GMA, Bush to talk about Joma

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and US President George W. Bush are expected to discuss the Philippine anti-terrorism bill and the arrest of exiled communist leader Jose Ma. Sison when they meet Friday on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Sydney, Australia.

“The US ambassador has already spoken [to us to say] that they are willing to help The Netherlands if they are asked to do so. I believe this case is of interest to them as well because the US considers the CPP-NPA [Communist Party of the Philippines- New People’s Army] a terrorist group,” Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said.

At the same time, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said Sison’s arrest in Utrecht could clear the way for more moderate leaders such as Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo to reinvent the Communist Party and to end its 30-year armed struggle.

“He can be an ideal leader of a new communist party in the Philippines that will adhere to the democratic process,” Gonzales said.

“He has the experience. Being in Congress, he knows the process that the CPP can take if it wants to reinvent itself. Congressman Satur is really an ideal candidate,” he added.

The intelligence community has long believed Ocampo to be a member of the CPP’s highest governing body, the Central Committee, but the lawmaker has repeatedly denied the allegation.

In Congress, an administration ally urged communist rebels to take advantage of the government’s amnesty offer and to use the democratic process to achieve their goals.

Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier said the rebels should realize that their revolution was futile after more than three decades of armed struggle.

But leftist lawmaker Crispin Beltran dismissed the amnesty as a “scripted political gimmick.”

Ocampo also lashed out at Gonzales for including party-list groups in the coverage of Malacañang’s amnesty offer, a sentiment shared by Gabriela party-list Rep. Liza Maza.

“What’s the point in even extending us amnesty? Amnesty is offered only to those proven guilty of criminal offenses,” she said.

Gonzales, who is in Brussels, is expected to join President Arroyo for the three-day Apec Leader’s Meeting in Sydney, Australia.

The last time Mrs. Arroyo and Bush held a one-on-one meeting was in 2003, during the American president’s state visit to Manila.

Mrs. Arroyo will leave for Sydney today.

On Friday, Bush will host a luncheon meeting with the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at the Sydney Intercontinental Hotel.

Mrs. Arroyo and Bush will have a separate meeting for 20 minutes after lunch.

In the afternoon, Mrs. Arroyo is scheduled to meet Stan Shih, group chairman of Idsoftcapital and chairman emeritus of the Acer Group, and Chip Goodyear, chief executive of resource giant BHP Billiton.

On Saturday, the President will meet with the Australia-Philippin es Business Council to talk about the country’s robust economic performance and to encourage potential investors to do business in the Philippines.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said that aside from reiterating the country’s commitment to fight terrorism and wooing Australian investors anew, Mrs. Arroyo was also scheduled to share the country’s experience in forging public-private sector partnerships for renewable energy and exploration of environment- friendly alternatives to oil, such as bio-fuels and natural gas.

“The President will be an active participant in discussions especially on climate change, given its impact on our country’s weather patterns and effects on the agricultural sector,” Bunye said.

“President Arroyo will also reaffirm support for the global multilateral trading system and join the call to explore every avenue to achieve the necessary breakthroughs in the World Trade Organization negotiations at the earliest opportunity,” he added.