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President ready to talk to Obama

President Duterte is prepared to discuss any issue with United States President Barack Obama, including the country’s human rights situation, when they meet in Laos next week.

The President said he has “no problem” talking about the human rights issue with Obama but expressed hope the US leader would “listen” to him about the enormity of the country’s drug problem.

The two leaders are among the world leaders attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit and related meetings in Laos from September 6 to 8. The White House earlier said Obama was likely to raise human rights concerns with Duterte in relation to his tough anti-drug campaign during their meeting on the sidelines of the summit.

“He could wish any topic at all. I am ready to talk to him,” the President said in a press conference after welcoming Filipino workers repatriated from Saudi Arabia at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 yesterday.

Asked if he was willing to discuss the human rights concerns with Obama, Duterte said: “It depends to what degree because they must understand the problem first before we talk about human rights.”

“I would insist ‘Listen to me, this is what the problem is,’ then we can talk about human rights. No problem,” Duterte added.

Meanwhile, Duterte is planning to offer some assistance to overseas Filipino worker Mary Jane Veloso, who was sentenced to death and given a stay of execution, when he travels to Indonesia next week as part of his maiden three-nation swing in Asia next week.

“Meron rin tayong preso doon marami, drugs, pati si Veloso…I’m praying that I could do something for her,” the President said.

The President appealed to Overseas Filipino Workers to avoid getting involved in illegal drugs. “Avoid drugs at all cost because it could cost your life too,” he said. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)