HONG KONG, June 20, 2005
(STAR) (AP) — A Filipino labor group, angry that President Arroyo doesn’t plan to meet with migrant workers during her whirlwind one-day trip to Hong Kong today, said it is planning a protest when the leader arrives.

Mrs. Arroyo is scheduled to meet business leaders and officials as she tries to drum up investment for the country during her Hong Kong visit.

The trip comes amid a political storm back home, with opponents accusing her family of pocketing huge illegal gambling payoffs. They’re also alleging that she rigged the 2004 election.

Mrs. Arroyo has ordered an investigation of the graft accusations, but has refused to directly comment on the vote fraud allegations.

The United Filipinos in Hong Kong — which calls itself an alliance of migrant organizations — said it will try to confront Mrs. Arroyo about the alleged vote rigging. The group also said the President should meet with the thousands of Filipino workers in Hong Kong.

"What fears does she have with the Filipino community here? What does she have to hide from us?" the group’s secretary general, Solores Balladares, said in a statement.

The group plans a picket protest at the Philippine Consulate General.

The millions of Filipinos — mostly domestic helpers — who work around the world have become an important part of the electorate since overseas Filipinos got the right to vote in the 2004 presidential election. Nearly 89,000 workers in Hong Kong registered to vote.

In Manila, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye Jr. said Mrs. Arroyo’s schedule is so tight that she would not be able to meet with the Filipino community.

Among those she’s scheduled to meet are Tony Kwok, the former head of Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption and now the President’s anti-corruption adviser, and Airport Authority Chairman Victor Fung, who will host a lunch in her honor.

Expected at the luncheon are representatives from several leading companies in Hong Kong, including Hopewell Holdings, Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd., HSBC Holdings and Swire Pacific Ltd.

"President Gloria is expected to tell the Hong Kong businessmen that the Philippines provides best value for their investments and that there is so much to be positive about in the Philippines," Bunye said in a newspaper column to be published today.

Mrs. Arroyo’s Hong Kong trip is one of several to major Asian financial and business hubs. She will also make investment promotion trips to Singapore and Japan, but no dates have been announced, he said. — With Aurea Calica

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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