Senior leaders of 51 political parties gather at the Centennial Hall of the Manila Hotel today, the first working day of the First International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), to present their parties' stand on poltical and economic reforms and a new strategy for Asia in the first years of the 21st century.
President Joseph Estrada will meet the ICAPP delegates and deliver his address at a dinner-reception at Malacanang Palace, capping a hectic day after Sunday night's opening dinner-reception at the Champagne Room of the Manila Hotel attended by local political dignitaries and some 120 delegates from 21 Asian countries.
A total of 156 regular delegates from 19 Asian countries would be participating in the international gathering.
The Japanese delegation is scheduled to arrive today led by two potential Japanese prime ministers in Congressmen Kunio Hatoyama and Seishiro Etoh, both of the powerful Liberal Democratic Party that led Japan to its post-war economic reconstruction and boom. Etoh was former acting LDP secretary-general and Hatoyama former LDP vice-chairman.
Already in town heading South Korea's Millennium Democratic Party is Hahn Hwa-kap, former secretary-general of South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung's National Congress for New Politics and a presidential timber; fomer Indonesian Ambassador to the Philippines Abu Hartono and former Indonesian Speaker Harmoko; Prince Norodom Ranarridh who heads the Funcinpec party and is president of Cambodia's National Assembly; and former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of the Pakistan People's Party.
The bulk of the foreign delegates planed in Saturday night and Sunday morning for the conference, the first in history among Asia's ruling and leading opposition parties, according to former Speaker Jose de Venecia, conference founder and chairman of the organizing committee.
De Venecia, the national chairman of the Lakas-NUCD, will stress the conference vision of creating a culture of cooperation among Asia's parties and hastening the region's economic and political integration in his remarks opening the conference Monday.
The two-time Speaker said Asia's leaders "must raise strong political will" to face the parties' "greatest challenges" which he identified as completing the region's "agricultural and industrial modernization, eradicating mass poverty, controlling corruption, and enabling our peoples to cope with the technological and knowledge revolution."
De Venecia's call for a new global Christian-Moslem partnership and dialogue is also expected to resonate positively in the light of the current conflict in Mindanao, the separatist movement in Indonesia and ethnic and politico-religious conflicts in other regions of the world.
Former Philippine President Corazon Aquino will address the conference after the lunch break. The CDI representative, Valgerd Svarstad Haugland, will speak in behalf of CDI President Ricardo Arias Calderon, the former vice president of Panama.
Today's program also includes welcome remarks by former Ambassador Jose Romero of the Asian Center for the Study of Democracy, Dr. Willibold Frehner of thee Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and Dr. Rainer Gepperth fo the Hanns Siedel Foundation. The three organizations are co-sponsors of the Conference with the Asia-Pacific Office of the Christian Democrats People's Parties International (CDI).
Asia's senior leaders in attendance will read their statements. They are Ranarridh, Bhutto, former South Korean President Kim Young Sam, and Speaker of the Bangladesh Parliament Humayun Rasheed Choudhury. …