LOS ANGELES, Calif. – It was a friendly crowd that greeted President Benigno Aquino III at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council forum.
The congenial relationship goes way back.
Aquino’s father, the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., addressed the council in the early 80s, before he returned to Manila where he was eventually assassinated.
The President’s speech was standard — extolling the country’s economic gains under his administration, marked with the most number of jobs in a decade, and the fastest economic growth in 30 years.
“Our progress naturally has afforded us greater capacity to look at our global role in the community. More and more, the Philippines sees itself in a better position to make a contribution,” Aquino said.
But members of the World Affairs Council expressed concerns over regional security.
“The other thing we have to say is the growing dispute with China which worries the international community… the last thing we want is armed conflict,” said Terry McCarthy, President and CEO of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.
“I think China is a large country. It has its policies but at the end of the day, it has enormous trade with the US so it is in the best interest of China to solve this peacefully.”
Filipino leaders said the next president must continue to reassure the international community.
“There has to be time for the branches of government and the presidential candidates to come up with a consensus to follow through on the arbitral tribunal para may continuity ang plans on maritime policy,” Filipino American advocate Eric Lachica said.
But among the members of the crowd, young Filipino American millennials showed the most optimism.
Some students asked about jobs back home for Fil-Am millennials, and Aquino pointed the student towards the the long list of job openings.
“Strongly rooted in the Philippines, gusto ko makauwi,” Fil-Am student John Carlo Ibanez said. “If the next president does a good job, I’d strongly consider a job in the Philippines.”