MADRID, JULY 2, 2006
(STAR) (via PLDT) By Aurea Calica - (via PLDT) The Spanish government has given the Philippines a $15-million grant to improve the facilities of 21 provincial hospitals in the country. Trade Secretary Peter Favila said the grant would be used to buy new equipment for these hospitals.

Spanish King Juan Carlos I said Spain was willing to provide more help to the Philippines and cited the Jose Rizal Ophthalmologic Center at the Philippine General Hospital that was put up by his government.

He said these projects could foster closer ties between Spain and its former Asian colony.

Aside from the grant, President Arroyo will return home today with investments worth 580 million euros in various projects in the Philippines.

Before she left, Mrs. Arroyo said her visits to Italy and Spain had been fruitful.

Mrs. Arroyo and King Juan Carlos agreed to improve economic and cultural ties between the countries.

Mrs. Arroyo said she invited Spanish businessmen to invest in the tourism industry and make the Philippines its business hub in Asia.

Mrs. Arroyo said she wants the Philippines to be like Spain, which made a great leap in terms of its economy through increased tourism.

"Spain suddenly took off economically after making its fiscal reforms, which was what we were doing as well, as well as tourism," she said. "Tourism was the key to their development. It is now the second (most popular) among the tourist destinations in the world."

Mrs. Arroyo told the Spanish businessmen that tourism has grown tremendously in her country and that in developing the industry, the hotel sector would be requiring 20,000 tourism-quality rooms by 2010.

"To sustain and maintain growth in tourism, we will also need investments in the building of roads, the modernization of our airports and sea ports and the development of our transport system that will link our islands and give access to remote areas," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo said she was grateful to hear that the Spanish government had put the Philippines on its priority list of countries, aside from strong regional economies like Japan, China and South Korea.

Mrs. Arroyo said she assured Spanish investors the government was working doubly hard to address their concerns, including bureaucratic red tape and poor infrastructure.

Mrs. Arroyo said she would assign a trade attaché here and set up a national economic research and business advisory council under the Department of Trade and Industry to fast-track the approval of business and investment proposals.

Mrs. Arroyo acknowledged there were legitimate reasons why some Spanish investments did not push through in the country and their concerns have been taken into consideration by the government.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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