Duterte's first foreign trip likely to an ASEAN country
MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte's first trip abroad as president will most likely be to a fellow member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
There are two trips still in the process of being finalized, a Palace official said.
Palace Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said on Tuesday, August 16, that an "ASEAN trip" is being arranged for Duterte sometime between August 23 to 30.
The trip may involve a visit to Malaysia, host and third party facilitator of peace negotiations between the Philippines and the Moro Islamic LIberation Front (MILF), and possible side visits to other ASEAN countries.
"We are still finalizing the recommended August 23-30 ASEAN trip. President hasn't approved it yet," Andanar told Rappler.
Other ASEAN countries being considered for Duterte's ASEAN trip are Brunei, Indonesia, and Singapore, said Andanar.
In a press release, Chief Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak welcomes the possibility of Duterte's visit.
The Malaysian government is playing a crucial role in the peace talks between the Philippine government and MILF, and had just hosted the resumption of talks between the two parties from August 13 to 14.
Duterte is also supposed to fly to Laos from September 6 to 7 to represent the Philippines as it accepts the role of host of the 2017 ASEAN Summit, said Andanar.
Laos was this year's host. The turnover of hosting responsibilities is traditionally led by the heads of state of the current host and the successor.
The plan is for Duterte to cap his ASEAN tour with the Laos ceremony, said Andanar.
The first foreign trips of presidents are seen as reflective of their priorities. President Benigno Aquino III's first international presidential trip was to the United States, primarily to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
Other presidents in recent history had gone to ASEAN member-countries for their first overseas trip.
Duterte's mentor, former president Fidel Ramos, also went to an ASEAN member-country for his first overseas trip as Chief Executive – an official visit to Bunei to attend the silver jubilee of the ascension to the throne of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.
President Joseph Estrada went on a state visit to Singapore for his first foreign trip, while President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's first overseas trip was to Malaysia.
Duterte had joked in past press conferences that he prefers not to visit countries with cold weather, saying he feels uncomfortable in such climate. – Rappler.com