, SEPTEMBER 3, 2007 (OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY) Buoyed up by an economy that has reached a new level of maturity and stability, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo embarks this week on another economic mission when she flies to Sydney, Australia for this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum.

The conclave, which will bring together the leaders of 21 economies in the Asia Pacific, including the United States, Japan and China, is slated on Sept. 3-9.

Capping the six-day economic forum will be the Asia Economic Leaders Meeting (AELM) which the President will attend starting Friday.

The AELM is the most significant economic forum of its kind. Hosted by Australia, the sessions will take place in an informal, relaxed, retreat setting in which leaders can address issues of strategic importance to the region.

Expected to top the AELM agenda are the global concerns on climate change, energy security, and terrorism, issues that the President has consistently shown keen interest in.

The President will be going to the annual summit armed with the latest economic data showing a second quarter growth of 7.5 percent of the Philippine economy, its strongest uptick in two decades.

Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which the Philippines is a founding member, are expected to hold bilateral negotiations with their counterparts from Australia and New Zealand on an ASEAN free trade agreement on the sidelines of the APEC meeting.

The deadline for the free trade talks between the 10-member ASEAN and agricultural powerhouses Australia and New Zealand has been extended to May next year.

Although heads of member economies will issue an APEC Economic Leaders Declaration (AELD) at the end of the summit, the document is not expected to partake of the nature of binding agreements.

Although in the past APEC had taken up such issues as terrorism and bird flu, along with the changing international agenda, its overall agenda remains firmly rooted in its original objective of promoting trade and investment.

Apart from government officials, joining the President in her Australia trip are leaders of the Filipino business community who include San Miguel Corp president and chief executive officer (CEO) Ramon Ang, San Miguel Corp. chairman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr., Philippine American Life and General Insurance Co. president and CEO Jose L. Cuisia Jr.;

Benguet Corp president and CEO Benjamon Philip G. Romualdez, SM Investments vice chair Teresita Sy-Coson, Planters Development Bank chair and CEO Jesus Tambunting, Philam Insurance chair Roberto Romulo, Magsaysay Group of Companies president and CEO Doris Magsaysay-Ho.

Romulo and Magsaysay-Ho are both members of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC).

PGMA WITH THE FILIPINO COMMUNITY IN MALAYSIA -- A beaming President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is greeted by members of the Filipino community in Malaysia before the start of their meeting Thursday night (Aug. 30) at the Grand Ballroom of the Hotel Nikko in Kuala Lumpur. In their meeting, the President informed the overseas Filipino workers of the impressive 7.3 percent growth of the Philippine economy during the first half of the year. The President is in Malaysia to attend the celebration of its 50th anniversary of independence from British rule. (Edwin Paril-OPS/NIB Photo)

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved