Duterte off to Myanmar, Thailand for final leg of Asean trips

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte left Sunday afternoon for Myanmar and Thailand, assigning Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea as the government "caretaker."

In his departure speech in Davao City, Duterte said this will be the "final leg" of his "introductory trips" to the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

"These (trips) are timely meetings as our country prepares to host the 30th Asean Summit and Related Meetings in Manila this April," he said.

According to the President, his visit to Myanmar will underscore the Philippine commitment to deepen partnership towards a "brighter and better future."

"As developing countries with similar historic experiences and facing the same challenges, we can use the synergies of interests as basis for strengthened cooperation," he said.

The President also said bilateral trade and investment will be the key area of discussion with the leaders in Myanmar.

"With expanding Philippine businesses making their [marks] around the region and in Myanmar, we can encourage collaboration in mutually beneficial sectors of growth, including in pharmaceuticals and food and beverage. In Nay Pyi Taw, I look forward to discussions on these matters with President U Htin Kyaw," he said.

Duterte is also set to meet with State Counselor and Foreign Minister Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Commander-in-Chief of Defense Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

On Monday night, Duterte will depart for Thailand, a co-founder of ASEAN.

"I look forward to meeting Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to discuss strengthening defense relations, intensifying trade and investment, and enhancing education, cooperation, among others," Duterte said.

Duterte is also set to meet with the corporate sector in Thailand to discuss economic opportunities in the Philippines.

Duterte said he will meet with the Filipino communities in the two countries to thank them for their support and to apprise them of the developments in the Philippines.

"These visits will complete my swing of our ASEAN neighborhood," he said.

The President will return to the country early Thursday. (SDR/SunStar Philippines)
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