MANILA, Philippines – As President Benigno Aquino III wraps up his European tour and heads to the United States, Rappler looks back at the whirlwind week that the Philippine president spent in the continent.
From Spain to Belgium to France to Germany, Aquino’s meetings and engagements were non-stop, as he spent no more than 2 days in each nation. In these visits, he sought support for the country’s maritime dispute against China, encouraged world leaders to do their part in combating climate change, engaged in talks to increase investments in the Philippines, and met with royalty as well as the Filipino community.
His trip however was not without political noise. Protesters greeted Aquino in Belgium and France, decrying his supposed inaction on human rights violations under his administration, and corruption in government.
Here are 5 highlights from Aquino’s 4-nation European trip:
Statements of support
Before Aquino’s departure, the administration made it clear that the President’s top priorities in Europe would be to increase investments and to seek support for the Philippines’ maritime dispute with China. During his travels, Aquino introduced world leaders to the Philippines’ triple action plan, the country’s roadmap on how it plans to seek resolution with China regarding the West Philippine Sea.
After meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Aquino said he was confident Spain would reiterate their support. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso also conveyed approval over the Philippines’ peaceful solutions to the dispute, and French President Francois Hollande did the same during his bilateral meeting with Aquino. In Germany, Aquino said he and Chancellor Angela Merkel “share the conviction that these [disputes] must be settled peacefully and should be based on international law.”
From red carpets to military honors at Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Aquino was treated like royalty during his visit – when he wasn’t actually meeting with royalty that is. Aquino was welcomed by Spain’s King Felipe VI in the Palace of Zarzuela in Madrid, and later by Belgian King Philippe at the Royal Palace in Brussels.
During their meetings, Aquino talked about the peace process in Mindanao, the Philippines’ sea dispute with China, and thanked their respective nations for their help in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan).
Protesters speak up
In Belgium, Aquino was met with protests, with some militants chanting, “Noynoy, shame on you” before the President spoke at a forum organized by the Egmont Institute. After his talk, Aquino was asked about his human rights record and media killings. Aquino defended his government and gave assurances it was doing its best to address the problem.
In France, protesters displayed a tarpaulin of Aquino’s face, with the label “Pork Barrel King.” Aquino earned the moniker for his administration’s use of the Disbursement Acceleration Program, the controversial economic stimulus package of the administration that has since been struck down as partly unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
But Aquino got mostly a warm welcome from fellow Filipinos. In Paris, Filipinos took days from work to see the President and gather outside Chapelle Saint Bernadeth to catch a glimpse of Aquino. The President also lauded Filipinos in Spain for their support for the national basketball team Gilas Pilipinas when it competed in Sevilla at the FIBA World Cup. Aquino made sure to meet with the Filipino community in every country he visited, with a Filipino community meet-up capping his European trip in Berlin.
Like mother, like son
A heartwarming moment in Aquino’s trip happened in Paris, when Hollande compared Aquino to his late mother, former president and democracy icon Corazon Aquino. Hollande told Aquino, “You are not just her son, you are her continuity. You embody democracy in the Philippines.”
France was the first country to recognize Cory Aquino’s presidency when she was swept to power in the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution that overthrew the regime of former president Ferdinand Marcos. – Rappler.com