Aquino starts Australia visit

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

MANILA -- President Benigno Aquino III arrived in Canberra, Australia, past midnight Wednesday to begin the Australian leg of his trip, which is expected to be busy as his recently concluded state visit in New Zealand.

Aquino started his official day at the Lakeside Lawn of the Government House where ceremonial welcome was prepared in his honor by Governor General Quentin Bryce complete with a 21 gun salute.

The President is said to be the second head of state to be welcomed at the Government House. The first had been Chilean President Sebastian Pinera.

A discussion between the two leaders was held shortly followed by a state luncheon hosted by Governor General Bryce and her husband, Michael Bryce, at the dining room where a ceremonial toast was proposed.

Aquino and Bryce, who paid a state visit in the Philippines in April last year, discussed several issues including the Filipino community in Australia and various Philippine government initiatives.

The Philippine President proceeded to the Parliament House for a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Julia Gillard at her office before meeting with other Australian ministers.

The two heads of state exchanged views on various regional and international issues including the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro by the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

They also discussed both countries' cooperation in the political, economic, defense, and development fields, and on the future direction of Philippine-Australian bilateral relations.

Following their meeting, the President attended the signing of the Air Services Agreement between the Philippines and Australia.

Later in the afternoon, Aquino laid a wreath at the Australian War Memorial and toured selected galleries.

The President then granted an interview with Ms. Kathy Novak, a senior correspondent of the Special Broadcasting Service, before driving back to the Parliament House for the official dinner hosted by Prime Minister Gillard.

Aquino wrapped up his first day of activities in Australia with the usual coffee meeting with the Philippine media held at the Hyatt Hotel where he answered burning questions from reporters on various issues.

The next two days of the President's state visit in Australia will be spent with meetings with various company executives and other leaders including the Premier of New South Wales Barry O'Farrell in Sydney.

The President will deliver a keynote address at the Philippines-Australia Business Forum and meet with top CEOs in a roundtable setting.

He will then address The Asia Society of Australia and the Australia Philippine Business Council before proceeding to Campbelltown to unveil a statue of Dr. Jose Rizal.

The President will also grace a Filipino Community gathering where he is expected to encourage them to help raise the profile of the Philippines by being knowledgeable and competent sources of information on their home country, be it on history and culture, business, and tourism, among others.

Aquino will also be with opposition leader of Australian Parliament Tony Abbott, which is part of the tradition in British Commonwealth countries. This will allow the President the opportunity to exchange views on important regional and international developments, and enhance personal relationships with Australian policy makers.

The President's visit to Australia aims to pursue closer and broader relations based on a long history of cooperation, common interests and shared values between the Philippines and Australia.

Prior to his state visit to Australia, Aquino visited New Zealand, where he witnessed the signing of several investment deals and visited the Filipino community.

The President is scheduled to depart Australia on Friday. (Jill Beltran/Sunnex)

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