Biden wants to meet Duterte, says Philippine ambassador


US President Joseph R. Biden wants to meet with President Rodrigo R. Duterte because a military pact on the deployment of troops between the two nations is at stake.

The US president had written to the harsh-speaking leader assuring him that the close ties between the two countries would continue, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel G. Romualdez said in a taped briefing.

Mr Duterte had sought closer trade and investment ties with China, away from its former colonizer as soon as he took office in 2016. Mr Duterte had also criticized the United States for what he claimed be the mistreatment they inflicted on their former colony.

The two countries, which will celebrate 75 years of diplomatic ties next month, concluded bilateral talks earlier.

His spokesman Herminio “Harry” L. Roque, Jr. said earlier that the president had not decided whether or not to maintain the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.

Mr Duterte said in February last year he would end the VFA after the US Embassy canceled the visa of his friend Senator Ronald M. de la Rosa, who waged his murderous war against drugs as a former police chief.

Meanwhile, Mr Romualdez said the US donation of coronavirus vaccines had no strings attached.

Mr Romualdez said Washington would this week announce the distribution of the first batch of vaccine it will donate to the Philippines.

The Philippine envoy said earlier that the United States would donate its oversupply of shots made by Moderna, Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc.

“It’s actually free,” Romualdez said. “It’s part of helping allies like the Philippines and other countries.”

He said Mr Biden was looking to meet with Southeast Asian leaders in Brunei in November. – Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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