Obama sets foot in Philippines

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Monday, April 28, 2014


MANILA (Updated) -- United States President Barack Obama arrived in Manila on Monday to begin his two-day visit to the Philippines, where he and counterpart Benigno Aquino III are expected to discuss political and security cooperation and expansion of trade and investments.

Aboard the Air Force One, Obama and his entourage were welcomed by government officials led by Vice President Jejomar Binay, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg and media assembled at the AGES Aviation Center, Balagbag Ramp, Pasay City.

Obama arrived at 1:26 p.m., hours after departing from Malaysia where he made history as the first American leader to visit the Muslim nation since 1966.

After the welcome honors at the airport, Obama boarded the Marine One presidential chopper that brought him to Malacañang.

Obama then stepped out of the technologically advanced limousine “The Beast” to meet Aquino and his Cabinet officials such as Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes.

He also reviewed the honor guard with Aquino, greeted a crowd of government employees waving mini Philippine and US flags and listened to a rondalla group perform before entering the Palace, where he was given cold towel to wipe his sweat.

The left-handed Obama signed the Palace guestbook, posed for photograph with Aquino and had a one-hour bilateral meeting at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room.

Obama in Philippines
U.S. President Barack Obama signs a guestbook as Philippine President Benigno Aquino III stands by in the Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. Obama said a 10-year agreement signed Monday to give the U.S. military greater access to Philippine bases will help promote regional security, improve armed forces training and shorten response times to humanitarian crises, including natural disasters. (AP Photo)


It wasn't sure if Aquino will bring up Manila's territorial dispute with China during the meeting even as both countries inked earlier in the day the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), a deal that would allow a larger American military presence in the country to beef up the former US colony's capability to respond to security threats and calamities.

Aquino and Obama have a chance to clarify salient points of the 10-year access deal as they will field questions from the media for 35 minutes.

The world's most powerful leader will then have a "private time" for three hours before returning to Malacañang for the customary state dinner hosted by Aquino.

The dinner, which will feature some delightful Filipino dishes and desserts, is from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Rizal Hall.

Obama will be at the American Cemetery for a a wreath-laying ceremony on Tuesday before flying back to the US, capping a four-nation Asian tour that also took him to Japan and South Korea.

His predecessor, George W. Bush, had an eight-hour visit to the Philippines on October 18, 2003.

Bush backed then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's efforts to curb terrorism and they agreed on a five-year plan to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

He also made an address to a joint session of Congress, the second US leader to do so after Dwight Eisenhower in 1960.

Bush was barred by the US Secret Service from staying overnight in Manila, the New York Times reported, due to security concerns. (Sunnex)

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