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At a dinner in Malacañang, President Benigno Aquino III and Spain's Queen Sofia both welcomed the reintroduction, albeit on a small scale, of the Spanish language in Philippine education. Spanish, which had been stigmatized by nationalists as the lingua franca of colonizers and local elites, is making a minor comeback as a subject in less than two dozen high schools nationwide. The Spanish government, through its cultural arm the Instituto Cervantes, has been sponsoring the training of teachers of Spanish in the Philippines. The promotion of Spanish was mandated by ex-President Gloria Arroyo, a fluent Spanish speaker, in 2007.
Queen Sofia expressed appreciation to Aquino for the country’s effort to reintroduce the Spanish language in the Philippine public education system as it “opens up opportunities to secure the well-being of future generations of Filipinos in the globalized world.”The reintroduction of Spanish was just one example of what President Aquino said were strong ties between the Philippines and Spain, its colonizer of nearly four centuries.
“We are working together; whether in trade, sports, defense, or in tourism, in all the vital spheres of human endeavor,” said Aquino.
Aquino noted that the country’s bilateral trade with Spain last year amounted to $329.6 million making the latter the Philippines’ 31st largest trading partner.
He said Spain has also been a strong, reliable partner in development cooperation as its Official Development Assistance projects throughout the country have helped finance livelihood and housing programs for Filipinos on the grassroots level. In 2011, the Spanish government’s official development assistance to the Philippines amounted to €28.9 million in grants and loans.
“In a substantial way, Spain is working with Filipinos to empower Filipinos to be productive, educated, healthy citizens (national hero Jose) Rizal so deeply wanted them to be,” he said.
He further said the Philippines and Spain are making a new history of partnership with shared democratic ideals; of friendship based, not on nostalgia, but a principled commitment to the positive strength that can be derived from divergent histories, but with a shared, and affectionate, cultural affinity.
For her part, Queen Sofia said her country is committed to be the Philippines’ key partner in Asia and will always be a priority country for Spanish aid.
She also praised Aquino’s determination to lift Filipinos out of poverty and his commitment to transparency, good governance and accountability.
“You can count on the Spanish cooperation in your endeavor,” she said.
Queen Sofia is in the country for a four-day visit. She arrived in Manila Monday afternoon.
She inspected various development cooperation projects that are being implemented with funding assistance from the Spanish government through its development cooperation agency, Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarollo or AECID. The Greek-born Queen Sofia is the daughter of the former king of Greece. She married into the Spanish royal family and became queen when her husband Juan Carlos ascended to the throne in 1975. She represented Greece in sailing events in the 1960 Summer Olympics. — DVM/HS, GMA News