President Arroyo faces more protests overseas

 

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo arrived in Hong Kong on Sunday on a trip aimed at drumming up foreign investment, but was greeted by around 1,000 overseas Filipino workers calling on her to resign.

 

The protesters gathered outside the hotel where Arroyo, dogged at home by falling popularity and corruption allegations, gave a speech to a hand-picked audience of several hundred Filipinos living in Hong Kong.

 

Arroyo said 2007 had been the strongest year for the Philippines economy in 30 years, encouraging expatriates to invest in their homeland.

 

"We are working for a stable and growing economy to pave the way for when Filipino workers do not need to go abroad for a job," she said.

 

"We are close to balancing our budget, we have to make tough and unpopular decisions to raise revenue and crack down on tax cheats, so we can invest in our physical infrastructure and our people," she added.

 

Arroyo is scheduled to make a keynote speech at a Credit Suisse economic forum on Monday.

 

However, the protesters said potential foreign investors should be wary of putting their cash into the Philippines economy.

 

"Overseas workers do not welcome Gloria Arroyo in Hong Kong," said Eman Villanueva, secretary general of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, one of the groups organising Sunday's protest.

 

"She should go back to the Philippines and face the charges against her and her government," he added.

 

Hong Kong has a large Filipino community, mostly working in domestic service.

 

"We want to send a message to the business community that if they invest in the Philippines, they are supporting a tyrant," Villanueva said.

 

Protesters shouted "Oust, oust GMA," referring to the president by her initials, and held banners condemning extra-judicial killings and corruption in the country.

 

Major donors, such as the World Bank, last week praised the Philippines' 7.3 per cent economic growth last year – the highest in 30 years – but warned that it needed to woo more investment and upgrade its infrastructure.

 

Arroyo has survived three coup attempts and three impeachment bids in the country's congress over allegations of corruption.

 

Massive street protests have called for her resignation over graft charges involving her husband and a close political ally. (AFP)

 

  

 

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