NEW YORK– A one-on-one meeting between President Aquino and US President Barack Obama is now out of the question, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said here.
But the invitation for President Aquino to visit Washington remains open, Romulo said.
He added that Mr. Aquino had been invited to visit China. The President revealed earlier that Japan had also asked him to visit Tokyo
Romulo said the two presidents would have a chance to talk during the US-Association of Southeast Asian Nations Leaders’ Meeting. The Philippines, as coordinator for the meeting, would be the one dealing directly with Obama along with Vietnam as ASEAN chair.
“In the ASEAN-US Summit, which will take place on Friday, the co-chairs… are President Obama and President Nguyen Minh Triet… But (President Aquino) is the coordinator. So they will be talking to each other. The three of them, they will be talking to each other, one to the other. So, there will be that talk and conversation,” Romulo said.
“They will be able to talk to each other. That is the important thing,” Romulo said.
Romulo also noted the President had been invited to the US by Obama himself through a phone call before his inauguration.
The invitation was also relayed by US Trade Representative Ron Kirk when he went to the Philippines as well as by US Ambassador Harry Thomas.
“They want to maintain strong relations with the country and the President,” Romulo said.
Meanwhile, overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong accused President Aquino of giving more importance to setting a meeting with Obama than addressing the concerns of OFWs.
“He (Noynoy) never bothered campaigning among OFWs in the elections and did not mention OFWs’ concerns in his first SONA (State of the Nation Address). Now, his first trip abroad is to primarily meet with US President Obama and not with OFWs who have repeatedly called his attention to their woes,” Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairwoman of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-Migrante-HK) said.
“He (Noynoy) said we are his boss. In fact, overseas votes also delivered him the presidency. But why is it that his first order of business in his first overseas trip is not to meet us OFWs and respond to our demands?” Pelaez asked.
“What is US$434 million in aid compared to the staggering US$18 billion OFW remittance? We are the real lifesavers of the country’s ailing economy and yet, President Aquino cannot seem to be bothered to make trips to countries with concentration of OFWs in order to look into our concrete situation and implement concrete actions on our issues,” Pelaez said.
Pelaez said many OFWs are rotting in jail in the Middle East.
“President Aquino has projected much hoopla on his US trip where his main agenda is to meet with Obama, court investors from the US and sign the $434 million aid by the US government-owned Millennium Development Corporation that shall further tie the country to the destructive neo-liberal agenda of the US,” she said.
Pelaez said the letters and petitions that they sent to Mr. Aquino outlining their demands, including the standardization of e-passport prices, and the repeal of mandatory fees, were unanswered.
“What we got instead, in the name of belt-tightening, was the deplorable proposal to cut the budget for legal aid to OFWs and funds of the Assistance to Nationals for repatriation,” she said.
“Foreign investments and foreign aids have been tried and tested failures in terms of improving people’s lives on the ground. They gave us nothing but worse crises while siphoning off our resources,” she said.
“Instead of upholding the patronage of US and big foreign businesses, it is high time for President Aquino to finally get down to the business of effecting meaningful changes to his own people such as national industrialization, genuine land reform and comprehensive social services,” Pelaez said.