Group assails Aquino’s 60-man red carpet trip to Laos

PRESIDENT Benigno Simeon Aquino III received a second beating from the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), after the fisherfolk alliance learned that the Chief Executive, together with a 60-member delegation left for Laos yesterday to attend the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem).

“Mr. Aquino and his gangmates in and out of Malacanang are living like modern-day aristocrats, spending millions of pesos of hard-earned taxpayers’ money like there is no tomorrow. This red carpet escapade to Laos is condemnable to the highest order,” said Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap in a press statement.

“We are talking here of 60 people who will accompany Mr. Aquino during his trip to Laos. If the administration will spend P 1 million for each of the delegate, then that is P 60 million. Imagine how horrible this trip can be,” the Pamalakaya official lamented.

Hicap said as of now, Malacanang has yet to release the official amount which the President is expected to spend for the Europe-Asia meeting. “So how much will President Aquino and his 60 gangmates will spend? Will Mr.Aquino eat grilled hotdog in the main capital of Laos for photo op escapade?” Hicap asked.

Malacanang yesterday announced that President Aquino flew to Laos yesterday carrying with him a 60-member delegation to attend the Europe-Asia meeting and look for possible investors for the country. With President Aquino were members of his Cabinet and business leaders who left on Sunday on a chartered flight of the Philippine Airlines.

According to Malacanang, the President will exchange views with other heads of states on the Eurozone crisis, trade and investment, energy and food security, disaster management, counter-terrorism, migration and regional issues, foreign affairs officials said.
Aquino will also call attention to the country’s gains in good governance and inclusive growth, and call for an enhanced Asia-Europe economic partnership, and underscore the need for upholding the rights if migrant workers.
The Palace said President Aquino will meet European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on the Philippine maritime training and certification system, and its compliance with air safety standards.
Mr. Aquino will also engage in bilateral talks with Swiss President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf , where they discuss several issues like the human rights compensation bill, cooperation in disaster risk reduction and management, and economic cooperation. Palace officials also said the President has lined up talks with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti on defense and finance, and with Norwegian Prime Minister Jen Stoltenberg on Norway’s role in the peace talks with rebels, and maritime and labor cooperation.
Pamalakaya learned that Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Ambassador to Laos Maria Lumen B. Isleta, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, outgoing Energy Secretary and incoming Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras, Secretary Herminio Coloma of the Presidential Communications Operations Office and Director General Arsenio Balisacan of the National Economic Development Authority will join Aquino in the Asem meeting.

This is not the first time the President drew flak from Pamalakaya regarding his trip abroad. Just last week, Pamalakaya slammed Malacanang for spending P 44 million for the president’s trip to New Zealand and Australia on October 22 to 26. The group even called the trip “junket and Imeldific.

“The President can stay in a modest hotel during the state visit and dine in modest restaurants without any shade of funfare. He can a have minimum number of companion of at least 2 to three persons and just take the commercial flights to New Zealand and Australia. That won’t cost taxpayers 40 million pesos. This only shows that President Aquino is living like Imelda Marcos with this Imeldific display of elite aristocracy,” Pamalakaya said.

“If Aquino’s recent trips to New Zealand and Australia and now to Laos were not junket trips, then what were they? A field trip to Fort Santiago? A trip to Jerusalem? Mr. Aquino and Malacanang should convince the Filipino taxpaying public the legal, political and moral wisdom and validity of this Palace-sponsored outing of 96 people in Australia and New Zealand and 60 people in Laos,” said Pamalakaya.

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