PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte resumes his tour of Southeast Asian nations with state visits to Cambodia and Singapore from Dec 13 to 16 for talks on defense and cooperation as well as the South China Sea territorial issue.
Foreign affairs spokesman Charles Jose told reporters in his briefing in Malacanang that President Duterte will be “reiterating the country’s firm commitment to the peaceful settlement of the dispute and one that is also in accordance with the rule of law.”
Duterte’s state visit to the Kingdom of Cambodia will take place from December 13 to 14 while his trip to Singapore will be from December 15 to 16.
The President is visiting member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in order to fulfill his obligation as chairman of the ASEAN Summit. The Philippines will be hosting the yearly summit in 2017.
In Cambodia, Duterte will pay a courtesy call on Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni and engage in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen. A state banquet will be held in Duterte’s honor.
As in his other foreign trips, Duterte will meet with the Filipino community in Cambodia where over 5,000 Filipinos live and work, according to Jose.
In Singapore, Duterte will join Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a bilateral meeting. Lee is the son of Singapore’s founding father and first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.
Singapore President Tony Tan is set to host a state banquet for Duterte. The Philippine leader will give a speech at an event with members of Singapore’s Filipino community.
Singapore was the Philippines’ 4th largest trading partner in 2015, with trade between the two countries amounting to around $8.4 billion.
The West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute may also be brought up during Duterte’s Cambodia trip.
“The South China Sea issued could be raised in the President’s talks with the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, maybe under the ambit of regional defense and security issue,” said Jose.
Duterte and Cambodian and Singaporean leaders are expected to discuss defense and security cooperation, bilateral trade and investments, cultural and tourism exchanges during their bilateral meetings, and the Philippines’ chairmanship of the ASEAN Summit and related summits in 2017, said Jose.
Cambodia is among the ASEAN countries who have opposed strong language about the dispute in ASEAN statements.
Cambodia is a known ally of China which refuses to acknowledge the Philippines’ claim over parts of the South China Sea.
But Jose said the Philippines is “quite happy” with the most recent ASEAN statements.
No deals are expected to be signed in Singapore during Duterte’s visit. In Cambodia, the two countries may sign a deal on sports cooperation.
After his trip to Cambodia and Singapore, the only ASEAN country left for Duterte to visit is Myanmar.