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President Benigno Aquino III (left) exchanges views with Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, at Buckingham Palace.


LONDON — President Benigno Aquino III and British Prime Minister David Cameron have agreed to enhance bilateral economic cooperation and turn the Philippines and United Kingdom into tourism gateways in Asia and Europe.

“Both leaders expressed their shared hopes for enhancing the state of governance in order to reduce poverty and foster economic competitiveness,” a joint statement released Tuesday after the two leaders’ meeting here said.

“They also encouraged increased visitor arrivals between the two countries as fresh tourism gateways to Asia and Europe,” the statement added.

During their bilateral meeting, Mr. Aquino urged the British Government to invest in the country’s public-private partnership (PPP) projects.

“President Aquino emphasized that the Philippines offered exciting investment opportunities for British business, especially in energy, infrastructure, business process outsourcing, information technology and tourism,” the statement read.

The Philippines and UK have enjoyed a robust economic partnership over the years and the UK is the top European investor for Manila and the largest Philippine tourism market in Europe, it added.

“Prime Minister Cameron noted that the British Government had provided, and would continue to provide, expertise to the Philippines in shaping its PPP program and looked forward to British companies participating in projects,” the statement said.

The two leaders also agreed to further expand economic cooperation to pave the way for increased trade and investment flows between the two countries.

Mr. Aquino and Mr. Cameron likewise affirmed the “rich and profound” linkages between the Filipino and British peoples.

“The Filipino diaspora in the United Kingdom, some 250,000 with many employed in the healthcare sector, continue to make positive contributions to the British economy and society,” the statement said.

The two leaders also recognized the vibrant role played by the 15,000-strong British community in the Philippines in contributing to the country’s economic development and promoting the overall bilateral partnership.

The joint statement said the two leaders committed themselves to intensify further people-to-people linkages, especially among students, young professionals, cultural troupes, local governments and community organizations.

Brand new Philippines

Meanwhile, Mr. Aquino reiterated his vow that the world would no longer recognize the Philippines after he steps down in 2016, as he cited the gains of his administration through the judicious use of funds even without new tax measures and running after the corrupt.

“Someone interviewed me recently and asked, ‘What would you like to leave your country by the time you step down in 2016?’ I answered, ‘Why don’t you visit us in 2016 and tell me if you still recognize the Philippines by the time I step down?’” Mr. Aquino said during his speech before the Filipino community Tuesday night in a mix of English and Filipino.

Mr. Aquino noted more funds had been allotted for education, housing, crime prevention, conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, health, infrastructure and other projects.

In 2012, Mr. Aquino cited that the budget for education was up by 36.5 percent — from P175 billion to P238.8 billion — to solve classroom shortage by next year.

“We’ve done about 15,000, 40,000 this year and the balance by next year. So now, we have increased the budget by 48.5 percent or P29.3 (billion) to P43.5 billion in 2012,” Mr. Aquino said.

For the CCT program, he said more than three million were now enrolled from the previous 800,000 and that P40 billion had been allotted for the program.

Accelerated government spending was also seen as key in improving the country’s economic growth during the first quarter.

He said the business process outsourcing sector has over 650,000 direct employees by now, which could generate jobs two-and-a-half to five times because of industries that would thrive in areas housing call centers.

He said the government would invest heavily on infrastructure like roads, bridges and airports to make the country more attractive to visitors.

Mr. Aquino announced plans to transfer bus terminals from Metro Manila to other areas to decongest and improve traffic.

The President said tourist arrivals were also increasing with the more aggressive campaign of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and that the government was expecting to have 4.5 million visitors at the end of the year, up from three million.

The President, before meeting with the Filipino community Tuesday night here, had his photo taken inside the bus carrying the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” advertisement.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said the Queen’s jubilee, the Olympics and other sports events in the UK made it more exciting to market the Philippines because many people from all over Europe and other parts of the world would be here and get to see the Philippine ads.

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