GMA IRATE OVER JAPANESE ENVOY'S CRITICISM

Makati City, May 31, 2003 -- An irate President Arroyo rebuked Japanese 
Ambassador Kojiro Takano for his adverse commentaries on the Philippines 
and problems of government, which he made before a public forum Thursday.

"The views expressed by the Japanese ambassador are exaggerated and unfair. 
It is regrettable that the gains we have achieved so far have not been 
acknowledged," Mrs. Arroyo told a businessmen’s forum yesterday.

And to show that she was not letting it pass, Mrs. Arroyo ordered acting 
Foreign Affairs Secretary Franklin Ebdalin to seek a formal explanation 
from Takano.

While she fell short of asking for the relief of Takano, Mrs. Arroyo was 
visibly infuriated by the diplomat’s statements as preparations are 
underway for her fourth working visit to Japan on June 4-6.

Takano incurred the President’s ire after he bared the general concern of 
Japanese citizens about their safety in the country.

Takano also criticized the Philippine government’s conflicting policies and 
budget deficit, which he said discouraged Japanese investors from coming to 
the Philippines.

Briefing business associations about her recent state visit to the United 
States, Mrs. Arroyo minced no words to attack Takano on his criticisms 
about the country.

But even as she fumed over Takano’s statements, Mrs. Arroyo indicated she 
will proceed with her working visit to Japan where she is scheduled to have 
one-on-one talks with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

To rebut Takano’s criticism, Mrs. Arroyo quoted in verbatim the transcript 
of a media interview with US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone, in particular 
about how the American businessmen "are enthusiastic about doing business" 
in the Philippines.

As if it were not enough, Mrs. Arroyo went on to rebut criticisms of the 
Japanese envoy on the peace and order situation in the country.

Her parting shot was an apparent dig on Takano’s claims of "sleepless 
nights" since his posting in Manila.

"We hope the Japanese ambassador will be able to catch up with his sleep," 
Mrs. Arroyo said sarcastically.

Takano made the controversial comments during a breakfast forum with the 
Foreign Correspondents’ Association of the Philippines (Focap) last 
Thursday at the Mandarin Hotel in Makati City.

Takano made the statement after he met with Mrs. Arroyo in Malacañang 
earlier to attend the ceremonial inauguration of the $1.2 billion San Roque 
multi-purpose dam which was largely funded by Marubeni and Kansai, two of 
Japan’s biggest private companies.

"I think that a more balanced view will take into consideration the 
important steps that we’ve taken to improve the peace and order, and even 
more the economic environment and our steady growth is ample proof of 
these," Mrs. Arroyo said.

"We have also chalked up our consistent accomplishments in arresting 
terrorists and criminals. But we take such criticism as a challenge for us 
to do better," she added.

Mrs. Arroyo then shifted to low gear to cushion her tirades against Takano. 
She said Japan has been "very helpful" to the Philippine economy and in its 
peace and order campaign.

She said she was happy to note that "other parties" have acknowledged the 
gains made by her administration in improving the peace and order situation 
and reforms instituted in the government since she took over in January 
2001. (By Marichu Villanueva, Star)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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