Ronniel C. de Guzman
Swiss Federation President Pascal Couchepin and Timor Leste President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta arrived yesterday at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on separate flights for state visits.
Both heads of state were welcomed and given arrival honors at the NAIA by Vice President Noli de Castro.
President Ramos-Horta of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste planed in at 4:45 p.m. yesterday with his foreign minister Zacarias Albino Costa aboard Cathay Pacific flight CX-919 from Hong Kong.
Ramos-Horta, 59, who was shot in an assassination attempt on Feb. 11, this year with one of his guards wounded in the gun attack, is in the country for a four-day official visit.
Swiss President Couchepin also arrived yesterday for a three-day state visit during which he is scheduled to meet with President Arroyo and visit the Asian Development Bank and the International Rice Research Institute, which is supported by Switzerland.
Couchepin was accompanied by his wife, Madame Brigitte Couchepin, when he jetted in at 6 p.m. yesterday at Terminal 2 of NAIA 2 aboard Philippine Airlines flight 359 from Beijing.
In an interview at Terminal 1 of NAIA, Horta said that he is keen in the signing of a trilateral agreement with his country, the Philippines and the United States that would allow many of Timor students to study in the Philippines in the next few years.
"One of my personal favorite projects is on education. We will send very large number of students in the Philippines, and the United States will fund the English training in Timor so that when they come (to the Philippines), they have very good solid English," Horta said.
Horta said he pushed the idea to choose the Philippines as the main destination of their students because the Philippines is an English-speaking country and has very strong American educational influence, aside from being an Asian country.
He said that his country will finance other cost, while the Philippines will provide the placement.
Highlighting his visit will be the signing of three bilateral agreements, including: a Memorandum of Agreement of Marine and Fisheries Cooperation; a Memorandum of Agreement of AcademicCooperation; and a Memorandum of Understanding on the Training and Development of Timorese Diplomats at the Foreign Service Institute.
Horta visited the Philippine twice previously as foreign minister in 2002, and as Prime Minister in 2007. This is his first as president of his country.
Horta said he is delighted by the warm reception given by the government officials headed by De Castro.
"We will strengthen our relations with President Arroyo and we will sign some memorandum agreement and cooperation in terms of education," Horta said.
When asked how the Philippines should respond to internal violence as Timor Leste had also experienced a similar incident, Horta said: "I leave it to the Philippines to decide what’s the best course of action, each country has each reality, challenges, and the Philippines has been (a) very resilient country always moving forward despite many difficulties from within and without."
Asked how he feels now about the failed attempt on his life last February, Horta said he is not 100 percent well physically, "but 100 percent well intellectually and emotionally."