John Kerry to visit PH in Obama’s stead
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MANILA, Philippines—US Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Manila in President Barack Obama’s stead, Agence France-Presse reported Wednesday night.
Obama scrapped a visit to Manila next week due to a US government shutdown, but he is still attending two regional summits in Asia.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday night said Obama “conveyed his regrets” to President Aquino that the long-planned visit would not push through because of the shutdown.
“President Aquino understands the decision of President Obama. Philippine-US relations remain strong and forward looking,” said DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez.
The US Embassy said Obama called President Aquino to inform him that “due to the government shutdown, he will not be able to go forward with his planned travel to the Philippines.”
“The President reaffirmed our strong alliance with the Philippines, and committed to travel to the Philippines later in his term,” the embassy said in a statement.
The embassy confirmed that Kerry will “travel to Manila” to take Obama’s place.
In Malacañang, Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said, “We fully understand the reason for President Obama’s cancellation and look forward to welcoming him to the Philippines at a more opportune time.”
Obama has also canceled a visit to Malaysia next week due to the shutdown.
The shutdown took effect early Tuesday after the US Congress, unable to break a deadlock on a health care law pushed by Obama, missed its deadline to fund the government.
Obama is scheduled to leave Washington on Saturday night for what was originally a four-nation tour of Asia.
Talks with Aquino
The White House said Obama would still travel to Indonesia to attend the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum on Oct. 7-8 and to Brunei to attend an East Asian leaders’ meeting on Oct. 9-10.
Obama was originally scheduled to make a first visit to the Philippines on Oct. 11-12 and meet with President Aquino for wide-ranging talks.
Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush, visited the Philippines in 2003.
Filipino and US officials are in the midst of negotiations for a framework agreement that will increase the rotations of US troops visiting the Philippines and allow the US warships expanded access to military bases here.
The United States is the Philippines’ closest defense partner and one of the biggest providers of aid to the country.
No Malaysia visit
Malaysian state news agency Bernama announced the cancellation of Obama’s visit to Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.
Bernama quoted Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak as saying that Obama postponed his visit to Malaysia due to the US government shutdown.
Kerry will also take Obama’s place in Malaysia, the White House said.
Obama twice canceled trips to Asia in 2010, once to stay in Washington for votes on his healthcare law, and once because of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.—With reports from Michael Lim Ubac, AP and AFP
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