Philippines hopes for informal meeting between Obama, Duterte

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Manila, Sep 7 (IANS) The Philippine government is hoping for an “informal” meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and his US counterpart Barack Obama, after the latter cancelled an official meeting between the two leaders that was scheduled for Tuesday.

Obama cancelled Tuesday’s meeting after Duterte called him a “son of a whore” (in Tagalog) on Monday, shortly before leaving for Laos, Efe news reported.

Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said there was still a possibility there could be some sort of a meeting between the two leaders, who are attending the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Laos.

Duterte and Obama may have a chance meeting at the gala dinner on Wednesday night, Jose said in an interview.

Jose expressed confidence US-Philippines bilateral ties will remain unaffected by the diplomatic row.

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“There are more things that bind us together, so we are confident that we can continue with our friendship, partnership and cooperation with the US,” he added.

The Philippines on Tuesday tried to downplay the tension over Duterte’s remarks, directed at the US President for criticising Duterte’s aggressive anti-drugs campaign that has already left 2,500 people dead in the country.

In a statement, released on Tuesday, Duterte expressed regret that the comments “came across as a personal attack on the US President”.

He said his government’s primary intention is to chalk out an “independent foreign policy” while promoting closer ties with all nations, especially the US, a long-standing ally.

The Philippines is one of the main allies of the US in the Pacific, where Obama has re-oriented the US foreign policy to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

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