Equatorial Guinea president receives congressional medal
() - May 21, 2006 - 12:00am
Calling the Philippines’ many overseas workers its "best ambassadors" around the world, visiting Equatorial Guinea President Obiang Mbasogo received the Congressional Medal of Achievement, in honor of his leadership in guiding the West African country back from the lingering effects of dictatorship towards economic prosperity.

Obiang commended overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) for their contribution to the development of his country.

Speaker Jose de Venecia De Venecia Jr. conferred the medal on the second day of Obiang’s four-day state visit to the Philippines, in ceremonies attended by senior leaders of the House of Representatives and members of the African President’s delegation.

"On coming to power, he released all political prisoners, reopened all the churches, ordered the immediate restitution of private property the regime had confiscated, and had the democratic constitution written," the House citation said.

The World Bank, according to the citation, "praised his administration of his country’s resources, as well as his reinvestment in the country of the proceeds of his natural wealth. This assessment was reinforced by the International Monetary Fund in March 2006."

As for foreign relations, the citation said Obiang "has kept Equatorial Guinea on equally friendly terms with the rival powers, the (United States), China and France. Regionally, his country has become the richest of the six nations of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African states."

The citation added that Obiang moved to restore social stability and economic growth to Equatorial Guinea by bringing it to the six-nation African-Franc Zone in 1987 and allowing American oil companies in 1992 to explore and develop the country’s offshore hydrocarbon resources.

"This single policy decision has made his country the third largest oil producer in Africa after Nigeria and Angola," De Venecia said.

The award also highlighted the African country’s hospitality to some 3,000 OFWs employed in banks and in American construction and engineering company Bechtel Corp.

De Venecia also hailed the revival of the "Bandung Spirit" of Afro-Asian cooperation and partnership to the two countries’ improved diplomatic relations.

Equatorial Guinea supported the Philippines’ bid for a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.

De Venecia said the two countries are also exploring possible development programs for skills training in health care, education and civil service, mining, information technology and agri-fisheries for Equatorial Guinea students in the Philippines.
Impressed with OFWs
In a speech before the state dinner hosted for him by President Arroyo on Friday night, Obiang said the more than 3,000 OFWs in his country have been living harmoniously with the locals in their places of work at the petrochemical, wood, banking and other industries.

He said he was impressed with the Philippines’ achievements in the fields of technology, hydrocarbons, agriculture, fisheries, industrialization, infrastructure, trade, tourism, and banking and finance.

"(OFWs) constitute the best ambassadors your country has been able to send to Equatorial Guinea. They testify most eloquently of the technological advances already attained in the above mentioned fields as well as the humane character that characterizes your country," Obiang said.

He added that these Philippine achievements "are the same lofty goals and aspirations of the people of Equatorial Guinea, whose government works day and night tirelessly for this dream to become a reality."

Mrs. Arroyo, on the other hand, lauded Equatorial Guinea for the economic growth it has achieved due to the development of its large oil reserves and Obiang’s leadership.

She also praised the OFWs’ huge contribution of OFWs to the development of Equatorial Guinea.

Mrs. Arroyo said the economy of Equatorial Guinea, previously an agricultural country, rose dramatically because of the recent discovery of its large oil reserves.

"Now with the blessings of oil and the leadership of Your Excellency, Equatorial Guinea has achieved a tremendous improvement in its economy and I wish to congratulate your leadership for this," she told Obiang.

Mrs. Arroyo said she is "also proud at the same time of the contribution of some of our great Filipino workers to the development of Equatorial Guinea. The Philippines depends on oil imports for energy, but as you have seen, we are blessed with the best knowledge workers in the world."

She also bestowed on Obiang the Order of Sikatuna with the rank of Supremo at Malacañang’s Study Room before the dinner.

The Order of Lakandula is an order of political and civic merit awarded in memory of Lakandula’s dedication to the responsibilities of leadership, prudence, fortitude, courage and resolve in the service of one’s people.

The rank of Supremo or Grand Collar is conferred upon an individual who has suffered materially in order to preserve and defend the democratic way of life or the territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.

Both leaders said they look forward to stronger cooperation between the two countries in the fields of energy, human resources, agriculture, education, fisheries, culture and finance.

The Philippines and Equatorial Guinea have a common history, both having been colonized by Spain for centuries.

The purpose of Obiang’s state visit is to explore possible investment agreements with the Philippines. — With Aurea Calica

AFRICAN PRESIDENT AFRICAN-FRANC ZONE COUNTRY DE VENECIA EQUATORIAL EQUATORIAL GUINEA GUINEA MRS. ARROYO OBIANG PHILIPPINES
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