Aquino back on schedule after suffering bum stomach in Canberra
SYDNEY, Australia—A day after he complained of an upset stomach in Canberra, President Aquino turned up here and was on time for all his official engagements, including a state luncheon at New South Wales (NSW) State Parliament hosted by Premier Barry O’Farrell.
The President sounded a little bit under the weather, but managed to deliver a brief speech thanking O’Farrell for hosting the luncheon.
He may not have partook of the three-course meal consisting of pistachio-crusted pressed beef and pan-fried snapper at the Canberra dinner, hosted by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, but this time he took a bite or two of the food served at the Strangers Dining Room of NSW Parliament House.
Starting at 2:20 p.m., he went through a flurry of business meetings with top officials of Australian companies Telstra, Macquarie and Austal Atlantic, Gulf & Pacific Co. of Manila.
With a hoarse voice, Mr. Aquino spoke before the Philippine-Australia Business Forum, where he invited the companies to invest in Mindanao amid the recent decision of Moro rebels to sign a framework agreement for peace with his administration.
He promised to have the Bangsamoro organic act in place by 2015, and “we hope to install” an autonomous Moro government “with a mandate” by 2016.
The President also met with CEOs of Australian companies in a roundtable discussion organized by Asia Society Australia and Australia-Philippines Business Council, and finally keynoted the Asia Society dinner, which was followed by a question-and-answer portion.
On Thursday, a bum stomach nearly derailed Mr. Aquino’s diplomatic offensive Down Under aimed at gaining trade concessions favorable to the Philippines.
Officials traveling with Mr. Aquino said the upset stomach forced him to cut short his attendance at the official dinner hosted by Gillard at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
The President is here on a three-day state visit upon the invitation of the prime minister.
At the banquet, Mr. Aquino spoke briefly but left soon after his speech without touching his food. He was escorted by a visibly concerned Gillard as he left Parliament House in the capital, Canberra.
The media delegation became alarmed, too, worried whether the President could still finish two more days of a grueling schedule in Sydney, before returning to Manila this Friday.
However, Mr. Aquino regained his strength on Thursday, allowing him to fly with the large Philippine business delegation to Sydney.
The same business group has been traveling with him from Manila to Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand, to Canberra and Sydney in Australia.
While en route to Sydney, he ate a burger, said Rey Marfil, the assistant secretary for media relations. “He’s all right now,” was all Marfil could tell reporters.
‘No paperwork, please’
Although not feeling well, the President managed to turn up at the Wednesday banquet hosted by Gillard in his honor.
But she had to dispense with the formalities and protocol of the banquet, after Mr. Aquino complained of “not feeling well.”
She thanked the President for his presence. “We are very, very disappointed that you had become unwell, but we wish you a very speedy recovery and a good night’s rest here in Australia,” said Gillard who delivered her speech ahead of the President’s.
She asked for everyone’s indulgence, as she said it would be best to allow Mr. Aquino to retire for the night.
“I know what it’s like to be chased around with paperwork when you’re feeling unwell, and I’m sure it’s going to aid his recovery if he is left undisturbed tonight, which is my way of acknowledging our other honored Filipino guests,” she added.
The President earlier met the governor general of the Commonwealth of Australia, Quentin Bryce, and her husband, Michael, at Government House, which serves as the office of the governor general who is the official representative of Queen Elizabeth II.
Mr. Aquino then laid a wreath at the Australian War Memorial and toured select war galleries before sitting down for an interview with an Australian TV journalist.