Subject: PDInq: Timor seeks Philippine experts' aid in agriculture, medicine, business

Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring

July 29, 2002, Monday

East Timor seeks Philippine experts' aid in agriculture, medicine, business

Philippine Daily Inquirer web site, in English 29 Jul 02

Excerpt from report in English by Donna S. Cueto entitled: "East Timor seeks RP help to make it truly free", published by Philippine newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer web site on 29 July

Jose Ramos Horta, senior foreign minister of East Timor, the world's youngest democracy, has asked the Philippines for help in nurturing his country's newly acquired independence.

The Nobel Peace Laureate, one of his country's greatest freedom fighters, said on Wednesday his people needed Filipino experts in agriculture and public administration, as well as doctors and businessmen, to make East Timor truly free. "No more activists, please," Horta jested. "We have enough already."

Horta was in town upon the invitation of the United Nations to attend Solidarity Night with convenors of the first Asia-Pacific Conference on East Timor (APCET 1) in 1994.

The controversial conference was organized by the Philippine civil society movement to draw world attention to the small island's quest for independence from Indonesia. "Filipinos knew about the struggle in East Timor more than any other country in the region," Horta said during the gathering. "You inspired us. You gave us hope in our darkest years."...

"Much work is required," Horta said in last week's APCET 1 reunion. "While we have achieved freedom, we still need help from the Philippines in the things that make a country truly independent."

Philippine investments would be very welcome, too, he said. "We hope that our friends here, the solidarity movement that was so effective in mobilizing the government, could now mobilize investors for East Timor. "

Horta said he went recently to his hometown, where he found a young Ugandan agriculturist helping the people. "It could have been someone from the Philippines," he said, "one of the most important rice-producing countries in the world."

Filipino businessmen led by Fernando Pena have formed a partnership with East Timorese businessmen, the East Timor -Philippine Business Council. Horta said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had also assured him that the Philippines would soon set up an embassy in East Timor.

"We already have Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, Japan, China, US, United Kingdom, Brazil, Portugal and Australia (embassies)," Horta said. "But the East Timorese feel that one is still missing - a Philippine embassy."

Again, he noted that the Philippines was the first to send soldiers for the United Nations Peacekeeping operations after East Timor was granted independence. In fact, he said, a Filipino, Lt-Gen Jaime S. de los Santos, was the first head of the UN Peacekeeping Force.

De los Santos, who was also present during Solidarity Night, said Philippine troops even taught many East Timorese how to speak Filipino.

As for that "episode" in 1994, Horta said, he understood "perfectly well" why former President Ramos - and he wondered if they were distant cousins - had reacted the way he did to APCET 1. Horta also said that Almonte, who the convenors said recently sent his regrets, did not have to apologize.

"In retrospect," Horta said, "the Philippine authorities at that time handled the situation with extraordinary diplomatic skills. It was not easy."


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