Opening Statment by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the Joint Press Conference, Malacanang Palace, 10 Dec 2004

10 Dec 2004

I'd like to welcome Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to the Philippines. He's my seatmate in the ASEAN summit, and I'm truly impressed by the breadth and depth of his world view. Prime Minister Lee represents a new consensus in Asia, a fresh start in the world. There is indeed new leadership in Southeast Asia. Not only Singapore and the Philippines but Indonesia, Malaysia, and the new leadership can bring about a strong Asia and a united world.

The visit of Prime Minister Lee to the Philippines gives this new leadership the opportunity to renew the multifaceted relationship between the Philippines and Singapore and to strengthen it.

Singapore was the first developed ASEAN country, and continues to be the Philippines' largest trading partner in ASEAN. We have invited Singapore, which has no agriculture, to source more agricultural products from the Philippines.

We also invite more Singapore tourists to visit the Philippines. And for this purpose, we shall give frequencies to Singaporean budget airlines under a reviewed air agreement.

Singapore has large investments in the Philippines, like Singtel, Kei Pei, Filipinas Palm Oil, Development Bank of Singapore and Club Panoly. Singpower is also a bidder in the privatization of our transmission company. We are inviting Singaporean businessmen to invest in airport., logistics, agro-fishery, health care, and small and medium enterprises. In order to reduce red tape for Singaporean and other investors, I have instructed the revival of the one-stop for investments that I established when I was still Undersecretary of Trade and Industry but which the previous administration abolished.
Singapore has another facet of the relationship with the Philippines and that is it hosts 80,000 Filipinos ranging from company CEOs - like Vince Perez used to be in Singapore - to I.T. specialists, to nurses who were the heroes of Singapore during the SARS crisis and to domestic helpers. We thank the government of Singapore for its continuing support to the Bayanihan Center which is the Filipino worker's clubhouse in Singapore.

Singapore and the Philippines also cooperate actively against terrorism. Singaporean intelligence was among the sources that led to the arrest of Fathur Al Ghozi in the Philippines and Philippine intelligence has likewise also helped lead to the arrest of international terrorist elements in Singapore. I shall count on Singapore's support in the Philippines' work as chairman of the APEC Counter-Terrorism Task Force.

Singapore is a technology giant even if its population is small its dynamic I.T. community complements the abundant I.T. manpower of the Philippines. We look forward to working out a mechanism with Singapore for the mutual recognition of standard for I.T. and I.T. related services including animation.

The Philippines looks towards Singapore, the high-tech giant, for cooperation in technology to overcome the gap in education, the crush of poverty and the threat of instability in parts of Asia of course. We recognize technology is not enough to overcome all these. Economic promise must become economic reality. And here again, the Philippines looks towards Singapore, the most-developed county in ASEAN - though Prime Minister Lee said, they don't want to call themselves the most-developed country but the high-income developing country - we look to them for cooperation in this field.

Finally, I thank the Prime Minister and the people of Singapore for their sympathy for the calamity victims that have suffered this past few weeks in the Philippines.

And once again, Mr. Prime Minister, welcome! And I give you the floor.

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