MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III’s job is demanding and maybe taking its toll on his health, Malacañang said Sunday.
The President skipped a meeting with visiting International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde Friday morning due to a bad flu and cold. He, however, flew to Cambodia Saturday night to attend the 21st Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.
“Perhaps that’s part of it,’’ Undersecretary Abigail Valte said on whether the demands of his job were taking their toll on his health. “And of course, the President has allergies, and is hit hard by cold and flu.’’
Aquino is human after all, and the like the rest of the Filipino, gets sick too, Valte said.
“Many people are asking about the President. It’s nothing major, as I said [Saturday]. We get sick every now and then, and President Aquino is no different from us,’’ she said in an interview over government-run dzRB.
Valte had earlier said the 52-year-old President had flu and allergic rhinitis, an inflammation of the mucous membrane of the nose, which he might have caught when he flew to Occidental Mindoro and chilly Tagaytay City last Thursday.
Despite his condition, the President attended the Asean summit opening and subsequent plenary sessions, as well as sat down with heads of states for bilateral meetings on the sidelines in Phnom Penh Sunday, Valte said.
“We didn’t hear anything from Cambodia that the President’s condition is getting worse. So far, our assumption here is he’s feeling better,’’ she said.
But as in any foreign trips, Aquino is accompanied by a doctor from the Presidential Security Group.
On Day One of the summit Sunday, the President had a heavy schedule. After the opening ceremonies, he met with Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, and then attended the plenary session tackling Asean community-building, Valte said.
In the afternoon, he was scheduled to attend the signing ceremony of the Asean Human Rights Declaration, Asean Leaders’ Meeting with the Asean Business Advisory Council, and Asean Retreat Meeting. In the evening, he was set to meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, she said.
“The President is OK,’’ Valte said.
On Friday morning, the President failed to receive Lagarde in Malacañang. The IMF chief was instead diverted to the Coconut Palace where she was received by Vice President Jejomar Binay Jr. She later showed up at the New Executive Building in Malacañang to brief reporters on IMF’s outlook on Philippine economy.
The next day, the President managed to interview the nominees for Supreme Court associate justice, except for chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen who is now in Malaysia for the resumption of talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
While on a state visit to Australia late last month, the President cut short a dinner with Prime Minister Julia Gillard after becoming ill. The reason for the illness was not known.