MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino shrugged off concerns about his health despite his coughing fits during public appearances.
Nagging coughs interrupted his speech several times at the Philippine Economic Briefing in Cagayan de Oro City in the province of Misamis Oriental on Wednesday.
The day before, he again coughed incessantly while giving a speech at the celebration of World Water Day at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City.
He talked about the government's commitment to provide safe and sustainable supply of water to 16 million Filipinos.
Suddenly, he said "...and that's why I need water." He kept on sipping water from a glass throughout the rest of his speech, reportedly to ease his dry throat.
“When I came back from Indonesia and Singapore, I already had a cold,” Aquino explained when reporters asked him about his health on Wednesday.
He said he was not able to recover from that cold since the two-leg state visits from March 7 to 11.
"I was hoping I could spend a few days in Tarlac, [meaning spend] two nights in Tarlac. Pero the tsunami and the earthquake struck [Japan]," referring to the disasters that hit a neighbor that is host to thousands of Filipinos and a major trading partner of the Philippines.
The disasters hit Japan last March 17, a Friday, but concerns about the evacuation of Filipinos due to nuclear crisis and radiation fears lingered.
He said the next time his schedule will allow him to take some rest will be toward the end of April.
“This job is 24/7 that is why there is no time to rest,” he added.
He gave assurance that there is nothing to worry about his condition.
“We can even climb the stairs if you want,” he responded in jest when asked about his shape.
President Aquino and several of his Cabinet members were forced to take 20 flights of stairs up a water treatment plant in Singapore when the elevator accidentally broke down.
Singapore's Straits Times newspaper reported that Aquino already had "a slight cough."
The health of the country's chief executive is of utmost importance since the position is sensitive and crucial.
Section 12 of the Constitution states that the public has to be informed about the state of the president's health in case he is suffering from a serious illness.
President Aquino has been advised to quit smoking to stay healthy for the job, but he has insisted he needs to puff a cigarette to calm his nerves.
He reportedly consumes 2 packets of cigarettes a day.
From Expedition to Innova
Meanwhile, the President has been seen riding an Asian utility vehicle lately, a far cry from his usual luxury vehicles.
On Wednesday, he was using a Toyota Innova.
Previously, he used a bullet-proof Ford Expedition.
He explained that the Ford's window is not functioning well, barring him from extending his arm outside and wave to people. - from a report of Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News