Duterte set to visit Cambodia, Hong Kong, Beijing
MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte will be out of the country from May 10 to 15, Wednesday to Monday, for trips to Cambodia, Hong Kong, and Beijing, China.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Robespierre Bolivar, in a press briefing at Malacañang Palace on Monday, May 8, said Duterte will attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) on ASEAN 2017 in Cambodia from May 10 to 11.
The Philippines is this year's chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
"The organizers [of the forum] designated the President as an honored guest of the WEF alongside the Prime Minister of Vietnam who is currently the chair of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation," said Bolivar.
"And as ASEAN Chair, the President is expected to share his views on the region's achievements and challenges, and to deliver a message to the youth of ASEAN," Bolivar added.
"The President has also been given the opportunity to address international investors regarding his economic plan... [and] the President is likely to inform the participants of the progress made in the building of the ASEAN Economic Community."
The WEF on ASEAN, which Cambodia is hosting for the first time, is expected to draw "more than 700 leaders from business, government, civil society, and the media."
The theme for 2017 is "Youth, Technology, and Growth: Securing ASEAN's Digital and Demographic Dividends."
Meeting with Filipinos in Hong Kong
From Cambodia, Duterte will fly to Hong Kong, where he will stay from May 11 to 13.
Bolivar said there are around 210,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong, most of whom are employed in the hotel and restaurant industry or as household workers.
"The Filipino community in Hong Kong has been actively partnering with our Consulate General in ensuring the rights and welfare of our kababayans (countrymen) in Hong Kong are protected and promoted," the DFA spokesman said.
"The community has also been instrumental in promoting enhanced trade relations between the Philippines and Hong Kong and in promoting our country's investment opportunities and tourist destinations," he added.
China's Belt and Road Forum
Duterte will then head to Beijing on May 13 to attend China's Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) from May 14 to 15.
China has been seeking support for its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to boost trade; develop infrastructure for transportation, energy, and communication; deepen financial integration; and strengthen people-to-people exchanges. (READ: China pushes economic diplomacy amid warm Philippine ties)
Bolivar said Duterte will "join 27 other heads of state and government, as well as heads of 3 international organizations" at the BRF.
"The BRF will have 3 parts: the opening ceremony, a ministerial level dialogue where there will be an exchange of views involving participants from government, industries, and research institutes; and a leaders' roundtable to be chaired by [Chinese] President Xi Jinping which will be attended by the heads of state and government and international organizations," said the DFA spokesman.
"The Philippines played a crucial part in the Manila-Acapulco-Spain Galleon Trade and if you have that on the eastern part of the country and at the western part, you have the new Maritime Silk Road, then it would reinforce the view that the Philippines is actually a central part to facilitating world trade."
Asked if Duterte and Xi would have a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the BRF, Bolivar said the Philippine government is reaching out not just to China's leaders but also to other heads of state.
"That's one thing we are trying to work out... President Xi and Premier Li [Keqiang] would probably have a very busy schedule so we're trying to work out possible bilateral meetings not just with the Chinese leadership but also with the 27 other heads of state who are attending the forum," the DFA spokesman told reporters.
Bolivar said issues "critical to our national interest" would be discussed if a bilateral meeting between Duterte and Xi pushes through, but could not say if the dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) would be raised.
"The Philippines-China relationship has been steadily improving in all aspects over the last few years and it's also a welcome development for us to engage more actively with China on economic cooperation," he said.
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