MANILA, Philippines - US President Donald Trump has indicated that he is coming to the Philippines for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meetings in November, a diplomat said yesterday.
Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr., director-general for operations of the ASEAN 2017 National Organizing Council, said Trump confirmed his attendance verbally during a phone conversation with President Duterte last November.
“President Trump, for instance, when President Duterte called him up to congratulate him, had already indicated that he was coming in November,” Paynor said in a press conference in Malacañang.
“So at least verbally he said he was coming. I am almost sure that the nine other ASEAN member-states will also be coming back in November,” he added.
But Duterte is not sure whether his US counterpart would visit the Philippines.
“I do not know but he seems to be very busy. If he is coming it would be good for the country, for all of us,” the President told reporters in Bohol.
He previously said that Trump had told him that he “was doing right” in his campaign against illegal drugs.
Duterte has also likened himself to the American leader, whom he described as “a realist and a pragmatic thinker.”
The US is one of the dialogue partners of ASEAN along with China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Australia and South Korea.
The Philippines will host the ASEAN meetings with dialogue partners in November.
“Multilateral meetings of this sort, we usually expect 100 percent attendance. And many of the leaders who do not attend do so because they have internal issues which prevent them from coming,” Paynor said.
Duterte is expected to have a tight schedule as the Philippines hosts the ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings on April 26 to 29.
Paynor said the President is expected to have at least two bilateral meetings on the sidelines.
Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is scheduled to visit the Philippines on April 27 while Indonesian President Joko Widodo is expected to arrive the following day.
The Indonesian president is expected to attend the launch of the Davao-General Santos-Bitung roll-on, roll-off route in Davao City on April 30. – With Pia Lee-Brago, Edith Regalado