Baptiste: Philippines trip to honor immigrants

LIHU’E — Mayor Bryan Baptiste will join Gov. Linda Lingle and an entourage of about 175 people on a flight to the Philippine Islands on Tuesday, Jan. 3, as part of a tour to pay tribute to the accomplishments of Filipino immigrants in Hawai’i over the past 100 years.

The Hawai’i-Philippine Centennial Tour is aimed at fostering stronger ties between Hawai’i and the Philippines, Baptiste told reporters in his office at the Lihu’e Civic Center on Thursday.

Baptiste anticipates an exchange of information on technologies and agricultural programs between himself and leaders of cities and provinces in the Philippines.

Baptiste said his schedule is packed, but, if he has a chance, he may visit communities whose leaders employ waste-to-energy technologies to deal with solid waste. He must make a decision soon on a site for a new Kaua’i landfill, and a long-range solution to the island’s solid-waste concerns.

Kaua’i County leaders are looking at waste-to-energy technology among other options that can be used to help dispose of garbage in the face of dramatic growth on Kaua’i.

If time permits, Baptiste said he may look into infrastructure programs there that could be implemented on Kaua’i.

In addition, doctors from Kaua’i will be bringing medical equipment to Cebu.

Baptiste will be bring his Executive Assistant Kaui Tanaka and Soncy Tamashiro, another administration staffer, on the trip. Baptiste returns on Thursday, Jan. 19.

Tamashiro will be in the Philippines from Jan. 3 to Jan. 12, and then return to Hawai’i, and Tanaka will leave for the Philippines on Thursday, Jan. 12, and return to Hawai’i on Thursday, Jan. 19, according to Mary Daubert, the county’s public information officer.

Also to accompany the Kaua’i group is Domi Bucasas, who works in the county Department of Finance Real Property Division, who will serve as an interpreter and will be with the group from Thursday, Jan. 12, to Thursday, Jan. 19, Daubert said.

A total of $12,842 will be used to cover the travel costs of the Kaua’i contingent, she said.

Baptiste said many of the events planned for the governor, and others on the tour, will highlight the close ties between the Philippines and Hawai’i.

“I look forward to visiting the Philippines and fostering our friendship ties, understanding and goodwill between our sister-cities, and sharing the contributions of the immigrants and their families in building Kaua’i,” Baptiste said. “It’s also an opportunity for me to explore economic-development opportunities for Kaua’i.”

For the first part of the trip, Baptiste will spend nine days traveling to eight cities by bus: Cabugao, Cebu, Dagupan, Laoag City, Manila, Makati, San Fernando and Vigan.

With the exception of Cebu, the entourage will travel to their destinations by bus, Baptiste said.

For the trip to Cebu, members of the delegation will fly, he said.

Members of the delegation from Hawai’i will be led by a police escort, and will be protected by armed guards.

“With the governor going, you expect the security (to be heightened),” Baptiste said.

A highlight of the trip for him, he said, will be the delivery of his opening remarks and his participation in the presentation of awards at the Photo and Philatelic Exhibit of the 2006 Centennial of Filipino of Migration to Hawai’i, featuring entries in the Hawai’i Centennial Commemorative Stamp Design Competition, county officials said.

Baptiste will stop at a business trade show, tour agricultural-industry sites, and meet with leaders of several cities and provinces, including Mayor “Boyet” Gonzales II of Mandaluyong, Gov. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. of Ilocos Norte, Gov. Luis Singson of Ilocos Sur, Gov. Gwen Garcia of Cebu, and Cebu Mayor Thomas Osmena.

Baptiste also hopes to schedule a meeting with Philippines’ Secretary of Tourism Joseph “Ace” Durano, to discuss possible partnerships.

On the second half of his trip to the Philippines, Baptiste will visit with leaders of Kaua’i’s sister-cities, including Banqued Municipality in the Province of Abra, Santa Municipality in the Province of Ilocos Sur, and Urdaneta Municipality in the Province of Pangasinan.

The trip recognizes the contributions of Filipinos to Hawai’i over the past 100 years, he said.

Members of the first group of contract laborers (sakadas) were recruited by officials with the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association to work in Hawai’i’s sugar fields, and arrived in Honolulu by ship on Dec. 20, 1906.

Succeeding generations of Filipinos have made their mark in every facet of Hawai’i’s society, in politics, agriculture, business, entertainment, and medical fields.

“You have to admire the qualities they bring, the work ethic,” Baptiste said.

Gov. Ben Cayetano became the nation’s first Filipino-American governor in office when he beat Lingle, then a Republican gubernatorial challenger, on Nov. 4, 1998.

Other Hawai’i residents of Filipino descent also distinguished themselves.

In 1962, Alfred Laureta, a resident of Wailua, was appointed director of the state Department of Labor and Relations. He later became the first Filipino in the nation to become a U.S. district judge in Saipan.

In 1954, attorney Peter Aduja became the first Filipino to be elected a representative in the Hawai’i Territorial Legislature.

Knowing he faces scrutiny and likely criticism for making this trip, Baptiste said that, as the head of county government, the mayor also serves as the ambassador of aloha and goodwill for the county, and developing and nurturing relationships with sister-cities is part of his job.

He feels that it is important and significant for him to be part of the Hawai’i-Philippine Centennial Celebration, as do Lingle and others in the delegation.

Twenty-five percent of the island’s population is comprised of Filipinos. By taking this trip, he is honoring them, and recognizing the contributions made by Filipinos to Kaua’i since the first wave of Filipinos arrived here 100 years ago, he said.

Other mayors, both on Kaua’i and representing the other counties, took trips to the Philippines, he added.

As far as other county employees accompanying the mayor on this trip, it is customary for a protocol officer to accompany the mayor on foreign and certain out-of-state trips, Daubert said.

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