Aquino all set for international ‘debut’
BY REGINA BENGCO
PRESIDENT Aquino will make his international debut on Friday in New York at the US-Asean Leaders’ Meeting and the UN General Assembly.
The US-Asean Leaders’ Meeting is expected to result in the creation of an Asean-US Eminent Persons Group that will recommend the forging of a strategic partnership between Asean and the United States in the fields of political security, and economic and socio-cultural cooperation.
On Thursday (Manila time), Aquino received the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Medal, the highest honor conferred by the College of Mount Saint Vincent, the alma mater of his late mother, former president Corazon Aquino.
The award is named after the native New Yorker, saint and founder of the Sisters of Charity, Elizabeth Ann Seton, and is given to those with outstanding achievements, generosity of spirit and extraordinary self-sacrifice. President Corazon Aquino received the same award.
Aquino said he is a “living testimony to People Power: the redemptive power of prayer” that “toppled the dictatorship, frustrated those who would try to revive its ways, sustained democracy and now, serves as the bones and sinews of our great mandate for reform.”
He said Filipinos are now “working mightily to free themselves from slavery and poverty.” He said he is praying that Filipinos will remain free and prosperous long after his term.
At the US-Asean Leaders’ Meeting, one issue expected to be discussed is Asean’s dispute with China on some islands in the South China Sea. China has opposed the US’ intervention in the Spratlys dispute.
The Spratly islands are being claimed wholly or in part by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Malaysia.
US President Barack Obama, President Aquino and Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet are expected to hold a press conference after the meeting.
Vietnam chairs the Asean for this year while the Philippines is the coordinator of the US-Asean Leaders Meeting.
Aquino will also meet UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and address the United Nations General Assembly.
At the UNGA, Aquino is expected to call for international cooperation in addressing global issues. He will also discuss the Philippines’ commitment to fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals and reiterate the Philippines’ support for UN peacekeeping mission.
Aquino on Thursday (Manila time) met with officials of the Synergos Institute and key civil society leaders from around the world to exchange ideas on active citizenship and participatory governance, as well as the possibility of pursuing a tripartite partnership with government.
He also met with officials of the AES Corp. to discuss the possible expansion of the Masinloc power plant in Zambales.
He received World Bank president Robert Zoellick and discussed how the WB could help develop crucial sectors of the economy and Mindanao.
Aquino also talked business and trade opportunities with the RP-US Business Council during a dinner at the Benihana restaurant in New York City.
Aquino also had a separate meeting with former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in New York (Wednesday in Manila) to get some insights on foreign relations.
Aquino said Kissinger’s expertise in foreign relations is something that he cannot ignore. Kissinger is a political scientist who advised US Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John F.Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.
He said Kissinger, a Harvard professor of government and foreign policy adviser for the Nixon and Ford administrations, could help guide his fledgling administration in its international relations.
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, meanwhile, justified the governments hiring of a PR firm to “sell” the country. He said the firm Creab Gavin Anderson was paid $15,000 to help project a favorable image for the country in the foreign business media.