MANILA, JUNE 27, 2007 (STAR) President Arroyo flew yesterday to Equatorial Guinea in the hope of sealing a joint venture oil exploration deal with the oil-rich West African nation.

Malacañang said Mrs. Arroyo, who also visited Singapore over the weekend, departed on a chartered Philippine Airlines flight bound for Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea.

While in Equatorial Guinea, the President is scheduled to address the People’s Republic Chamber, followed by a meeting with her counterpart, President Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo.

The two leaders will witness the signing of an accord for further bilateral cooperation.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said the trip to Equatorial Guinea was crucial to a possible deal on a joint venture between the Philippine National Oil Co.-Energy Development Corp. and its Equatorial Guinea counterpart.

“This is very significant considering that Equatorial Guinea is a major producer of oil, even bigger than Brunei as far as oil production is concerned,” he said.

He did not provide further details on the proposed joint venture.

Arroyo will tour the Campo Alba Oil Field Complex and meet with the 2,500 Filipino overseas workers there before returning to Manila on Wednesday.

During her state visit to Singapore, Mrs. Arroyo claimed that the Philippine economy has “turned the corner” and the country will work to ensure its gains are sustainable.

Arroyo, who was also leading a business mission to seek more investments, said her government plans to invest massively in infrastructure and education in order to boost the country’s long-term competitiveness.

She also said her government will not resort to short-term solutions for political gain.

“We have turned the corner on our economy,” Arroyo said in a speech at a meeting organized by the Philippines-Singapore Business Council.

“The Philippines is on a path to permanent economic growth and stability,” she said.

“We will not sacrifice long-term gains for short-term political expediency.”

The economy has expanded for 26 straight quarters with growth coming in at 6.9 percent in the March quarter, its fastest pace in nearly 20 years, according to government figures.

Arroyo said the investments pouring into the country, including Texas Instruments’ plans to build a $1-billion computer chip plant, are a vote of confidence.

Even as the economy is now reaping the rewards of painful reforms undertaken by her government in the last few years, investments are being made to lay the foundation for continued growth, said Arroyo.

“Our reforms are succeeding in attracting foreign investment,” the Philippine leader said.

“We are working to ensure that all these will be sustained. We are following up the pain of tax-raising measures with the gain that comes from significant investment in people and projects,” she said.

Arroyo said investing in its people and the country’s infrastructure is a key way to “ensure that the progress cannot be reversed.”

“This includes billions of pesos in education, healthcare and training along with billions in new bridges, roads and ports to upgrade the competitiveness of the Philippines,” she said.

Arroyo, on her second state visit to Singapore, also expressed hopes Singapore investors will be attracted by the Philippine economy’s performance.

Bilateral trade between the two countries was worth Singapore$17.03 billion (US$11.13 billion) in 2006, up 15.8 percent from the previous year, figures from Singapore showed.

Arroyo arrived in Singapore on Saturday before attending the World Economic Forum on East Asia, a gathering of business leaders and officials, on Sunday. – AFP

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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