METRO MANILA, OCTOBER 21, 2003  (STAR) By Marichu Villanueva  - At the sidelines of the 11th Economic Leaders Meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Thailand, President Arroyo introduced several Metro Manila mayors to the international business community and regional leaders so they can air "very important views in the interest of their constituencies in the presence of international policy makers."

The President said that this was the reason why she invited eight mayors to join her in her attendance at the APEC summit, which formally opened yesterday.

Joining the President’s delegation were Mayors Feliciano Belmonte Jr. (Quezon City); Lito Atienza (Manila); Benhur Abalos Jr. (Mandaluyong City); Jose Emmanuel Carlos (Valenzuela); Rosendo Capco (Pateros); Rey Malonzo (Caloocan City); Marides Fernando (Marikina City); and Freddie Tinga (Taguig).

Mrs. Arroyo introduced the mayors to the Filipino community here during a dinner last Sunday at the Regent Hotel after attending a late afternoon Mass.

"They have joined me in important bilateral meetings and they have aired very important views in the interest of their constituencies in the presence of international leaders and policy makers," she said. "I am also here to try to bring regional trade and investment issues closer to the doorstep of strategic local governance."

She said that her goal is to strengthen the interface between local governments and the dynamic horizon of global business and regional governance, adding that "the vagaries of political and economic security have an unavoidable impact on the execution of policies at the community and grassroots level."

"This is why I have brought with me eight mayors of Metro Manila on this trip," the President pointed out. "They have joined me in important bilateral meetings and they have aired very important views," President Arroyo said.

Interviewed by The STAR yesterday, Belmonte said he would be taking the opportunity in Bangkok to learn and take a personal look at the urban poor renewal development program of the Thai government.

"Bangkok is one of the world’s fastest growing urban centers, where the urban poor is also a major problem," he said.

Belmonte cited that Quezon City is host to almost a million urban poor residents or half of the urban poor population of Metro Manila.

Atienza, head of the local government delegation, told The STAR that he wants to observe how Bangkok implements its "organized hawkers" or sidewalk vending regulations.

"Because they (Thai) have really succeeded in putting order and discipline in sidewalk vending in Bangkok," Atienza said.

In Manila alone, he pointed out, there’s about an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 hawkers.

"Going after them by dismantling their stalls like what the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority does is not solving the problem," he pointed out.

He explained that what Bangkok did was to require hawkers to pay 300 baht a day for rights to sell and this translated additional revenues for the local government.

Abalos, for his part, said he would like to replicate Bangkok’s success in promoting tourism in Mandaluyong City, which recently won the "Environment Commitment" award last month in the Asia-Pacific Mayors Summit Environment held in Hawaii.

"It would mean business opportunities for the people of Mandlauyong City as a growing city for tourism," Abalos said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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