PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte and United States (US) President Donald Trump are set to hold bilateral talks in November, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said on Wednesday.
Cayetano said organizers are still coordinating whether to hold the talks on the sidelines of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Vietnam or on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) conference in Manila. “It (bilateral talks between Duterte and Trump) is being discussed. Definitely, we want it, they want it,” he said in a chance interview at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City on Wednesday night.
Both Trump and Duterte have confirmed their attendance to Apec forum in Da Nang, Vietnam from November 10 to 11. The White House has also announced Trump’s visit to Manila from November 12 to 13 to participate in Asean meetings that will be hosted by Duterte, this year’s chair of the regional bloc.
Cayetano said there was no final announcement yet in relation with Trump and Duterte’s bilateral meeting, citing “complicated” schedules of 31st Asean summits and related meetings.
He, however, assured that it would push through because of the firebrand presidents “like each other.” “The schedules are still all very complicated because of the related meetings [that will be attended by] other nations and everyone,” Cayetano said.
“But I’m sure they’ll be able to speak because our relationship [with the US] is really important. And President Trump and President Duterte like each other,” he added. Under the leadership of Trump’s predecessor, former US president Barack Obama, Duterte has repeatedly launched tirades against Americans over their supposed interference in the Philippines’ domestic issues, particularly the implementation of war on illegal drugs that already killed thousands of alleged drug suspects.
When Trump won the presidency, Duterte has patched up political differences with America and befriended the incumbent US president, who he believed has similarities with him. Duterte has received criticisms from the international community because of his deadly drug war but Trump otherwise expressed support on how the Philippine leader deals with the drug problem in the Philippines.
Cayetano said the Philippine government’s brutal crackdown on narcotics trade and the purported police abuse might be among the issues that would be tackled during the meeting between Duterte and Trump. “They are real issues, like the drugs, the type of drugs, and the possible police abuse, how do we address the abuse of the police. So, on the bilaterals, it will be included on the agenda,” he said