President Duterte and American President Joe Biden may meet for the first time during the upcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Brunei this October, Malacañang said.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque made the statement following reports that Biden wants to meet Duterte in person as the Philippines and the United States of America (USA) celebrate 75 years of diplomatic ties this year.
In an interview with RMN, Roque, citing Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez, said that the two leaders may finally get to meet in person during the upcoming ASEAN Summit.
“Ang huling sinabi po sa akin ni Ambassador Romualdez… eh baka ang kauna-unahang face-to-face nila ay iyong ASEAN Summit na gagawin sa Brunei po (The last I heard from Ambassador Romualdez is that President Duterte and President Biden may have their first face-to-face meeting at the ASEAN Summit in Brunei),” he said.
Romuladez said last week that Biden was hoping to meet Duterte as the fate of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two countries remained uncertain.
According to Romuladez, the US was “hopeful” that President Duterte would extend the VFA, adding that the Biden even wrote Duterte a letter.
“Sumulat na nga si President Biden kay President Duterte (President Biden wrote to President Duterte) not only for the occasion of the 75th anniversary but also to inform him of how strongly the relationship between the United States and the Philippines would continue,” he said.
“He (Biden) hopes he will be able to meet in person with the President (Duterte) at some point in time,” he added.
The VFA, signed in 1998 and ratified the following year, allows joint training between American and Filipino soldiers in the Philippines and governs the conduct of US troops while they are in the country.
However, in February last year, President Duterte ordered the termination of the VFA after the US revoked the visa of his close ally Senator Ronald Dela Rosa and after the ban on the entry of officials supposedly behind the arrest and detention of Senator Leila de Lima.
On February 12, President Duterte reminded the Americans that the military pact between the two countries is a “shared responsibility.” He asked the US to pay if they want to keep the VFA.
Last month, Duterte said the VFA was up for renegotiation.
Meanwhile, Malacañang said last week that President Duterte needed more time to decide whether or not to keep or totally scrap the VFA between the Philippines and the US.