Duterte to visit Singapore next week

Mr Duterte's visit to Singapore will be his first since becoming president of the Philippines in June.
Mr Duterte's visit to Singapore will be his first since becoming president of the Philippines in June.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will visit Singapore next week and will hold discussions on a range of issues with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, including strengthening bilateral defence cooperation and boosting trade, the Philippine Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

Ministry spokesman Charles Jose said at a news briefing that Mr Duterte will be in Singapore on Thursday and Friday, after a two-day stop in Cambodia.

He said Mr Duterte will be feted at a state banquet hosted by President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

Mr Duterte and PM Lee will hold bilateral talks "to discuss ways to… strengthen defence and security cooperation, including counter-terrorism and the war on drugs", said Mr Jose.

Mr Duterte has said that the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has taken root in the war-torn southern island group of Mindanao, from where it can launch attacks across South-east Asia.

The visit to Singapore will be his first since taking office in June. He was invited by PM Lee to visit the Republic when they met on the sidelines of the Asean Summit in Laos in September.

Mr Jose said the Philippines' 71-year-old leader would also take up with Mr Lee the welfare of some 180,000 Filipinos in Singapore, as well as ways to bolster two-way trade and investments between their nations.

Singapore was the Philippines' fourth-largest trading partner last year, with US$8.8 billion (S$12.6 billion) worth of trade.

Also on the agenda is the Philippines' chairmanship of Asean next year.

Mr Jose said that in Cambodia, Mr Duterte is expected to "reiterate the country's firm commitment to the peaceful settlement of the (South China Sea) dispute, and one that is also in accordance with the rule of law".

Mr Duterte has steered his nation closer to China, setting aside a ruling from an international tribunal striking down Beijing's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea.

The Philippines' firebrand leader, who won on a populist platform tilted towards the poor, has been on a tour of South-east Asia.

He travelled to Malaysia last month and to Indonesia in September. He was also in Vietnam in September to reaffirm Manila's commitment to keep the peace in the South China Sea, as well as guarantee freedom of navigation and overflight, and unimpeded commerce in disputed waters.

Mr Duterte went to Brunei in September and Thailand last month to pay his respects to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2016, with the headline 'Duterte to visit Singapore next week'. Print Edition | Subscribe