BINAY – ARROYO SHOULD EXPLAIN SIDE TRP TO COLOMBIA, AND FREQUENT SIDE TRIPS TO DUBAI

Makati Mayor and United Opposition (UNO) president Jejomar C. Binay today pressed Malacanang to explain why Mrs. Arroyo made an unscheduled detour to Colombia, the latest of her frequent side trips to countries not on her official itineraries.

“These side trips have become more frequent in the past months and since Mrs. Arroyo is traveling on taxpayers’ expense, the public deserves to know the reason for these unscheduled visits,” he said.

“Until a complete accounting is made, the public will continue to speculate as to the real motive behind her private visits to such destinations as Dubai , and now Cartagena ,” he added.

Reports said Mrs. Arroyo took a side trip to Cartagena , Colombia en route to Brazil with members of her family. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was not aware of the visit.

Mrs. Arroyo has also made several side trips to Dubai during her travels to the Middle East .

Binay cited reports that Mrs. Arroyo has made 50 foreign trips since 2001.

The opposition leader said the costs of these trips to the taxpayers have not been fully disclosed, and in view of the economic crisis, needs to be justified in terms of concrete investments and financial aid.

“When millions of Filipinos are hungry and jobless, it would be hard to justify the jet-setting ways of a national leader who brings relatives, nannies, and personal stylists to foreign countries, not to mention scores of political allies and their families,” he said.

Binay said each time Mrs. Arroyo returns from a foreign trip, Malacanang rolls out so-called pledges of investments, job openings, and financial aid.

“Malacanang is fond of citing millions of dollars in pledges and promises of job openings. How many of these pledges became reality and how many Filipinos were actually employed? On these, Malacanang remains silent,” he said.

The opposition leader added, however, that he expects Malacanang not to address head on the issue of Mrs. Arroyo’s Colombia trip.

“It would be expecting too much from an administration that is fond of invoking executive privilege and the right to privacy even on matters of national interest,” he said.

Dubai has been a frequent destination for Mrs. Arroyo despite the absence of jobs for foreign workers there.

Mrs. Arroyo flew to Dubai after the aborted Asean Summit in Thailand last May. She also made a recent stop over in Dubai from Davos , Switzerland on the way to an unscheduled side trip to Washington where Mrs. Arroyo tried but failed to secure a photo opportunity with US President Barack Obama.

Malacanang said the most recent visit was intended to look for investment and job opportunities for Filipinos, but recruitment agencies said the were no job openings in Dubai, and that demand for Filipino workers in the Middle East has been declining.

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