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RED FLAG President Benigno Aquino III (right) and US President Barack Obama attend a news conference at the Waldorf Astoria in New York on Saturday. Behind is the controversial inverted Philippine flag. AP/MALACAÑANG PHOTO BUREAU


President plays down faux pas on ‘red’ flag

By Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:12:00 09/28/2010

Filed Under: Foreign affairs & international relations, Diplomacy, Grants and Scholarships, Foreign Aid

SAN FRANCISCO?President Benigno Aquino III dismissed criticisms over the inverted Philippine flag as coming from people with nothing better to do, saying his delegation had detected the error but it was too late to remedy it.

?Some people just don?t have anything to do,? Mr. Aquino said on Sunday in a swipe at those who criticized the wrong way the flag was displayed during Friday?s summit in New York among US President Barack Obama and Southeast Asian leaders. The summit was held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting.

The Philippine national colors were displayed with the red field on top of the blue, indicating the country was at war.

?Let?s not forget that many countries are members of the (United Nations) and have to attend to so many concerns in looking after all of these leaders moving around, providing security for all world leaders,? Mr. Aquino said.

Too late

The President indicated that he understood the US organizers were faced with the enormous task of securing many world leaders when the diplomatic faux pas happened.

?A person is not perfect. Sooner or later, he would make a mistake,? he said.

Mr. Aquino said there was no more time for the error to be corrected without disrupting the meeting of the leaders of the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

?Unfortunately, when we got there, when we were already being led to the hall and when we noticed it, it was too late to disrupt the proceedings,? he said.

?I understand the [US] state department has taken cognizance and instructed their people to do it better next time around.?

Palace: ?Move on?

Malacañang is not about to demand an apology from the United States.

Saying the Palace was satisfied with the US explanation that what happened was an ?honest mistake,? presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that Philippine protocol officers detected the mistake but that tight security prevented them from rectifying it.

At a news briefing in Manila, Lacierda urged the country to ?move on.?

?These things happen. This thing not only happened to us. It has happened, I understand, also previously to other countries? flags as well,? he said.

?We believe that what is more important is the relations between the US and the Philippines and also the good news that the President is going to bring home when he comes home.?

Mr. Aquino is due to return to Manila at 3 a.m. Tuesday.

Lacierda said that Philippine protocol officers, on realizing the national flag was inverted, informed state department officials of it.

No inspection

?Unfortunately, because the security was so tight, they were not able to make the necessary changes,? he said.

Lacierda said: ?It is frustrating but the thing is we pointed it out to them right there and then.?

An official of the Department of Foreign Affairs said that ?apparently, Philippine officials were not allowed to conduct an ocular inspection of the... meeting room and make arrangements, including flag placement prior to the meeting.?

?Generally, the Americans as hosts were expected to do all the preparations in coordination with ASEAN representatives. Also everybody knows how strict the US Secret Service is in securing the venue of such events as the US-ASEAN summit,? said the official, who asked not to be identified.

Historic day

US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. described the signing of the $434-million US financial grant to the Philippines as a ?historic day? in their relations.

In a statement, Thomas said that ?through this grant, we will make our strong partnership even stronger.?

The grant will fund three major Philippine projects: $54.3 million for the computerization of key business processes at the Bureau of Internal Revenue; $120 million for the expansion of the Kalahi community-based rural development program focusing on small-scale infrastructure and related services; and $214.4 million for the rehabilitation of the 220-kilometer Samar Road that passes through 15 municipalities in the Eastern Visayas province.

?To ensure efficient and transparent implementation, the compact provides approximately $37 million for the administration, financial management, procurement oversight and audit, as well as $8.3 million for monitoring and impact evaluation,? the US Embassy said. With reports from Christine O. Avendaño and Jerry E. Esplanada

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