Kerry postpones PH trip, blames storm
MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – US Secretary of State John Kerry postponed his visit to the Philippines on Friday, October 11, because of a tropical storm poised to hit the Philippines.
"Because of the judgment of our pilots... and the approaching typhoon, we are going to postpone the trip that I was going to make to the Philippines," Kerry told reporters Thursday, October 10, on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Brunei.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Kerry postponed the visit after he was officially advised by the US Air Force to do so." Secretary Kerry committed to President Benigno S Aquino III that he would visit Manila before the year ends," DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a statement.
The Philippines said it expects tropical storm Santi (Nari) to make landfall in the country on Saturday, October 12. The state weather bureau on Thursday raised storm signals over 6 areas.
Kerry had been set to stand-in for US President Barack Obama, who was forced to pull out of planned trips to Malaysia, the Philippines and back-to-back regional summits in Indonesia and Brunei.
Obama opted to stay home to deal with the bitter US budget impasse that has caused the first government shutdown in 17 years and raised fears the country could default on its massive global debts.
The situation has left the US scrambling to reassure Asian allies that Washington was committed to its self-described rebalancing of economic and strategic attention toward Asia.
"I'm sorry not to be there in the next day or so but the good news is I am absolutely committed to returning in a month or so," Kerry said of the Philippine cancellation.
"I'm coming back to the region and I look forward to visiting... our friends in the Philippines."
President Benigno Aquino III earlier said items on Kerry's agenda include:
The framework agreement on boosting US troops' presence in the Philippines (READ: FAQs: Boosting US troops' presence in PH); and
US “intentions” in Syria, considering around 3,000 Filipinos remain in the strife-torn country (READ: Why 3,300 Pinoys refuse to leave Syria)
Aquino also said he supports Kerry's push to speed up the crafting of a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea. The Philippine leader said the absence of this Code of Conduct “adds to the sense of uncertainty, which is not a factor that would enhance stability and prosperity for all parties concerned.” – Paterno Esmaquel II, with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com