[PHOTO AT LEFT COURTESY OF PHILSTAR - OFF TO BRUNEI: President Arroyo strikes the kulintang — an ensemble of eight gongs arranged horizontally — following the eighth ‘pulong-bayan’ in a Muslim community in Barangay Sultan Esmael in Dasmariñas, Cavite yesterday. The President leaves for Brunei today to attend the wedding of the son of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. – Photo by REVOLI CORTEZ ]

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, BRUNEI,  September 8, 2004 (STAR) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo attended the royal wedding this morning of Crown Prince Al-Mutahdee Billah Bolkia to Sarah Sellah in the company of a large number of dignitaries and blue blood invited by the groom’s father, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

The royal wedding was held at 10:30 a.m. at the riverside Istana Nurul Iman, the 1,788-room main palace of the fabulously absolute ruler of Brunei. Later in the day, the President received the head of the Brunei component of International Monitoring Team (IMT) that would monitor the ceasefire agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mindanao. The President also received donations for the "Classroom Galing sa Mamamayang Pilipino Abroad" project during a dinner with leaders of the Filipino community at the residence of the Philippine Ambassador to Brunei.

Early tomorrow, the President would meet with the Ministry of Education and University of Brunei Darussalam officials to discuss the education and the training program for madrassah principals and teachers from Mindanao. At 8:30 in the evening Friday, the President and Atty. Arroyo will attend the royal wedding banquet at the Banquet Hall of Istana Nurul Iman. In a send-off this morning at the Villamor Air Base, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita underscored the importance of the President’s trip, saying that aside from being a close ally of the Philippines, Brunei is also a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and a partner in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

The occasion would also allow the President to meet with Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi where they are expected to discuss the resumption of the peace talks between the government and MILF. Ermita explained that the President’s attendance of the royal wedding is a normal function for a head of state.

GMA, FG used local Lear Jet in trip to Brunei -- Palace

Malacañang today denied reports that Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has sent a Lear Jet to fetch President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo for the royal wedding of Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah Bolkiah in Brunei Darussalam

In the press briefing this afternoon Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye clarified that the President used a local Lear jet in flying to Bandar Seri Begawan.

"Can we just clarify a report that the jet used by the President in going to Brunei is not a Brunei jet; it is a local lear jet. It’s local, anyway. Just to set the record straight," Bunye said.

According to Bunye, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita requested him to make the proper correction.

He added that the private aircraft was made available for the President and the First Gentleman on a rental basis.

The First Couple boarded the Lear jet at Villamor Air Base early this morning for the one hour and 45 minutes flight to Bandar Seri Begawan, the Sultanate’s capital.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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