MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte left Tuesday for back-to-back state visits to Cambodia and Singapore aimed at strengthening relations with the Asian neighbors particularly on trade and security.
“These State Visits will reaffirm our relations with our close neighbors in Southeast Asia and seek to further strengthen our engagement with our brothers in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEANs,” the President said in his departure speech at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2.
In Cambodia, he said it will be an honor for him to meet King Norodom Sihamoni, who invited him to undertake the state visit in his country.
President Duterte will also meet with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to discuss defense and security, bilateral trade and investments, law enforcement, the war against illegal drugs, the protection of Filipino and Cambodian migrant workers, as well as cultural and tourism cooperation.
“As the Philippines and Cambodia prepare to commemorate the 60 years of diplomatic relations in 2017, I look forward to conclude the State Visit that will bring our nations and our peoples even closer,” the President added.
After visiting Cambodia, the President will proceed to Singapore to meet President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The top agenda is to ensure that businesses thrive in the region, the President said.
“I will also discuss further increasing the levels of two-way trade and investments with Singapore as I seek to strengthen defense and security cooperation to address traditional and emerging threats that undermine progress,” Duterte said.
Countering terrorism, violent extremism and radicalization will be the key areas of discussion as well as the war on illegal drugs, he added.
In both state visits, the President is expected to meet with key business leaders to identify mutually beneficial areas of partnership to enhance bilateral trade and investment.
The trips to Cambodia and Singapore are part of the President’s introductory visits as the Philippines gears up to the ASEAN chairmanship in 2017.
“With ASEAN integration, it is important that we harness the economic strengths and complementaries in our region to sustain growth beneficial to all,” he said.
President Duterte will also meet Filipino community during his trip, noting Filipinos who left overseas to work hard and make sacrifices need his earnest attention.
As the year 2016 ends, the President said he is humbled by the opportunities given to him as the country’s leader to advance and protect Philippines’ national interest.
“I shall be singular in my resolve to uphold our independent foreign policy that serves our nation and our people,” he said. PNA-northboundasia.com