Palace says Aquino to fly to Asean summit despite flu
MANILA, Philippines—President Bengino Aquino is to depart as scheduled Saturday night to attend the 21st Association of Southeast Asian Nations In Cambodia even though he is still suffering from a bout with flu and allergic rhinitis, the Palace announced.
Palace sources said earlier there was a chance the President would not attend the summit because of his illness.
At around 7 p.m., however, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte issued a statement saying the President was departing as scheduled.
“While the President’s doctors advised rest for at least two days to ensure full recovery and prevent a relapse, the President has decided to push through with the trip,” Valte said. “This is in light of the preparations already made and the importance of the gathering for the formation of a regional consensus to ensure stability and peace in Asean. The President also believes recent developments in other parts of the world requires dialogue among Asean and other leaders on the potential economic and security impact of these events on the region.”
“President Benigno S. Aquino III will therefore be departing for Cambodia as previously scheduled,” she added.
Valte noted that last Thursday, after a trip to Occidental Mindoro and then to Tagaytay to address address the Kapisanan ng Mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, the President “developed body malaise, fever and allergic rhinitis”
She said doctors diagnosed Aquino’s condition as influenza and allergic rhinitis.
“He rested most of yesterday,” Valte said. “Today, despite having experienced bouts of fever and muscle pains, the President went to the office to interview candidates for the position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court till 5 in the afternoon.”
A palace source earlier Saturday said the President was resting at Bahay Pangarap, his official residence across the Pasig River from Malacañang Palace.
The President was scheduled to lead a 53-member delegation, including seven Cabinet members.
The advance party—including Palace officials in charge of the President’s foreign trips, the Presidential Security Group, and members of the media—left on Thursday.
Alarm bells started to ring as early as Friday, when Aquino failed to receive Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, for a scheduled 10 a.m. courtesy call.
Lagarde had to be diverted at the last minute to the Coconut Palace, where she was received by Vice President Jejomar Binay.
She did show up at the Palace’s National Executive Building following the call on Binay, but only to brief reporters on the IMF’s rosy projections for the Philippine economy.
“The President is not well,” was all presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda could tell reporters then. He said his boss had the flu.
It was confirmed late Friday that the President was suffering from “flu and cold,” accompanied by bouts of coughing, according to a text message forwarded to the members of the Malacañang Press Corps.
Mr. Aquino had a full schedule on Thursday which took him early in the morning to Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro, where he served as guest speaker at the province’s founding anniversary.
At 1 p.m. Thursday he was in Tagatay City for another speaking engagement, this time with officers of the Kapisanan ng Mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas.
He was back in the Palace at 4 p.m. for a meeting with the the secretaries of budget and finance.
After canceling his meeting with Lagarde, Aquino reportedly stayed the whole day at Bahay Pangarap.
Valte said that it was customary for the President to take a day off a day before a foreign trip.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was heard over the radio Friday saying that the condition of the President, who had shown flu symptoms the past days, might have been aggravated by the change of weather when he flew to Tagaytay City from Mindoro.
Aquino traveled to three countries in a span of three weeks—state visits to New Zealand and Australia (October 22 to 26) and attendance at the 9th Asia-Europe meeting (November 4 to 6) in Laos.
It was in the Australian capital, Canberra, where he had to cut short his attendance at the official dinner hosted by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard at Parliament House. Aquino spoke briefly but left soon after his speech.
It was disclosed the day after that the President had a “bum stomach.”
Aquino, however, finished his diplomatic offensive in Australia, proceeding to Sydney where he met with business leaders and the Filipino community.