MANILA — The much anticipated bilateral meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and United States President Donald Trump on Monday started with the latter reaffirming the “great relationship” of Manila and Washington.
The two already met each other at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Vietnam last Nov. 11, but the bilateral meeting held in the Coconut Palace, Pasay City, was the first since Duterte was elected in May 2016 and Trump was sworn into office in November last year.
“We’ve had a great relationship,” the US leader told Duterte. “This has been very successful.”
On behalf of the leaders and delegates who participated the special gala celebration of the 50th ASEAN anniversary on Sunday night, Trump extended his appreciation to the Philippines as host of this year’s meetings.
“We very much appreciate the great treatment that you have given. I thought last night’s event was fantastic, tremendous talent,” he said.
According to Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Cayetano, the bilateral meeting between Duterte and Trump will focus on strengthening security cooperation and increasing trade, as the two countries explore possibilities of entering into a free trade agreement.
“(It would be) three things. One is strengthening the ties between the US and the Philippines, two, strengthening the security cooperation and three, increase trade between the two countries possibly in consensus to study a free trade agreement.”
On security, both countries are set to discuss measures against trafficking, anti-illegal drugs efforts and anti-child pornography.
Cayetano added that discussions on eradicating violent extremism and terrorism would surface, particularly on intelligence sharing, gathering and analysis.
“I cannot further tell that dahil nanonood din ng news yung mga terorista,” he said.
Cayetano noted that the two leaders would be building on its longstanding relations and existing cooperations built through the years.
Cayetano stressed the improvement of US-Philippines relations.
“There is no doubt there is ill feeling, there were hills and valleys in our relationship with US especially at the latter end during the Obama administration but it’s been repaired and it’s beeng strengthened with President Trump,” he said.
“The diplomacy in the end is also personal relations that’s why if the administration officials don’t get along but the people to people ay malakas, malakas pa rin yung relationship but if the people don’t get along but the leaders get along, they can manage to strengthen it,” he said.