MANILA, Philippines – By JC BELLO RUIZ • MADEL R. SABATER
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno S. Aquino III leaves this morning for a three-day working visit to Japan that is expected to bring in at least $1 billion in fresh investments and more than 9 billion yen in Official Development Assistance (ODA).
It is the President’s second trip overseas in one week. He first went to the United States last Sunday for a four-day working visit, and returned home last Friday with a “bagful of investment prospects from American companies as a result of his good governance efforts.”
According to Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr., the President and his 63-member delegation will fly to Japan on the invitation of the Japanese government via a special commercial flight.
The government is spending P20 million for Aquino’s trip, Ochoa said in a statement.
According to Ochoa, it covers expenses for the flight, hotel accommodations, food, transportation, and telecommunications and equipment requirements.
Among the members of the Chief Executive’s official delegation are Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario, Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo, Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima, Transportation and Communications Secretary Manuel “Mar” A. Roxas II, and Energy Secretary Rene Almendras.
“In this trip, our President wishes to further advance our strategic cooperation with Japan, our friend for more than half a century now,” Ochoa said. “We always look forward to stronger bilateral relations with one of our important partners in the region.”
In Japan, Aquino will pay a state call on Emperor Akihito and meet Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to discuss a wide array of issues to further advance the two countries’ strategic partnership.
Other highlights of the President’s official working visit are the keynote speech at the Philippine Economic Forum and meetings with major business groups, among them Keidanren, Japan Business Federation, Japan-Tokyo Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and Japan Philippines Economic Cooperation Committee.
The Chief Executive will also witness the signing of several agreements on new investment projects in energy, mining, property development, automotive, ship-building, and infrastructure development, among others, under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) scheme.
Top officials of big Japanese companies are also scheduled to meet with the President.
Aquino will also meet the Filipino community in Tokyo and Miyagi, one of the prefectures in northeastern Japan hardest hit by the earthquake and tsunami last March 11.
He is set to return on September 28.
Malacanang assured the people yesterday that the government is keeping a close watch on the global recession, saying that it continues to prepare measures to ensure that the country will not be adversely affected.
Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said Aquino has instructed his economic team to “keep a close eye on what is happening globally,” noting that there has been a recession in other countries in the past few weeks.
She added that the President also instructed his economic team to “watch closely what we can do and to prepare” to ensure that the country will not be severely affected by the economic slowdown already affecting other countries.
“Given the fighting targets that we have, the economic team is doing what it can to meet our targets and alerto naman tayo sa mga posibleng pangyayari, nagmamatyag naman tayo at nagbabantay para maabatan yung posibleng malaking impact sa ating ekonomiya (and we are alert on the possibilities, we are watching closely to ensure that we would be able to cushion any possible effects on this to our economy),” Valte assured.
Malacanang said yesterday that the budget of State Universities and Colleges (SUC) for 2012 was increased by 10.1 percent, contrary to claims of student protesters from SUCs that it was reduced.
Valte urged students of SUCs to go back to their classrooms and resume their studies instead of walking out from their classes to join protests on alleged budget cuts.
She said that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has increased the budget of SUCs by 10.1 percent from P23.7 billion this year to P26.1 billion for 2012.
“Nakikinig naman tayo sa mga sinasaloob ng mga estudyanteng nagpoprotesta (We are listening to the protests done by our students),” she said. “Una, hindi totoo na nagkaroon ng education budget cuts (It is not true that there were budget cuts in education).”
“In fact, the budget for education has the biggest chunk of the pie in our NEP (National Expenditure Program) or national budget we submitted to Congress for its approval,” she added.