[PHOTO AT LEFT - President Arroyo troops the line with Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon before leaving for Davos, Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum. - Photo By AFP]

DAVOS, SWITZERLAND (via PLADT), JANUARY 26, 2007 (STAR) By Aurea Calica - The Philippines trumpeted here yesterday the efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to curb terrorism in the region, making it "ripe" for more trade and investments.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF), Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said the challenges posed by terrorism had been met by the collective resolve of the ASEAN, knowing that security was the major concern of investors.

"In Southeast Asia, through unity and cooperation, we have stopped extremists and terrorists from opening a second front. We have uprooted terrorism in the southern Philippines where fanatics have hoped to plant the seeds of a pan-Islamic extremist state that stretches from Malaysia to Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia and Mindanao," Romulo said.

He said that over 250 terrorists, including 216 Abu Sayyaf members, have been neutralized by security forces.

Last week the military killed top Abu Sayyaf commanders Khadaffy Janjalani and Abu Solaiman.

"Extremism and terrorism have not spread to the rest of the Asia-Pacific because we have drawn the line in our region," Romulo told the delegates to the WEF.

Fifty percent of the 2,400 delegates, from 90 countries, to the WEF being held here from Jan. 24 to 28 are composed of business leaders including 800 chief executives or company board chairmen aside from 24 heads of state.

The WEF said participation of the business community this year was the highest since the forum was launched in 1971. The forum is an annual gathering of leaders from governments, business, media and civil society.

President Arroyo, who will speak today on the ASEAN’s economic roadmap, said she would represent the Philippines and the regional bloc in their continuing quest for peace, goodwill, security and shared prosperity.

She was expected to arrive here at 6 p.m. Thursday (1 a.m. Friday Manila time) for the business meetings before her participation at the WEF.

"The meeting among the movers and shakers of the world economy will tackle the power shifts that are now taking place along a continuum of challenges and opportunities for all nations and regional blocs. The Philippines lies in the nexus of one of the fastest growing regional economies, is a vibrant hub for global workers, and plays a strategic role in world trade and global security," Mrs. Arroyo said in her speech, an advance copy of which was obtained by The STAR.

"Riding the tide of our gains in the economy and our victories in the fight against terror, the Philippines shall continue to carve a niche in the world as a key player on all counts–seeking for our people the best that the future can offer in terms of inward investments, jobs at home and abroad, and the goodwill and cooperation that enlarges the space for peace and prosperity on a level playing field," she added.

Romulo, who was here ahead of the President to speak on "The Challenges to Moderate Islam in Southeast Asia," said the participation of the Philippines, particularly Mrs. Arroyo in the WEF, was a good opportunity to tell the international business community that the Philippines and the region are ripe for more trade and investment.

"It is important that the world leaders realize what the Philippines is doing not only in the Philippines but in the region, including the region’s economic integration," Romulo said.

Mrs. Arroyo said the Davos agenda complements the ASEAN and East Asian agenda "in a way that strives to close the gap in trade, technology, energy security, environmental integrity and prosperity between north and south, east and west – posting ASEAN as a global model for a sharing and caring community.

"(The Philippines) faces the sun and the wind is on our back as we all sail forward and reap the fruits of our unity, excellence and enterprise as a people who dare to win the prize of a first world slot in 20 years," she said.

Romulo said the business leaders would have to be informed that the Philippines was expecting a growth rate of 5.7 percent this year and that the peso had appreciated while inflation had gone down.

"Business confidence has gone up and we have good revenue collection and that we expect to balance the budget by 2008. So this is an opportunity for the President to address these major corporate and political leaders as well as civil society," he said.

But aside from the economic developments, Romulo said they would also focus on the achievements in the battle against terrorists in the region.

Romulo said the Philippines had been at the forefront in the fight against this menace and was able to lead the ASEAN into signing a convention on counter-terrorism during the ASEAN summit in Cebu City last Jan. 10 to 14.

He noted that the killing of Janjalani and Solaiman was significant headway in the war against terrorism.

President Arroyo will meet with business executives here representing firms ranging from telecommunications to energy, after her arrival at 6 p.m. last night until the end of her visit on Jan. 27.

She will also have a call from the Duke of York Prince Andrew of the United Kingdom.

The President will conduct private meetings with WEF chairman Klaus Schwab and the business leaders aside from her talks on the ASEAN’s economic road map.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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