Rising Philippines, Prosperous Britain – Aquino will meet Queen Elizabeth for Investments?

Queen Elizabeth wants to meet President Benigno Aquino in his June Kingdom Visit

President Aquino's official visit to the United Kingdom is expected to yield some "big-ticket" investments to the Philippines in energy and infrastructure, a Department of Foreign Affairs official said on Wednesday.

Foreign Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Buensuceso also said in a Palace media briefing that the President's trip from June 4 to 6 comes at a time when Europe is looking at Asia, particularly the Philippines, as a "safe haven" for investments.

"Expect big-ticket investments from the United Kingdom," Buensuceso said when asked about the potential investments to be generated by the trip, which will be the President's first official visit to Britain and Europe since he assumed office in 2010.

"Several business meetings have also been lined up for the President with top British investors, who have an interest in doing business in the Philippines and participate in the Aquino administration's Public-Private Partnership Program. As you know, the UK was one of the first countries to show support for the PPP," Buensuceso said.

She said the President is scheduled to meet with executives of various "big name companies" like Shell.

When asked, Buensuceso said the President's meeting with Shell would not involve possible investments in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) on energy exploration.

She said several Cabinet members and Filipino businessmen were joining the President's trip "to look into enhancing reciprocal investment, trade and tourism opportunities between the Philippines and the United Kingdom."

Buensuceso said some of the Filipino businessmen with the President are from the banking sector.

The trip—whose theme is "Rising Philippines, Prosperous Britain: Forcing a new era of mutual prosperity and partnership" seeks to "expand opportunities for closer economic cooperation" between the two countries.

It also seeks to "build up cooperation toward global peace, conflict-resolution and combating international crime; deepen people-to-people linkages from the grassroots to the highest levels of the government; and celebrate shared values of democracy, free speech, good governance, transparency and countercorruption."

Asked about the timing of the President's trip, Buensuceso said it will be a "historic moment" since "European countries and, in this instance, under the leadership of the United Kingdom are now looking for alternative places; safe havens."

There is a crisis going on in Europe, and now it is looking at Asia, Buensuceso said, noting that while in the past, Europe's reference to Asia was often limited to China, India and Singapore, "this time, the focus is on the Philippines."

"So we are gaining recognition and with this visit, I thinkthe Philippines will be in the radar of European investors," she said.

Buensuceso said British investors are apprised of developments in the Philippine economy, and that the UK and the Philippines are members of the Open Government Partnership Program.

"The UK is now vice chairman of the steering committee. So these things are a confluence of factors that make the UK, in this specific instance, look back, look again at the Philippines as a possible partner," she said.

Buensuceso said the assumption of the British coalition government led by Prime Minister David Cameron in May 2010 "reinvigorated the bilateral relationship between the Philippines and the United Kingdom, especially as the latter sought to re-engage emerging powers, including the Philippines."

"This unprecedented focus on deepening Philippine-British bilateral ties, especially in economic and political/security matters, has even led the British government to describe the Philippines as an 'emerging power in East Asia,'" she said.

Asked why the UK was chosen among other countries as the host of the President's first trip to Europe, Buensuceso said, "The biggest attraction here really is the potential of the UK as a very important political and economic partner of the Philippines." Buensuceso said the President will meet with Cameron at 10 Downing Street to discuss bilateral political and economic cooperation, the Britain's participation in the International Contact Group (ICG), regional and international issues, and anti-corruption and good governance practices in their respective countries.

Asked about the planned discussion on political and security matters between the two leaders, Buensuceso said the President will brief Cameron on the peace process in the Philippines, and will thank Britain for its important contribution as a member of the ICG.

"We are also going to announce the entry into force of the Mutual Legal Assistance treaty between the Philippines and the UK, which has just been concurred by the Senate after ratification by the President. So this is a very good development," she said.

Mr. Aquino will attend a luncheon feted by Queen Elizabeth, where she will be represented the Lord of Mayor of London Alderman David Wooton, a recent Manila visitor, and where several business agreements are expected to be signed, Buensuceso said.

He will also meet with the Duke of York Prince Andrew, as the official representative of the queen, who will be celebrating her Diamond Jubilee on that day.

The President will meet with representatives of the 250,000-strong Filipino community in Britain, which will also feature the "It's More Fun in the Philippines" tourism campaign of the government.

Buensuceso said the President's message to the Filipino community in Britain is that "we care for them; they are important in our economic and political development and that the Filipino government, the Philippine government is giving high priority to improve their welfare and to help them in times of need."

Asked whether the President would ride one of the public buses bearing the Philippine tourism campaign poster in London, Buensuceso said, "We will see if that is logistically possible."

She said during the President's visit, the Daily Telegraph will run a special feature focusing on his programs and on the President himself. The BBC will also have an interview with the Chief Executive.

From London Mr. Aquino will head for the United States for an official visit to Washington, where he will meet with US President Barack Obama, and Los Angeles from June 6 - 8 2012.

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