Aquino arrives in NY; to meet with Filipinos and Filipino Americans amid hectic schedule

by Jay Domingo

credit: RP Official GazetteNEW YORK — The eagle has landed.

Filipino Americans and Filipinos in the New York Metropolitan area can’t wait to see President Benigno Simeon Aquino III during a townhall event slated to be held on Thursday, Sept. 23, at Baruch College on East 25th Street in Manhattan.

The venue, which has a capacity of a thousand people, is likely to be filled. The Philippine Consulate General in New York has invited two representatives from each of the more than 300 community organizations registered with the Consulate including the local media.

The President, who is in town attending the 65th United Nations General Assembly, arrived at the early dawn of Tuesday, Sept. 21, aboard a chartered plane in Teterboro, New Jersey. He and his delegation flew in from San Franscisco Airport after a two-hour stopover Monday evening (PST).  They left the Philippines Monday night, Sept. 20 amidst a brewing controversy over the revelation of “Jueteng” money recipients and that of the IIRC report.  Both reports involved officials in his administration.

He will meet with the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and address the General Assembly on Sept. 24.  He is also scheduled to have one-on-one meetings with some Heads of State in attendance at the U.N. and key executives of major U.S. corporations during the course of his official four-day trip to the U.S.

When asked at a press briefing at the lobby of the Philippine Center in midtown Manhattan of the President’s message to the world organization, Philippine Ambassador to the U.N. Libran Cabactulan said that President Aquino will pitch his vision of the future of the Philippines.  He is expected to promote and renew the goodwill of the country and seize the opportunities to attract more investors and establish new markets to create jobs at home, alleviate poverty, and modernize the country’s infrastructure.

“Who else could be a better ambassador than the President,” Cabactulan asked. “What bigger forum is there for a leader than the United Nations?”

Ambassador Cabactulan also mentioned some other aspects which the president might say in his address to the world body such as the Philippines’ support for world security through the deployment of more than a thousand troops to the U.N.’s peace building and peace keeping efforts in war-torn areas and in its major role in key areas of the U.N.’s various committees.

Ambassador Cabactulan was also asked about the effect of the recent botched Manila hostage rescue that resulted in the death of eight Hong Kong tourists and the hostage-taker.  He said that it hurt the  image of the country to a certain degree.

Although the incident put the country in a negative light, he said, President Aquino has acknowledged the slip-ups and apologized for them.

Prior to his trip to the U.S., President Aquino said that “this incident will not define this administration,” after he received the findings of an official inquiry into the fiasco that called for sanctions  against a dozen named people.

In two days, President Aquino spent his time meeting with dignitaries and had interviews with the  Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.  The interview covered topics ranging from the plight of overseas Filipino workers, insurgencies in Mindanao, up to the recently released IIRC report.

He met with the former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and with Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet. During that meeting, he accepted the personal invitation of the Vietnamese leader to fly to Hanoi next month for a state visit.

“We value Vietnam as a good friend and strategic partner. We are confident that these ties will only become stronger,” the President told his Vietnamese counterpart during the meeting. 

The Philippines and Vietnam will celebrate 35 years of diplomatic relations in 2011.

He also met with officials of the Synergos Institute and key civil society leaders from around the world, executives from the AES Corporation and Roberet Zoellick, World Bank President.  The two discussed “various ways the World Bank could work with the Philippine government in pursuit of the development and reform objectives.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 22, he visited the College of Mount Saint Vincent, the alma mater of his late mother.  He was conferred with the Saint Elizabet Ann Seton medal, the school’s highest honor, which the late President Corazon C. Aquino, also received in 1986. The medal is given “in recognition of outstanding achievements, generosity of  spirit and extraordinary self sacrifice.

In the evening, he and his official designation and Philippine business delegation met with the RP-US Business Council composed of “chief executives of leading Philippine corporations that have close business ties to the US” to explore “business and trade opportunities between the Philippines and the U.S.”

President Aquino was also invited to be the Guest of Honor and Keynote Speaker at the Philippine Development Foundation USA on Sept. 25 at the Fairmont in San Jose., California.

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