Nov 182017

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte chats with US President Donald Trump during the gala dinner hosted by the Philippines for the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states and dialogue partners at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City on November 12, 2017. (MNS photo)

MANILA, Nov 14 (Mabuhay) — The relationship between the Philippines and the United States, two longtime allies, is “vibrant” under their current respective leaderships, said a Palace official on Tuesday.

The over-40-minute-long bilateral meeting between Presidents Rodrigo Duterte and Donald Trump was a “good indication” of a positive relationship between the two countries, said Presidential Communications Operations Office Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan.

“We feel that the relationship between the Philippines and the US is vibrant under Duterte and President Trump,” he said. “The bilat[eral meeting] yesterday lasted for more than 40 minutes which is a good indication of a good relationship between the two countries.”

Duterte and Trump held a much-anticipated bilateral meeting on Monday, where Trump affirmed having a “great relationship” with his Philippine counterpart, who has had a less-than-warm rapport with former US President Barack Obama.

Duterte had called Obama a “son of a bitch” after the White House said the latter would “not pull punches” in discussing the Philippine human rights situation. This vulgar remark, though not Duterte’s first—he had called the Pope a “son of a whore,” for one—prompted Obama to cancel what would have been their first meeting.

Prior to the Duterte-Trump talk, US lawmakers urged their president to take up human rights with the Philippine leader, whose deadly anti-narcotics campaign has been widely slammed since he assumed the presidency.

It is unclear whether the two controversial leaders—Trump himself is roundly criticized for his policies, including a newly and partially implemented travel ban barring US entry to people from six Muslim-majority countries with no connections to the United States—touched on the issue of human rights.

The White House said they briefly talked about human rights. Malacañang said they did not.

Notably, Trump had earlier praised Duterte for doing an “unbelievable job” in his war on drugs.

Under the Trump administration, the US government provided at least P730 million in aid to the Philippines to support its rehabilitation efforts for besieged Marawi City.

But Trump’s arrival in the Philippines was met with hostility from militant groups, who protested Trump’s attendance in the ASEAN Summit, as well as American “neocolonialism” enabled by close American and Philippine ties. (MNS)

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