[PHOTO AT LEFT - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo salutes the Philippine colors on Good Friday (April 10) during the departure honors accorded her at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Centennial Terminal 2 in Pasay City before she left for Thailand to attend the ASEAN Plus and East Asian Summits. Escorting her at center is Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Alexander Yano. (Roberto Canilang/OPS-NIB Photo)]

MANILA, APRIL 10, 2009 (MALACANANG) OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo left at 3 p.m. today (Good Friday, April 10) for the Asean Plus and East Asian Summits in Pattaya, Thailand to work out ways “to keep our own region as calm and coordinated as possible.”

The President’s Philippines Airlines PR 001 flight left the NAIA Terminal 2 concourse after the foyer honors for her departure.

Dressed in light-green blazer and black blouse and pants, the President trooped the line with Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Alexader Yano as Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Chief Secretary Hermogenes Esperon and Deputy Immigrations Commissioner Enrique Galang waited to send her off.

Among those accompanying the President to Thailand and then on to Dubai are Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, and other Cabinet members and congressmen.

In her statement that was later distributed to the media by Executive Secretary Ermita, the President said the world economy continues to challenge developed and developing nations alike. “This and North Korea’s missile launch underline the importance of our upcoming ASEAN Plus and East Asian Summits,” she said.

“Within the context of a turbulent world, it is essential to keep our own region as calm and coordinated as possible. The ASEAN Plus and East Asian Summits should be an anchor for member states to keep control of our backyard,” the President stressed.

Pointing out that the Philippine economy remains resilient, the President nonetheless stressed that “ASEAN and related meetings are always an opportunity for us to advance our interests and compare ways to bolster our economy through cooperation with our neighboring countries.”

“It will be important for East Asian leaders to agree on actions to further strengthen our regional economy and on steps to promote peace and stability. We similarly take a strong stand for continued and united efforts on the region’s economy and security,” the President said.

Ermita said the President is expected to hold bilateral meetings in Thailand with the leaders of China, India and Japan.

After the summits in Thailand, the President will fly on Sunday (April 12) to Dubai “to promote the interests of our expatriate workers there."

“The economy has been particularly difficult in Dubai but Filipino workers are still the most sought after workers in the UAE,” the President noted, adding that “as such, I will be going there to champion our workers before the government and those firms that are hiring workers in Dubai.”

She said that “central to keeping the economy is keeping our workers employed—at home and abroad.”

“The central mission of the Philippine government is the health, security and safety of our people. Good jobs and good wages will continue to help achieve those goals,” she added.

“Global engagement has been an essential component of what has kept the Philippines from getting pulled under the raging economic waves sweeping most countries.

“Abroad, our economy is increasingly diversified; we have spread the risk of our reliance on other nations and other markets. At home, today we are a strong, consumer-driven nation that relies less on exports and more on our own domestic economy,” she added.

Ermita said the President will return home by Tuesday (April 14).

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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