ROME, Italy, Dec 2 (Mabuhay) — President Benigno S. Aquino III arrived here Tuesday evening (Wednesday morning in Manila) to begin the Italian leg of his three-state European trip following a two-day working visit in Paris, France.
The Chief Executive and his official delegation took a nearly two-hour Philippine Airlines chartered flight to reach Italy, which hosts the largest Filipino community in the Eurozone area.
Highlighting President Aquino’s two-day working visit here are his bilateral meetings with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi scheduled on Wednesday.
The President’s discussions with his Italian counterparts will focus on strengthening bilateral ties in honor of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of Philippines-Italy diplomatic partnership on 2017.
On Thursday, President Aquino is set to meet with the members of the Filipino community at the Ergife Palace Hotel. Italy is home to some 171, 124 Filipino migrants who can be found mostly in the cities of Milan, Florence, Bologna, Turin, and Rome.
President Aquino’s trip to Italy, his first as head of state, helps sustain the exchanges of high-level visit between Manila and Rome, the last of which was held in June 2006 by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Curiously, his mother, President Corazon Aquino, was the first Philippine head of state who visited Italy in April 1993. The Italian Republic was among the first countries that recognized the elder Aquino’s presidency following the 1986 EDSA Revolution.
Diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Italy began in July 9, 1947. In 2014, Italy was the 25th largest trading partner of the country with total approved investments of $178,667.
Meanwhile, on Friday, President Aquino will take a side trip to the Vatican City state, which is only about half an hour away from the Italian capital, to have a private audience with His Holiness Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace.
The event is considered a ‘reciprocal visit’ by President Aquino on Pope Francis following the latter’s pastoral journey to the Philippines last January. They are expected to discuss some issues of mutual interest to each other like climate change.
President Aquino is also scheduled to have a meet-and-greet with His Eminence Pietro Parolin, the Cardinal Secretary of State, during his visit to the Holy See as well as witness the unveiling and blessing of the mosaic image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia.
The Vatican trip wraps up President Aquino’s six-day official working visit to Europe this week, and he is expected to be back in Manila by 1:15 p.m. (local time) on Saturday, December 5. (MNS)