Jun 082013



NAYPYITAW, BURMA—President Benigno Aquino III said his brief encounter with Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi struck in him a deep personal cord.

“Nakakamanghang kausap iyung isang person na very historical, iyong sa akin may pagka-personal (It’s awe-inspiring to talk to someone who is part of history, which for me in also quite personal),” the President said at a press conference here Friday night.

“The struggle that my father underwent, my mother underwent … and you can see, that she (Suu Kyi) underwent the same thing (too),” he said.

It was the first face-to-face meeting between Mr. Aquino and the Burmese leader on the sidelines of the three-day World Economic Forum on East Asia in this second largest Southeast Asian country.

Mr. Aquino admitted he was overwhelmed upon seeing and talking to Suu Kyi, whose struggle against the Burmese military junta resulted in her detention for 20 years.

The President’s father, the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino was also incarcerated by a dictatorship and his crusade to restore democracy in the Philippines culminated in his assassination in 1983.  A people power revolt in 1986 brought his widow, Cory, to power.

During her time, the late president Cory Aquino campaigned for the release of Suu Kyi and the restoration of democracy in Burma.

During their meeting, the President reiterated his long standing invitation to Suu Kyi to visit the Philippines to which she replied, “Hopefully soon.” She announced at the close of the conference her intention to run for president of her country in the coming election.

In his meeting with Burmese President Thein Sein, Mr. Aquino said both countries were now in the spotlight of investors after breaking out of years of economic stagnation.

He said both the Philippines and Burma were being eyed as alternative investment and tourism sites because of the impressive reforms that were taking place in the two countries.

There are around 500 Filipinos in Burma, mostly professionals such as office executives and engineers.

Both Mr. Aquino and Thein agreed to boost cooperation between the two countries in terms of economic and political reforms.

“I understand there are three companies already, Philex is one of them, working with partners or talking with partners here for possible cooperation, Maynilad also in water distribution and minimizing wastage, and Meralco for electric distribution,” he said.

He also said that Thein Sein sought the Philippines’ help, mostly in agriculture and energy.

Thein thanked Mr. Aquino for the help received by Burmese students who studied in the Philippine’s agricultural institutes.

Mr. Aquino later told reporters: “So pinuri ko naman sila, kako, nag-aral kayo sa amin, siguro may na-impart naman kami sa inyo. Mukhang natuto kayo nang mahusay dahil nag-i-import na kami sa inyo ng bigas (I praised them. I said, you studied in our country, I suppose we were able to impart something to you. And it appears you have learned well because now we are importing rice from you).  I think the biggest component of our trade currently with Myanmar is rice.”

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Tags: Aung San Suu Kyi , Burma , President Benigno Aquino III

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