NEW YORK CITY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2010 (STAR) By Aurea Calica – President Aquino met here with former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the World Bank Group president Robert Zoellick to discuss his administration’s foreign and economic policies.

The President said Kissinger was an expert in foreign relations and was responsible for the opening of ties between the US and China.

“He got a lot of insights and let us not forget that he had been on the world stage for so long and we are just trying to get a share of his wisdom so we can be guided,” Mr. Aquino said.

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said Kissinger discussed general interests on world affairs since the American Nobel Peace Prize winner was involved in foreign policy since the ’70s.

“They shared experiences on China, the region, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), the US and the future,” Purisima said.

“It was a friendly exchange and it was quite interesting actually from my standpoint listening to Dr. Kissinger,” he said.

Purisima said Kissinger reminisced about the administration of Aquino’s mother, former President Corazon Aquino, and the time he met with “a certain Cardinal Sin,” which he thought was a very interesting name for a cardinal. Kissinger was referring to the late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin.

“He believes the Philippines, ASEAN will play a key role in the region working together and that we should continue to reach out to both the US and China,” Purisima said.

The President also had a meeting with Zoellick where they discussed Mr. Aquino’s plans for fighting poverty and promoting economic growth and good governance.

“We stand ready to forge a stronger partnership with the Philippines for achieving inclusive growth,” Zoellick said in a statement after the meeting.

“The Philippines has made a commendable commitment to expanding a modern social protection system, which not only protects the poor, but also encourages investments in health and education. Similar programs have made a real impact on achieving the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) in countries around the world,” he said.

Zoellick said Mr. Aquino’s determination to improve the Philippines’ investment climate by rationalizing the country’s regulatory system and mobilizing the private sector for infrastructure development through public-private partnerships was “commendable.”

“Tapping the resources and energy of the private sector through carefully designed public-private sector partnerships would go a long way in achieving sustainable growth that create more jobs for the poor. Both developed and developing countries have increasingly been utilizing public-private partnerships in accelerating infrastructure development,” Zoellick said.

The World Bank is committed to working with the government and other stakeholders in strengthening public institutions as well as promoting transparency and accountability at the local and national levels.

In a statement before he left Manila, Mr. Aquino said: “Better governance, transparency and accountability will ensure more efficient use of funds for MDGs and will minimize leaks and waste in the use of public funds.”

The World Bank said it is ready to work with the President on mitigating the effects of climate change on the Philippines, and to deepen its engagement with the government, civil society, the private sector, and development partners to address this global issue.

The Philippines is among 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change, particularly to extreme weather events.

In one of the plenary meetings of the United General Assembly, Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Cayetano Paderanga said the Philippines was on track to meet the targets on child mortality, malaria and tuberculosis incidence, access to sanitation and safe potable water, and equal education for girls.

A statement from the UN said, however, climate change posed a threat to the attainment of the MDGs because the population living above the poverty threshold was declining due to low capacity to cope with the resulting shocks.

Paderanga said the government would unveil a medium-term development plan reflecting its commitment to prioritize the goals through an appropriate mix of physical and social infrastructure.

He added the plan would also provide for social safety nets and measures focusing on adaptation to climate change. The plan is aimed at harnessing partnerships between the public and private sectors and the country would create an enabling environment to that effect.

Paderanga said the legislative branch had been proactive in building the legal foundations for the MDGs and retained the special committee to that end. The Philippines had also asked the UN system to share its knowledge of successful development approaches, particularly in the areas of reducing poverty, dropout rates and the incidences of maternal deaths and HIV/AIDS.

He urged international development partners to fulfill their financial commitment as 2015 draws near.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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