MANILA, Philippines – The confirmed attendance of US President Donald Trump to the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit (ASEAN) and Related Meetings reflected the "improving" ties between the Philippines and the United States under the Duterte administration, Malacañang said on Saturday, September 30.
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella made the statement a day after the White House announced that Trump was attending the Philippine-hosted meetings.
"We confirm US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Philippines this November. President Trump’s visit underscores the improving PH-US ties and President Duterte is looking forward to welcome the US President in Manila," Abella said in a statement.
In a statement on Friday, September 29, the White House said that Trump will visit Manila as part of a bumper November 3 to 14 tour that will also include stops in China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and the US state of Hawaii.
The traditionally strong bilateral relations between the treaty allies hit a snag in the first few months of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who openly cursed and attacked then US President Barack Obama, the US State Department, and the US government, as a whole, for criticizing his bloody war on drugs.
Duterte had also introduced an "independent" foreign policy that seeks to forge stronger ties with countries like China and Russia, and to make the Philippines less dependent on allies like the US.
Duterte took a friendlier stance towards Trump, who wished him well in his war on drugs during their first phone conversation in December 2016. Duterte initiated the call to congratulate the newly-elected Trump.
The Philippine leader had also taken a markedly different tone when talking about Philippine relations with the US. During the 116th Balangiga Encounter Day in Balangiga, Eastern Samar, on September 28, Duterte said he "would rather be friendly" now with the United States because the Americans have "redeemed themselves" and "have helped us a lot."
On Saturday, Malacañang said that participants to the ASEAN summit and meetings can look forward to the "world-famous Filipino hospitality" during their stay in the country.
"As host country, we hope to make the event productive and pleasant to our foreign guests. We will let them experience our world-famous Filipino hospitality to make sure they would have good memories of their stay in the Philippines," Abella said.
The Phiippine hosting of the ASEAN summit coincides with the 50th anniversary of the regional bloc. – With a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com