Duterte to hold bilateral meetings with leaders of Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam

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President Rodrigo R. Duterte delivers a speech in April in this file photo taken in Malacañang. (Presidential Photo)

President Rodrigo R. Duterte is set to hold bilateral meetings with leaders of Singapore, Indonesia, and Vietnam on the sidelines of the 32nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Singapore.

Singapore, the chair of the ASEAN for 2018, is hosting the 32nd ASEAN Summit and related meetings at the Shangri-La Hotel from April 25 to 28.

Mr. Duterte arrived in Singapore on Thursday night, April 26, and he was “welcomed by Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Joseph Del Mar Yap and Sam Tan Chin Siong, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office,” the Presidential News Desk (PND) said.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano told reporters in an interview in Singapore that Mr. Duterte’s meetings “will be with leaders of Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam,” the PND added.

Mr. Cayetano likewise said Mr. Duterte and Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo “will most likely discuss piracy and terrorism” in the ASEAN region.

“It is always high on the agenda of the two Presidents because our cooperation with them is already advancing,” Mr. Cayetano was quoted by the PND as saying. “Of course, when you have peace and order, then you have also commerce so ‘yung trade routes through ‘yung RoRo [Roll-on and Roll-Off vessels] and through the maritime,” he added.

The case of Filipino fishermen who are currently detained in Indonesia might also be tackled during the meeting between Messrs. Duterte and Widodo, according to Mr. Cayetano.

“Since there are no boundaries on the sea that are visible to our fishermen and since they do not have GPS, unlike those of other countries, there are still a lot of Filipinos who are apprehended in Vietnam and Indonesia,” Mr. Cayetano said. “So high in the priority of the President is the release of the fishermen who are still in Indonesia.”

Mr. Cayetano further disclosed that Mr. Duterte was set to “hold a bilateral meeting with Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Friday.”

On Saturday, according to the PND, Mr. Duterte is scheduled to have a bilateral meeting with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and he is also expected to meet with the members of the Filipino workers (OFWs) there before returning to the Philippines.

On its Web site, the office of Singapore’s Prime Minister said: “The 32nd ASEAN Summit is the first gathering of the ASEAN Leaders hosted by Singapore this year.”

“The Leaders will discuss ASEAN’s priorities, as well as the challenges and opportunities that it faces, in line with the focus on strengthening ASEAN’s resilience and innovation this year. The Leaders will also exchange views on regional and international developments,” the Prime Minister’s office also said. — Arjay L. Balinbin