Monday, September 11, 2006

Arroyo Brussels visit to be marked by stop killings protest


President Gloria Macapagal leaves Helsinki and flies to Brussels for the next leg of her European working visit tonight.

The Filipino community will be on hand to welcome President Arroyo at a mass to be held at the St Michael Cathedral in Brussels. More than 500 Filipino expatriates and OFWs are expected to attend the mass celebration which. A choir composed of more than 50 singers had organized to sing for the occasion.

Ambassador Ortega, Philippine envoy to Belgium and the European Union met with some 50 Filipino community leaders in Brussels who have agreed to perform a certain task each for the welcome celebration. President Gloria Macapagal seems to be very popular among Filipino residents in Belgium, many of whom will be coming from as Antwerp and Louven to meet with President Arroyo.

Mrs Carina Lansang, one of the Filipino community leaders residing in Brussels said, she and members of her group are "quite excited to meet the President."

However, the President's trip will be marked by a demonstration organized by INTAL, a Belgian NGO under the banner of Stop the Killings in the Philippines, Belgium Chapter.

Mr Wim de Ceukelaire, coordinator of the protest said, the demonstration will be held in front of the European Parliament at mid-day while Mrs Arroyo is meeting with Belgium's Prime Minister Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt in his residence near Place Schuman, in Brussels .

"We are expecting Filipinos, Belgians, Duthc and Germans to attend the rally as well as members of the local Belgian media to protest the extra-judicial killings in the Philippines", said Mr de Ceukelaire.

Some 100 Filipinos, Belgians, Dutchs and Germans are expected to join the rally and will include Mrs Inga Verheart, member of the Federal Parliament of Belgium and Mr Eloi Glorieux, member of the Regional Parliament of Flanders. Mr de Ceukelaire said that their group invited local Belgian media to cover the protest as well as members of Philippine media travelling with the president.

According to the organizer of the rally, they will not demonstrate in front of the St Michael Cathedral where the mass-reception ceremony will be held in order not to put off Filipino OFWs or the Filipino community members who prefer to welcome the president warmly. They also cannot demonstrate in front of the residence of the Belgian Prime Minister while Mrs Arroyo is holding a meeting with Prime Minister Verhofstadt because the prime minister's residence is a no rally zone.

Their main objective is to call the attention of European parliamentarians to the spate of killings happening in the Philippines under the Arroyo government.

"We believe that if the spate of killings do not stop, the European Union should impose limited economic sanctions on the Philippines," Mr Wim de Ceukelaire said.

Pres Arroyo's call on Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt at mid-day, will be followed by a meeting with members of the Senate at the Belgian Parliament to discuss federalism, parliamentary mode of government.

Arroyo will meet with Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission later in the afternoon. Human rights and extra-judicial killings in the Philippines are issues expected to be raised during the meeting with Mr Barroso.