MALAYA: Gloria off to HK for invest forum; protesters ready ‘hot’ welcome

By REGINA BENGCO
Malaya
March 31, 2008

PRESIDENT Arroyo yesterday left for Hong Kong to attend the 11th Credit Suisse Asia Investment Conference and meet with the Filipino community and foreign investors.

Arroyo boarded PAL flight 306 at around 2:45 p.m. at the NAIA Centennial Terminal, accompanied by First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, Trade Secretary Peter Favila, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr., and deputy presidential spokeswoman Lorelei Fajardo.

Bunye, in an ambush interview, dismissed the plan of a militant Filipino workers group to greet the President with a rally.

“It comes with the territory and we have to learn to live with it,” he said.

About 2,000 of members of the Gloria Step Down Movement, which is leading the OFW protesters in Hong Kong, welcomed Arroyo with a demonstration in Wanchai district.

The HK Campaign for the Advancement of Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines said demonstrations will also be held tomorrow at the HK Central Government Office and the Shangri-La and Conrad Hilton International Hotel.

These will be participated in by residents and citizens of Hong Kong and members of groups like the Asian Human Rights Commission, Justice and Peace Commission of the HK Catholic Diocese, HK Federation of Catholic Students, Civil Human Rights Front and the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants.

The group said protesters would raise the issues of corruption by Arroyo’s official family and human rights abuses by state security forces.

Arroyo is expected to host a cocktail reception for some 500 members of the Filipino community called “GMA Pa Rin” at the Grand Hyatt Hotel at 7:30 p.m. today, to update them on the developments in the country and endorse the Development Bank of the Philippines’ hedging investment program for overseas Filipino workers.

The launching of the Land Bank of the Philippines’ “i-Net Negosyo” and OFW Cash Card programs will be held in the same event. The President would have coffee with the same group at 8:30 p.m.

Arroyo, in her departure statement, said government must continue its “aggressive outreach” to investors at a time when the Philippine economy is at its strongest.

“Our trip to Hong Kong is another action we are taking to continue to bolster our economy through more investments and to confer with vital business and government leaders on cooperative steps we can take to cushion ourselves in Asia against these global issues,” she said.

She said the fact that she was asked to deliver the keynote address at the Asia Investment Conference before over a thousand investors and fund managers underscores the interest the outside world has in the growing stability and economic fortunes of the Philippines.

Tomorrow, she will have an interview with the International Herald Tribune and Reuters. At 1 p.m. she will speak before participants of the Asian Investment Conference.

Also in the afternoon, she will have tea with fund managers and dinner with the Shi Mao group, followed by fellowship with the Philippine media and Cabinet secretaries and lawmakers.

On Tuesday, she will meet with officials of Hopewell Holdings and receive the members of the Philippine-Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce. She will depart for Manila at 12:45 p.m.

The lead convenor of HK Campaign for the Advancement of Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (HKCAHRPP), Jackie Hung, said they would send a letter to HK Chief Executive Donald Tsang urging him to directly express to Arroyo concerns about corruption and human rights scandals rocking her administration.

She said the Arroyo administration has ignored the recommendations of UN expert Philip Alston, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the HKCAHRPP.

The HKCAHRPP conducted two human rights fact-finding missions to the Philippines in 2006 and 2007, with its reports urging witness protection, speedier investigation of cases, and the immediate scrapping of the counter-insurgency program “Oplan Bantay Laya.”

Lawmaker Leung Kwok Hung, a popular member of the Legislative Council, led the HKCAHRPP mission last year. – With Anthony Ian Cruz

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