Human rights abuses in the Philippines and Myanmar were not brought up during President Rodrigo Duterte’s meeting with Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
“Those things were not discussed... It’s not at all an issue to us,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said .
“We focused on opportunities and reforms so these are all non issues,” Lopez added.
It will be recalled that Duterte is currently beset by allegations of human rights violations over his war against illegal drugs , while Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s state counselor, has been criticized for her silence on the violence in the Rakhine state between the minority Rohingya Muslims and Buddhist locals.
During his 2-day official visit, Duterte gave $300,000 (P15,000,000) to the Myanmar government for the humanitarian efforts in Rakhine.
Lopez said the alleged human rights violations and insurgencies in both countries have not discouraged the business sector from maintaining strong trade and economic ties between Manila and Naypyidaw.
“Myanmar is a fast growing market... They are establishing new urban areas... We have Filipino companies expanding operations there for example Oishi, Unilab, URC, and Cherry Mobile,” he said.
Also yesterday, Malacañang belied reported contradictions between the statements of President Duterte and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop when the two met last week in Davao City.
“There was no contradiction between the Australian official and the Philippine President, just a difference in perspective,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abello said in a statement.
“Since they had a productive dialogue which emphasized possible areas of constructive cooperation on the war against illegal drugs, PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) did not deem it sufficient to mention as having been discussed,” he said.
“On the whole, the meeting was positive and just affirmed the growing Philippine-Australia relations,” he added.
Media earlier quoted Duterte as saying that he never discussed human rights with Bishop during their meeting in Davao City on Friday.
However, Bishop later told media that she visited Duterte to emphasize Australia’s concern in upholding human rights.
She claimed, in a statement to Fairfax media, that they “discussed the country’s anti-drug campaign at length.”
“I conveyed Australian and international concerns with respect to extra-judicial killings and spoke of the importance we attach to human rights and the rule-of-law,” she was quoted saying.
Duterte’s war against drugs has received mixed reactions from the international community.
The United Nations has been vocal about the need to probe the extrajudicial killings (EJKs) linked to Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign.