MADRID — President Benigno Aquino III arrived here at 7:22 a.m. (1:22 p.m. in Manila) for the opening leg of his five-nation trip to Europe and the United States, styling himself as a bearer of “good news” about the Philippines and promising a “long list” of benefits when he returns home nearly two weeks later.
The President will have up to 86 engagements in Spain, Belgium, France, Germany and the US, including an audience with King Felipe VI of Spain at Palacio de la Zarzuela and a meeting with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Monday, Sept. 15.
“Our trip will be long…but we’re certain that we will also bring home a long list of good news for our country, our ‘bosses,’ our beloved people,” said Aquino, who arrived on board Philippine Airlines Flight PR001 at the Torrejon Airbase.
One such news he hopes to hear is Europe’s support for the Philippines in its territorial dispute with China over portions of the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines is trying to rally support behind its proposed “triple action plan,” which seeks to resolve disputes through international arbitration, a route rejected by Beijing.
Under the plan, Manila wants claimant countries not to engage in activities that would raise tensions, and calls for a binding Code of Conduct in the disputed areas.
Aquino will open his official visit here with a meeting with former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.
He will also offer a wreath at the monument of Jose Rizal on the corner of Avenida Islas Filipinas and Calle Santader. It is a replica of the one at the Rizal Park in Manila.
In a trip for which the government is spending P31.9 million, Aquino is confident of the returns in the form of fresh and continuing investments, and the overall goodwill he would develop with fellow leaders.
He has seven business meetings lined up Sunday.
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