Duterte visit aims to bolster ties

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, seen here speaking to local town mayors in Davao city earlier this month, is due to arrive at Don Mueang airport Monday evening from Mynamar. (Reuters photo)

The visit to Thailand by the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, aims to reinforce ties between the two countries, deputy government spokesman Werachon Sukondhapatipak says.

Security-related issues will be high on the agenda. Lt Gen Werachon said the two sides will discuss drug suppression, cooperation between intelligence agencies, and solving problems in the restive areas of Mindanao, a southern city of the Philippines, where the armed group The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is based.

President Duterte is scheduled to land at Bangkok's military airport Monday eveningon an official visit as a guest of the government.

Coming straight from a two-day visit to Myanmar, Mr Duterte's flight back to Manila on Wednesday will conclude his "introductory visits" to the Asean countries since he took office in June last year.

"During this visit to Thailand, the president and Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-Cha are scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting, where they will discuss issues of mutual concern, including political, economic, agricultural, energy, educational, and defence cooperation," Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose told the press.

Mr Duterte and Thai officials are also expected to discuss ways to further boost two-way trade and investment between the countries, the welfare of Filipinos living and working in Thailand and the Philippines' chairmanship of Asean in 2017, he said.

Before he left on his two-nation trip, Mr Duterte said he would welcome being put on trial at the International Criminal Court over his bloody "war on drugs", responsible for killing more than 8,000 people and counting.

He said he would not be intimidated and his campaign would be unrelenting.

"The drive against corruption, criminality and drugs will resume and it will continue and it will be brutal."

Thai officials are unlikely to raise the issue with the Philippine guest, but the Duterte drug wars have often been compared with a similar, but shorter campaign by ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

"I will not be intimidated and I shall not be stopped just by what? International Criminal Court? Impeachment? If that is part of my destiny, it is my destiny to go," Mr Duterte told reporters shortly before leaving for Myanmar.

President Duterte and Gen Prayut are scheduled to meet at Government House at 4pm tomorrow. Before the reception dinner, the signing of MOUs to be witnessed by both leaders include an agreement on cooperation in the field of science and technology, five-year cooperation in tourism and cooperation in swamp and dairy buffalo production.

During the trip, the Philippines president is also scheduled to meet representatives of the Federation of Thai Industries, the Thai Chamber of Commerce and Thai Bankers' Association, as well as Thai businessmen and members of the Filipino community at the Royal Thai Navy Hall.

The Filipino president came to Thailand on Nov 9 last year to pay his respects to His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away on Oct 13.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries were formally established on June 14, 1949.

From January to November last year, trade value between Thailand and the Philippines was US$8.3 billion (289 billion baht), a 9.22% increase from the previous year, with Thai exports valued at $5.8 billion.

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