Duterte flies to Myanmar, Thailand for official visits
DAVAO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte departed Sunday, March 19, for official visits to Myanmar and Thailand, focusing on the Philippines' diplomatic and trade relations with the two ASEAN neighbors.
"These visits will complete my swing of our ASEAN neighborhood," he said in his pre-departure statement at the Davao International Airport. "It will also presage the important regional leadership role reposed upon us for this historic ASEAN year."
He also said that he will "look after our nation's interest" as he seeks to pursue the "collective objectives of the ASEAN region."
Duterte departed Davao City via a chartered Philippine Airlines flight, bound for Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar.
In Myanmar, Duterte will meet Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, now Myanmar's State Counselor and Foreign Minister, and will have bilateral talks with Myanmar President Htin Kyaw. (READ: Duterte to meet Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar)
He will proceed to neighboring Thailand next, where he will hold a bilateral meeting with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
He will be out of the country from Sunday to Wednesday, March 22.
In Myanmar, Duterte said his trip will underscore the Philippines' "commitment to deepen partnership with Myanmar towards a brighter and better future."
"As developing countries with similar historic experiences and facing the same challenges, we can use the synergies of interests as basis for strengthened cooperation," he said.
In his meetings with Suu Kyi and with Commander-in-Chief of Defense Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Duterte will convey the Philippines' "support for the reforms being undertaken by Myanmar as well as in its efforts to address challenges... of certain problems in these regions."
Meanwhile, in Thailand – a country with which the Philippines has had official relations for the past 67 years – Duterte will "renew the Philippines' commitment to further enhance our excellent relations."
"I look forward to meeting Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to discuss strengthening defense relations, intensifying trade and investment, and enhancing education, cooperation, among others," he added.
In both trips, Duterte is set to meet with members of the Filipino community.
"In both Myanmar and Thailand, I welcome the important [opportunity] of meeting our kababayans (countrymen) who have been key partners in our program for positive change and reform in our government," he said.
Duterte's visits to Myanmar and Thailand are part of his "introductory" trips to ASEAN countries, partly in fulfillment of the Philippines' role as ASEAN chairman this year.
The official delegation for the trips include Acting Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Isidro Lapeña, and Philippine Ambassador to Myanmar Alex Chua.
Also part of the official delegation are senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Vicente Sotto III.
These will be the first foreign trips to be attended by Manalo as Acting Foreign Secretary.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea will be the caretaker of the government while Duterte is abroad, Malacañang said. – Rappler.com