President Benigno Aquino 3rdwill discuss various issues, including developments in the dispute at the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) when he meets with King Felipe VI and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy today, Malacanang said on Sunday.
Among the issues to be raised are the status of the peace process in Mindanao, the welfare of Filipino seafarers and the country’s bid for a preferential trading agreement.
Aquino will first hold a bilateral meeting with Rajoy at 9 a.m. at the Palacio de la Moncloa, the official residence of the Prime Minister of Spain since 1977. He will be joined by four Cabinet members and their Spanish counterparts.
During the meeting, the President is expected to thank Spain for maintaining the Philippines a priority country for Spanish Official Development Assistance (ODA).
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Maria Zeneida Angara-Collinson said the Philippines is the only Asian country that benefits from the Spanish ODA program.
After the bilateral meeting, the President will have an audience with the King of Spain.
The President’s eight-day visit to several countries that aims to bolster the country’s diplomatic and trade relations with the European Union (EU) will cost P31.9 million, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said.
Spain is Aquino’s first stop.
The President will also go to Belgium, France and Germany.
The EU is the Philippines’ primary source of foreign direct investments and is considered one of the major sources of tourists for the country.
According to Ochoa, the P31.9 million will cover expenses for transportation, accommodation, food, equipment and other requirements of the President and his delegation.
It is Aquino’s first visit to the continent since he assumed office in 2010.
He is also expected to meet with government and business leaders in Madrid, Brussels, Paris and Berlin, as well as members of the Filipino communities there.
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.
“We anticipate having stronger friendship and trade relations with Europe and the EU after this trip of the President,” Ochoa said.
In Belgium, 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.
Collinson earlier said a high point in Aquino’s working visit to Belgium is the policy speech he will deliver at the Egmont Institute to mark the 50th anniversary of the Philippine-EU relations.
In Paris, the President will 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, Aquino will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Federal President Joachim Gauck.
The leaders are also expected to discuss maritime cooperation between the Philippines and Germany, hiring of nurses and technical and vocational education and training.
Aquino is scheduled to deliver a major speech at a forum organized by the Körber Stiftung and the Asia Pacific Association in Germany.