[PHOTO - OFF TO CAMBODIA. President Benigno Aquino III attends the 20th Asean summit. INQUIRER file photo]

MANILA, APRIL 3, 2012 (INQUIRER) President Benigno Aquino III will make his first foreign trip for the year Monday when he flies to Cambodia for the 20th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit.

The President is expected to raise during the two-day event his concerns that include maritime security, the Spratly Islands and North Korea’s controversial launch of a missile that he feared would send debris on Philippine territory.

His spokesperson, Edwin Lacierda, who will join the trip, said on Sunday that Mr. Aquino would take a chartered flight to Cambodia because there was no direct commercial flight between Manila and Phnom Penh.

Also accompanying the President are Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman and Mindanao Development Authority Chair Luwalhati Antonino.

On his arrival in Phnom Penh in what the Palace described as a “working Holy Week,” the President will attend a welcome dinner for Asean leaders to be hosted by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

On Tuesday, Mr. Aquino will join the opening ceremony of the Asean summit and celebration of the 45th anniversary of the regional grouping. This year’s Asean theme is “Asean: One Community, One Destiny.” He will then attend meetings with the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly representatives, civil society organizations and youth representatives.

The President and other Asean leaders will later call on the king of Cambodia, Norodom Sihamoni, who will host a royal banquet.

On Wednesday, Mr. Aquino will attend the Asean retreat where other leaders will have an “exchange of views on international and regional issues and on the implementation of the declaration on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.”

After his Asean meetings, the President will attend the 8th Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asian Growth Area (BIMP-Eaga).

Before returning home on Wednesday, Mr. Aquino will meet with the 3,000-strong Filipino community in Cambodia.

Diplomatic protest

Del Rosario on Sunday said that the Philippines had filed diplomatic protests over North Korea’s planned rocket launch.

He said that Manila’s diplomatic missions at the United Nations and in China, Pyongyang’s closest ally, were asked to lodge the protest with their North Korean counterparts.

Del Rosario said protest letters were also sent to North Korea’s diplomatic posts in Asean member countries.

The Philippines established diplomatic ties with North Korea in 2000, but Pyongyang has no embassy in Manila and is represented by a nonresident envoy based in Thailand.

“I will look for an opportunity to raise our position in Cambodia at Asean,” Del Rosario said.

He added that the rocket launch was in clear violation of UN resolutions.

Kurt Campbell, the US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said last month the rocket launch would impact “in an area roughly between Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.”

Border row

Besides its regular agenda, the Asean summit is expected to provide a venue for Thailand and Cambodia to settle their border dispute with Mr. Aquino acting as a go-between.

The President earlier said that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had broached the idea of him talking with the Cambodian prime minister in connection with the dispute.

Mr. Aquino recalled telling the Thai leader:

“Mr. Prime Minister, we’re really interested in solving this problem. And all you have to do is tell us how we can help. If by not meddling we’re helping, then we will do so. But if you want us to provide a venue, we’ll give you the best resort there is in the Philippines.

“I’ll go to the extent of making you coffee so we can be calm.” With reports from Christian V. Esguerra and AFP


Palace downplays drop in PNoy’s survey ratings Monday, 02 April, 2012Written by Joyce Pangco Panares

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III changed his tune about the surveys Monday after suffering a decline in his satisfaction ratings, saying the dip should be ignored and that governance “should not be survey-driven.”

Before the latest Social Weather Stations survey showed Mr. Aquino losing nine points in his net satisfaction rating, the Palace’s drum beaters had been using the surveys to emphasize that the President had strong support from the people.

But his March rating, which dropped to just “good” from “very good,” had Mr. Aquino singing a different tune.

“Governance is about doing what is right, which sometimes entails some sacrifices, for the good of the people,” he said.

Deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte attributed the decline to the series of oil price increases and the threats of transport strikes last month.

She said, however, that once the effects of a fuel subsidy for jeepney drivers started to be felt, the situation would stabilize “and there will be renewed satisfaction with the President.”

Valte also said the recent survey still “indicates continued public support and satisfaction with the President’s performance” despite the overall decline in his rating.

She said the President’s rating remained “very good” among the upper- and middle-income classes, suggesting that they understood the external reasons for the oil price increases. The very poor also gave the President a very good rating because of the social safety nets in place, she said.

The Palace also took heart the “unchanged” satisfaction ratings of Mr. Aquino in Mindanao despite the worsening power shortages there.

That “suggests that the public realizes the efforts of the President to… improve the power situation in Mindanao,” Valte said.

The survey, conducted from March 10 to 13, found that 68 percent of the respondents were satisfied with Mr. Aquino’s performance and 19 percent were dissatisfied, providing for a net satisfaction rating of +49 or “good.”

The figure was nine points down from December’s “very good” net satisfaction rating of +58.

The survey also showed a nine-point drop in the President’s net satisfaction rating among the Visayan respondents, to +50 from +59, while the other areas showed smaller declines.

The survey was conducted among 1,200 adults nationwide using face-to-face interviews, with a margin of error of 3 percentage points nationally and 6 percentage points regionally, the SWS said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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