MANILA, Philippines - A festive atmosphere welcomed Spain’s Queen Sofia in Malacañang as the hall named after the national hero once considered as the enemy of the Spanish colonizers was decorated in the style of the pahiyas festival.
President Aquino hosted a dinner at Malacañang’s Rizal Hall in honor of Queen Sofia who is in the Philippines to inspect various development projects funded by Spain.
The President reaffirmed the friendship and ties between the two countries as he offered a toast.
He acknowledged several aspects of the country’s bilateral relationship with Spain, including trade, sports, defense, tourism, and education.
The country’s trade last year with Spain amounted to US$329.6 million, making Spain as the country’s 31st largest trading partner.
“Today, the Philippines and Spain stand shoulder to shoulder in pursuing the ultimate goals of both our nations: fulfilling the vast potential of our peoples,” Aquino said in his speech.
He recalled Rizal’s aspirations as he thanked Spain for its official development assistance projects across the country and for its humanitarian aid of 1.4 million euros for the country at the wake of typhoon Sendong.
“In a substantial way, Spain is working with Filipinos, to empower Filipinos to be the productive, educated, healthy citizens Rizal so deeply wanted them to be,” Aquino said.
Aside from offering a toast to the friendship between the two countries and the health of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, the President congratulated the Spanish national football team for its win in the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship, eliciting laughter from the Queen.
In her speech, the Queen assured that the Philippines will remain a “priority country” for Spanish aid.
“The crown, the government and the people of Spain see the Philippines not only as a sister country with whom we share any historical, social and cultural links because of our common past but also a key partner in Asia to whose development we are fully committed,” Queen Sofia said.
“The Philippines has been and will always be a priority country for the Spanish cooperation for development. We will also stand by the Filipino people to overcome the frequent national disasters that the country suffers just like the case of typhoon Sendong last December,” she added.
She lauded the President for his administration’s campaign to fight poverty and corruption.
“You can count on the Spanish cooperation in your endeavor,” she said.
The Queen was also appreciative of the reintroduction of the Spanish language in the Philippine educational curriculum.
Among the guests were personalities from business, politics and entertainment such as Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senators Franklin Drilon and Francis Pangilinan;
Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Oscar Lopez, Manny Pangilinan;
Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez and husband Richard, Representatives Sonny Angara, Miro Quimbo, Niel Tupas;
singer Jose Mari Chan, and the president's sisters, Pinky Aquino-Abellada and Kris Aquino.
|President Aquino and Kingdom of Spain Her Majesty Queen Sofia leads the Ceremonial Toasts during the Dinner at the Rizal Ceremonial Hall, Malacañan Palace for her visit to the Republic of the Philippines on Tuesday, July 03, 2012. -- Photo by Ryan Lim, Malacañang Photo Bureau