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Sentimental journey for PNoy in summit

LOS ANGELES, California – It will likely be a sentimental journey for President Aquino when he joins a special summit among US President Barack Obama and the Southeast Asian leaders here.

This will be the Philippine leader’s final attendance to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-United States summit before he steps down from office, a chance to promote the country’s economic and security interests as well as bid goodbye to foreign allies.

With a few Cabinet members in tow, the President is scheduled to arrive in Sunnylands, California on Monday morning for the summit on February 15 and 16.

Before flying back to Manila, Aquino will also visit Los Angeles for various engagements, including meetings with US businessmen and the Filipino community.

First in the President’s itinerary is the ASEAN-US summit retreat session on “Promoting Innovative, Entrepeneural ASEAN Economic Community” at the Sunnylands Center and Gardens on February 15.

Obama is expected to deliver his opening remarks, followed by the Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong, the current chairperson of the ASEAN.

A working dinner will later be hosted by Obama on the “regional strategic outlook” at the Sunnylands Historic House.

On Tuesday, Aquino will attend the ASEAN-US summit retreat session 2 on “Protecting Peace, Prosperity, and Security in the Asia-Pacific.” Maritime issues, terrorism, and transnational challenges are high on the agenda of the summit talks.

Philippine officials earlier said promoting freedom of navigation and rule of law in the disputed territory in the South China Sea would also likely be raised by Aquino at the summit.

At the end of the special ASEAN-US summit, a family photo of Obama and the Southeast Asian leaders will also be taken for posterity.

From Sunnylands, the President will travel to Los Angeles for a series of meetings with Walt Disney International, Western Digital Corp., and Enterprise Growth Solutions AECOM.

The President is also expected to talk about the country’s robust relations with the United States as well as the country’s position on the territorial dispute with China when he addresses the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.

On Wednesday, the President will sit down for a podcast interview by World Policy Institute at the Loyola Marymount University.

Aquino will also be given an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by the Loyola Marymount University “in recognition of his dedication to his country, his integrity, and his embodiment of a Jesuit education.” The LMU is the largest Jesuit Catholic university for undergraduates in the Southwest, with more than 6,000 undergraduate students and more than 3,000 graduate and law students.

Aquino’s final activity in LA is a meeting with the Filipino community at the Hilton LAX on Wednesday night. He is expected to highlight his government’s accomplishments in turning the country around in terms of economic growth and good governance.

Aquino will depart for Manila on Wednesday night. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)