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Duterte sets meeting with Obama

President Duterte is expected to meet United States President Barack Obama and other world leaders at the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Laos next week.

This will be the first time the President will get a chance to talk with Obama and other leaders to enhance the country’s foreign relations since he came to power last June 30.

“We’re not sure about that but if at all, it may be on the sides,” Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told Palace reporters when asked about the President’s meeting with Obama during the ASEAN assembly set for September 6 to 8.

“Well basically, they’ll establish acquaintances muna, establish a foreign relationship,” he added.

Asked if the President’s human rights record will be tackled in the meeting with Obama, Abella said: “We’re not referring to those matters.”

But US deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Monday that President Obama plans to raise human rights and security concerns with President Duterte as he confirmed that a meeting between the two leaders is included in the schedule of the US president.

The US State Department had earlier expressed concern over the extrajudicial killings of persons suspected of drug involvement in the Philippines. It has urged its long-time ally to ensure its law enforcement efforts comply with its human rights obligations.

Apart from Obama, the President is also expected to hold “informal meetings” with other leaders attending the ASEAN summit, according to Abella.

In his first international journey since his election, the President is scheduled to embark on a three-nation tour of Asia, starting with Brunei from September 4 to 5.

Duterte will also travel to Laos to join other leaders for the ASEAN summit on September 6 to 8. Afterwards, he will make a trip to Indonesia on September 8 and 9.

The President had earlier said he would not raise or flaunt the South China Sea arbitration issue when he attends the ASEAN summit. Duterte said he prefers to raise the matter in the government’s planned bilateral talks with China.