MANILA — The government is spending around Php31.9 million for President Benigno S. Aquino III’s working visit to Spain, Belgium, France, and Germany in a bid to bolster diplomatic and trade relations with Europe and the European Union (EU), Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. said on Sunday.
President Aquino will be embarking on his four-nation working visit to Europe from Sept. 13 to Sept. 20 via a chartered flight accompanied by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala Jr., Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo,
Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., Socio-economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, Transportation and Communication Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, Press Secretary Herminio Coloma, Presidential Management Staff Chief Julia Andrea Abad, Presidential Protocol Chief Celia Anna Feria, Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III and Undersecretary Rochelle Ahorro.
The amount covers expenses for transportation, accommodation, food, equipment and other requirements of the Chief Executive and his delegation for the eight-day visit to Europe, President Aquino’s first to the region since he assumed office in 2010.
“Our Chief Executive is expected to meet government and business leaders in Madrid, Brussels, Paris, and Berlin, as well as members of the Filipino communities there,” Ochoa noted.
“We anticipate having stronger friendship and trade relations with Europe and the EU after this trip of the President.”
In Madrid, President Aquino is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and His Majesty King Felipe VI to convey the Philippines’ gratitude for keeping the Philippines in its Official Development Assistance (ODA) program. He will also visit and offer flowers at the Rizal Monument in the Spanish capital.
In Belgium, President Aquino will meet with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, His Majesty King Philippe and Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the EU is the Philippines’ primary source of foreign direct investments and is considered one of the major sources of tourists for the country.
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Maria Zeneida Angara-Collinson earlier said that one of the highpoints in President Aquino’s working visit in Belgium is the policy speech he will deliver at the Egmont Institute to mark the 50th Anniversary of the PH-EU relations.
In Paris, President Aquino is set to discuss bilateral issues with President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls, deliver a policy speech at an event organized by the French Institute for International Relations and witness the signing of the Philippines-France Defense Cooperation Agreement.
In Berlin, President Aquino will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Federal President Joachim Gauck. Among the issues they expect to discuss are maritime cooperation, hiring of nurses, and technical and vocational education and training between the Philippines and Germany.
President Aquino is likewise scheduled to deliver a major speech at a forum organized by the Körber-Stiftung and the Asia Pacific Association in Germany.
In all four countries, President Aquino will meet Filipino communities.
According to the DFA, there are around 700,000 Filipinos in Europe with 44,000 living in Spain, 6,600 in Belgium, 46,000 in France, and 20,000 in Germany.