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PIA Press Release

PGMA wants greater commerce, cooperation with Tonga

Manila (20 September) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo wants relations between the Philippines and the Kingdom of Tonga to go beyond exporting cement to include more commerce, tourism and cooperation opportunities for the benefit of the peoples of both countries.

The President made the remarks in a statement before the official lunch she and the Cabinet hosted today for visiting Tongan Prime Minister Feleti Vaka'uta Sevele at the Ramos Room of Malacańang.

The Philippines and the Pacific island nation established diplomatic relations in July 1981. Since 1984, many Tongans have benefited significantly from Philippine technical cooperation projects and training courses.

"We hope that there could be more frequent interaction between the peoples of Tonga and the Philippines. Since 1984, a considerable number of Tongan nationals have participated in training programs offered by Philippine government agencies and other institutions," the President said.

"We hope we can explore other areas of cooperation," she added.

In the past few years, the President said, the country has been exporting cement to Tonga.

"We hope we can explore other possible areas for commerce and tourism," she said.

The President expressed her appreciation to Sevele, the first Tongan head of government to pay an official visit to the country, "for the kindness extended by the Tongan people to the small community of Filipinos in Tonga."

Seventy-four Filipinos, mostly accountants, office personnel and divers are living in Tonga, a small predominantly Christian nation of 116,921 located some 4,000 kilometers east of Australia.

The President also assured Sevele of the country's commitment to "engaging the Pacific countries, particularly through the Pacific Islands Forum, where it (Tonga) is a dialogue partner."

"We hope for a positive and constructive outcome of the Aid for Trade Conference at the Asian Development Bank which occasioned your visit to the Philippines. The Philippines is committed to a market economy that continues to explore opportunities for enhancing its international trade relations," the President said.

"The Philippines believes in the importance of a just and equitable multilateral trading system that benefits all participants. We support efforts to facilitate capacity-building for developing countries like Tonga that would enable you to participate in international trade," she added.

For his part, Sevele expressed his deepest gratitude for the hospitality extended by the President and the Philippine government to him and his contingent and said his country looks forward to further strengthening of relations with the Philippines. (PIA) [top]

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