MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – US President Barack Obama will make his first trip to the Philippines in October, the White House announced.
In a statement on Friday, September 13, the office of White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said: "The President will travel to Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines from October 6-12 as part of his ongoing commitment to increase U.S. political, economic and security engagement with the Asia Pacific."
Manila will be Obama's last stop. He will first attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders in Bali, then the US-ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit (EAS) in Brunei, and meet with Prime Minister Najib in Malaysia.
"The President will then travel to the Philippines, the fifth Asian treaty ally he has visited during his presidency," the statement said.
"He will meet with President Aquino to reaffirm the strong economic, people-to-people, and security links between our two countries," it said.
Malacañang spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Obama will be Manila October 11-12 "upon the invitation of [His Excellency] President Benigno S Aquino."
The two presidents will "discuss ways to further strengthen the enduring Philippines-US alliance including the expansion of our security, economic and people to people ties," the Palace said.
Obama’s visit comes as Washington and Manila negotiate an agreement that will allow increased rotational presence of American troops in the Philippines, and give them wider access to the country’s military bases. It is forged amid tension between the Philippines and China over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
Yet Filipino activists criticized the deal as a ploy to circumvent the constitutional ban on permanent bases. It is envisioned to be an executive agreement between the US and the Philippine departments of defense, and does not require Senate ratification unlike a treaty.
In August, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also visited the Philippines and discussed the agreement with President Aquino.
Obama’s trip also coincides with his administration’s so-called pivot to Asia, Washington’s effort to rebalance its strategic priorities to the Asia-Pacific.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel first announced the trip when he visited Manila last month.
“I spoke with the President and he is very much looking forward to his trip to Southeast Asia and I know that the White House is preparing for that and his meetings. There’s a lot to discuss,” Hagel said in a press briefing in Malacañang.
The trip will be the 8th visit of an American president to the Southeast Asian nation. Obama is the 7th US leader to visit the Philippines, according to data from the US State Department:
It is also Obama’s first-ever visit to the Philippines. Born in Hawaii, the American President lived in nearby Indonesia as a child. – Rappler.com