DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 December) — President Rodrigo Duterte is off to Cambodia and Singapore this week, the 11th and 12th country he will visit since he assumed the Presidency on June 30.
The Presidential News Desk (PND) quoted Foreign Affairs spokesperson Charles Jose as saying during a pre-departure briefing in Malacanang on Friday that Duterte will be in Cambodia on December 13 and 14 upon the invitation of King Norodom Sihamoni and will be in Singapore on December 15 and 16 upon the invitation of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The Cambodia and Singapore trips are part of a series of the President’s introductory visits to neighboring Asian countries.
Duterte has visited 10 countries since September 4. He attended the 28th and 29th ASEAN Summits in Vientiane, Laos on September 4 to 8, and from there flew to Jakarta, Indonesia on the 9th and returned to the country on the 10th.
Duterte flew to Hanoi, Vietnam on September 28 and came back on the 30th, visited Brunei on October 16 and from there proceeded to China on October 19, and was back in Davao City on October 21.
Four days later, on October 25, the President went to Japan, returned to Davao City on October 27.
On November 9, Duterte flew to Bangkok in Thailand to pay his respects to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and express his condolences to the citizens of Thailand and from there proceeded to Malaysia. He returned to Davao City on November 11.
He left on November 17 for Lima, Peru to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit and came back on November 23 after an overnight stopover in New Zealand.
Jose said the President will have a royal audience with King Norodom Sihamoni at the Royal Palace followed by a State Banquet.
The President and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen are scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting, where they are expected to discuss issues of mutual concern, including defense and security relations, bilateral trade, protection of Filipino-Cambodian migrant workers, and cultural and tourism cooperation, among others.
The two leaders will also discuss the Philippines’ ASEAN chairmanship in 2017, which will coincide with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Philippines-Cambodia diplomatic relations in August 2017.
The President will also meet with some 5,000 Filipinos living and working in Cambodia before flying to Singapore.
In Singapore, Duterte will have bilateral talks with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and be feted at the State Banquet hosted by Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam. He will also meet with the Filipino community there. There are an estimated 180,000 Filipinos residing and working in Singapore.
Duterte and Prime Minister Lee will discuss ways to further increase the levels of bilateral trade and investments, strengthen defense and security cooperation, including counter-terrorism and war on drugs, the welfare of Filipinos living and working in Singapore, and the Philippines’ chairmanship of ASEAN in 2017.
The Philippines and Singapore established diplomatic relations in 1969. The two countries have enjoyed close relations, both bilaterally and within the context of the larger ASEAN Community.
In 2015, Singapore was the Philippines fourth largest trading partner with bilateral trade amounting to approximately 8.8 billion US dollars.
Duterte’s visit to Singapore as President comes 21 years after he, as Davao City mayor, burned the Singapore flag in front of City Hall in March 1995, amid the national outrage against the execution of Filipino worker Flor Contemplacion in that city-state.
He called for a boycott of Singaporean products, among others.
Duterte smoked the peace pipe with the Singaporean ambassador in 1997 when Singapore’s Silk Air opened its route to Davao City and investments from Singapore started pouring in. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)