The government is spending P6 million for President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s daylong trip to Myanmar for his participation to the 22nd World Economic Forum (WEF) East Asia summit, a Palace official said on Friday.
Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said the President left early Friday morning for Nay Pyi Taw in Myanmar on a chartered Philippine Airlines flight.
He is expected back in Manila by 12:05 a.m. on Saturday, Valte said.
In his departure speech, Mr. Aquino said he expects to bring positive opportunities from his Myanmar trip.
The trip will be an opportunity to showcase economic progress in the Philippines, hailed as the “brightest spark” in Southeast Asia, he said.
Aquino is scheduled to meet with Myanmar President Thein Sein and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate who is now a parliamentarian and leader of the opposition National League for Democracy, at the sidelines of the forum.
The trip’s significance will pour to the 2014 East Asia WEF, which the Philippines will host.
In a statement, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said that the expenses cover the charter lease, accommodations, transportation, food and equipment, among others, for the President and his official delegation.
Aquino was accompanied by a 57-member delegation, including Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Cabinet Secretary to the President Jose Rene Almendras, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla, Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, Presidential Management Staff head Julia Andrea Abad and Presidential Protocol chief Celia Anna Feria.
Other members of the delegation are Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad and Presidential Communications and Strategic Planning Secretary Ramon Carandang, who all left ahead of the President.
“The WEF on East Asia in Myanmar will gather over 900 participants, mostly key decision-makers, from 55 countries to discuss the challenges facing the region,” Ochoa said.
This is Aquino’s first trip to Myanmar and a first by a Philippine leader since former President Fidel Ramos, who visited the ASEAN neighbor in 1997. It is also the third foreign trip of the President this year after Davos, Switzerland, in January and Brunei Darussalam in April.
CATHERINE S. VALENTE