[PHOTO AT LEFT - ARROYO-ABE MEETING IN TOKYO. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lead a bilateral meeting Wednesday, May 23, 2007, at the office of the Prime Minister in Tokyo, Japan. The President is in Japan to attend the 13th NIKKEI Conference on The Future of Asia as well as to further enhance friendly and economic bilateral relations between the Philippines and Japan. Among those with the President at left are Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, Secretary of Finance Margarito Teves, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alberto Romulo, Ambassador Domingo Siazon, Secretary of Trade and Industry Peter Favila, Rep. Edcel Lagman, and Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye. With Prime Minister Abe are Ambassador to Manila Ryuichiro Yamasaki and other Japanese officials.]

TOKYO, JAPAN (AP), MAY 24, 2007 (BULLETIN) Japan’s prime minister told visiting Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Wednesday that Tokyo is planning to give aid grants to her country for natural disaster alleviation projects, an official said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Arroyo also discussed plans for a future Asian summit and regional issues such as North Korea and economic development.

The prime minister said Japan was expected to extend grants to help the Philippines deal with natural disasters like typhoons and earthquakes, Abe spokesman Hiroshige Seko told reporters. The timing of the grants and their monetary amount are still under consideration.

The meeting was the third between the two leaders and came during Arroyo’s first trip to Japan since December, 2003.

While in Japan, Arroyo will also attend a symposium on the "Future of Asia" sponsored by the Japanese business newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun. Her visit is scheduled to end Thursday.

Arroyo welcomes planned revision of Japan constitution By GENALYN D. KABILING

TOKYO — President Arroyo yesterday welcomed planned constitutional changes of Japan to have a greater global role in peacekeeping and other military affairs despite critics’ concerns about a resurgent Japanese imperialism in the past century.

The President expressed support to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who seeks to revise Tokyo’s pacifist constitution, during their 30-minute meeting at his office here.

"We were very happy when you announced your foreign policy to open Japan and indeed look forward to Japan playing a bigger role, not only for economic integration but also peace, security and stability," she told her Japanese counterpart.

Mrs. Arroyo acknowledged that Japan, the second largest economy in the world, is a major player in the region’s economic growth as well as peace and stability.

She cited the pivotal role of Japan in global efforts to end the nuclear conflict in the Korean peninsula as well as in the peace and development initiatives in Mindanao, where her government struggles to fight off Muslim separatists and extremists.

"We welcome their assistance and their aid and their participation in the peace process in Mindanao," she said early in the day.

Abe, a conservative and the first Japanese leader born after World War II, has made rewriting the 1947 US-drafted constitution one of his top policy goals. Many Japanese believe that the charter’s pacifist clause, Article 9, has kept the country out of war since 1945.

Changing the charter will require approval by two-thirds of the members of both houses of parliament, as well as half the voters in a national referendum.

Abe, in his meeting with Arroyo, said Japan remains committed to its relationship with the Philippines and other members of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"I believe it is very important, not only for Japan but also for the region, to build a stronger cooperative relationship with the Philippines, which is one of the most democratic countries of ASEAN," he said.

Abe also extended his invitation to President Arroyo for a state visit in Japan soon depending on the availability of mutual schedules. Officials earlier said the President’s imminent visit is scheduled in September.

After the meeting with Abe, the President met with members of the Japanese parliament in a dinner hosted by Philippine Ambassador to Japan Domingo Siazon Jr. at the Imperial Hotel.

Mrs. Arroyo assured them that her government would push for the immediate ratification of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) to faciliate more trade and investments between the two countries.

She also thanked the Japanese government officials for the sustained development aid to the Philippines, adding she looks forward to stronger relationship with its ally in the years to come.

As the President arrived in Tokyo late Tuesday, a small group of people held a candlelight vigil in front of the Philippine embassy to protest extra-judicial killings in the Philippines.

Local human rights groups have claimed that more than 800 people were victims of political murders since President Arroyo took office in 2001.

President Arroyo is scheduled to return to the Philippines on Friday afternoon.

President Arroyo assures Japanese business community By GENALYN D. KABILING

TOKYO — President Arroyo yesterday assured the Japanese business community that the Philippines’ unprecedented economic progress would not be compromised by domestic partisan politics.

The President highlighted the country’s stable economic and political situation as she sought to convince the foreign businessmen to pour investments into the Philippines during an investment road show held at the Kaikan Tokyo Hotel here.

Addressing some 500 Japanese businessmen gathered at the Philippine Business seminar, the President said the country has "one of the best values" in Asia for investments, citing soaring peso, robust stock market, and millions of jobs as proof of economic strength.

Mrs. Arroyo added that the May 14 congressional and local elections showing an "overwhelming majority" of administration congressmen and local government officials were "a vote for political stability and economic reform."

Buoyed by the results of the ballot, the President promised to focus on economic reforms and carry out trade and investment strategies to reinforce the Philippines as a major investment destination in the region.

"I suppose as a way of demonstrating, the path we have set for economic reform has not been upset by partisan politics. Politics will not undo our economic progress," she said during the investment road show at the Kaikan Tokyo Hotel.

"We can continue on the path we have set for putting people ahead of politics by focusing relentlessly on the economy," she added.

Under her leadership, the President said the local economy has reached "a new level of maturity and stability with some of the strongest macroeconomic fundamentals in a decade." "We are a good business environment getting even better," she said.

While the opposition is likely to take control of the Senate, the President had predicted a big victory for administration candidates in the House of Representatives as well as in local positions at stake.

A majority in the House of Representatives would avert any third impeachment bid against President Arroyo on charges she stole the 2004 presidential election, thereby ensure her uninterrupted stay in office until 2010.

Despite reports of election fraud and violence, the President also defended that the country’s crucial midterm elections were "peaceful, fair, and free."

"The message of our elections was that the Philippine economy is stable and strong," she told the group of potential Japanese investors.

Apart from economic and political stability, the President also highlighted the country’s competitive location for all companies looking to establish or expand their business in the region as well as the world-class Filipino workforce.

"We are right in the middle of this region. We offer a strategic location in a fast-growing region. Our workforce is well educated, productive, and English-speaking. Our strength lies in education and training of our people and the package of reforms we have done," she said.

In the remainder of her term, the President promised to upgrade public infrastructure as well as improve social services using extra revenues from tax reforms. She also intends to balance the budget by next year, two years ahead of the target.

"This we hope will in turn attract more foreign investments such as yours and create more jobs, ultimately improving the lives of our people," she said.

After years of economic lethargy, the President said the country is now on a path to permanent economic growth and stability mainly due to the government’s hard-fought fiscal reforms.

"We urge you, participants in this business seminar and leaders of the Japanese business community, to come to the Philippines and explore all that the country has to offer you and your business," she added.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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