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Aquino flies to South Korea Thursday

MANILA, Philippines–Still under the weather, President Aquino will fly to Busan Thursday to attend the two-day Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)-Republic of Korea anniversary commemorative summit, where he and other leaders from the region are expected to tackle cooperation on climate change and disaster-risk management.

Malacañang has yet to disclose specifically what ails the President but he is apparently well enough to take the nearly five-hour flight from Manila to Busan where the event will be held.

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“He’s still sick,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a press conference when asked if the President had recovered as he decided to fly to Busan.

President Aquino flies to Busan Thursday. AP FILE PHOTO

President Aquino flies to Busan Thursday. AP FILE PHOTO

Malacañang announced on Monday night that the President would be skipping the summit owing to his monitoring of the aftermath of Tropical Depression “Ruby” (international name: Hagupit), which left at least 11 dead and P1 billion worth of agricultural damage.

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But because of the “encouraging reports” from the front lines, Aquino has decided to push through with his trip to Korea, Valte said in a statement released on Tuesday night.

Commitments

“This is in keeping with the Philippines’ international commitments to Korea, which has always been a staunch partner and ally, our sister nations in Asean, and the rest of the global community,” Valte said.

“This trip will afford the President the opportunity to articulate the Philippine position on issues of both national and global importance, including those connected to climate risk and disaster-preparedness, and the dangers posed by the Ebola virus,” she added.

The President will still continue to closely monitor the post-Ruby situation even as he is in Korea to represent the country, according to Valte.

Bilateral meeting

Aquino is scheduled Thursday to have a bilateral meeting with South Korea President Park Geun-hye, who will host a welcome dinner for leaders of the Southeast Asian bloc.

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On Friday, commemorative summit sessions at the Busan Convention Center will tackle the review of the Asean-ROK cooperation and its future path.

The sessions will also cover cooperation on nontraditional security issues, with special focus on how to address the changing weather patterns and how to mitigate risks.

Aquino also plans to attend an exhibition on Korean traditional arts and crafts, a special exhibit on public governance, and a meet and greet with the chief executive officers of Korea Aerospace Industries and other Korean officials.

Asean leaders will deliver statements centering on the theme “Building Trust, Building Happiness” during the summit.

Among those joining the President on his trip are Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and Asean-Philippines Director General Luis Cruz.

South Korea became a full dialogue partner of Asean in 1991. In 2010, dialogue relations were upgraded to strategic partnership.

South Korea has engaged Asean in several areas, including micro, small and medium enterprises, labor and migration, trade and investment, development cooperation and people-to-people exchange.

Top source of tourists

About a million Koreans visited the Philippines in 2013. South Korea has also been the Philippines’ top source of tourists since 2010.

South Korea has also been a popular destination for Filipinos, with some 400,000 in 2013 visiting the land of koreanovela and K-pop groups that have made waves in the Philippines.

As of 2013, there were 47,514 Filipinos living in South Korea. Forty-three percent of Filipino workers there are under the government-to-government Employment Permit System (EPS). Under the EPS, the basic rights of foreign workers are as protected as those of Korean workers.

Most of these workers are in the manufacturing sector. The rest are either entertainers, professionals, missionaries, students, or spouses of Korean nationals.

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, Diplomacy, Philippines, South Korea
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