Nov 182017

PH-US BILATERAL TALKS. President Rodrigo Duterte holds bilateral talks with US President Donald Trump at the sidelines of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits on November 13, 2017.(MNS photo)

MANILA, Nov 14 (Mabuhay) — President Rodrigo Duterte and US President Donald Trump, in their first bilateral meeting in Manila, declared that human rights and dignity of human life are “essential” amid massive criticisms on the Philippine leader’s bloody anti-narcotics crackdown that killed thousands of drug suspects.

At the same time, the two sides acknowledged that illegal drug use “is a problem afflicting both countries” as Trump committed to help the Philippines address the global menace.

“The two sides underscored that human rights and the dignity of human life are essential, and agreed to continue mainstreaming the human rights agenda in their national programs to promote the welfare of all sectors, including the most vulnerable groups,” said a joint statement released on Tuesday, a day after Duterte and Trump met at the sidelines of an ongoing regional summit hosted by the Philippines.

Duterte and Trump, according to their statement, agreed “to share best practices in the areas of prevention, enforcement, including capacity-building and transparency in investigations and rehabilitation”

Trump, criticized at home for not giving priority on the human rights issues in the Philippines, has been strongly urged to confront the Philippine leader on his brutal drug war – a policy censured by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Angered by Obama’s criticisms, Duterte lashed out on the US and even threatened to cut ties with its long-time ally.

But Trump was amiable with Duterte, heaping praises on the maverick Philippine leader, saying they have a “great relationship.”

The US, along with the European Union and the United Nations, have expressed concern on the wave of killings of drug suspects since Duterte came into power on June 30 last year. At least 7,000 have reportedly been killed in the government’s bloody anti-drug war.

While they support the country’s campaign against illegal drugs, the EU, UN and the US maintained that due process and human rights must be observed by Philippine authorities in carrying out its operations.

Aside from the war on drugs, the two leaders also discussed the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.

“Both leaders called for the expeditious delivery of humanitarian assistance to affected communities, and welcome the Myanmar government’s commitment to end the violence, restore media access, ensure the safe return of displaced persons, and implement all the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, and urged all parties to support these government commitments,” the joint statement read.

Economic ties

Meawhile, Trump and Duterte also committed to deepen their countries’ economic relationship, saying both sides will strengthen dialogues for innovation and sharing of best practices in technoloy to make the Philippines a “preferred destination for American investments” in the region.

“They discussed ways to expand on their mutual commitment to free, fair, and balanced trade that increases economic opportunity for all. The two leaders pledged to nurture economic ties, including private sector cooperation, to create jobs and opportunities for people in both countries,” the joint statement said.

The two leaders also pledged to continue discussions under the United States-Philippines Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), and welcomed the Philippines’ interest in a bilateral free trade agreement.

In the joint statement, both sides also acknowledged the “people-to-people connections” between the two countries.

The joint statement also highlighted the two countries’ investments in health, education, infrastructure, agribusiness, technology, and democratic institutions.

“President Trump and President Duterte pledged to continue cooperating to promote the mutual goals of peace, stability, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world,” the joint statement added. (MNS)

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