MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte and US President Donald Trump had discussions on the drug menace, terrorism and trade issues, Malacañang told reporters Monday following the bilateral meeting of the two leaders.
In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Trump did not bring up the sensitive issue on human rights during his 40-minute meeting with Duterte.
“That issue was not raised. However, the President explained in length, his Philippine domestic policy on the war against drugs,” he said.
“And from the body language of the US President, he seem to be in agreement and he made the assurance that President Duterte had a friend in the person of President Trump, that he has been an ally since he was elected into office,” Roque said.
Other than the war on drugs, he said that Trump raised the issue on fair trade.
He said that Trump “specifically” brought up the issue of hefty tariffs imposed on US cars.
Meanwhile, the Palace official said that the Philippine side expressed their hope that a free trade agreement (FTA) can also be concluded between the Philippines and the United States.
“The Philippine authority said that if they (US) could have FTAs with countries that were not allies of the US during the Second World War and henceforth, there should be every reason for the United States United States to conclude FTA with the Philippines which has always been an ally for the United States,” Roque said.
He said Duterte and Trump also discussed the threat posed by the Islamic State (IS), with Duterte taking the opportunity to thank US for its assistance during the Marawi rebellion.
“The Philippine President recognized the contribution of the United States in providing communication assistance during the Marawi conflict,” Roque said.
“The Philippine side also made it clear that amongst their priorities is dealing with terrorism and violent extremism. It was a common interest identified by the Philippine and US authorities – the fight against terrorism and violent extremism,” he added.
The West Philippine Sea issue was also not brought up during the bilateral meeting, but Roque said it was raised during the ASEAN-US dialogue.
In summary, Roque said the meeting between Duterte and Trump was “warm and friendly” and have been “very candid in their dealings.”
“The Philippine President reiterated that the Philippines-US alliance has always been very strong and very important,” he said.
The Palace official said Duterte did acknowledge that there were sour points in the relationship — and the sour points were statement made by the former US President (Barack) Obama on the administration of President Duterte.
“Now, I think President Trump addressed this by re-assuring the Philippine President that he has always been an ally of the Philippine President since he was elected into office. So, I would say that there will be a marked difference in the relationship between the administration of President Trump and President Duterte,” Roque said.
Prior to the bilateral meeting, Duterte remarked that “it is our shared interest to keep our ASEAN-US engagement close and to ensure that our strategic partnership delivers the best results for our peoples.”
Meanwhile, Trump commended Duterte for successfully chairing ASEAN at a very critical moment and also thanked the Philippine President for the incredible hospitality.
He also congratulated ASEAN for its 50 years of promoting peace and prosperity and stability in Southeast Asia and in the broader Indo-Pacific region.
Like ASEAN, he said the US is also seeking economic partnerships on the basis of fairness and reciprocity.
“We want our partners in the region to be strong, independent and prosperous. In control of their own destinies and satellites to no one. These are the principles behind our vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Trump said. (PNA)