Aquino Plays Down Discord at Home, Urges Japanese to Invest
Philippine President Corazon Aquino urged Japanese business leaders Wednesday to invest in her country and told them that disagreements in her Cabinet are only the growing pains of a new democracy.
She also addressed a crowd at a university and spoke during a church service in memory of her late husband, Benigno. She was met by hundreds of well-wishers who shouted her nickname, “Cory.” The business people gave her a standing ovation.
Aquino arrived in Japan on Monday for a four-day visit to seek closer ties between the two countries and more Japanese aid and investment.
Before she left Manila, Philippine troops were placed on alert amid rumors of a possible coup attempt against her eight-month-old government. Troops were also put on alert during previous trips to Indonesia and the United States.
Presidential spokesman Teodoro Benigno told reporters that Aquino said the trip is proceeding “better than expected.”
A ‘Working Visit’
Benigno quoted Trade Minister Jose Concepcion as saying, “This was basically a good will state visit. It has turned out to be a terrific working visit.”
Aquino told about 220 business people from six leading economic organizations that disagreements within her government are “pains as we return to democracy” and would be settled by the “popular vote.”
She was referring to a referendum on a draft constitution scheduled for February.
“Do not take too much notice of the anguished complaints of those who do not relish their political chances under a democracy,” she said, apparently referring to disaffected military officers who were rumored to be planning a coup while she was in Japan.
Masaru Goto, president of the Japan Chamber of Commerce, told Aquino after the speech, “Your very presence here is enough to convince us of political stability.”
Aquino also said the Philippine economy welcomes foreign investment and is on its way to recovery.
She said the country still is struggling under a $26-billion foreign debt but now can operate with a $508-million standby credit from the International Monetary Fund.
Philippine and Japanese officials said the president asked small and medium-size Japanese high-technology firms to invest in the Philippines and take advantage of a “cost-efficient” labor force. The Philippines has 35% unemployment.
Earlier Wednesday, Aquino attended a Mass at St. Ignatius Cathedral dedicated to her husband, who was assassinated in 1983 as he returned from three years in the United States.