MANILA, OCTOBER 1, 2003  (BULLETIN) Returning home from a "productive" five-day trip to the United States and Europe, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo yesterday trumpeted the gains of her mission of peace for Mindanao but kept her silence about her political plans for 2004.

Instead of making a formal announcement on whether to seek a fresh mandate in 2004, the President appealed to politicians to refrain from engaging in too much partisan politics, warning this could hinder the duty of addressing the real concerns of the people.

Mrs. Arroyo and her delegation arrived in Manila yesterday morning from a five-day visit in New York City, Italy, and France that included an audience with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican.

She immediately proceeded to Malacaņang for a Cabinet meeting to discuss "domestic measures necessary to exploit the opportunities" gained from the working visit.

In her arrival statement, the President acknowledged the political season "seems in full tilt" and was worried that partisanship could get "too much in the way of thinking straight about our priorities."

"I call on all quarters to transform the partisan flavor of current debates into something more constructive," she said.

Arroyo asked the full cooperation of the public "to the shaping of a good policy, whether as a proponent or fiscalizer."

"Let's bring the level of discourse to policies and platforms so that our people can derive the best benefits from politics and governance," she said.

Earlier reports said the President was expected by her allies to announce whether she will reconsider her December 20 vow not to run in 2004 following her meeting with the Pope. Mrs. Arroyo has admitted seeking divine guidance about political fate next year.

"I will continue to weave the tapestry of foreign and domestic policy that will best serve our nation and people," she said, pulling an upset on whether she will join the presidential race next year.

In her speech, the President reported that among the gains of her trip abroad is the rapid consolidation of international support for the peace and development process in Mindanao and the growing confidence in the country's political stability and economy.

She said she brought with her the message of peace, security, and development during her meetings in the Vatican, the United Nations and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization Office (UNESCO).

Her meeting with Pope John Paul II has "renewed and strengthened my resolve to wage the peace" and address the problem of poverty in the country, Arroyo said.

"Things are falling into place. Peace in Mindanao is within our grasp, buoyed not only by the pope's blessing, but by the confluence of positive circumstances and events," she said.

She noted UN secretary-general Kofi Annan also rallied behind the resumption of the peace talks between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) under the auspices of Malaysia, which seeks to end the decades-old separatist rebellion in the south.

The multi-donor trust fund is also forthcoming from the World Bank, the United States Assistance for International Development (USAID), with commitments from the Islamic Development Bank, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and the governments of Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia once the Manila forges a final peace agreement with the MILF.

"We will push the envelope on this effort as we unleash massive public resources and Official Development Assistance for infrastructure socio-economic programs and autonomous capacity building in Mindanao," she said.

She also thanked Malaysia for hosting the resumption of the peace talks between the government and Muslim separatists and the Organization of Islamic Conference for offering aid and investment in the south.

She met with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad after her address before the 58th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City.

The US institute for Peace will also work with Washington to put in concrete support for the resolution of the armed conflict in Mindanao, she said.

The President at the same time spoke of the "imminent" non-permanent seat of the Philippines in the United Nations (UN) Security Council where she plans to push the principles of collective security, multilateral approach, and the rule of law.

She announced the Philippines is ready to join UN law enforcement and humanitarian teams in Liberia."Our involvement in global peace making is just as important as our participation in the global coalition against terrorism. The restoration of strong democratic institutions is indispensable to our bid to marginalize and defeat terror everywhere," she said.

Her trip also noted a surge in dynamism within the global community of Filipinos as a result of more jobs, more remittances, and greater political empowerment.

Mrs. Arroyo was welcomed by Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr., Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Narciso Abaya, and several Cabinet members at the airport.

She thanked Guingona "for taking care of the government while I was gone." Arroyo left for the United States last Sept. 25, her first trip abroad since the July 27 failed coup against her government, and appointed Guingona as government caretaker.

The President is scheduled to attend the ninth Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Bali, Indonesia on Oct. 7 and 8, nearly a year after the deadly bombing there that killed more than 200 persons.

Productive trip

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo returned to the country yesterday after a successful five-day official visit to the United States, Rome, and Paris.

She addressed the United Nation's Security Council in New York and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris.

The President together with her official entourage arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) around 10 a.m. on board a Philippine Air Lines special flight PR-001 from Paris.

In her arrival statement the President said: "I would like to inform the Filipino people that I had a very productive trip. Together with my delegation we brought the cause of peace, security, and development, the important venues and events. I would like to thank the legislative members, Senators Nene Pimentel and Manny Villar, Congressmen Nograles, Nachura, Mitra, Bacani, and Villar for contributing to the success of the visits to the United Nations, to the Vatican and to the UNESCO. I look forward to a continuing close partnership with the Legislature in mapping out an undertaking Philippine foreign policy."

The President said she would go directly to a Cabinet meeting where she and her Cabinet secretaries will thresh out the domestic measures necessary to exploit the opportunities she has gained on her trip.

Among the opportunities mentioned by Mrs. Arroyo were: rapidly consolidating international support for the peace and development process in Mindanao, the global consensus against terrorism and transnational crime, the growing confidence in the country's political stability and economy and a surge in dynamism.

This according to the President would result in more job opportunities, and greater political empowerment.

She also said that her meeting with Pope John Paul II in Rome renewed and strengthened her resolve to wage the peace and to help the poor of the Philippines, uplift them and empower them.

The President also called on quarters to transform the partisan flavor of current debates into something more constructive. She emphasized that the country needs all the contribution to the shaping of good policies, whether as a proponent or a fiscalizer.

Mrs. Arroyo also thanked Vice President Teofisto Guingona for taking care of the government while she was away.

The President was welcomed at the airport by AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Narciso Abaya, and high ranking government officials and Cabinet secretaries.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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