Zamboanga City, June 13, 2003 By Marichu Villanueva (Star) Papal Nuncio Archbishop Antonio Franco and controversial Japanese Ambassador to Manila Kojiro Takano were unable to attend the colorful and festive Independence Day vin d’ honneur reception for the diplomatic corps hosted by President Arroyo in Mindanao.

Franco, the Vatican’s ambassador to the Philippines, is the dean of the country’s diplomatic corps. He was unable to attend the Independence Day rites because he flew back to the Vatican to submit his report to the Congregation of Bishops on the sexual harassment case filed against Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani Jr.

No reason was given for Takano’s absence from the vin d’ honneur, but diplomat Tetsuhiya Ishi went in Takano’s stead.

Takano was the subject of a diplomatic protest filed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) after he made uncomplimentary comments about the Philippines during an open forum discussion with the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) last month.

Just a few days before the President left for a working visit to Japan, Takano said Japanese nationals are concerned about the security situation in the Philippines and the Manila government’s confusing economic policies.

After receiving a note verbale from DFA Undersecretary Franklin Ebdalin, Takano apologized for the negative impact created by his statements, but did not retract them.

The President took strong exception to Takano’s critical comments and directed the DFA to take the appropriate actions against him. His apology was rejected by the Philippine government, though no further updates on the diplomatic protest against Takano were reported after the President’s arrival from her trip to Tokyo.

Independence Day, southern style

Breaking off from the traditional festivities at Malacañang, Mrs. Arroyo hosted the traditional reception for the diplomatic corps on board the refurbished presidential yacht, BRP Ang Pangulo, docked at the Majini port of the Southern Command (Southcom) Naval forces’ facility in Zamboanga City.

There, as she and her guests were serenaded by Badjao tribes people who accompanied their native songs with traditional dances, Mrs. Arroyo showed the diplomatic community why Mindanao is the Philippines’ "land of promise" as she proudly presented them with a showcase of the rich culture and natural resources of Mindanao.

The diplomats so enjoyed the Badjao music and dancing that they took out their cameras for their own photo opportunities.

Docked alongside the BRP Ang Pangulo were vintas, sleek seacraft topped with wide, boldly colored sails that, along with the multicolored malong and the music of the kulintang (Mindanao gongs), have come to be known as the cultural icons of Mindanao.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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