LONDON- The official trip of President Benigno Aquino III to the UK from June 4-6 proved to be a working visit, with the first day packed with business meetings and the second day filled with meetings with representatives of the UK government.
He convened with British and European investors, called on UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Foreign Secretary William Hague, Foreign Minister Jeremy Browne and Prince Andrew, the Duke of York.
Business deals sealed
First to be inked is a memorandum of understanding between Cebu Pacific and Rolls- Royce for a $280 million service contract. The contract signing, witnessed by President Aquino, will provide long-term service support for Cebu Pacific’s Trent 700 engines on up to eight Airbus A330 aircraft.
Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc. and Gas Asia Limited will invest $150 million to build plants that will convert biomethane from waste materials to sustainable and renewable vehicle fuels in the form of liquid biomethane.
The Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corp. (PASAR-Glencore) will also invest up to $600 million to expand its smelting capacity and to build a plant for its operations.
The president’s UK visit secured more than a billion dollars of business agreements between British and Filipino companies.
The businessmen-led contingent that travelled with the president was pleased with the outcome of the UK trip.
“It’s been a very business-oriented trip. I think the impressions are very good--very professional president and cabinets. As a citizen, I’m actually very proud to be invited to join the trip,” said Aurelio Montinola III, president of Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI).
Pnoy with Filcom
On Tuesday, after a photo shoot in two of the iconic London fixtures, the double-decker bus and black cab sporting DOT’s ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines’ slogan, the president met with the Filipinos in the UK at the Intercontinental Hotel in London. In attendance were some 300 Filipinos from various organizations, leaders of the community, and professionals representing different sectors and fields of specialization.
The President relayed to the Filipinos a number of good news and some bad news about the Philippines.
He boasted of the 6.4 percent economic growth in the first quarter of this year.
“Ang pagkaintindi ko ho this is the second highest in Asia and the highest in Southeast Asia. Dahil ho sa matinong pamamalakad, marami nang kakayahan ang atin pong gobyerno,” he said.
Aquino highlighted the infrastructure developments to include the construction of classrooms and housing units for the military and policemen. He also reported the proposed NLEX-SLEX road connector project.
President Aquino likewise noted the improved rice production, the government‘s conditional cash transfer program, the stock market's notable performance under his leadership.
For some bad news, the president mentioned the anomalies and irregularities the Aquino administration has uncovered from the previous administration.
He also spent lengthy of time discussing the recently-conclude impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“Doon na lang sa cash 1.9 something percent ang inamin. Yung 98 percent plus hindi sinama. Di ba? Napanood ho ba niyo ‘yon? Ngayon, kung makalimutan mo ‘yung 2 percent, maiintindihan eh. Nakalimutan mo 98 percent parang baliktad yata,” said PNoy.
He also added: “Tapos, tingnan niyo ‘yung buong proseso, hindi, di ba, gumawa siyang dahilan. Itong nakaugalian dito. Nakaugalian nga niyo pero nakalagay sa Constitution eh shall be made public. Pagkatapos noon, nakalagay po assets, liabilities, net worth. Pwede bang… Wala namang nakalagay na some of your assets, some of your liabilities, and di ba, parang an approximation of your net worth. Wala hong ganoon eh.”
The president’s speech elicited various reactions from Pinoys in the UK.
“Nalaman po natin ang kanyang mga achievement sa ating gobyerno at ang kanyang mga plano na lalong mapaunland ang ating bayan. Ito ay magsisilbing inspirasyon sa nga kababayan nating nagta-trabaho dito,” said Danny Favor, town councilor of East Grinstead, West Sussex.
“It’s good to see him in person and him giving us an update on how the Philippine economy is performing at the moment. But I think the discussion on the Corona impeachment was a little too long,” said John Sio of the London Audit Group.
“One thing I observed from the speech was that the plight of the Filipino workers was not mentioned by the President. The contributions of Filipino professionals, non-professionals have not been discussed as well the problems and the issues that need to be addressed in the UK,” said former teaching fellow at School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), professor Rizal Buendia.
“Excited ang community ng Filipino Muslim na makita ang president natin at marinig kung ano ang mensaheng ipapaabot niya sa atin. Maganda ang kabuuang mensahe ng pangulo. Ang kaunting disappointment, naghihintay tayo na mabanggit ang pagbabago sa Mindanao, pero walang nabanggit,” said Boiser Lalang of Philippine Muslim Association in UK.
Meeting with PM Cameron
President Aquino met with UK Prime Minster David Cameron on Wednesday morning. The meeting, which provided a platform for broad exchange of views on bilateral, regional and international issues, focused on discussion of issues of common interest to both the Philippines and the UK. Core to the meeting are discussions on economic, political and cultural cooperation.
After the meeting with Prime Minister Cameron, the President proceeded to a luncheon hosted by her majesty’s government and presided by Foreign Minister Jeremy Browne and the Lord Mayor of the City of London, Aldermann David Wootton.
Last in the itinerary of the President before leaving for the US, was the meeting with his Royal Highness, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York.
The Filipino diaspora in the UK is composed of some 250,000 migrants and temporary workers, with the bulk working in the health care sector.
For Filipinos living in the UK for decades, the President’s visit was an opportunity to get to know him a little more.
“A lot of people don’t really know him that much, especially the old-timers here. It’s our chance to get to know him better... Everybody is also looking forward for him to get results for the Philippines,” said Peps Villanueva, a veteran community leader in London.
Pnoy visits Imperial War Museum
It was not all work for the President. He also managed to squeeze a few hours to visit The Imperial War Museum in London.
Asked why he chose to go there instead of other iconic London sights, the president said he was always keen to see the huge collection of war memorabilia in the museum.
“Kasi student ako ng history at isa yan sa may pinaka-extensive collection. Even in that short period of time, makikita mo talaga ano ba ang nangyayari sa giyera, sino ba ang nakikinabang talaga sa giyera,” he told ABS-CBN Europe.
The Imperial War Museum holds an extensive library and collections of military artifacts, vehicles and aircrafts used by the UK during the war eras.
The president also said he would have wanted to see more of London but his trip was not intended for sightseeing but work.
“I’m thankful that I had 10 seconds of glances of so many important sights,” said the president.