Queen Sofia of Spain is in town for a four-day visit that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has described “as a positive reflection of the Philippines’ long-standing and special partnership with Spain, most especially in the area of development cooperation.”
The queen, an official guest of the Philippine government, flew in Monday afternoon “to inspect various development projects funded by the Agencia Espanola de Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarollo,” or AECID, the DFA said.
Queen Sofia arrived at 4:50 p.m. on Emirates Airlines Flight 332.
Her visit, which would include a seven-hour stop in Albay province on Wednesday, is a “reaffirmation of Spain’s commitment toward addressing the myriad of developments and challenges (faced by) the Philippines and the rest of the world today,” the DFA said.
Spain’s official development assistance to Manila totalled nearly 29 million euros in grants and loans in 2011, the DFA said.
“The implemented programmes and projects are aligned with the development priorities of the Aquino administration, particularly in the areas of democratic governance and citizen’s participation, basic social needs, environment, culture, peace building and the prevention of conflicts,” the DFA noted.
Queen Sofia is scheduled to visit AECID projects in Manila and nearby provinces and meet with officials of implementing agencies and beneficiary sectors.
Her itinerary includes a visit to the National Library, National Museum and the University of Santo Tomas, the DFA said.
The queen will cap her trip with a private audience with President Benigno Aquino who is hosting a banquet to honor her and her delegation which includes Spain’s vice minister of Foreign Affairs Jesus Gracia Aldaz and general Jose Cabrera Garcia, chief of the Secretariat of the Royal Household of Her Majesty.
First European royalty
In Albay, everything is set for the Wednesday visit of its first European royal.
“It’s all systems go for Queen Sofia’s visit on Wednesday,” said Albay Governor Joey Salceda, who added that she was the second high ranking foreign dignitary to visit Albay after Pope John Paul II toured the province in 1981.
In February 1981, Pope John Paul II visited Legazpi City as part of his tour of selected places across the country.
During his three-hour visit, the Pope celebrated Mass on the grounds of Saint Gregory the Great Cathedral.
Salceda said Queen Sofia would meet with Albay mayors who received foreign development assistance from Spain through the AECID during her seven-hour visit.
Through the AECID, Spain has been donating to Albay for its projects on disaster preparedness, prevention and management, which have made the province a model in the field of disaster risk reduction, according to the governor.
After arrival honors by local and national government officials at the Legazpi City airport, Queen Sofia will be accompanied by Salceda, Legazpi City Mayor Geraldine Rosal and other local and national officials to Penaranda Park for the unveiling of the life-sized statue of Jose Maria Penaranda, the first Spanish official to serve as Albay governor from 1834 to 1843.
The queen will then proceed to the Albay provincial capitol building to greet well-wishers.
She will also visit Camalig North Central School and evacuation centre, Josefina Belmonte Duran Memorial District Hospital in Ligao City and the Climate Change Academy on the Bicol University campus in Legazpi.
Through financing from AECID, Camalig North Central School was renovated as an evacuation shelter for some 60,000 people affected by calamities, the governor said.
The agency also donated an ambulance and health equipment to Josefina Duran Memorial District Hospital and funded the hospital’s training centre so it would become the centerpiece of Albay’s health emergency programme.
Solid waste management
According to Salceda, Queen Sofia will be briefed at the Academy of Climate Change on the AECID-funded solid waste management programme and on the progress of four UN joint programmes on climate change, nutrition, water and employment in Albay.
The AECID has given a grant of 18 million euros (P958 million) to the United Nations programmes for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals of Albay between 2008 and 2012.
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