President Benigno Aquino III makes a first official visit to the United Kingdom next week on a mission to promote the Philippines as an alternative “safe haven” for European investors and a “fun place” for British tourists.
The President’s London visit, scheduled for June 4 to 6, comes in the midst of the UK’s year-long celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, marking the 60th anniversary of the British monarch’s accession to the throne.
There will be no audience with the Queen in Mr. Aquino’s crowded three-day schedule that will include meetings with Prime Minister David Cameron, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, and top British investors.
According to Elizabeth Buensuceso, assistant secretary at the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Office of European Affairs, Mr. Aquino’s UK visit should put the Philippines back on the radar of European investors.
“(This) is a historic moment because European countries, and in this instance under the leadership of the United Kingdom, are now looking for alternative places, safe havens. As you know, there is a crisis going on in Europe, and now they are looking at Asia,” Buensuceso told a media briefing at Malacañang on Wednesday.
But for some time, for Europeans, Asia usually meant China, India and Singapore, she said.
Focus is on Philippines
“But this time, the focus is on the Philippines. So we are gaining recognition and with this visit, I think, the Philippines will be on the radar of European investors,” she said.
She said that British-Philippine relations had been reinvigorated with the assumption to power of Cameron in 2010, at around the same time that Mr. Aquino was elected president.
“This unprecedented focus on deepening Philippine-British bilateral ties, especially in economic and political/security matters, has even led the British government to describe the Philippines as an ‘emerging power in East Asia,”’ Buensuceso said.
The meeting between Mr. Aquino and Cameron will touch on political and economic cooperation, the UK’s participation in the International Contact Group, regional and international issues, and anticorruption and governance practices.
Buensuceso said the President will also meet with British business leaders interested in the Aquino administration’s Public-Private Partnership program, noting that the UK was one of the first countries to have shown support for the PPP.
Forging a new era
She said the President’s visit would center on the theme “Rising Philippines, Strong Britain: Forging a new era of mutual prosperity and partnership.”
She said the visit aims to expand opportunities for closer economic cooperation, build up cooperation toward global peace, conflict-resolution and combating international crime, deepen people-to-people linkages, and celebrate shared values of democracy, free speech, good governance, transparency and counter-corruption.
There will be no opportunity, however, for Mr. Aquino to meet the Queen, who marks the 60th year of her reign during the week of the President’s visit.
But she will be offering a lunch for Mr. Aquino to be presided over by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Wootton, who visited Manila last week.
Mr. Aquino’s only royal engagement will be a meeting with the Duke of York, Prince Andrew, who will represent the Queen.