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GMA receives warm welcome in Kuala Lumpur

- Marichu A. Villanueva -
KUALA LUMPUR (via PLDT) — Embarking on her first overseas trip since assuming power, President Arroyo arrived in Malaysia yesterday for a state visit and was warmly greeted by a leader who she says is one of her role models, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Mrs. Arroyo landed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 10 a.m. after a three-and-a-half-hour flight from Manila on a chartered Philippine Airlines jet.

Mrs. Arroyo, who is scheduled to go to Brunei and Singapore August 22-26, said she wanted to visit Malaysia first to thank Mahathir for Malaysia’s efforts to promote peace in Mindanao.

The President has said that she respects Mahathir for his tough stance against currency speculation that brought down Asian economies during the crisis that started in 1997.

Mrs. Arroyo and her de-legation were met at the airport by Malaysian officials led by Foreign Minister Datuk Seki Syed Hamid Albar.

After being driven across town amid a downpour that drenched her police escorts, Mrs. Arroyo was officially greeted by Mahathir and Malaysia’s King Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah at Parliament House.

She was introduced to senior Cabinet ministers and inspected a military honor guard, while cannons fired a 21-gun salute and a Navy band played the Philippine and Malaysian national anthems.

Mrs. Arroyo and First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo then rode in the royal limousine with the King and Queen, known here as Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Raja Permaisuri Agong, toward the Shangri-La Hotel, where she and the her delegation are staying until tomorrow.

At the Shangri-La, Mrs. Arroyo, wearing an elegant sky-blue dress, met Mahathir for 30 minutes but neither leader spoke to reporters.

The two leaders later presided over bilateral talks between the two governments, with 14 Cabinet members from both sides in attendance.

Mrs. Arroyo and Mahathir were later scheduled to witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding for tourism at the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya, Malaysia’s administrative capital.

They were also to preside over the signing of a ceasefire agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Mrs. Arroyo and her husband, along with her official delegation were toasted by King Salahuddin and Mahathir at a state banquet at the Istena Negara or Royal Palace last night.

Apart from half her Cabinet members led by Trade and Industry Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Mrs. Arroyo’s delegation was also comprised of 83 businessmen headed by Benjamin Chua.

Mrs. Arroyo will return home tomorrow via Davao City to symbolize the importance of Mindanao in her two-day state visit to Malaysia, the country’s nearest southern neighbor.

Malaysia hosted peace negotiations between the government and Mindanao and has encouraged its businessmen to invest in Mindanao as a component of the East ASEAN Growth Area to help improve the island’s economy

Before flying to Manila, Mrs. Arroyo will stay overnight in Davao City. With reports from Edith Regalado, Rey Arquiza

vuukle comment

ARROYO

AT THE SHANGRI-LA

BENJAMIN CHUA

BRUNEI AND SINGAPORE AUGUST

DAVAO CITY

EDITH REGALADO

FOREIGN MINISTER DATUK SEKI SYED HAMID ALBAR

MAHATHIR

MINDANAO

MRS

MRS. ARROYO

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