As the day draws near for the upcoming visit of US President Barack Obama, Malacañang is coordinating with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the US Secret Service to ensure that all is set before his arrival.
In an exclusive interview, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma provided The Sunday Times Magazine an idea of the Palace’s planning and preparation for the Obama visit.
Although most details are withheld from the public for security reasons, Coloma shared a handful of information on what to expect for Obama’s visit.
“The primary agency involved in the [visit]is the Protocol Office of Malacañang in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs,” Coloma said.
Security operations kick in as soon as the US president arrives. “The security will be provided by the Presidential Security Group (PSG) in coordination with the US Secret Service,” Coloma added.
Obama will be flying in from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and from the airport he will be taken straight to Malacañang for the arrival ceremony. He will be spending the rest of the afternoon and evening in the Palace.
“Since this is the US head of state, we are sure that there will be a Cabinet member in attendance or what we call ‘maro’ who will be at Obama’s side at all times. Although there is no confirmation yet, it is safe to assume that DFA Secretary Albert Del Rosario will be attending to President Obama,” Coloma said.
In the itinerary published in the White House website, the arrival ceremony will be followed by a meeting with President Aquino. After their meeting, the two leaders will hold a joint press conference.
Obama will greet members of the US Embassy in Manila, and later that evening will attend the State Dinner at Malacañang.
“The State Dinner will have about 300 guests coming from the diplomatic and business components. There will be senior government officials and dignitaries from the diplomatic corps, prioritizing members of the Asean community. Celebrities aren’t usually invited but Filipino-American artists like Apl.d.Ap might be in attendance to the dinner,” he explained.
The program and menu for the state dinner will not be revealed until the day itself, but Coloma said cultural performances will add color and a festive mood to the event.
“Past performances including Pangkat Kawayan, Obusan Folkloric Group, and the Madrigal Singers are examples of what to expect in the State Dinner. Notable Filipino artist like Jose Marie Chan, Gary Valenciano and Kuh Ledesma have also performed in Malacañang,” he said.
President Aquino is not expected to have a “partner” for the state dinner since Obama will not be accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama during his week-long Asia Pacific trip.
An army of 105 members of the US press is flying in with Obama, but only 25 of them will be allowed inside Malacañang.
Coloma said the plan is for Obama to spend the night at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila in Pasay City, although the plan could change at the last minute.
He will be driven around in the US Presidential State car that the Secret Service nicknames “The Beast.” The heavily armored vehicle is a 2009 presidential limousine based on the \o “Cadillac DTS” Cadillac DTS. (Wikipedia.org)
On April 29, Obama is scheduled to meet with Filipino soldiers and deliver a speech at Fort Bonifacio, and will lead a wreath-laying ceremony at the Manila American Cemetery before he travels back to Washington.
“Outside of Malacañang, involved agencies to take care of Obama’s agenda would be the US Embassy in coordination with DFA, although security assistance will be provided by the PSG,” Coloma ended.