MANILA, September 12, 2005
(STAR) President Arroyo leaves tonight to join other heads of state at the World Summit at the 60th session of the United Nations in New York and to preside over the meeting of the powerful UN Security Council (UNSC) where new Philippine initiatives to combat terrorism will be discussed.

In her statement at a televised round-table discussion with Trade Secretary Peter Favila and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Gilberto Asuque, the President said she is leaving the task of running the affairs of the country in the "good hands" of Vice President Noli de Castro while she is away.

"I am going to the United Nations with the mandate of the people," Mrs. Arroyo said. "I will be discussing with world leaders the global fight against terrorism. We will also tackle with our friends abroad creating (a) just and lasting peace in Mindanao. I will talk with industry and trade leaders to attract new investments that will move our economy forward and create jobs for our countrymen."

Mrs. Arroyo and her lean delegation will leave for San Francisco at 10:10 p.m. aboard a commercial Philippine Airlines flight from the Centennial Terminal of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. She reiterated her call for national unity saying all her attention and efforts are focused on reforms needed by the nation and that she hopes that other political leaders would do the same.

"Time is being wasted and the people are getting impatient," the President said. "Those in the provinces are being burdened by the events in Metro Manila. It is time to start a new chapter and take steps for a new tomorrow." She said the country will take off economically if much politicking is set aside.

On Tuesday, the President will attend the Asean-UN meeting where she will take the opportunity to thank the country’s neighbors for their help in facilitating the peace process between the government and the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

She will also support initiatives, Asuque said, to strengthen the relationship of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) with the UN.

On the same day, she will chair the informal meeting among the UN members on Interfaith Dialogue, a Philippine anti-terrorism and pro-peace initiative unanimously approved by the world body last year.

On Sept. 14, Mrs. Arroyo will preside over the UNSC summit, the third in the history of the UN. The President will be the first Filipino president, the first Asian head of state and the first woman leader to preside over a UNSC summit.

"The last time the Security Council met with the Philippines presiding was in 2004, when it declared that democracy must return to Iraq," Mrs. Arroyo said. "A lot of important things are happening with the Philippines as the president of the Security Council so this is a great honor for our country."

Mrs. Arroyo said the Philippines will push forward an innovative proposal for the UNSC to adopt in the global fight against terrorism. The document, she said, is already being circulated among UNSC members for them to study.

However, she did not elaborate on the proposal, saying only that it would conform with the five components set out by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his comprehensive strategy to fight terrorism, namely: Dissuade marginalized groups from joining terrorism; remove the capability of groups to stage terror attacks; dissuade states from coddling or sponsoring terror groups; enhance the capability of nations to fight terrorism; and uphold human rights. The President said the resolutions emanating from the UNSC have the force of law among UN-member nations.

"We hope that our interventions and statements would be reflected in the resolutions that would come out of the UNSC summit with the Philippines presiding," Asuque said.

The world summit would be on Sept. 15 where she would be presenting the Philippine development agenda for the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

Mrs. Arroyo is also set to conduct bilateral talks with other world leaders on the sidelines of the UN Summit, including Chinese President Hu Jintao and Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.

Favila said that just a few hours after the President arrives in New York at dawn on Monday, she will meet one-on-one with Bill Ford, chairman of the Ford Motor Co. It is expected that, during this meeting, the President will thank Ford for his company’s plan to make the Philippines the carmakers’ worldwide hub for small cars.

He said the President is scheduled to meet with the leaders of the US-Asean Business Group; speak before an investors’ forum with fund managers and market analysts hosted by Credit Suisse Boston; be the guest of honor in a dinner meeting hosted by JP Morgan; and have one-on-one meetings with chief executive officers of Dell Computers, Philip Morris, Sutherland Global Services, Affiliated Computer Services, APAC Customer Services, and Convergys.

Sutherland is planning to expand operations in the country to 3,000 seats in business outsourcing while APAC is intending to invest an additional $18 million in its call center operations here, he said. Favila also disclosed that another US firm, Green Mango, is meeting with Mrs. Arroyo to signify plans to do business in the country that would generate some $100 million in profits for small retail companies in the country. Green Mango, he said, is in the cataloging business and would feature Philippine-made products in the US market. — Paolo Romero

View from the Palace (For the week ending September 11, 2005)

Immediately after the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to dismiss the impeachment complaint, President Gloria's critics called for street protests and other mass actions aimed at taking her down at all costs. Unlike the aftermath of non-opening of the second envelope during the Estrada impeachment trial, there has been no spontaneous outpouring of outrage and no swelling of mass support for efforts to oust her.

Businessmen have appealed to her detractors to cease their protests as these continue to adversely affect the economy. Indeed, investors just want all the political noise to quiet down so that economic initiatives can be pursued.

Ordinary citizens just want to get on with their lives. This is not to say that they are apathetic. They merely have realized, and rightly so, that any real change will only come from buckling down to work. As President Gloria herself has said, we must immediately get back to work - not in the streets but in our offices and industrial centers, in our farms and communities.

Those who have a thousand and one negative things to say about President Gloria and her administration must hold up a mirror to themselves and ask what are the positive and productive things they are doing to effect change. Marching in the streets and shouting angry slogans do not count. Neither do plotting and politicking.

Many readers of this column have written or commented when they see me in person that they no longer read newspapers or watch newscasts because they are sick and tired of the negative stories in the media. There are undoubtedly many positive stories but these appear to be glossed over because: (a) they don't sell; (b) keeping the negative stories burning is part of a larger, more sinister agenda; (c) people have forgotten to see the good and are fixated on the bad; or (d) all of the above.

Many of our countrymen have expressed despair over the many problems we face and the seeming absence of light at the end of the tunnel. My challenge to them is to stop whining, cursing and complaining, as all these only serve to reinforce the misconception that our situation is utterly hopeless and that the only solution is a change in leadership.

As a rejoinder to the thought-provoking "12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country" [by Alexander Ledesma Lacson] that I mentioned in a previous column, one of which is speaking positively of our nation and our race, we must call to mind all there is to love and admire about our country and our fellow Filipinos. Surely, there are more things that are uplifting and inspiring, than are despicable and abhorrent, about our country and people.

The sooner we snap out of our "kawawa naman tayo, walang nang pag-asa" mode, the better.

The developed countries that we admire did not get to where they are because things were handed to them on a silver platter by their leaders. Those countries were built painstakingly from the ground up by the collective efforts of their citizens -- that is why the journey to progress is called nation building.

President Gloria has expressed her wish to leave for her trip to the United Nations "with the clear message that the Philippines is one and united, and that we have stability at home and deserve the respect of the world". Whichever side of the political fence we may be, we owe it to our country and our children to end the negative attitudes and behavior that continue to destroy us.

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