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President Benigno Aquino III tries his skills as a driver while playing a computer game during a visit to the Hewlett-Packard office in California. MALACAŃANG PHOTO


Obama grants Aquino a 7-minute meet in NYC

By Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:07:00 09/27/2010

Filed Under: Benigno Aquino III, Foreign affairs & international relations, Diplomacy, Obama Articles, Investments

SAN JOSE, California?The Aquino-Obama meeting that Palace officials had been hoping for at least lasted longer than the blink of an eye?approximately seven minutes.

And while the two leaders discussed military matters, it wasn?t about the controversial Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) whose abolition Filipino nationalists had been hankering for.

Instead, President Benigno Aquino III and US President Barack Obama talked about the possible removal of thousands of tons of war materials that Allied forces had left behind on Corregidor Island during World War II.

The one-on-one meeting pushed through on Friday in New York (Saturday in Manila) just after the summit meeting between the United States and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the Waldorf Astoria.

Speaking later to businessmen here, he expressed optimism his US trip would bring in investments ?tremendously greater? than the $434 million the US aid agency Millenium Challenge Corp. had granted the Philippines, and would result in ?tens of thousands of jobs? for Filipinos at home.

Mr. Aquino spoke of his meeting with Obama in a talk with the media at the Hewlett-Packard offices in Cupertino, where the US firm had expressed its intent to expand its operations in the Philippines.

Future bilaterals

?I think it lasted more than seven minutes,? Mr. Aquino said of his meeting with the US leader.

?It was mentioned that there would be more extensive bilaterals next time although we didn?t set a date,? he added.

Mr. Aquino said Obama promised to address the situation of the US ammunition dump left on an island off Corregidor.

?We had an opportunity to bring up the issue of ? their Corregidor ammo dump. There is materiel there that dates back to World War II so we want to put them away safely,? Mr. Aquino said. ?He said he will have it looked into.?

Mr. Aquino considers it urgent that the explosives be put away safely.

?When you hear of hundreds of thousands of tons, you?d be nervous,? he said.

Asked what else they discussed, Mr. Aquino said he didn?t want to burden Obama at a time when the US president was preoccupied with pressing domestic issues ahead of the US midterm elections in November.

Speaking on Saturday night before Filipino business and community leaders at the Philippine Development Forum here, Mr. Aquino said among the investments he expected from his trip was the construction of a new 600-megawatt power plant for Luzon.

?We were asked, ?Why go to America? Why spend P25 million at a point in time when I?m asking for austerity? ... I think, from a cost-benefit analysis, spending P25 million and having $434 million pumped into our economy is a very good deal. Do you agree?? he added to the applause of his audience.

Mr. Aquino teased the crowd further. ?That?s just the appetizer,? he said.

?We have had so many meetings with various corporations from North America. Tens of thousands of jobs will be resulting from the investments that they will make.?

Fire alarm

Mr. Aquino also met with executives of the power firm AES Corp. in New York. AES participated in the purchase of the 660-megawatt Masinloc power plant in Zambales province.

Pressed for details on new job opportunities in the Philippines, Mr. Aquino said, ?If I told you, you?d say we?re such boasters ? If we?re bringing home just ten thousand jobs, I?d be sad. We have already exceeded that.?

Hours after Mr. Aquino arrived in California, he was wakened by a fire scare at Fairmont Hotel, where he was staying.

?They said it was just a false alarm,? he told reporters.

He had lunch at Max?s restaurant at the Seasons Marketplace in Milpitas. Many Filipinos live in the area.

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