PGMA returns from fruitful visits to U.S., Spain

April 16, 2010 10:00 pm 

MANILA, April 16 — President Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo returned this afternoon from her fruitful diplomatic engagements in the United States and Spain and immediately called a briefing of her Cabinet and senior military officers at the VIP Lounge of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Her arrival statement distributed to media said her participation in the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C. put the spotlight on the Philippines’ vital role as president of the Review Conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty slated in New York this May.

The summit was the largest-ever gathering of countries to tackle nuclear security issues participated in by 38 heads of state, representatives from nine other countries, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, International Atomic Energy Agency head Dr. Amano and European Council President Van Rompuy.

The President cited the grave threat of nuclear weapons and materials falling into the hands of terrorists and other non-state actors, adding that the Philippines’ global workforce takes a strong position against nuclear terrorism.

According to the President, the Philippine Nuclear Security Plan drawn up in 2009 by the Philippine National Research Institute (PNRI), the country’s nuclear regulatory authority, and the International Atomic Energy Agency include measures to secure vulnerable nuclear materials and to deter and combat nuclear smuggling and nuclear terrorism.

Her call for the implementation of the Additional Protocol of the Strengthened Safeguards System — to enable IAEA to verify whether a State is living up to its international commitments not to use nuclear programs for weapons purposes — was very well received in the Summit.

At the sidelines of the Summit, the President held bilateral meetings with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and Morocco Prime Minister Abbas El Fasi, who both affirmed their strong support for the Philippines’ bid for Observer status in the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

In the U.S. Congress, the President was conferred the prestigious Teddy Roosevelt International Conservation Award from the International Conservation Caucus Foundation and the Global Environmental Facility for her innovative leadership to protect the oceans and preserve the biodiversity of the Coral Triangle.

She also conferred honors on U.S. legislators Senator Richard Lugar and Representatives Jim McDermott, Chef Edwards, Xavier Becerra, Sheila Jackson Lee, Joseph Pitts, Jackie Speier and Madeleine Bordallo for having championed the Philippines’ national interest in Capitol Hill over the years.

President Arroyo also met with Senators Daniel Inouye and Christopher “Kit” Bond to express her appreciation for their sponsorship of the “Save Our Industries” Act and sought the support for the measure from Senator Jim Webb and Rep. Richard Drier.

The President said approval of the bill will be a “win win” situation for both the U.S. and the Philippines as it will create a whole new market for the U.S. fabrics with the Philippines’ sophisticated needle capacity.

In Spain, the President received from King Juan Carlos I the prestigious Premio Don Quixote de la Mancha award for her educational initiative in introducing the Spanish language in initially select public schools of the Philippines.

She met with King Juan Carlos I and requested the King’s intercession with the Emir of Kuwait for the commutation of the death sentence of Jakatia Pawa, a Filipina accused of murder. The King earlier intervened in commuting the death sentence in Kuwait of Marilou Ranario and May Vecina, both now back in the Philippines.

The President also met with Tomas Pascual, chair of the Grupo Leche Pascual, one of the biggest food conglomerates in Spain which will establish a plant in the Philippines worth 20 million euro and make the Philippines its regional hub. It will promote the yogurt market and undertake non-refrigerated yogurt school feeding as its corporate social responsibility.

Trade and Industry Secretary Jesli Lapus, who was with the Presidential delegation along with Press Secretary Crispulo Icban Jr., met with Spanish firms in various stages of doing business in the Philippines, namely Isolux-Corsan, Globaltec and Centunion. These companies are engaged in investment priority projects in renewable energy, bioethanol plants in Negros and prefabricated steel bridges in the rural areas.

In a welcome reception at the Philippine Ambassador’s residence, the President thanked the members of Filipino organizations in Spain for their dedication and hard work and announced that the Driver’s License Exchange Agreement between the Philippines and Spain will soon be implemented to allow Filipinos to use their Philippine license while in Spain. The program will benefit an estimated 50,000 Filipinos in Spain. (PNA)

scs/OPS/ssc

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