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18 February 2016

LOS ANGELES, CA –  More than 800 members of the Filipino community groups from Los Angeles and southwestern United States filled the Ballroom of Hilton LAX for an engagement with President Benigno S. Aquino III in the conclusion of the President’s Working Visit to Los Angeles on Wednesday, 17 February.

In his welcome remarks, Philippine Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim presented to the President “our kababayans who represent the diversity of Filipino presence in southern California, southern Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.”

Notwithstanding their diversity, “They are Filipinos sharing a common aspiration for our country, the home of their parents and grandparents,” Consul General Herrera-Lim said.

Philippine Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. referred to the high level of priority attached by the President and his Administration to the engagement of overseas Filipino communities.

“Time and again, both President Aquino and Secretary Del Rosario have recognized the important role of overseas Filipinos in strengthening our nation,” said the Philippines’ envoy to the US.

The President told the audience that major reforms in education, health, and local governance have ushered in a period of steady economic growth and social transformation in the Philippines.

Jose Bañas, an Assistant Principal in Rosemead High School and Vice President of umbrella organization Kalayaan, Inc., said he was struck by the progress in the field of education.

“The big step of moving education from a K-10 structure to K-12 is a huge initiative that the government has taken in the last two years. That makes Filipinos more globally competitive,” Mr. Bañas opined.

“He was able to really capture the sentiments of the Filipinos here in Los Angeles—sentiments of awe, sentiments of appreciation, feeling of accomplishments and feelings of relief,” commented Elito Santarina, Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Carson in California.

Other members of the audience expressed appreciation for the President’s “cordial” and “approachable” style. They conveyed the hope that the reform agenda would be continued by future Administrations.

“Looking forward, most of us are hopeful that the next Administration would preserve and build on the gains of the past five and a half years. We also hope that the new set of government leaders will have the determination and game plan to reduce poverty, create jobs at home, modernize infrastructure, improve the peace and order situation, and bring a just and lasting peace in Mindanao. Filipinos in the United States continue to exhort the Government to safeguard the welfare and well-being of overseas Filipino workers, more specifically those who are victims of illegal recruitment and trafficking in persons,” Ambassador Cuisia said.

In closing, President Aquino called on the Filipino communities to foster greater camaraderie and unity in pursuit of common goals.

Accompanying the President at the event were members of his Cabinet, namely: Secretary of Finance Cesar V. Purisima; Secretary of Defense Voltaire T. Gazmin; Secretary of the Cabinet Jose Rene D. Almendras; National Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Emmanuel F. Esguerra; Secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office Herminio B. Coloma, Jr.; Secretary Emmanuel M. de Guzman of the Climate Change Commission; and Secretary Julia Abad of the Presidential Management Staff.

The Working Visit of the President was organized with the support and cooperation of the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles, led by Consul General Herrera-Lim, and the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C.

The Filipino population in the States of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and in southern Nevada and southern California numbers at around 1.13. million. Most of them are professionals in the fields of healthcare, accounting and law enforcement. ###