Fri, May 23, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Arroyo courts US business and military cooperation


President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has predicted closer Philippines-US military ties in a world wracked by terrorist violence, but ruled out any combat role for American soldiers in the Southeast Asian nation.

Wrapping up a highly successful weeklong visit during which she was heaped with praise by US President George W. Bush for Manila's steadfast support for the US invasion of Iraq and the war on terror, she said on Wednesday it was a "good time to therefore characterize the relationship."

Saying defense cooperation would deepen, she thanked Bush for helping the Philippines in combatting Muslim insurgency in the southern part of the country.

US military aid to the Philippines had grown to more than US$100 million from US$1.9 million three years ago and was set to rise, she told reporters at a New York hotel.

While US soldiers were free to train and conduct exercises in the former American colony, she said, they could not enter combat and denied public opinion was against US soldiers on Philippine soil.

"If we look at the surveys of the Philippine public, they like the presence of US soldiers," she said.

"Its a question of precisely defining that relationship to be one of mutual trust and serving mutual interests," she said

At a state dinner Monday, Bush praised her as an unwavering partner. She was the third leader to be honored by a state dinner at the Bush White House.

In New York on Wednesday, Arroyo met with representatives of US companies urging them to invest more in the emerging Philippine economy.

She said her reforms and the government's campaign to fight corruption had made the Philippines attractive for information-technology investments.

The country's education system was being modified to make English the medium of instruction, she said, in a bid to provide a better qualified workforce in areas such as calling centers, from where much of telephone marketing in the US and computer troubleshooting is done.

Arroyo said she was hopeful that Philippine businesses will get reconstruction contracts in Iraq and of luring more US companies to invest in her country.

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