Duterte welcomes Trump amid protests

President Donald Trump being warmly received by President Rodrigo Duterte and his partner Cielito "Honeylet" Avancena at a gala dinner yesterday in Manila to mark Asean's 50th anniversary.
President Donald Trump being warmly received by President Rodrigo Duterte and his partner Cielito "Honeylet" Avancena at a gala dinner yesterday in Manila to mark Asean's 50th anniversary.PHOTO: REUTERS

United States President Donald Trump landed in Manila yesterday to a warm reception from his host, the equally provocative President Rodrigo Duterte, but also to loud calls of "Dump Trump" from left-wing protesters.

Mr Trump and Mr Duterte had a "very warm and cordial" first meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Danang, Vietnam, on Saturday, according to Mr Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque.

The usually sharp-tongued Philippine leader is likely to display his more charming side for Mr Trump, as the two roll through this week's meetings at the Asean summit.

Mr Trump and Mr Duterte are set to hold bilateral talks today on violent extremism, efforts to rein in North Korea's nuclear ambitions, and Mr Duterte's war on drugs.

One item that is unlikely to make it on their agenda is human rights.

"I'm sure he will not take it up," said Mr Duterte, referring to the thousands of suspects killed in his bloody crackdown on the narcotics trade. The crackdown has led to the police killing over 3,900 suspects since he took office last year, provoking cries of "crimes against humanity" among rights groups.

Mr Trump, he said, "cannot afford" to bring up the subject.

"We do not talk about these things because, first of all, they are not true, and second, we do not do it," Mr Duterte said.

He had rained profanities, and even racial slurs, at former US president Barack Obama for expressing concerns over rights violations as a result of the drugs war.

 

Last year, he called for a "separation" from the US, threatened to expel US troops, and accused the Central Intelligence Agency of plotting to kill him.

Mr Trump, on the other hand, has refrained from criticising Mr Duterte. In a phone call in April, he congratulated Mr Duterte for doing an "unbelievable job on the drug problem".

Mr Duterte told reporters in Danang that he was expecting an "interesting time" with Mr Trump.

"I strongly suspect we will see an alpha-male bromance between the two," said Mr Phelim Kine, Human Rights Watch's deputy director for Asia. For some left-wing groups, Mr Trump remains the "CEO of the imperialist government of the US", as one student put it.

Dozens of protesters were injured when riot police trained water cannon at them as they marched towards the US Embassy, carrying placards declaring "Dump Trump" and "Down with US imperialism" shortly before Mr Trump landed in Manila.

The Philippines is Mr Trump's last stop on a marathon tour that has taken him to Japan, South Korea, China and Vietnam.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2017, with the headline 'Duterte welcomes Trump amid protests'. Print Edition | Subscribe