves.
On the scheduled talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Arroyo believes that peace is now within the country's grasp. She cited the growing support, from the Pope to different world leaders and organizations like the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the US Institute of Peace, to peace in Mindanao.
She reiterated that funds for the development of conflict-affected areas would pour in once a final peace pact is signed between the government and the MILF. These would come from the World Bank and the US Agency for International development (USAID), the Islamic Development Bank, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the governments of Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
"We're paving the way for the establishment of a multi-donor trust fund that will cut in once a new Mindanao peace accord is forged. ...We will push the envelope on this effort as we unleash massive public resources and official development assistance for infra, socio-economic programs, and autonomous capacity building in Mindanao," she added.
Arroyo also boasts of the Philippines' imminent inclusion in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) where the country is vying for a two-year non-permanent seat. The request would be voted on by the UNSC on Oct. 10.
The President said once the Philippines get the seat, she would use it to push for the principles of "collective security, multilateral approach, and the rule of law."
She said the Philippines is also prepared to send its own law enforcement and humanitarian team to join the UN forces in Liberia.
"Our involvement in global peacemaking is just as important as our participation in the global coalition against terrorism. The restoration of strong democratic institutions is indispensable to our bid to marginalize and defeat terror everywhere," she added.
Arroyo also lauded the Filipinos, for being the best citizens in the world, and the Philippines, citing that the country is having a boom in the deployment of caregivers, teachers and medical personnel in different parts of the world resulting to increased dollar remittances.
She said that in return, the OFWs would get broader political rights and welfare programs, which she relayed to some of those she met in New York, Vatican and Paris. Arroyo was scheduled to meet Filipino communities in Italy but was forced to cancel it due to a countrywide blackout.
In Paris, Arroyo relayed the Philippines' gratitude to Unesco for its contributions to the country's culture and heritage, from the restoration of the Ifugao Rice Terraces in Banawe to the preservation of the Tubbataha Reef in Palawan and documentation of the 1986 Edsa people power revolution.
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