June 23, 2008 (STAR) By Paolo Romero — President Arroyo will visit Fresno and meet members of the Filipino community there, her first official activity of the 10-day working visit to the United States.

Mrs. Arroyo arrived here Saturday night, together with 10 Cabinet officials. The presidential party is scheduled to visit Fresno, the state’s center for agricultural production, which is a four-hour drive from San Francisco on Sunday morning.

Ambassador and Presidential Assistant for State and Foreign Visits Marciano Paynor said the theme of Mrs. Arroyo’s visit is “Lakbay Amerika sa Diwa ng Demokrasya at sa Maunlad na Ekonomiya (Journey to America in the Spirit of Democracy and a Progressive Economy).”

Paynor said Mrs. Arroyo was supposed to meet Republican presidential candidate John McCain in Fresno but moved the meeting to Washington next week because the latter could not make it on the time agreed and “he requested that the meeting be transferred to Washington.”

The Filipino community in Fresno is ready to meet Mrs. Arroyo and she would hear Mass with some 600 Filipino-Americans there and nearby counties such as Stockton, Bakersfield, Modesto and Merced.

The Mass would take place at the Fresno Convention Center.

Fresno, he said, is the “center of what is known as the central valley which is the rice and agricultural center of California.” The state is also known to be the main producer of rice for the United States and also for Japan, Paynor said.

“A significant portion of their produce is exported to Japan. And at a time we are experiencing the spiraling cost of basic commodities especially rice, what better place to tackle or at least to look at the food security issue than Fresno,” Paynor said.

Fresno is also an important place for the Filipinos as it is where the first Filipino community in continental United States was established way back in 1898.

“It was in Stockton then they moved to Fresno so you can imagine in a sense the importance of the place,” he said.

There are only about 10,000 Filipino families in Fresno or about 30,000 Filipino-Americans.

The President would also visit the Regional Hospital of Fresno where there are quite a number of Filipino doctors and nurses employed.

Mrs. Arroyo would also visit the University of California-San Francisco Medical Research and Training Center which is headed by a US-trained Filipino doctor, Dr. Dominic Dizon.

Paynor said the President may have a brief lunch with the Filipino community and would proceed to Washington DC where she has a packed schedule that included a meeting with US President George W. Bush that would tackle a wide-range of issues that affect bilateral relations between the two allies, including food security.

GMA to campaign for Miriam in ICJ bid during New York visit By Paolo Romero Monday, June 23, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO, California (via PLDT) — President Arroyo will campaign for Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s candidacy for a seat in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of the United Nations when she visits New York on Wednesday, officials said.

Ambassador and Presidential Assistant for State and Foreign Visits Marciano Paynor Jr., who is also the Philippine Consul General here, said Mrs. Arroyo is set to meet with UN Permanent Representatives from various countries later this week to convince them to vote for Santiago, the Philippine nominee for the ICJ.

Santiago is currently the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

“Definitely we have votes but they are not yet shall we say, we don’t have the position in the bag. That’s why we are trying to talk to them some more,” Paynor said.

When asked of Santiago’s chances to be named to the world court, he said: “It’s very difficult to say because usually you talk about a whole lot of membership in the United Nations and sometimes of course they will vote etc. but unless they say it in writing and ask for a quid pro quo.”

Five seats in the ICJ will be available on Feb. 5, 2009 and elections will be held at the UN in New York later this year. A candidate needs to get at least a majority vote in both the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council, voting simultaneously but separately.

Mrs. Arroyo arrived here at around 7:20 p.m. Saturday (10:20 a.m. Sunday, Manila time) for a 10-day working visit to the United States. She is scheduled to meet with US President George W. Bush at the White House as well as other top officials and business groups.

She is also scheduled to meet with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate John McCain. Her first public engagement would be in Fresno, California on Sunday morning to meet with members of the Filipino community.

Mrs. Arroyo announced Santiago’s nomination to the 15-seat ICJ during a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in July last year.

Santiago was nominated by the Philippine National Group composed of Supreme Court Associate Justice Consuelo Ynares Santiago, retired Supreme Court associate justice Florentino Feliciano, then Integrated Bar of the Philippines National President Jose Vicente Salazar, and University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law Dean Alfredo Benipayo.

Chief Justice Reynato Puno, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Philippine Bar Association, The Philippine Women Judges Association Inc., The Philippine Association of Law Schools and the Philippine Association of Law Professors, endorsed her candidacy.

Founded in 1945, the ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. The Court decides two types of cases: legal disputes between States submitted to Court or contentious cases, and requests for advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by the United Nations organs and specialized agencies or advisory opinions. 

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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