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The President in the Land Down Under


SYDNEY, Australia—President of the Philippines Benigno Simeon Aquino just left New Zealand as of this writing, and is now flying over to Canberra, the Australian Capital, for an official function hosted by no less than Governor-General Quentin Bryce,  who is the Queen of England’s Representative for the Commonwealth Government of Australia.  Gov. Gen. Bryce invited President Aquino some weeks back when she herself visited the Philippines earlier this year. 

I had the chance to meet Gov-Gen. Bryce at a function in Canberra in 2010, hosted by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), and with all the formalities we had to go through, as reflected in the conversation and exchanges we had, I couldn’t help but compare her then to former United States Ambassador to the Philippines, Kristie Kenney who was very much people-oriented.  (Well, whether that was for the sake of a political statement, I dare not pass comment.)

So, as all diplomatic functions are, the presidential visit at the Government House tomorrow shall all be formal talk on Philippine-Australian relations, cooperation, possible business and trade investments translated to more development projects for Mindanao, and my take is—there would be a possible discussion on the military interests of Australia in the Philippines.

But by the time this opinion finds space in Zamboanga Today, Aquino and his 99-man delegation (I have been trying to figure out how many represent the media) would be in Canberra and Sydney already.  The travels to New Zealand and Australia reportedly cost Philippine Government a whopping P44 million.  But would the travel costs pay off?  Some people do not seem to realize how valuable global support is, as they just dwell on the millions spent, and the value it would have meant had the amount been converted to delivery of services.

First, the total amount is just about equivalent to a million Australian dollars, and the development projects of Australia for the Philippines just total to much more than that.  Australia has funded roads, other infrastructure,  helped build communities across Mindanao, support the education of hundreds of deserving scholars all throughout the country, partnered with our Philippine military in defence matters, and linked schools and universities in Australia and Philippines for education and development partnerships.  Second, the number of Filipinos in Australia whether still bearing the Philippine citizenship or have adopted Australian citizenship is growing, especially in Darwin and Perth, which are closer to Manila. (Just the other day, I met by chance the Estrada family from Basilan strolling by the Queen Victoria Building here in Sydney. I felt at home, speaking Chavacano in that extremely busy intersection. We had few good laughs, even when it was the first time we met.  That’s the global community of Zamboanga.) Third, this visit also reciprocates   the visit of Gov. Gen. Bryce to the Philippines earlier.  Fourth, the visit opens up wider the doors for investments and trade possibilities, and my only hope as of now is that the President’s delegation tags along some of the businessmen and investment partners from Zamboanga City or at least, the Zamboanga Peninsula.

Well, this should get published on 25 October, and today, President Aquino is in Campbelltown (an hour’s train ride from Sydney’s Central Business District), to unveil the statue of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, a marker dedicated by the Philippine-Australian community in New South Wales.  So, here I go, mate.  (Frencie Carreon, La Chica Viajera, for Zamboanga Today)

By Frencie Carreon

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