GMA Starts 5-Nation Trip; Signs RP-Japan Free-Trade Accord in Finland Travel Goals Are Environment, Energy, & Economy

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HELSINKI (via PLDT) -- President Arroyo yesterday embarked on a three-day official visit to Finland, the first leg of her five-nation tour with a mission involving three "Es" -- energy, environment, and economy.

The President arrived in this chilly capital of Finland yesterday afternoon (around 7 p.m. in Manila) to attend the 6th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) on Sept. 10 and 11, becoming the first Philippine president to visit a Nordic state in history.

Mrs. Arroyo will join leaders from 25 member-states of the European Union, the European Commission, 10 countries from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and China, Japan, and South Korea for the summit focused on ways to address the challenges of globalization.

The two-day gathering will see how far ASEM has lived up to the expectations of its partners and also look at where the Asia-Europe partnership should be heading after its first 10 years. The last ASEM summit was held in Hanoi in 2004.

At the leaders' summit, President Arroyo is expected to make a strong pitch for cooperation among Asian and European nations in ensuring uninterrupted supply of energy amid high world oil prices.

She will seek closer cooperation in the development of alternative and indigenous energy sources, collective partnership for oil and gas exploration, international cooperation on infrastructure investment, technology transfer and exchange of best practices, according to Philippine Ambassador to Sweden Victoria Bataclan.

The President is also expected to push for closer cooperation among ASEM members on the protection of marine resources in light of the massive oil spill in Guimaras province in the Philippines.

She will inform her Asian and European counterparts about the success of the ASEM Ocean's Initiative hosted by the Philippines in an effort to lessen the impact of climate change.

The initiative seeks closer cooperation among ASEM member-nations in the areas of marine governance, marine environment, and research and development.

The Arroyo government is keen on sustainable development to keep the country's territorial lands and waters "not just inhabitable for life but also as providers for the needs of the present and future generations," said Bataclan.

Bataclan said the ASEM Ocean's Initiative was made more timely following the Guimaras oil spill that has damaged fragile marine ecosystems as well as the livelihood of coastal communities.

In this regard, the President is expected to explore the possibility of assistance from Coral Cay, a non-government organization from the United Kingdom, on the containment of the oil spill in Guimaras province.

Also during the summit, the President is expected to champion the protection of rights of migrant workers and their families.

President Arroyo will also hold bilateral meetings with Finland President Tarja Halonen and Singapore's Lee Hsien Loong at the sidelines of the summit.

On Monday, Mrs. Arroyo plans to attract more foreign investments to the Philippines with her scheduled meetings with Nokia president Olli Pekka Kallasvuo and Finnish energy company Wartsila president Ole Johanson.

In Finland, Arroyo is also expected to meet with the Filipino community and attend a mass.

Arroyo, Koizumi sign free trade agreement


HELSINKI (via PLDT) -- President Arroyo and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi inked the much-delayed free trade agreement yesterday afternoon (around 9 p.m. in Manila) on the eve of the two-day 6th Asia-Europe Meeting here. The landmark bilateral accord opens the door to more trade and investments between the Philippines and Japan.

The signing of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement was the first activity of the President upon her arrival here as part of a nine-day trip to Brussels, London, Havana, and Hawaii. …