President Corazon Aquino said Thursday that her most important goal in traveling to the United States next week is “establishing a good, personal friendship” with President Reagan. She emphasized, however, that she does not think she has to explain herself or her policies.
Responding to recent criticism from the Reagan Administration that she has been too soft on Communist insurgents, Aquino said that if Reagan challenges her policy, “I will politely say that this is a Filipino problem, and we Filipinos would know better how to solve it.”
She met with reporters at the presidential palace four days before she is to leave for San Francisco on an eight-day official visit that will also take her to Washington, New York and Boston.
Congress, U.N. Talks
In addition to her talks with Reagan, she is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress, speak to the U.N. General Assembly and meet with dozens of mayors, bankers, potential investors and members of the Filipino-American community.
“It will probably be the first visit of its kind where every minute and every hour will be devoted to unrelenting work in the endeavor to foster better relations between the Philippines and the United States,” Aquino said.
Aquino said earlier that her schedule is so tight that she “won’t even have time to shop.”
President Ferdinand E. Marcos, whom she helped drive from office last February, and his wife, Imelda, shopped and entertained lavishly on their visits to the United States.
She defined her priorities as meeting with bankers in an effort to reschedule the Philippines’ massive foreign debt, urging Congress to increase the ceiling on Philippine sugar exports to the United States, appealing to wealthy Filipinos in the United States to invest in the financially battered Philippines and attempting to build on what an aide called “the enormous reservoir of good will” between the two countries.
The best way to increase that good will, she said, is to forge a close friendship with Reagan, who was for many years a personal friend and staunch ally of Marcos. After the coup that catapulted Aquino to power, Reagan allowed Marcos to settle in Hawaii.
In her biweekly television appearance Wednesday, Aquino went into more detail about the relationship she would like to develop with Reagan.
“For two countries to really work very well together, I think it is important that the two leaders begin a very beautiful relationship,” she said.
She said that after meeting last month with the president of Indonesia and the prime minister of Singapore--both are long-serving authoritarian rulers--"I can really see the value in the leaders’ knowing each other.”
In Thursday’s press conference, Aquino said she hopes Reagan will not challenge her policies, especially her approach to ending the Communist rebellion that has raged for 17 years and left tens of thousands dead.
“I don’t think I really have to explain myself,” she said. “I mean, he has already seen what has happened in the past seven months.”
Seeking Rebel Truce
Aquino restated her policy of trying to negotiate a cease-fire with the Communists, but she threatened to “meet force with force” if the peace talks fail.
Asked about signs that her government has not yet stabilized, Aquino again referred to her meetings with Indonesian President Suharto and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. She said they “told me they both had similar problems in the beginning of their terms . . . and they told me that I had already accomplished much in my short term in office.”
She dismissed as unimportant the squabbling in her Cabinet--Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile has been mentioned most often in this connection--and rumors that a coup will be carried out while she is out of the country.
“Wherever I go,” she said, “I really not only see from the crowds, but I hear from them also that they are still very much behind me. My power comes from the people, and so long as the people have confidence in me, then I don’t have anything to worry about.”
She reiterated her position that Marcos would not be permitted to return to his homeland, “because we have so many problems now, and the less we have of factionalism and division among our people the less difficult it will be to solve these problems.” She said she still prays for Marcos, “when I have the time.”
Not long after the press conference, about 2,000 Marcos supporters turned out to sing his praises and wish him a happy 69th birthday.
The Marcos loyalists sent up thousands of balloons lettered “Happy Birthday to Our President, Ferdinand E. Marcos,” and they announced that the deposed leader would celebrate by returning to the Philippines late Thursday night.
Military authorities said that Marcos, who recently had cataract surgery, was still in Hawaii.