Binay to welcome APEC leaders on state visits to PH

MANILA, Philippines – Calling for a political ceasefire, Vice President and opposition leader Jejomar Binay will play a role in next week's APEC summit, welcoming some heads of state upon their arrival. 

Binay announced on Friday, November 13, that he is tasked to greet leaders who will be on state visits to Manila, on top of their participation in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting, the region's biggest and most high-profile economic forum. (READ: APEC what? An explainer on Manila's high-profile week)

Binay is the opposition's standard-bearer in the May 2016 polls. 

Malacañang has announced two leaders who are going on state visits to the country: Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. 

“You know, the protocol really there is that the Vice President will greet the heads of state. That is one of my functions,” Binay said in a press briefing in La Union. 

In the past, Binay welcomed world leaders to the Philippines, including US President Barack Obama, who was in Manila in April 2014 for a state visit. Obama will be among the 21 economic leaders participating in APEC, along with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. 

Vice President Binay also went on various foreign trips to represent Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. 

Binay will attend APEC events even after resigning from the Aquino Cabinet. He stepped down as housing czar and presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers' affairs in June to formally lead the opposition, and to launch his presidential campaign. 

Binay has since been criticizing the Aquino administration for its lapses including the supposed lack of inclusive growth, the theme of the Philippines' APEC hosting. (READ: VP Binay: Where is inclusive growth?)

APEC comes as Philippine presidential bets hit the campaign trail and trade barbs even ahead of the official campaign period in February 2016.  

Still, the former mayor of the financial district Makati called on political parties to “set aside differences” during APEC week and to show “unity.” 

“This is still our country. Even if [the administration] and I do not agree [on issues], I will still attend receptions,” Binay said. 

“Let us set aside politics and do what needs to be done for the good of the country," he added.

The chairman of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), Binay is running for president against administration standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas II. Ruling Liberal Party (LP) chairman Aquino endorsed his partymate Roxas, saying the former interior secretary is the candidate who will ensure the continuity of his economic and good governance programs. 

Presidents and vice presidents are elected separately in the Philippines, and can come from rival parties. 

Also running for president are independent Senator Grace Poe and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago. 

'Growth must benefit poor'

Binay highlighted the need for the Aquino government to ensure that its fast-growing economy, second only to China in Asia in 2014, benefits the poor. 

In his campaign speeches, the Vice President said the Philippines needs a sustained 7-8% GDP growth per year, up from the average of 6.3% per year from 2010 to 2014, to reduce poverty, and to attain inclusive growth. He said, “Poverty is the moral issue of the time.” 

Binay styles himself as the candidate of the masses. He highlights his rags-to-riches story but also faces a corruption controversy over allegedly overpriced Makati projects when he was mayor for 21 years. 

While Binay wants politics to take a backseat in the economic event, he said that the Aquino government must see to it that ordinary Filipinos benefit from APEC. 

“APEC is a very important event that we should all support. We are hopeful that the agreements will promote real inclusive growth that uplifts the lives of the poor,” Binay said.

The Vice President though supported the efforts of the Philippines as APEC host, expressing confidence it will do “a good job” in holding the high-level summit for the first time in 19 years. (READ: Philippines as APEC host: Bending over backwards for VIPs)

“Napakaganda ng ating bansa. Talagang dapat puntahan po ito ng mga turista. Iyon ho ang isa. Pangalawa, yong kaakit-akit na ugali ng Pilipino na palatawa. Kahit na napakalaki ng problema, natawa pa. Ang pangatlo, 'yung hospitality ng Pilipino. So, these are the basic traits of the Filipino that we really should be proud of,” Binay said. 

(Our country is so beautiful. Tourists should really come here. That's one. Second, Filipinos are fond of laughing, a good trait. Even if we have grave problems, we still laugh. Third is the hospitality of the Filipino.) –