MANILA,  September 7, 2004
By Marichu Villanueva - Grandchildren and nannies not included, but the beautician must be there.

President Arroyo flies to Brunei on Thursday — sans her two granddaughters and their nannies — to take up the "personal invitation" extended to her by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah to the wedding of his son, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said yesterday.

However, the President’s personal beautician Gener Miranda will be with her as she attends the wedding of the Crown Prince of Brunei.

In his daily press briefing at the Palace, Bunye said only the President and First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo would fly to Bandar Seri Begawan for the wedding of Bolkiah’s son. "The invitation is for the President and the First Gentleman," Bunye said.

"What we can say is this trip is upon the invitation of the Sultan of Brunei," he said. "He is a very important personality and we wish to cultivate (this) relationship (with) the Sultan of Brunei, especially in the light of our peace talks (with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF), which are about to start."

"As far as the Brunei trip is concerned, again, we can justify this," he added. "Although (the President) will be going there upon the personal invitation of the Sultan, there will be occasions for her to touch base with other heads of state who will be attending the wedding and, at the same time, she will be tackling other matters related to the MILF talks."

Critics and political foes of the President scored her just-concluded state visit to China. She was accompanied to China by her granddaughters Gloria Mikaela and Eva Victoria and the girls’ parent and nannies, who were all part of the official party.

Gloria Mikaela is the eighteen month-old daughter of Mrs. Arroyo’s eldest son, Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo and his wife Angela. Eva Victoria is the six-month-old daughter of the President’s younger son, Diosdado Ignacio, and his wife Kakai.

Also part of the President’s official entourage for the China visit was her brother-in-law, Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio Arroyo, who was part of the congressional delegation.

Presidential communications director Silvestre Afable, who also accompanied the President to China, said the government did not shoulder the expenses of the members of the First Family since they were invited by the host government to join Mrs. Arroyo on her state visit.

Since the invitation was extended by China, Afable explained, the host government shouldered the expenses for food, lodging and inland travels of the President’s 16-member official party.

The chartered flight of Philippine Airlines (PAL) that brought the President and her party to China was negotiated by the Philippine government at reduced rates, he added.

As of yesterday, however, Bunye said he has no idea how much was spent for the state visit to China, Mrs. Arroyo’s first since winning the May 10 elections.

"I don’t have the details, but I believe we should not overlook the fact that the China trip has given us so many advantages," he said.

He added that "the China trip is strengthening our political, economic and security relationship with China and the President has brought back with her a number of agreements and if we put a monetary value to this, it would amount to approximately $1 billion."

Bunye also said that the four more overseas trips the President is scheduled to make "are in line with the duties of the President, either because we are part of a regional or world body."

The President has restricted the foreign travels of government officials as part of the government’s austerity measures.

She is scheduled to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Vietnam from Oct. 7 to 9; the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Council (APEC) Leaders’ Summit in Chile on Nov. 19 to 21; and the 10th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Leaders’ Summit in Vientiane, Laos on Nov. 28 to 29.

"The President makes her trips in accordance with what will be the best for the interests of the Philippines," Bunye said.

GMA sends Clinton a ‘get well’ note The Philippine Star 09/07/2004

"Dear Bill, get well…"

President Arroyo has sent a get-well note to former US President William Clinton — her former college classmate — who will be undergoing a heart bypass surgery.

Malacañang released to the Palace Press Office yesterday Mrs. Arroyo’s brief message to Clinton, who became her classmate during a two-year stint at Georgetown University in Washington DC.

"I am sad to read about your projected bypass operation but I am also glad you are in high spirits," Mrs. Arroyo wrote.

"I hope everything will go smoothly and you will soon be back on the political circuit as a world mentor of contemporary change and statesmanship. My family wishes for your speedy recovery."

Mrs. Arroyo studied in Georgetown from 1964—1966 when her late father, former President Diosdado Macapagal was still in office. She would finish her degree in economics in Assumption College, graduating magna cum laude in 1968. Clinton would graduate the same year from Georgetown with a degree in foreign service.

Mrs. Arroyo earlier told The STAR that Clinton is one of two former Georgetown schoolmates who later became head of state. The other is President Alfredo Christiani of El Salvador.

Clinton was supposed to visit Manila earlier this year at the height of Mrs. Arroyo’s presidential campaign but backed off because of scheduling conflicts with the book tour for his memoirs of his two successive terms in the White House. — Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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