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Vice President Jejomar C. Binay (right) talks to Filipino Reporter publisher/editor-in-chief Bert Pelayo at the Philippine Embassy residence in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 4.  (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Embassy)

 

Exclusive to the Filipino Reporter

WASHINGTON — Vice President Jejomar C. Binay’s five-day whirlwind visit to the United States was something of a political oddity.

Normally, a vice president elected from a different party is not handed a major role in the winning government.

But in Binay’s case, he wears three important positions.

He chairs the Housing and Urban Coordinating Council (HUC) and the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking in Persons (IACAT) and is a presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) concerns.

It was no surprise he virtually acted as a rabid salesman of the Aquino Administration during his interaction with business and political leaders, as well as members of the Filipino community.

A central theme of his speeches was that of a surging Philippine economy which, he said, grew by 7.3 percent last year, “the first robust growth in 24 years.”

“Come visit and see for yourself,” he exhorted a gathering of expatriates at a dinner reception for him and his delegation hosted by Philippine ambassador to the U.S. Willy C. Gaa and his wife Mrs. Linda Concepcion Gaa.

He made the same pitch at a town hall meeting with leaders of various Filipino organizations in metro D.C. area held at the Philippine Embassy.

“I thank those of you who voted for me in the last election,” he said in Filipino, adding, to some laughter, “including those who did not.”

Asked by some in the audience if he intended to run for president in 2016, he replied, “Malayo payun” (that’s still a long way off) but a broad smile that crossed his face and body language indicated he might go for it.

During a conversation with this newspaper, he was errantly addressed as “Mr. President,” to which he shot back, “Yes, I was president once of the Boy Scout of the Philippines.”

He did serve as BSP president for 14 terms, at one time, serving as president for the Asia-Pacific region.

In another occasion, he told a meeting with the US-ASEAN Business Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of a vibrant Philippine business climate and President Benigno Aquino’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program.

He apprised the business leaders of the Philippine Government’s good governance agenda and the many strategic opportunities for collaboration with leading American companies and investors.

Highlight

A high point of his visit was his keynote speech on disaster and risk management and urban development at the World Bank Sustainable Development Network annual meeting.

He also attended the 2011 National Prayer Breakfast meeting organized by the U.S. Congress where President Barack Obama was a featured speaker.

He had a chance meeting with his counterpart U.S. Vice President Joe Biden at the sideline, according to Ambassador Gaa, who accompanied him to the breakfast meeting.

Gaa explained there was no effort to have Binay meet with Obama because of time constraint.

Before becoming vice president, Binay served three terms as mayor of Makati, the country’s premier city and business hub.

He was succeeded by his wife, Dr. Elenita Binay, and the current mayor is his son, Junjun, who accompanied him in this trip.

A daughter is a Makati congresswoman.

A 1967 graduate of the University of the Philippines college of law, Binay was a close associate of the late President Corazon Aquino who appointed him Makati OIC after the first EDSA people power revolt.

Among his classmates from New York are businesswoman Loida Nicolas Lewis and former Rizal Rep. Manuel Sanchez, who worked at the Rockland County DA Office before leaving for the Philippines to run for Congress.