NOVEMBER 19, 2006 (STAR) If only Filipinos were as disciplined as the Vietnamese, the Philippines would have grown by leaps and bounds, President Arroyo said here yesterday.

In her speech before members of the Filipino community at the Hotel Nikko, the President said it’s only been three decades since the Vietnam War had ended "but in such a short time, the Vietnamese managed to rebuild their country."

"This is proof of the discipline of the Vietnamese, like the Chinese," Mrs. Arroyo said. "I hope this time, maybe us Filipinos should learn from the example shown by the Vietnamese, particularly their discipline to achieve progress for their country."

"We can learn plenty from the fast growth of Vietnam so we can also hasten the progress in the Philippines toward our aspirations of a strong Republic," she said.

Vietnam’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) averaged 6.8 percent annually from 1997 to 2004; its growth hit eight percent in 2005.

Mrs. Arroyo arrived here Friday night accompanied by a few Cabinet officials and lawmakers. She proceeded straight to the venue where she is also billeted.

During the event, she received a donation of $5,500 from two Filipino organizations — Pinoy sa Hanoi and Samahang Pinoy sa Vietnam — for the construction of classrooms in the country.

She thanked them for their contributions for the victims of the tragic landslide in Southern Leyte in March this year.

Mrs. Arroyo noted that while the Filipino population in Vietnam is small, which is approximately only over a thousand, their "influence and impact on your host country far outweighs your number."

The President recalled that Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo was here a year ago to forge agreements, one of which was an effort to double the trade between the two countries from $1 billion in 2005 to $2 billion by 2007.

She noted that the Philippines imports a substantial amount of rice from Vietnam. "I hope our overseas Filipinos could help in selling our products here."

Many Filipinos working here are mostly businessmen, managers, accountants, or hold other white collar jobs, explaining the Vietnamese’ high regard for them, the President said.

She also said Filipino business leaders have helped create opportunities for Vietnam’s economy like investments from Jollibee, San Miguel Corp., Universal Robina and other companies.

Remittances from them have also helped in strengthening the economy, Mrs. Arroyo said. "In other words, your (Filipino community) contribution is not only national but also regional or even global."

She pointed out that the Philippines’ economic fundamentals would be stronger if all Filipinos cooperate and support their country. — Paolo Romero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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