MANILA,  August 15, 2004
(from the Office of the Press Secretary, Malacanang) -
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been pushing for the accelerated growth of intra-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) tourism in line with the countryís commitment to the regional groupís directions for the future.

"Intra-ASEAN travel has been a key to our tourism. It is also a key to integration," the President said in her address before the ASEAN- BAC (Business Advisory Council) last week.

"The Philippines will continue supporting the common effort to promote ASEAN as a single destination," she emphasized, while noting that travel has been more regional than long haul since 9/11.

Tourist arrivals in the Philippines have picked up 30 percent from that of last yearís as the government intensified efforts to draw more investments under the concept of tourism enterprise zones, the President observed.

The country now has tourism estates in addition to industrial and information technology estates.

"We are addressing the infrastructure demands and encouraging investments in hotel facilities to promote our tourism hubs, namely Metro Manila to Tagaytay, Cebu-Bohol-Siargao, Davao, Cordillera, Clark-Subic, Ilocos and Palawan," the President explained.

The Philippines has been internationalizing its regional airports and providing more seats for direct flights to the country by way of liberalizing the airline industry, the President added.

The government has identified agriculture and tourism as priority development sectors in line with the ASEAN economic, security and socio-cultural aspirations. Agriculture because it combines the premium of food and jobs, and tourism because it is the midwife of business, the President said.

"People first visit the country in which they later engage in business," she added.  

RP to press bid for OIC observer status at NAM meet

The Philippines will press its bid for observer status in the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) during the 14th ministerial conference of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) on Aug. 19 in Durban, South Africa.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Delia Domingo Albert today said she would also take up with her counterparts various bilateral and other issues as she underscored the importance of the NAM meeting "in the face of increasing impressions that the relations between states are being defined in terms of unilateralism."

Albert will join other foreign ministers in discussing various issues affecting NAM member countries. The theme of this yearís meeting is "Challenge for Multilateralism in the 21st Century."

"This meeting comes at a time when the world must assess and address growing tendencies by some states to address issues independently of other states who are or could be affected by those issues," Albert said.

She pointed out that while she believed that "multilateralism is still the prevailing attitude, we must prevent any possible rise of unilateralism, particularly in todayís increasingly interdependent world."

The foreign affairs secretary said that as the organization that represents the interests of the third world in global politics, NAM is in a unique position to "be the vanguard of multilateralism." Great care should be taken to avoid characterizing actions by strategic alliances or by regional groups as unilateralism, she added.

Albert said that in the context of multilateralism she would be joining other foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in promoting regionalism in NAM. "We have specific language in the draft NAM Ministerial Declaration that focuses on ASEAN and its role in maintaining peace and security as well as in promoting growth and development in the region. I will be joining my counterparts in ASEAN in pushing for this language," she said.

"Regionalism is an important component of multilateralism and contributes to strengthening the values and ideals behind multilateralism," she added.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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