MANILA, Philippines – US President Barack Obama is expected to stay overnight in the Philippines when he visits the country in late April as part of a 4-nation Asian tour, a Palace official said on Tuesday, April 1.
Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras also said in an interview with ANC’s Headstart that President Benigno Aquino III and Obama will discuss a range of bilateral issues including defense issues, trade, and the Philippines’ membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), when they have a one-on-one meeting in Manila.
Almendras declined to give the specific date and other details of the trip, which the White House had earlier announced would be in “late April,” but said that Obama is expected to stay overnight.
“Most probably it would be an overnight stay. There are a lot of things that need to be done. There are a lot of American interests here, both economic, cultural, even emotional….There’s a long history of both nations working together,” he said.
Almendras said the bilateral discussions would not be limited to the defense agreement on the increased rotational presence of US troops and equipment in the Philippines.
He said the topics would include trade issues, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec), the TPP, market access, agricultural matters, and importation.
Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo had earlier said that the Philippines is interested in joining the TPP, a US-led Asia-Pacific regional trade group, as it would give the country access to markets, primarily in the US. It seeks to bring down tariff rates to zero by 2015, when the Asean common market will have been in place.
One impediment to Philippine membership in the TPP is its constitutional restriction on foreign ownership which the Aquino administration is not likely to amend, given the President’s consistent position against any constitutional amendment during his term.
PH wish list
Asked for the Philippines’ wish list to the US, Almendras said, “They will be announced at the appropriate time. This [visit] was supposed to happen last year but they had problems and it didn’t push through. So it gave us more time. The DTI has been working a lot, DFA has been working a lot….There are many things that are on the table.”
Almendras also reiterated Malacañang’s position that it would not rush the defense agreement on increased rotational presence of US troops and equipment in time for Obama’s visit.
“The President does not want to rush things just for an event,” he said.
The White House had earlier announced that Obama’s meeting with Aquino will “highlight the economic ties and security cooperation between the two countries, including through the modernization of defense alliance, efforts to expand economic ties and spark economic growth through the Partnership for Growth, and through our deep and enduring people-to-people ties.”
Obama canceled visits to the Philippines and other Asian countries in October last year due to the US government shutdown caused by the failure of the US Congress to pass the budget for the fiscal year.
The White House announced on February 12 that Obama’s visit to Asia is “part of his ongoing commitment to increase U.S. diplomatic, economic and security engagement with countries in the Asia-Pacific region.”
The US President will visit Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia before ending his Asian tour in the Philippines. – Mia Gonzalez/Rappler.com