Leni turns from bus rider to jet-setter
An advocate of people on the margins of society who often takes a bus on her visits to her province, Vice President Leni Robredo has become a jet-setter of sorts, getting flak from certain quarters.
From Bicol to Bangkok to the USA, the plane has become her mode of transportation as she reaches out to the private sector to support her “laylayan” (people on the margins) projects and advocacies.
Robredo was criticized for her use of a private plane on a recent trip to Naga City.
In a press conference on Wednesday, she had a frank and practical response to her critics: taking a private plane cannot be avoided.
“I don’t think we can avoid it in the course of our work, that we would really have to use a private plane, whether we pay for the rent or someone else would shoulder the cost for us because it does happen that you have to be at this particular place then you have to be at another place in the afternoon, but there would be no [commercial] flight available,” Robredo said.
Bus in accident
She said it was the Rotary Club of Naga that rented the private plane for her so she would not cancel her engagement with the group last week.
This came after the bus she usually takes to Bicol figured in an accident and her staff could no longer find tickets for a commercial flight.
“I think there is nothing wrong with [using a private plane]. It will happen, as long as you don’t use it all the time,” she said, adding that taking a private plane was more the exception than the rule.
She said it was “not fair” to compare her to President Duterte, who once took a commercial flight to Davao with Malacañang publicizing it with photos.
“The President also takes both the private plane and commercial plane,” she said.
Robredo added she knew that the person behind the private plane story had an “axe to grind” against her family, even when her husband, former Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo, was still alive.
Since her assumption to office on June 30, Robredo has been traveling to several provinces every week, keeping her promise that she would be a Vice President available to those on the fringes of society to listen to their needs.
Robredo takes her advocacies to the other side of the Pacific this week, in engagements with Filipino-American communities in the east and west coasts.
On August 6, Robredo will keynote the 12th National Empowerment Conference of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations in Valley Forge, Philadelphia.
The next day, she flies to San Francisco to meet with the Filipino-American community in the Bay area.
Her tickets, Robredo said, were paid for by the organizations that invited her to the United States.
Of her recent visit to Thailand, where she received an award as one of the Honorary Outstanding Women of 2016 from Southeast Asia, the Vice President said the National Council for Women of Thailand, which sponsored the event, paid for the trip.
Robredo said it was too early to tell whether her foreign trips would be able to help fund the government housing and urban development program.
But the Filipino-American communities that invited her to the United States have been asking her “How they can be of help?” Robredo said.
On Wednesday, Robredo met with the representative of the Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the Philadelphia event, for initial discussions.
In Thailand, Robredo said she asked to meet with the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.
Robredo was briefed on the Thai community housing program, which she described as “very successful” and could be replicated in the country.
As chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), Robredo said she wanted to have an “integrated and comprehensive” plan to address the needs of the people.
“I don’t want it done piecemeal because HUDCC is not just about housing. It’s also about urban development,” she said.
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