Secretary of State George P. Shultz began his second trip to the Philippines in less than two months today by presenting $200 million in expedited U.S. aid to help the Aquino government surmount its continuing economic crisis.
Shultz arrived last night for three days of discussions with the four-month-old government of President Corazon Aquino and with foreign ministers of Southeast Asian countries who are holding their annual meeting here.
Yesterday, Shultz stopped in Brunei for three hours to pay a social and diplomatic call on Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the monarch of the Pacific island state.
The first item on Shultz's schedule today was a ceremony with Philippine Vice President and Foreign Minister Salvador P. Laurel to sign a document releasing the $200 million in previously appropriated U.S. aid. The money is to be transfered to the Philippines on Friday.
Although the Philippine government is in urgent need of cash, advance comment on release of the funds was cool. Aquino's executive secretary, Joker P. Arroyo, was quoted in the Manila press yesterday as saying, "Before we react with joy like jumping chimpanzees, we should know that what Secretary Shultz is bringing is rental money in payment of the use of the two bases. It is not aid money."
State Department officials said the funds being released are part of the aid package committed to the Philippines in connection with continued U.S. use of Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base, two of the most important facilities used by U.S. forces. The officials said that permission for the Philippines to spend the funds for basic services in agriculture, education and health had been expedited because of Manila's budgetary problems.
Another $150 million in U.S. aid that was proposed specifically to help Aquino -- over and above sums that had been negotiated with the government of former president Ferdinand Marcos -- is in the final stages of U.S. congressional consideration.
Shultz, who is to meet Aquino at a private luncheon today, declared on arrival in Manila last night that steps taken here in political, economic and security fields since his last visit early in May add up to "a very encouraging picture." Other U.S. officials, and Shultz on some occasions, also have said that the problems facing the Philippines continue to be massive.
Although the Philippines has the special problem of being left nearly bankrupt by the Marcos government, other Southeast Asian countries also are facing economic woes.
Those troubles were cited by the Southeast Asian foreign ministers yesterday in formally deciding to arrange a summit meeting of their heads of state in Manila in July 1987. It would be the first such top-level regional gathering in 10 years.
In her speech at the opening of the meeting, her first appearance before the Philippines' partners in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations since she became president, Aquino said the association had fallen short of its goals and continued to face obstacles to peace and progress in the region.
Special correspondent Abby Tan contributed to this report.