President Aquino arrived in this US capital for a three-day visit that officials from both countries hope will revitalize the Philippines-US alliance to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
He looked in good spirits as he shook hands with a small group of Filipinos who welcomed him at Andrews Air Force base on his arrival from London on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.
Aquino made no statement and proceeded directly to his suite at the Mandarin Oriental, about two miles from the White House.
A press briefing for the Filipino media in Washington scheduled to have been given by Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ricky Carandang was scrapped at the last minute without explanation.
American efforts to strengthen and deepen the Phl-US alliance are part of a broader strategy by the Obama administration to increase its strategic engagement and focus in the Asia-Pacific region to counter China’s growing interest and strength in the area.
The security cooperation between both countries is expanding beyond counterterrorism, driven in part by Chinese aggressiveness in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea as it is referred to in Manila, US analysts said. The Aquino administration is seeking US help to build a credible maritime defense force.
On his first full day in Washington on Thursday, Aquino will meet with business leaders including those from Sithe Global and Denham Capital, equity investors of GN Power Mariveles Coal Plant in Bataan, and Underwriters Laboratories, an Illinois-based company involved in the safety science industry.
He will visit the Quantico Marine Corps base, an hour’s drive in Virginia, attend a Senate reception at Capitol Hill and grace the inaugural dinner of the newly formed US-Philippines Society whose $250-a-plate cover charge has upset the less affluent members of the Filipino community in the area.
They said they wanted to see Aquino at the dinner since his tight itinerary precluded his usual meet and greet session with them.
At the Senate, Aquino will meet Senate President Pro-Tempore Daniel Inouye, who is also chairman of the committee on appropriations, Republican Sen. William Thad Cochran, a member of the committee on appropriations, Democratic Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the committee on foreign relations, and Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, a member of the committee on foreign relations.
“The senators would want to hear about the Aquino administration’s efforts to fight corruption and promote good governance,” said Philippine ambassador to Washington Jose Cuisia.
“There will also be discussions on our bilateral, economic and defense cooperation, the shift in the focus of the United States toward the Asia-Pacific and ways to revitalize our alliance, he said.
The final day of President Aquinos official visit on Friday will be taken up with a one-on-one with President Barack Obama at the White House Oval Office after a luncheon in his honor given by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.