Gov’t budgets P44-M for PNoy’s state visits to NZ, Australia

The government has allocated around P44 million for President Benigno S. Aquino III’s state visits to New Zealand and Australia from October 22 to 26, Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. said on Sunday.

President Aquino left Sunday night for his first stop, New Zealand, where he will stay until October 23 on the invitation of Prime Minister John Key.

According to Ochoa, the President will proceed to Australia for a meeting with Prime Minister Julia Gillard. The Chief Executive will be in Australia from October 24 to 26.

A total of 96 delegates will accompany President Aquino in his two-leg state visits that includes Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan and PCDSPO Secretary Ramon Carandang.

Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand Virginia Benavidez and Philippine Ambassador to Australia Belen Anota will join the President’s official party.

The estimated expenses for President Aquino’s New Zealand and Australia trip cover charter lease, accommodation, transportation, food and equipment, among others, of the entire presidential delegation.

Ochoa said President Aquino hopes to further boost and strengthen the political, economic and defense ties between the Philippines and New Zealand, as well as cultivate deeper cooperation between Manila and Canberra.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), President Aquino will deliver a speech in Auckland during a business forum and later meet with the Filipino community. There are some 36,000 Filipinos in New Zealand, representing about one percent of the total population of the country.

The President’s next stop is Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, where he will meet Key and Government-General Sir Jerry Mateparae to discuss various issues of mutual concerns, including regional and international developments.

In Australia, the DFA said President Aquino will meet Gillard and Governor-General Quentin Bryce in Canberra to discuss developments in the two countries’ political, economic and defense cooperation.

After his meeting with the Australian leader, the President will proceed to Sydney where he is scheduled to address the Philippines-Australia Business Forum, the Asia Society of Australia, and the Australia Philippine Business Council, and top business leaders.

The Chief Executive is also scheduled to unveil a statue of Dr. Jose Rizal in Campbelltown and interact with members of the Filipino community in Sydney. Australia is home to 224,000 Filipinos. ###