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Arroyo Stresses Importance of Trade, Investment During Tokyo Visit - 2002-12-04

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo says that trade and investment from Tokyo are vital to the recovery and growth of Asia. Ms. Arroyo, who is on a state visit to Japan, also stresses the importance of joint action in fighting terrorism.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo links Japanese economic aid with regional peace. At a news conference Wednesday, she said that aid and loans from the world's second largest economy to poorer countries in the region is a vital weapon to ensure regional stability and security.

For this reason, she says Japan's economic recovery is crucial. The country has suffered through three recessions in a decade and now battles an economic slump, deflation and low consumer confidence.

"The major player today, in our regional sphere is Japan, because Japan is more than one half of the economy of the region today," president Arroyo said. " And that is why we all wish success for Japan in its economic recovery, because the economic recovery of Japan will also be the economic recovery and growth of the region. "

Ms. Arroyo is in Japan for a four-day state visit that includes talks with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. She reportedly wants Japan to boost its annual aid package to the Philippines by about nine percent, to more than $600 million. Japan is the Philippines's largest aid donor and its number two trading partner after the United States. Japanese firms are a vital source of investment to the country.

The Philippine leader told the Japanese Parliament that she wants free trade arrangements with Japan and will push the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to open existing trade deals to Japan, China and South Korea.

Ms. Arroyo also told legislators that North Korea's recent revelations on nuclear weapons development are cause for concern. She says her nation opposes nuclear proliferation and will resist a nuclear arms race in East Asia.

She also addressed the issue of international terrorism and noted that urgent cooperation is required among all nations who want peace.

"What is important to realize is terrorism is not the responsibility of one country or one region alone. It is a global threat," she said. " It is a global responsibility and all countries in the world who value peace and freedom must help one another. We must share intelligence. We must break the terrorist cells where we find them. We must break the terrorist network. We must stop the flow of funds. "

Ms. Arroyo says her nation is working to destroy terror cells within its own borders and has taken an aggressive position in the fight against terrorism.

For months, Philippine troops have battled the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf extremists in the southern Philippines. While many of the group's leaders are believed to be in hiding, Ms. Arroyo says the group's overall threat has diminished.