, July 20, 2005
(STAR) By Aurea Calica - President Arroyo will push through with her trip to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly and preside over the UN Security Council in September.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said yesterday he advised the President to go given the importance of the meeting to regional and world security.

"You must remember we will be the president of UN Security Council in September and we want her to preside over the Security Council, which is in charge of the peace and security all over the world. So, that is an important role for the President," Romulo said.

He added that the President should be there not only to discuss security concerns but other Philippine initiatives as well like the inter-faith dialogue for peace and development.

The Philippines is a non-permanent member of the UNSC.

Mrs. Arroyo has not been traveling lately due to the political crisis hounding her administration. Her last trip abroad was in Hong Kong in June but only for a day to meet with prospective investors. Mrs. Arroyo’s scheduled visits to Singapore and Japan after Hong Kong have not yet pushed through.


By Pia Lee-Brago - Bigger political battles may lay ahead, but Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo believes "the worst is over" for President Arroyo. Romulo said Mrs. Arroyo was able to survive the salvo generated by calls for her resignation on accusations she cheated in last year’s elections. "I believe the worst is over and you saw the response of Metro Manila last Saturday. You can judge if the people responded. They want their lives to move on and no interruptions in business," Romulo told the Manila Overseas Press Club (MOPC) Diplomatic Night at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel last Monday.

Romulo said the large number of people who turned out during last Saturday’s rally at Rizal Park indicated the show of support for the embattled President. Romulo declared Mrs. Arroyo will finish her term in 2010 because of her clear mandate. He pointed out Mrs. Arroyo won in nine of the 16 regions of the country and 70 out of the 74 diplomatic missions abroad in absentee voting. "The President has a clear mandate. And the 100 observers from the United States and other countries declared (last year’s) is a fair and clean elections and she won and should finish her term," Romulo said.

"If there is a question, there is a constitutional process and that constitutional mandate should not be broken," he said. At the height of calls for the President to resign last week, he said he was heartened to receive "warm" expressions of support from the diplomatic community, which he said, also backed the constitutional process in resolving the political crisis. He assured the diplomatic community that the government is on top of the situation, which is now returning to normalcy.

Mrs. Arroyo, he said, also stood out in the international community for her various diplomatic initiatives, including her leadership in the war on terror, debt-conversion proposals, and peace initiatives. He said the President also recently mobilized support among developing countries to undertake collective action on bringing down surging world oil prices, which have been endangering the fragile economies of Third World nations. Asked for comment over his erstwhile colleagues in the Cabinet calling for the resignation of Mrs. Arroyo, Romulo simply replied: "We serve at the pleasure of the President. What she gives she can take away anytime."

Romulo disclosed he never had an argument with Mrs. Arroyo even when he served as her executive secretary. If there was any disagreement, Romulo said he would have a private chat with the President on his thoughts, differences in opinion and policies. Romulo tendered his courtesy resignation after Mrs. Arroyo addressed the nation on July 7 calling for her entire Cabinet to resign. But he was recalled by the President to continue serving the foreign affairs portfolio. Romulo also belied claims of a "power sharing" agreement between Mrs. Arroyo and former President Fidel Ramos. Ramos stood by the side of the embattled Mrs. Arroyo at the height of resignation calls triggered by former President Corazon Aquino. Ramos proposed a Charter change formula to change the present form of government to parliamentary as the only way out for the President. Under the proposal pushed by Ramos, Mrs. Arroyo will lead the transition government until parliamentary elections take place.

"I’m not the executive secretary, but I think there is no power-sharing. The President remains in command. She is the President," Romulo said. Romulo added the proposed Charter amendments have not been discussed in the diplomatic community. "Since this Charter change has been discussed I have not been able to talk to the diplomats. As long as it is within the Constitution everybody should welcome it for a sovereign country," he said. Romulo also told the forum that a "make-over" for Mrs. Arroyo is not necessary anymore to project a new image following the political turmoil and scandals that rocked her administration. "I believe the President at her natural self is the best. She is sincere. It is good to be natural. What is important is sincerity," Romulo said.

The foreign affairs chief stressed that there is a "world of difference" between the former chief executives and Mrs. Arroyo. "I’ll not make comparison," he said. "But the President is the President and I will not pick others. She is the best president, committed and ready to do unpopular measures like the EVAT (expanded value-added tax) and the North Rail project. No comparison." Asked why Mrs. Arroyo’s ratings continue to plunge despite her efforts in governance, Romulo said the unpopular decisions like the implementation of the EVAT and other tax measures are the factors. "You know collecting taxes are never popular. She has spent a lot of political capital for this. It was not done before but it has to be done. Governance can improve definitely," he said. — With Paolo Romero

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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