In Albay, a staggering 200,000 people (40,000 families) have been evacuated as a result of this week’s typhoon Frank. The national unemployment rate has reached 8% and inflation rate is about to breach the 10% mark. Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo has asked Filipinos to be frugal in the midst of rising fuel prices and rice shortage.
But 59 congressmen, a fourth of 238-member legislative house will join Mrs. Arroyo and her family (including the husband and two congressmen-children) in a US visit this coming week to the White House.
According to Philstar (06/21/08, Diaz, J,) the Philippine delegation, like in the past, is composed mostly of Arroyo’s friends and Kampi party members. It is larger than the 34-member group which accompanied her to France, Spain, and England and the 15-member team which attended the World Economic Forum in Dagos, Switzerland.
The US trip has no major agenda that the public knows except that Mrs. Arroyo is meeting Pres. George W.Bush, World Bank President Robert Zoelick, and Millenium Challenge Corp CEO John Danilovich. Arrangements to see US State Secretary Condolezza Rice, Presidential Candidate Barack Obama, and some “select” US senators are still on the works at this late hour.
It is unclear what role most of the 59 congressmen will play in the travel which many suspect is a lusterless, low-yield, swanky junket at a time of crisis. Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, Jr. of Cavite weakly justifies the trip in saying, “We can help explain the security situation, especially now that the Ces Drilon kidnapping has again tarnished our country’s image abroad.”
The travel has tell tale signs of a business and pleasure trip. It is proximate to the time when Manny Pacquiao who has avid fans among the congressmen, goes on a boxing match with WBC lightweight champ David Diaz on June 28, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Travelers have many things to do in America and they’ve lots of places to visit other than Bush’s White House. Go figure. Can we now connect the dots? =0=