The President’s U.S. mission was a success.
The main purpose of the visit was to meet with a hotdog vendor corner 57th and Park. The discussions were described by Malacanang as frank (no pun intended) and cordial.
The Filipino businessmen who accompanied the President were seen climbing over each other to foot the $52 hot dog bill. Drinks were not included.
The Filipino tycoon who was able to pay the bill is closing a $1 billion project with the Government under the Public Private Partnership announced at the SONA. He will put up 5% of the investment and take 70% of the profits. This is considered a good deal for the country since we did not have to shoulder the hot dog bill.
President Noy also met up with President Obama and other world leaders. Filipinos were so proud to have a President that could now stand eye to eye with his counterparts. Obama and Noy discussed the merits of menthols versus regulars as they took a cigarette break. Obama thanked the Philippine delegation for contributing $52 to his stimulus package.
President Noy delivered a reasonable speech in Tagalog at the UN 65th General Assembly encouraging the dozen or so attendees to use People Power to alleviate poverty. Those who understood him thought it was a good idea.
The President is returning with $2.4 billion in foreign investments and $430 million in Millenium Development grants to fight poverty and strengthen the BIR. This will allow the latter to investigate the tax returns of the Filipino businessmen who accompanied the President.
The President has been criticized for excessive spending on the trip. “He could have just emailed his comments,” said Rep. Edcel Lagman who is normally supportive of the President. The Government allegedly spent $500,000 on a PR firm to show the President where are the best hotdogs in Manhattan and to meet important American businessmen. These same businessmen paid $500,000 to the same PR firm so that they could get to meet the President.
The official travel budget was so tight Noy was televised walking to his various meetings since taxis are prohibitively expensive in New York.
The President defended his trip saying the P25 million spent justifies the investments he is bringing in. It is not clear if these investments had been negotiated at the time of President Gloria or whether they include some of her money.
GMA was in NY to attend the forum on Bill Clinton’s Global Initiatives. There are unconfirmed reports President Noy met with her to sell her on the improved business climate in the Philippines.
The President said the new investments include $1 billion from Coca-Cola to buy their local affiliate from San Miguel and expand facilities. Coke clarified this is additional to the $1 billion announced last year by GMA’s Government for the same purpose. For a while SMC hoped Coke would pay them twice for their shares.
President Noy was seen in his off hours shopping at K Mart for a gift for Shalani. There was a 90% final sale on summer clothing which really pleased him even though not all sizes were available. When asked the nature of the gift the President said it was a secret. No matter, Noy and Shalani are still clearly in love debunking all gossip to the contrary.
A number of Filipino businessmen offered to spring for something more suitable at Bergdorfs on 5th Avenue but the President politely declined. “ As President I will be travelling extensively. I do not want Shalani to always expect something expensive,” he said as he paid for his purchase with a BDO credit card.
Tessie Sy Coson, chairperson of the bank and part of the business delegation, offered to raise the card’s spending limit on the spot to allow the President to also buy some T-shirts for Josh.
When asked the President said that he was ambivalent about returning to the Philippines. On the one hand he misses Shalani. On the other he is not looking forward to dealing with the IIRC report, nor the resignation of his friend Puno, nor with the Church on the RH bill.
Back in Manila Vice-President Binay encouraged the President to take as much time off as he wants. “He need not worry. I will take care of business,” he said wringing his hands.
Ironically, the biggest critics of the President’s trip were his Cabinet members. They complained of having to wake up at 2 a.m.to meet the President at the airport.