[PHOTO AT LEFT - President Aquino chats with World Bank vice president for East Asia James Adams during a courtesy call at Malacañang. WILLY PEREZ]

WASHINGTON, JULY 30, 2010 (STAR) By Jose Katigbak – All signs point to President Aquino visiting Washington in September for a face-to-face meeting with President Barack Obama that could determine RP-US relations well into the end of the next decade.

Mr. Aquino has said he will likely attend the UN General Assembly in New York in September and although he has not yet discussed other destinations, his New York visit could provide him the cover for a possible official visit to Washington.

The US capital is the traditional first foreign stop of newly elected Philippine presidents but in a nod to nationalists back home Aquino cannot be seen as too eager to acquiesce to this tradition.

As it is he is seen as too pro-American by many Filipinos and some even say it is in his DNA, having spent three happy years in Boston with his martyred father Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and his saintly mother, the late President Corazon “Cory” Aquino.

US Undersecretary for Political Affairs William Burns visited Manila recently and repeated Obama’s invitation to Mr. Aquino to visit Washington this year.

“I’m especially pleased to emphasize the high priority that President Obama attaches at this important moment, at the very beginning of the new administration of the Philippines, to our long standing partnership with your country,” Burns said.

Noynoy, as he is popularly known by most Filipinos, will never capture the magic his mother had with Americans but his convincing election victory provides an opportunity to renew and refocus the RP-US alliance, said Walter Lohman, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Asia Studies Center.

Almost as important as meeting Obama, Aquino could sign a compact accord with the Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) that would provide the Philippines with a windfall in development grants.

He could in effect “bring home the bacon,” a big PR boon for him.

The MCC board will be meeting in September at a date still to be decided and looks certain to approve a five-year economic development agreement granting some $500 million to the Philippines for rural development, road rehabilitation and the upgrading of the Bureau of Internal Revenue to improve collections and reduce corruption.

Most of the heavy lifting for the grant was done during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo but the MCC wants an assurance from the Aquino government it will abide by the conditions attached to the grant before it forks it over.

An MCC official said the exact date of the board meeting still had to be fixed and depended on the schedule of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who is chair of the board.

If the Aquino-Obama meeting in September takes place it will probably be the first of several in the years to come.

Aquino is starting his six-year term – he cannot run for reelection under the present Constitution – while Obama is midway into his first four-year term and plans to run for a second term.

Philippine ambassador to the US Willy Gaa agreed the signs pointed to an Aquino visit in September but claimed he had no advance knowledge about it.

Unless extended Gaa is scheduled to return home before the end of the year and his successor will likely accompany Aquino to Washington to “check it out” should the September visit materialize.


THE Presidential Security Group has tightened security around Bahay Pangarap in anticipation of the transfer of President Aquino to his new home.

PSG commander Col. Ramon Mateo Dizon yesterday said it is not yet certain when the President, who still lives at the family house on Times street in Quezon City, would move in but it is expected this weekend.

He also said renovations at the Bahay Pangarap, which is inside the Presidential Security Group Park at the Malacañang compound, have been expanded, now involving the addition of three bedrooms, instead of just one, to accommodate the household help and security personnel, and in case Aquino’s nephews, nieces or sisters make overnight visits.

Dizon said the PSG has told the Coast Guard about the use of the Pasig River and the need to secure the area around Bahay Pangarap which faces the river.

But he said passage through Pasig River would not be banned.

Bahay Pangarap is about a five-minute barge ride to Malacañang Palace and the Premiere Guest House where Aquino would be holding office.

Dizon said a barge ride would only last five minutes, if Pasig River is not too low or if there not too many water lilies.

He admitted, however, that the smell of the Pasig River could be annoying especially during the summer period, though its smell has not reached inside Bahay Pangarap.

Pangarap, as it was called then, was built in the 1930s by then President Manuel Quezon as a presidential rest house and recreation hall, and was used even for formal events and dinners.

It was remodeled and renamed Bahay Pangarap in the 1960s by then First Lady Eva Macapagal.


Noynoy brings own yaya to Malacañang

Posted at 07/02/2010 1:58 PM | Updated as of 07/04/2010 10:14 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Bachelor President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III will be bringing a woman with him when he moves in to his new place of residence, Bahay Pangarap in Malacañang Grounds. No it's not Shalani Soledad, his girlfriend. It's his yaya, Yolly Yebes.

Yaya Yolly Yebes began serving the Aquino family in 1994. Credit: ABS-CBN News

Yebes has been faithfully serving the Aquino family for the past 16 years. She began her service in 1994 after former President Corazon Aquino's term ended.

Among her duties is to prepare Noynoy's food and clothes. She also cleans his room and packs his suitcase when he needs to go out of town.

Yaya Yolly takes care of President Noynoy Aquino's clothes and even takes care of packing his suitcase. Credit: ABS-CBN News

"Pati shampoo, sabon nasa isang maleta na yun lahat [pati] towel. Kumpleto na ma'm--t-shirt, shorts, pantulog, pambahay, tsinelas, medyas, medicine," she said.

Noynoy does not check the contents of the suitcase anymore. "Basta sinabi niyang aalis kami, may out of town, ako na lang maglalagay lahat," said Yebes.

When Noynoy was proclaimed 15th President of the Philippines, Yebes's tasks understandably increased as the family residence on Times Street in Quezon City served as temporary headquarters of the President.

Still the same Noynoy

According to Yebes, there has been no change in Noynoy all these years. He is still the same kind and simple person she knows.

Noynoy is not picky when it comes to food. "Simple lang siya. Kapag nagpaluto, isang putahe lang," said Yebes.

According to Yaya Yolly, the new President is not picky when it comes to food. Credit: ABS-CBN News

When it comes to clothes, the President prefers comfortable simple clothes. "Pa-t-shirt-t-shirt lang yan dito sa bahay tapos ordinaryong polo shirt lang ang madalas niyang isuot," she said.

And when tired, Noynoy gets irritated easily. "Kapag pagod medyo naiinis. Naiintindihan ko naman yun. Lagi siyang umaalis noon sa kampanya. Pag galit siya sa akin, tahimik lang," said Yebes. He doesn't shout or say bad words.

Noynoy already asked Yebes to join him when he moves in to Malacañang. Her uniforms, as well as those of Ivy, another house help, are already done.

Asked up to when she will stay with the family, Yebes said it will be forever, even when Aquino gets married and starts a family.

Yebes and the rest of the Aquino staff regard their service to Noynoy as something special; it's more than just a job. By serving him they are given an important role in history.

Noynoy on his part has not forgotten them. In his inaugural speech, he thanked the people who daily take care of his needs. -- Report from Jing Castañeda, ABS-CBN News

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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