MANILA, Philippines — Preparations are underway for the Manila visit of United States Secretary of State John Kerry, expected to arrive Friday in Manila as he replaces US President Barack Obama for the latter’s supposed Southeast Asian swing.
Details are still scant, however, about Kerry’s upcoming visit, happening amid uncertainty in Washington D.C. over the already week-long partial shutdown of the US government due to a funding lapse.
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez, spokesman of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), said that as of Monday, officials were “still working out the schedule” of Kerry’s visit, but he would be in Manila on Oct. 11 and 12, the same dates that Obama was supposed to be in the country.
There have yet to be details on meetings that Kerry is set to hold while in Manila, but the US Department of State said the official would undertake bilateral meetings here.
“…[T]he Secretary will visit the Philippines October 11-12 for bilateral meetings with our ally to reaffirm the strong economic, people-to-people, and security links between our two countries,” the State Department said on Kerry’s itinerary this month.
The Philippines is Kerry’s last stop following visits in Japan for bilateral security consultations and his four-nation swing through Southeast Asia, taking Obama’s place in a tour through Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
In a phone call last week, Obama had told President Aquino that he was going to skip his planned trip to Manila due to his government’s partial shutdown and that Kerry “would travel to Manila in his place,” the US Embassy in Manila earlier said.
Obama was supposed to travel to Manila as the last stop of his four-country tour this week. The US initially announced the cancellation of his trips to Malaysia and the Philippines and later said the entire Southeast Asian visit was scrapped, including Obama’s attendance to regional meetings in Indonesia and Brunei.
In putting off his Manila trip, Obama “committed to travel to the Philippines” later in his term as he reaffirmed the strong US-Philippine alliance, particularly the broadening security ties between the two countries.
Washington and Manila are in the middle of negotiations for an executive agreement to grant US troops greater access to Philippine military bases.
This as the US pursued its strategic defense pivot to the Asia-Pacific and the Philippines took steps to boost its external defense amid regional threats, including what Manila cited as China’s military buildup in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).