Duterte to visit Singapore next week

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will visit Singapore next week and will hold discussions on a range of issues with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

These include strengthening bilateral defence co-operation 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 co-operation, including counter-terrorism and the war on drugs", said Mr Jose.

Mr Duterte had said that the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has taken roots 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 when they met on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Laos in September.

Mr Jose said Mr Duterte, 71, would also discuss 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 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.

Mr Jose said he expects Mr Duterte 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".

The firebrand leader, who won on a populist platform, has been on a tour of South-east Asia: He was in Indonesia, Brunei and Vietnam in September; and Malaysia last month.

Mr Duterte was also in Thailand last month to pay his respects to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

This article was first published on December 10, 2016.
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