THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday confirmed that President Donald Trump would visit Manila in November.
DFA spokesman Robe Bolivar said Trump was scheduled to participate in the East Asia Summit and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)-US Leaders’ Summit to be hosted by the Philippines.
The announcement came after US Vice President Mike Pence visited the Jakarta headquarters of Asean and met representatives of the 10-member bloc.
Pence said that aside from the Asean meetings, the US president will go to the gathering of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Vietnam.
Trump’s attendance at the meetings was “a sign, I hope to all, of our firm and unwavering commitment to build on the strong foundations that we already share,” Pence said in Jakarta on Thursday.
The East Asia Summit groups 18 countries including Asean member-states, the US, Russia and China. APEC brings together 21 member-states from either side of the Pacific.
Asean states are eager to hear what the US will say on the proposed framework on the Code of Conduct on South China Sea, which is expected to be crafted in the middle of this year or before the November meet.
Duterte has chastised Washington for supposedly doing nothing to prevent China from reclaiming some islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and setting up communications facilities.
The code of conduct is expected to stop China from developing the islands in the West Philippine Sea being claimed by Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
A visiting former Chinese ambassador said the Philippines was a victim of the power struggle between the US and China as to who controls the South China Sea.
Ambassador Wu Hailong, in a roundtable discussion earlier this week with members of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations (PCFR) at the Development Academy of the Philippines in Pasig City, said Washington and Beijing have different interpretations of freedom of navigation.
“If we are friends, how can we be enemies? That’s foreign relations, no permanent friends, only permanent interest. We should be flexible, open-minded, ready to talk because the only alternative is war and we cannot contemplate war,” PCFR head Alan Ortiz said, quoting Wu.
“For the US, they can pass anytime they want, and that’s freedom of navigation for them. For us, we pass South China Sea for trade and commerce,” added Ortiz, still quoting Wu.
Ortiz said the installation of communication equipment on reclaimed islands in the West Philippine Sea was China’s response to the interpretation of the Americans.
“They feel threatened, that’s why they feel they have to be ready,” he said.
Wu said Filipino leaders were well-respected in China, citing the successful visit of President Rodrigo Duterte last year, which revived the Sino-Filipino relationship amid the dispute over the West Philippine Sea.
In fact, Wu said China was preparing for the 600th year commemoration of the first visit of a Filipino leader to China.
He was referring to Sulu King Paduka Pahala, who visited China in 1417. Pahala, however, got sick and died in China. The Chinese emperor ordered an elaborate funeral and built a mausoleum, which still stands today.
“We are commemorating the 600 years of exchanges of views and issues. It was a splendid visit of a royal king,” said Wu, who visited Manila for the first time.
“As family members we have to be very frank and take into consideration our long history of relationship and cooperation,” the former Chinese diplomat said.