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Pinoy Abroad

PNoy and Pinoys Abroad: Aquino's foreign visits on his first year

In his first year in office, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III has embarked on state visits to seven foreign countries: United States, Brunei, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam. After beginning his six-year term as president last year, Aquino promised to keep his travel expenses down because one of the issues hurled at the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was that she used billions of taxpayers' money for her costly trips abroad. GMA News Research cited a 2009 COA report stating that around P1 billion of the fund of the Office of the President was allotted for travels, more than 800 million of which were for foreign trips. COA noted that OP overshot its budget for travel expenses by P696 million, spending nearly four times more than what was allocated for the item in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) in 2009. In comparison, Aquino, according to GMA News Research, spent the following for his trips: UNITED STATES Duration: September 20-26, 2010 Purpose: To attend the 65th United Nations General Assembly and to meet with US President Barack Obama Size of delegation (including Aquino): 56 Amount spent: P25 million VIETNAM Duration: October 26 to 30, 2010 Purpose: State visit and 17th ASEAN Summit Size of delegation (including Aquino): 53 Amount spent: P11.3 million JAPAN Duration: November 12 to 14, 2010 Purpose: 18th APEC Summit Size of delegation (including Aquino): 51 Amount spent: P16.34 million INDONESIA* Duration: March 7 to 9, 2011 Purpose: State visit Size of delegation (including Aquino): 53 SINGAPORE* Duration: March 9 to 11, 2011 Purpose: State visit Size of delegation (including Aquino): 53 Amount spent for Indonesia and Singapore trips: P12.27 million INDONESIA Duration: May 7 to 9, 2011 Purpose: 18th ASEAN Leaders' Meeting Size of delegation (including Aquino): 54 Amount spent: P4.2 million THAILAND Duration: May 26 to 27, 2011 Purpose: Official visit Size of delegation (including Aquino): 52 Amount spent: P4.5 million BRUNEI DARUSSALAM Duration: June 1 to 2, 2011 Purpose: State visit Size of delegation (including Aquino): 55 Amount spent: P2 million Highlights of Aquino's trips One of the highlights of Aquino's week-long visit to the US was his interaction with the Filipino communities. He was joined by members of Filipino communities from Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Northern Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington State, and Wyoming, according to the government's Official Gazette. In a one-on-one interview with GMA News' Sandra Aguinaldo before going back to the Philippines, Aquino said one of the enjoyable moments of his working visit to the US was eating American comfort food. "It was 11 years ago since I last visited America... siyempre yung comfort food nasubukan ko ulit dito si hotdog, si hamburger, tsaka si pizza," Aquino said. Aquino and some other officials also ate In-N-Out burgers at the holding area of the San Francisco International Airport upon their arrival in the US last week. He had pizza a few times throughout the visit, and caused a stir on the streets of New York when he and his entourage had hotdog sandwiches from a corner stand. In Vietnam last October, during the 17th Association of Southeast Asian Nation Summit, Aquino made a sidetrip to meet with organizations representing 3,500 Filipinos in that country. In Japan, Pinoys also always gathered around Aquino in between sessions of the 18th meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). There are around 300,000 OFWs in Japan. In Indonesia in March, Aquino told the Filipino community members there of the economic gains of the present admininstration. In Singapore, Aquino thanked the community leaders who represented around 72 Filipino organizations and business institutions, and the 177,600 OFWs there who help support the Philippine economy. He also thanked them for ensuring his victory in the overseas absentee vote that helped him win the presidential elections. Last May, Aquino also went to Thailand for an official visit. He met some of the 14,910 Filipinos residing and working there as English teachers, musicians, corporate executives and administrative and technical staff of the United Nations agencies and other international organizations. - Jesse Edep, Veronica Pulumbarit, GMA News