GMA-BUSH  MEETING  SET  NEXT  MONTH;  FOOD  SECURITY AMONG MAIN  ISSUES

[PHOTO AT LEFT - President Arroyo is welcomed by Bongao residents at Sanga-sanga Airport in Tawi-tawi yesterday.]

MANILA, May 31, 2008 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - Food security, counter-terrorism and veterans’ affairs are among the issues President Arroyo and US President George W. Bush and key US government officials will discuss in Washington next month, Malacañang announced last night.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo will be on an official visit to Washington DC and New York City from June 23 to 29 to meet with key US government officials and members of Congress, Filipino World War II veterans, leaders and members of the Filipino-American community, business people, investors and environmental groups.

“In Washington, President Bush will welcome President Arroyo to the White House for discussions on issues of great interest to the Philippines and the United States, particularly on ways to further strengthen our long standing and historic bilateral relations,” Bunye said.

He said “President Arroyo hopes to exchange views with President Bush on a broad range of issues, including food security, protection of the environment, the Philippine Defense Reform program, counterterrorism, non-proliferation, ASEAN’s community building, human rights, Myanmar, global trade.”

She will also thank Bush for the support given to Filipino World War II veterans through the US Veterans Office in Manila and the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.

“One of the objectives of the President in visiting Washington is to personally thank the US Senate for its historic vote of 96-1 in favor of the Veterans Benefits Bill,” Bunye said.

“She will also express her hope for a meaningful resolution to remaining issues relating to our veterans,” he said, referring to the pending veterans’ bill in the US House of Representatives.

Bunye said if the US House would be able to pass its version by that time, she would also be meeting with members of the chamber.

The President will also meet with the Philippines-US Friendship Caucus, a group composed of members of the House of Representatives particularly interested in strengthening relations between the Philippines and the United States.

She will also meet with some US Cabinet officials.

While in Washington, she will hold consultations with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

Last March, the MCC granted the Philippines Compact Eligible status, “opening the door to large grants for sustainable growth,” he said.

He said the Philippines was selected after passing objective indicators in the areas of governing justly, investing in citizens, and encouraging economic freedom.

The President will also advance her environmental agenda while in Washington, including a special meeting of stakeholders in the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI), he said.

“This meeting will bring the private and business sectors into this important initiative on the environment,” Bunye said, adding the CTI is focused on three primary areas: protecting coral reefs from man-made and natural disturbances, developing sustainable fisheries, and ensuring food security for the region’s inhabitants.

The ASEAN-US Business Council and the United States Chamber of Commerce will jointly host a dinner in honor of Mrs. Arroyo in Washington, he said.

In New York, she will meet with a number of business and investment groups.

Mrs. Arroyo will also host a reception for the Permanent Representatives of the United Nations to push the candidature of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago to the International Court of Justice, he said.

Bush, GMA to tackle food security By Paolo Romero Saturday, May 31, 2008

Food security will be among the broad range of issues to be discussed by US President George W. Bush and President Arroyo when they meet at the White House on June 24.

Malacañang and the White House, in separate statements, said they welcome the summit that would take up a wide array of topics that are of paramount concern to the Philippines and the US.

Other pressing global issues that will be tackled in the meeting are the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Burma, counter-terrorism, defense reform and regional economic integration, according to the White House statement.

“The US-Philippines alliance is grounded firmly in shared values of freedom, security and prosperity, and the President looks forward to discussions with President Arroyo on ways to enhance further our strong partnership and support for democracy in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond,” it said.

Bunye said “both parties look forward to this meeting to find ways and means to enhance our ties.”

He said Mrs. Arroyo’s visit to the US starting on June 23 was something that has been mutually discussed for sometime now.

He said Bush reiterated his invitation to President Arroyo in their brief meeting in Australia last year during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Bunye also sought to correct reports that the two leaders, who are on their last terms in office, would be meeting for the last time.

The US President would be stepping down from office this year while Mrs. Arroyo’s term ends in 2010.

Bunye said the two leaders would still be meeting in the APEC summit in Lima, Peru this November “so it’s not correct to say it’s the last meeting between the two Presidents.”

He also said the relationship between the Philippines and the US would remain strong regardless of who would be in office in the two countries.

“I believe our relationship will go on regardless of who will be incumbent President of the US and for that matter, whoever is incumbent President of the Republic of the Philippines,” Bunye said.

Former House Speaker and Pangasinan Rep. Jose De Venecia Jr. also said yesterday that Bush intends to sign the proposed Filipino Veterans Equity Act once the United States Congress approves it.

He said Bush’s intention to sign the bill into law was relayed to him by US officials during his recent visit to Washington DC.

De Venecia said the bill has been approved by the US Senate and is now pending in the House of Representatives.

He has written Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has promised to “give the bill high priority and to help organize feasible financial package to fund it.”

Quoting American lawmakers, De Venecia estimates that as much as $100 million (more than P4 billion) would be needed to fund the measure. The money would go to thousands of Filipino war veterans and their families in the form of pension, health care and other benefits.

Malacañang announced on Thursday that President Arroyo will also meet with other key US government officials and members of Congress, Filipino World War II veterans, leaders and members of the Filipino-American community, businessmen, investors and environmental groups in Washington DC and New York City.

Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo will also thank Bush for the support given to Filipino World War II veterans through the US Veterans Office in Manila and the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.

While in Washington, President Arroyo will hold consultations with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and attend a special meeting of stakeholders in the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI).

The ASEAN-US Business Council and the United States Chamber of Commerce will also jointly host a dinner in honor of Mrs. Arroyo in Washington, according to Bunye.

Mrs. Arroyo will host a reception for the Permanent Representatives of the United Nations to push the candidature of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago to the International Court of Justice. – With Jose Katigbak, STAR Washington Bureau, Jess Diaz, AP


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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