P-Noy’s post-term ‘tourist’ job
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 (The Philippine Star) - January 24, 2016 - 9:00am

Based from his own countdown, President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III has only 157 days left in his term as of today. But this early, President Aquino declared he is excitedly looking forward to travel plans here and abroad after his last day in office. He steps down from office at Malacañang Palace at noon of June 30 immediately after the ceremonial turnover of the reins of government to the newly elected president of the country.

In fact, our outgoing President revealed last week he is already preparing an itinerary of places to “travel around the Philippines,” specifically to enjoy world-class tourist spots. And in between these domestic trips, he also looks forward to traveling to other tourist destinations, especially the nearby countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“162 days from now, I will step down as President. Once again, I will be free to be a tourist,” President Aquino told his audience last Wednesday night. “This means that when I visit our country’s famous beaches, I will be able to stay for more than hour and actually get to walk on the sand of these beaches, as opposed to delivering a speech a few hundred feet away from the shore,” the President cited.

The post-presidency travel plans were revealed in a speech particularly tailor-fit for his audience: some 200 delegates attending the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2016 at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.

This is an annual event involving the respective tourism industry sectors of the 10-member nations of the ASEAN – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The ASEAN Tourism Forum is a cooperative regional effort to promote the region as one tourist destination.

In that forum, the President took the opportunity to highlight anew the most popular tourist attractions in our country and the new areas of interest for travel destination. The President, in particular, sought to highlight the “butanding” whale-watching attraction in Donsol, Sorsogon as a thriving ecotourism industry that allows tourists and locals alike to observe and marvel at these huge but harmless sea creatures.

The President credited the Department of Tourism with the help of the World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature for making the drastic shift in livelihood of Donsol folks from the hunting of local whale sharks called butanding, for their meat to a now thriving ecotourism attraction in the province.

As the whale shark capital of the world, Donsol welcomes a yearly average of 25,000 tourists who can have first hand encounter of these “gentle giants” while snorkeling or swimming alongside them. Incidentally, I was invited to join the launching today of the global partnership of the WWF with the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. to promote its environmentally sustainable tourism programs and chose Donsol as its first sustainable tourism destination.

While accorded convenience and security in all his local and foreign travels, our bachelor President confessed feeling short-changed because he only gets to appreciate tourist and cultural sites for a few moments only even if he has to travel 14 hours by plane to reach the destination.

“But that’s okay. You will understand why traveling around the Philippines is number one on my list of priorities when I return to private life,” the President mused.

Before he bows out from power, P-Noy will be making his last and final trip abroad that would take him to Los Angeles, California. Upon the invitation of US President Barack Obama, President Aquino would attend the ASEAN-US Summit and embark on a working visit on February 15 to 17.

In line with his presidential campaign during the May, 2010 election, P-Noy has kept his promise to limit his foreign travels to those that involve the country’s international commitments. As he had publicly admitted in the past, P-Noy is not into travelling by airplane. This is obviously partly because of the “no smoking” during flights that restrains the President from smoking.

The job of a sitting Chief Executive is definitely a tough and demanding one. “As President, I can never be caught flat-footed; each problem that arises, I am one of the first to know,” he cited. Among other things, if I may add, there are also a lot of restrictions to one’s personal desires like P-Noy’s love for travelling.

But apparently, those presidential restrictions do not apply on how and where P-Noy can spend his nightlife outside the Palace. As the President himself told his audience, he had a “very good meal” recently at a restaurant called Myron’s at Greenbelt 5 mall in the financial center of Makati City.

“Since it was a delightful experience, I wanted to share it with the members of the Cabinet as an opportunity to de-stress – only to find out that all of the people I talked to were fully aware of this restaurant, which to me was a new discovery, and that they had all taken their meals there already,” P-Noy disclosed. Wisecracking, he added: “I said, ‘Sometimes, I’m the least informed.”

Definitely, the presidential endorsement would go a long way to increase customers’ turnout of this establishment, whoever owns it. Only last Friday, I got to find out another establishment got a presidential visit recently. This I learned when I went to a function at Apartment 27 Café and Bar at the Fort in Taguig City where P-Noy’s photo clip at the sing-along bar was being shown on the establishment’s TV monitor. 

According to P-Noy, one of his favorite pastimes is to get on his car for a solitary drive to far-flung places. The presidency though has kept him away from doing things he loves but are considered risky because of his stature.

But last New Year holiday, he got to do it his solitary driving. He was spotted driving at one point of his route going to Baguio City. But of course, his omnipresent retinue of Presidential Security Group (PSG) could not possibly be far behind.

But like his other fellow presidents after June 30, P-Noy would still enjoy 24-hour security detail from PSG, though at much reduced scale. As soon as he becomes an ex-president, P-Noy gets to enjoy to fullest his freedom to travel on his post-term “tourist” job.


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