MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III left for the United States Monday night on board Philippine Airlines flight PR 104.
The flight, which is bound for San Francisco, left the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at around 10:30 p.m.
All Cabinet officials, including Vice-President Jejomar Binay, attended the send-off ceremony for the President and his delegation that will accompany him in his 7-day working visit.
Four Cabinet officials - Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Trade and Industry Gregory Domingo, and Energy Secretary Rene Almendras - joined him in the trip.
The delegation also includes 34 businessmen and 12 officials and support staff of the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said the number of the support staff was reduced to limit expenses for the trip, which are expected to reach around P25 million.
In his pre-departure speech, Aquino expressed confidence that his US visit will help create jobs.
According to a Palace statement Monday, Aquino will address a gathering of over 150 world leaders at the 65th United Nations General Assembly and meet with US President Barack Obama and leading American businessmen.
The trip is Aquino’s first overseas travel since he became President in June.
Before his UN address, Aquino will attend the 2nd ASEAN-US Leaders' Meeting to discuss international and regional issues, and cooperation between the regional group and the world's leading economy.
He will have an opportunity to hold bilateral meetings with Obama, as well as his counterparts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The Philippines is the country coordinator for the ASEAN-US Dialogue relations from 2009 to 2012.
In New York, the President will also attend the signing of the US$434-million Millennium Challenge Compact Agreement between the Philippine government and the US Millennium Challenge Corp.
The agreement will fund the Aquino administration's various programs on poverty reduction, revenue generation, and infrastructure development.
Aquino will also meet with World Bank President Robert Zoellick, chief executive officers of several companies, US businessmen, and potential investors.
He will also address an economic conference organized by Citibank.
The President will also meet with Filipino-American communities in New York and in San Francisco to enlist their involvement in the new government's national and economic agenda.
There are around 2.84 million Filipinos living in the US, accounting for 34% of Filipinos overseas, according to the Commission on Filipino Overseas.
They contribute about 42% of the total remittances sent home by overseas Filipinos. – with a report from Jenny Reyes, ABS-CBN News