MANILA, July 23 (Xinhuanet) -- Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said Friday that Islamic countries are of growing importance to the Philippines after their participation in the release of Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz.
"The international Islamic community would become more and more important to the Philippines. We saw that in this last crisis," Arroyo said during the Department of Foreign Affairs' 106th anniversary rites.
She recognized the help given by Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain in securing De la Cruz's release from Iraqi militants who threatened to behead him unless the Philippines pulled out its humanitarian contingent from Iraq.
De la Cruz was released after the Philippines pulled out its troops, which was criticized by the United States, the country's principal ally and former colonial master.
Arroyo also said China, Japan and the United States have a determining influence in the security situation -- and economic evolution -- of East Asia.
She mentioned the growing significance of members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other multilateral and inter-regional organizations like the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
Arroyo denied a break in the country's relationship with the United States due to the government's capitulation to the hostage-takers' demands.
But while she enjoys "cordial and direct relations" with the Bush administration, Arroyo said the interest of the Filipino people should always come first.
"I want to emphasize that our Philippine foreign policy has notchanged. It is shaped. It has been shaped. It will be shaped and driven by the supreme interest of the Filipino people," she said.
Arroyo stressed the commitment of the Philippines "does not waver in the face of terrorism at home or abroad." In fact, she said, her government supports the world community and its allies, including the Untied States, in this fight.
"We share the same goal but do not always walk on the same path," she said.
Both the United States and the Philippines are now reevaluating the relations between the two countries as US Ambassador to ManilaFrancis Ricciardone left for Washington on Thursday, apparently tostay away from the State of the Nation Address Arroyo will make tothe congress on Monday. Enditem