By Roy Mabasa
It is for President Rodrigo Duterte to decide on when he prefers to visit Washington, D.C. in response to the invitation of United States President Donald J. Trump.
“I think it’s a question of scheduling as to when President Duterte would be able to visit the United States,” US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim told reporters at the sidelines of the American Independence Day celebration in Makati City, Tuesday night.
Kim said they will continue to work on the invitation since there is a “strong interest” on both sides in facilitating Duterte’s possible visit to the US capital.
“President Trump has already invited President Duterte to visit Washington. Obviously, there are lots of important developments here in the Philippines,” Kim added.
Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez, who was also present at the Independence Day reception, echoed his American counterpart’s statement, saying it is up to President Duterte to decide as to when he is ready to accept Trump’s open invitation.
When asked if the President is bothered at all by the prospects of being confronted with protest rallies should the visit push through, Romualdez said: “No, I don’t think so. Even I, I’m being faced with rallies there, too.”
Romualdez said they still have to sit down and discuss with the President his availability for the US visit.
Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised the possibility of a second meeting between Trump and Duterte as a follow-up to the “productive and warm friendship” that the two developed during the Philippine hosting of the ASEAN summit in Manila last November.
At the Fourth of July reception, Kim recalled some “very exciting and meaningful developments” that has happened between the two countries, citing joint efforts in defeating terrorist attack in Marawi City and in the ongoing rehabilitation of the area.
Since the last two years that he has been hosting the Independence Day fete in Manila, Ambassador Kim said the US-Philippine relationship has been in “great shape” with the future looking “very bright going forward.”
“The relationship between our two countries is very deep. We have made significant contributions in Marawi. Everyone has knowledge of the important role the US played in defeating the terrorists in Marawi. In fact, President Duterte himself has acknowledged the special role that the US played,” the top US diplomat in Manila said.
On economic ties, Kim expressed optimism that the relationship will continue to be very strong even as he welcomed the Philippine interest in having a free trade agreement with the US.
“I know that in the over 300,00 Americans living in the Philippines and the four million Filipinos who call America home want to make sure that our relationships continue to grow in all aspects – in our trade relationship, in our robust security partnership, in everything we do together in culture, arts and sports. And then, of course, the people-to-people ties between Americans and Filipinos,” he said.