U.S. President Joe Biden expected to meet ASEAN leaders; VFA still an important subject matter between PH and US
MANILA – Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel G. Romualdez said U.S. President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet ASEAN leaders before the end of the year.
This was his statement at the midday Presidential Briefing hosted by Spokesperson Harry Roque Tuesday.
Asked if President Biden has invited President Rodrigo Duterte to visit Washington after Japanese Prime Minister Yashihide Suga became the first foreign leader to discuss regional and international issues with the new American chief executive, Ambassador Romualdez said “We would have known it there was one.”
“Right now, President Biden will meet a few leaders consider the situation. However, before the end of the year, he is expected to meet ASEAN leaders, probably in Brunei where a Leaders’ Summit has been scheduled but everything is on its planning stage,” he added.
Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is scheduled to visit Washington next month.
As to the 70-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), Ambassador Romualdez said the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is part of a “continuing dialogue” between Filipino and American officials for the past several months.
“We are optimistic this would be resolved in the next couple of weeks for Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. to present to President Rodrigo Duterte,” he said. He described it as “an important piece of agreement” where both the American and Philippine panel would strive to make it acceptable to both countries.
He said he lightheartedly told his American counterparts to make the VFA a “vaccine force agreement” which is the Philippines’ priority these days, specially to get the vaccines to the Philippines at the soonest possible time.
Ambassador Romualdez said every country is looking for vaccines for their respective citizens. He added while most vaccines have been made in the United States, it is the Serum Institute of India, where there is a backlog because of the extreme demand for vaccines due to the surge in cases worldwide. (Melo M. Acuña)
Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel G. Romualdez. (Screen grab from Presidential Spokesperson's Media Briefing/Melo M. Acuna)