Saturday, September 18, 2010


If President Aquino can’t come to Washington DC, then Filipino-American supporters will go to New York for a chance to see and meet the man they helped into office.

President Aquino didn’t get an invitation to meet President Obama in the White House.

They will meet instead at the United Nations in New York, where a separate meeting with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is scheduled.

America usually rolls out the red carpet for newly elected Philippine presidents, a way of courting support from a former vassal who’s remained a steadfast ally in a dynamic yet increasingly dangerous corner of the world.

Officials told us they couldn’t fix a schedule for a White House welcome.

The US president simply doesn’t have the time to host his Philippine counterpart in the American capital.

President Aquino is coming at a really bad time for the Obama administration.

There are about 8 million jobless Americans. The economic recovery is sputtering despite the $787 billion stimulus package.

And there’s the midterm elections in November, where there’s a big chance Democrats could lose control of the House of Representatives and possibly, even the Senate.

That would certainly imperil President Obama’s legislative agenda – including comprehensive immigration reform that is supported by the Fil-Am community – in the last two years of his administration.

A recent CBS News poll showed 6 out of 10 Americans don’t believe President Obama has made a dent on fixing the economy. A Fox News survey showed 52 percent of Americans disapprove the way he’s running the country.

President Obama’s calendar is booked solid with fund-raising, barnstorming and speaking engagements across the country until November.

In a sense, his political fortunes – if he seeks a 2nd term – is intertwined with Democratic allies running in November.

If the US chief executive had to struggle on his promises when the Democrats held the majority in both chambers of Congress, what more if he loses it?

President Obama is also facing an America that’s increasingly moving to the right – an America that disdains big government, huge spending, high taxes and skeptical of the political establishment.

President Aquino has set the goals of his 6-day US sortie. Winning more aid and more jobs for Filipinos are his objectives.

“We are conscious of the fact that we are in a debt hole. We can only begin to climb out if we strictly implement austerity measures and cut down on unnecessary spending,” said Malacanang aide Paquito Ochoa.

He could have been talking about America and no one would know the difference.

President Aquino will witness the signing of the $434 million Compact agreement with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), and meet with executives of top US multinationals like JP Morgan, IBM and Hewlett Packard, among others.

With American domestic political concerns shifting the focus away from Washington DC, President Aquino should take this an opportunity to spend more of his time speaking with as many of the 4 million Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in the US.

They pumped $7.32 billion to the Philippine economy in 2009 – roughly half of total overseas Filipino dollar remittances.

There is a deep desire by Fil-Ams to help the Philippines, but they have been largely ignored by the government in Manila or turned off by corruption and crime.

There is no deliberate, concerted effort by Philippine officials to mobilize this potent expat community for nation-building, something akin perhaps to how American Jews helped build Israel or how American Koreans and American Indians are directly intervening in the economic and technological development of their mother countries.

In a way, President Aquino is right to forget about DC. It's quite toxic right now anyway. There are bigger stakes in the US.

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