, MAY 23, 2007 (BULLETIN) By GENALYN D. KABILING – As she embarked on a four-day official visit in this rich Asian neighbor, President Arroyo carries a clear message for the Japanese government: "The Philippines is back and open for business."

The President, who arrived last night in the Japanese capital, said she intends to invite more Japanese investments into the country, citing political and economic stability back home.

The President faces a hectic schedule today, starting with high-powered meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his office where economic and security concerns top the agenda.

Afterwards, she will meet with members of the Japanese parliament and potential Japanese investors.

"On this trip to Japan, we will be meeting with business and financial leaders from around the region to again tell the Philippine story and encourage them that the Philippine turnaround is here to stay. That our politics have stabilities and that we are the best value in Asia," the President said in a statement.

Aside from a robust economic growth, Mrs. Arroyo pointed out that Philippine democracy has been renewed after a "vigorous" elections last week.

She acknowledged that foreign relations play a vital role in her administration’s vision towards a modern Philippines.

"Our trip to Japan is another step in our quest to further cement our ties and bring more investments, economic growth and peace and stability to our nation," Mrs. Arroyo said.

After the one-billiondollar investment of Texas Instruments in the country, Mrs. Arroyo said Tokyo Electric and Marubeni were also making a -billion dollar investment, the largest Japanese investment in Philippine history.

"Their investment in the Philippines is no mistake: the world is sitting up and taking notice that the Philippines is back and open for business. Our economy and gains against poverty are proof the plan is working," she said.

In her 30-minute meeting with Prime Minister Abe, the President said she would also seek sustained support from Japan in the government’s peace and development initiatives in Mindanao.

She cited Japan for its pivotal role in bringing peace, stability and economic opportunity to the conflict in Mindanao. "Prime Minister Abe is playing an instrumental role in nurturing the peace process," she added.

Japan has sent a representative in the international monitoring team that oversees the implementation of the ceasefire agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Also, the President said she will seek closer alliance with Japan in the pursuit of regional security, stability and peace.

"The ongoing concerns about North Korea’s nuclear capability and the existing danger of global terrorism remain front and center. Plans for improved coordination and cooperation will be discussed along with our shared economic agenda," she said.

Finally, Arroyo said she intends to send a "clear message" to Japan that relations between Manila and Tokyo "have never been stronger."

"We hope we make advances on closer economic ties and continue to build on the warm ties that bind our relations with Japan not, just in the Philippines but in the ASEAN region and the world," she added.

Tomorrow, the President, sitting as chairperson of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the East Asian Summit, will deliver a keynote address at the 13th Nikkei International Conference on the "Future of Asia."

This would be Arroyo’s third appearance at the annual conference organized by Nikkei Inc, the owner of influential and reputable business daily The Nihon Keizai Shimbun.

Other speakers at this year’s Nikkei conference themed "Deepening Cooperation Towards a True Community" include Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, Singapore’s former Prime Minister and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla.

Philippine Ambassador to Japan Domingo Siazon Jr. said the President would convey to Japanese business community the viability of the Philippines as an investment choice.

The Philippine government tried to assure the business community in Hong Kong to keep their faith in the country’s economy with a soaring peso and robust economic growth at a non-deal roadshow here Monday.

"The President said we have to strike while the iron is hot. The iron is now very hot," Siazon told Manila-based reporters at the Daichi-Hotel here about the President’s investment road show here.

Japan willing to write Senate on JPEPA

TOKYO (via PLDT) — Japan is willing to send a formal letter to the Philippine Senate as an assurance that its economic partnership agreement with Manila will not result in Tokyo dumping toxic wastes in Philippine waters.

Philippine Ambassador to Japan Domingo Siazon Jr. yesterday said both foreign ministries of Manila and Tokyo have agreed to draft a "side letter" to dispel environmental concerns about the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

"We have tentatively agreed that there will be side letter to cover that between our two foreign ministers that Japan will not export any material which is considered illegal," Siazon said in an interview with Manila-based reporters at the Daichi-Hotel here.

Siazon lamented that abundance of "doubting Thomases" back in the Philippines on the trade deal with Japan, which was signed by the President and then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Finland last September 2006.

"We have a lot of doubting Thomases, they want to see Jesus Christ in person, alive before they believe in the resurrection. In order to cover that, you have the side letter between two foreign ministries," he said.

Siazon said the letter could be immediately sent if the new set of Filipino senators would ask for it when they debate on the JPEPA. He expressed hopes that Japan’s assurance would facilitate a swift Senate ratification of the trade pact.

Siazon said he believes the new senators regardless of partisan affiliations would rule favorably on JPEPA in the interest of the nation. "I think it’s wrong to believe our senators will vote through parties. Our senators have always been 24 individual intelligent people. They will vote for the interest of the people," he said. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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