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Duterte makes first visit to South Korea

The protection of Philippine and Korean tourists and expatriates and the rehabilitation of Marawi City will be among issues to be discussed by President Rodrigo Duterte and South Korean President Moon Jae-in during the Chief Executive’s official visit to South Korea from June 3 to 5.

It will be Mr. Duterte’s first visit to the Seoul as well as the first by a Philippine President since 2014, Foreign Undersecretary Ernesto Abella said on Friday.

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Abella said the two countries had been working on Mr. Duterte’s visit since Moon invited him to South Korea on the sidelines of the East Asean summit in Manila in November last year.

He said the President and his Korean counterpart would hold a summit meeting where they would discuss, among other issues, the ties between the two nations, which will celebrate their 70th year of diplomatic relations next year.

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‘No thorny issues’

“We have no thorny issues (with South Korea) but basically its a question of really underscoring the good relations that we have begun,” Abella said in a press briefing.

He said the two leaders would also discuss the rehabilitation of Marawi City. He noted that South Korea had donated $100,000 to the Philippine Red Cross.

“There will also be reference to social cooperation or protection of nationals of both countries, with about 1.6 million Korean tourists to the Philippines and 450,000 Filipino tourists to Korea in 2017, aside from the expatriates in each country,” Abella said.

They will also talk about agricultural and environmental cooperation, he said. In the agricultural cooperation, he said the talks would center on market access for Philippine exports such as okra and tropical fruits.

Asked whether North Korea will be raised in their meeting, he said there was “no note of that but if it’s at all mentioned, I’m sure they’ll discuss it on the sides.”

US-DPRK meeting

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Manila, however, hopes that the leaders of the United States and North Korea will finally hold their meeting, he said.

“Despite the challenges, the Philippines remains hopeful that the planned US-DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Summit will push through as scheduled,” Abella said.

Abella said four agreements would be signed during the President’s visit, including a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Department of Transportation and Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport on transport cooperation; a scientific and technological cooperation MOU between the Department of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Science and ICT; a loan agreement on the New Cebu International Container Port Project between South Korea and the Department of Finance as well as the Export-Import Bank of Korea and an MOU between the Department of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Trade and Economic Cooperation.

Mr. Duterte is expected to conclude his visit with a meeting with the Filipino community.

There are 68,000 Filipinos in South Korea, majority of them workers while the rest are students, professionals, missionaries and spouses of Korean nationalists, according to Abella.

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TAGS: Abella, Duterte, Korea, Tourism
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