President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to the US is just a “question of scheduling,” US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim said on Tuesday evening as he touted the “deep” relationship between Manila and Washington.
During the US independence day celebration in Manila, Kim was asked about the prospects of a follow up meeting between US President Donald Trump and President Duterte.
“President Trump has already invited President Duterte to visit Washington,” Kim said. “But obviously, there are lots of important developments here in the Philippines and I think it’s a question of scheduling as to when President Duterte will be able visit the United States,” Kim said.
Kim added that the US is working on the second meeting between the two leaders, citing “strong interest” from both sides.
“I think there’s strong interest in both sides and facilitating a visit to Washington so we’ll continue to work on it,” he said.
The two presidents have already met in Manila during the country’s hosting of the 31 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in November last year.
“I think President Trump and President Duterte have a very strong relationship,” Kim said.
“It was very evident during President Trump’s visit last November that the two gentlemen share much in common including on the importance of rule of law even as the Philippines continues to pursue the serious challenge of illegal drugs in the Philippines,” he added.
During a meeting with Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also relayed hopes for a second meeting between President Duterte and Trump in Washington.
Ties in good shape
Kim reaffirmed the ties between the Philippines and the US, noting the cooperation between the two nations in various areas.
“I think the relationship is of great shape. I think the future for the relationship looks very bright,” he said.
The ambassador cited the “special role” played by the US in liberating Marawi City from ISIS-linked terrorists and the Philippine government’s effort to rebuild the war-torn city.
“We made significant contributions in Marawi, for example and everyone acknowledged the important role that the US played in defeating the terrorist in Marawi,” he said.
Kim added: “Duterte himself has acknowledged the special role that the US has played in many different context including in Marawi.”
Kim welcomed the “very strong” economic partnership between the two countries and Manila’s interest in doing a free trade agreement. /muf