BANGKOK, THAILAND (VIA PLDT), October 20, 2003  (STAR) By Marichu Villanueva  - President Arroyo arrived here yesterday to join 20 other heads of state attending the 11th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit that starts today.

Along with her official delegation, Mrs. Arroyo brought with her representatives of the Metro Manila Mayors Council who included Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte, Benhur Abalos of Mandaluyong City, Jose Emmanuel Carlos of Valenzuela City, Rosendo Capco of Pateros, Reynaldo Malonzo of Caloocan City, Marides Fernando of Marikina City and Manila Mayor Joselito Atienza, head of the delegation.

The President flew in at the Royal Thai Air Force Base a few hours after US President George W. Bush arrived here from Manila. Two of the Air Force One planes of President Bush were securely parked at the air base as Mrs. Arroyo’s chartered Philippine Airlines Airbus plane taxied on the runway.

The US president and his delegation proceeded to the Thai capital after ending his eight-hour whirlwind visit to Manila on Saturday.

A few hours later, Mrs. Arroyo joined the US leader anew but this time, to attend the annual APEC two-day summit which formally starts today at the Government House, Thai Koo Fah Building.

Mrs. Arroyo was met at the air base by Ambassador to Thailand Antonio Rodriguez and Thai Defense Minister Thamarak.

As this year’s summit host, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra met later with Mrs. Arroyo with six fellow leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in a luncheon meeting yesterday at the Regency Room of the Oriental Hotel.

Mrs. Arroyo was accompanied by her husband First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and the official delegation led by Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople, Trade and Industry Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Energy Secretary Vincent Perez, Agriculture Secretary Luisito Lorenzo, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye, Presidential Management Staff chief Silvestre Afable and presidential adviser Marita Jimenez.

The President and the rest of the delegation are all billeted at the Oriental Hotel, joining Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputri and Brunei Darussalam Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

In the presence of her entire delegation, Mrs. Arroyo conducted her bilateral meeting with Yuan Tseh Lee of Chinese-Taipei.

The APEC summit starts formally this morning when the names of each leader will be called alphabetically to meet Prime Minister Thaksin in the traditional Thai welcome ceremonies.

In this year’s summit Mrs. Arroyo is expected to voice the sentiments of "Group 21," comprised of 21 developing countries, including the Philippines, that banded together against unfair trade and investment liberalization policies of developed countries.

Group 21’s call for imposition of non-tariff barriers and investment regulations to protect their own agricultural products and domestic economies, triggered the collapse of the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico last month.

The Philippines, led by Roxas and Lorenzo, will express the same sentiments on trade and investment issues for the APEC leaders with the aim of resolving them in this year’s summit.

Before buckling down to work, Mrs. Arroyo and her husband with the official delegation heard a Sunday noon Mass with representatives of the Filipino community here at the Regent Hotel. A dinner reception meeting was scheduled later.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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