Obama to visit Philippines
MANILA, Philippines - As part of his tour of Southeast Asia, US President Barack Obama is expected to drop by Manila soon and meet President Aquino before the American leader attends the coming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit in Indonesia in October.
“As far as I know, President Obama is looking forward to his upcoming visit,” US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told a joint press conference with his counterpart Voltaire Gazmin in Malacañang yesterday.
The US official refused to give more details to newsmen, however, but Palace sources revealed that Obama would visit Manila before he attends the APEC summit in Bali, Indonesia that would be held from Oct. 6 to 8.
“On President Obama’s upcoming trip to the region, I will leave that to the White House and when and how they want to announce the specifics of that trip,” Hagel said.
He repeated though the enthusiasm Obama has on his upcoming trip to the Philippines.
“I spoke with the President and he is very much looking forward to his trip to Southeast Asia and I know that the White House is preparing for that and his meetings, there’s a lot to discuss. So again, I’ll leave that to the White House on the specifics,” he said.
The US defense chief said their country wanted to reassure countries in Asia that “this region is very important to America’s economic, strategic, and security interests, both now and in the years to come.”
“So I look forward to continuing our engagement in the region,” Hagel said.
Hagel, who had recently visited Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, said he has been in Manila several times, dating back in the 1980s when he was still a senator and president of World USO, a group that supports US military personnel stationed around the world.
“I visited the Philippines often,” said Hagel, who is the son of a former radio operator and tailgunner who was deployed in Manila during World War II and even “spent some time in Clark Air Field.” The elder Hagel is now deceased.
“He (Hagel’s father) has many, many pictures of his experience here. He loved the Filipino people, he loved this country. And I have always been somewhat influenced by my father’s early assessment,” Hagel related.
Hagel declared: “I can tell you that if he was alive today, I would tell him that I wholly agree with his assessment of this country and the people here in this country.”