News Release

Duterte, Trump talk about Free Trade, Illegal Drugs, Marawi Aid

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. disclosed in a press briefing on Monday, November 13, that the bilateral meeting between the United States and the Philippines tackled issues on fair trade, war on drugs, and terrorism.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the spokesperson said, discussed with US President Donald Trump the Philippine government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

“President Trump seemed to be appreciative of his efforts,” Roque added.

President Trump, on the other hand, raised the topic on trade. Secretary Roque said the US would advocate fair trade and practice reciprocity in dealing with the region.

“The Philippine side expressed their hope that an FTA or free trade agreement must be concluded between the Philippines and the United States,” Roque noted.

Roque, who was also present during the bilateral meeting between the US and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), added it was very apparent that the focus of the US now in South East Asia is economic trade.

Also, Roque said Trump raised his concern about the ISIS terror group.  Both Duterte and Trump agreed that addressing terrorism and violent extremism must also be given a priority.

Roque described the meeting between the two leaders as “very warm, friendly, and candid.” He also affirmed that the alliance between the Philippines and the US is still very strong despite some “sour points” brought about by the statements of former US President Barack Obama on Duterte’s war on drugs.

During the meeting, President Duterte seized the opportunity to thank the US leader for his government’s assistance in resolving the Marawi conflict.

‘ASEAN wants peaceful resolution to West PH Sea disputes’

Meanwhile, the Presidential Spokesperson said the ASEAN remains committed to pursue a more peaceful resolution to the issue involving the disputed West Philippine Sea.

Secretary Roque stressed that the ASEAN leaders want to peacefully resolve the overlapping territorial claims of the neighboring countries, including China, particularly through adopting a Code of Conduct (CoC) in the West Philippine Sea.

The Palace Spokesperson further revealed that there was a “frank and very candid” discussion on the same issue during President Duterte’s bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Vietnam.

Roque said President Duterte, as the current chair of ASEAN, felt the need to bring up the organization’s concerns over the militarization in the disputed areas.

“The President asked China about its intentions. And the President…clarified that he was compelled to do so because the Philippines has Chairmanship of ASEAN. And he wanted to address the apprehensions of many nations, particularly regarding right of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region,” Roque said.

According to Roque, China responded by asserting that it is “not ready to go to war with anyone.” He said President Xi assured that it would not block freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea, and that they would not resort to any use of force in asserting its territorial claim.

Roque also cited President Xi’s acknowledgement of China’s continuously improving relationship with other claimant countries and ASEAN neighbors, owing to the leadership of President Duterte. ###PCO-Content