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100 China quake zone kids to rehabilitate in Philippines
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Invited by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a group of 100 children who survived a devastating earthquake in China last May will arrive in the Philippines this weekend for rehabilitation, with visits to the archipelagic state's stunning beaches, museums, schools and the Presidential Palace, officials said Wednesday.

The one hundred middle school students were from Beichuan, Mianzhu, Shifang, the worst-hit towns in southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan, with many losing close relatives in the 8.0- magnitude earthquake on May 12, 2008, according to officials with the Chinese Embassy to the Philippines.

More than 80,000 people, including at least 19,000 school children, were killed in the quake, the worst natural disaster China experienced in three decades, the government statistics show.

According to the schedule, the quake zone kids, most of whom have never traveled abroad, will arrive at Manila on board a Philippine Airline charter flight on Jan. 11 and fly to the crystal water and white-sand beach in Bohol island after touring around the national capital. They will also call on President Arroyo in the Presidential Palace Malacanang a day before they return to China on Jan. 17.

The rehabilitation plan was formalized in August during Arroyo' s visit to Sichuan quake zone and meeting with her Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao. Two groups of school children from the Sichuan quake zone took similar rehabilitation trips to Russia and Hungary last year.

In a report to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady said the visit is designed for the Sichuan students to have a meaningful time and interaction with the Filipino people to help them recover from the effects of the earthquake.

Brady said the visit is a "very significant milestone" in promoting people-to-people exchanges between the Philippines and China.

Yuan Zhiju, a teacher with the Leigu middle school in Beichuan, told Xinhua reporters in Sichuan that kids were very excited about going abroad and had hand-knitted with needles and threads three ethnic hand-bags that traditions say would bring good fortune to President Arroyo.

"It is a gift from us to represent our gratitude to President Arroyo and the Filipino people," Yuan said.

(Xinhua News Agency January 7, 2009)

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