Aug. 31, 2016 (EIRNS)–World leaders are anxiously signing up for bilateral meetings with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the ASEAN Summit in Laos on Sept. 6-8. Meetings have been arranged with, among others: Vladimir Putin, Narendra Modi, Shinzo Abe, Malcolm Turnbull, and Barack Obama.
Asked in a press conference Tuesday if he were willing to discuss his war on drugs and human rights issues with Obama, Duterte said it depended on whether or not Obama were willing to listen first: “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. No problem.”
Asked about his meeting with Putin, he said “I like Putin better. We’re alike.”
He will not hold a formal meeting with Premier Li Keqiang, who will represent China at the Summit, as negotiations proceed for restoration of ties between the two nations. Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay reported that there would likely be an informal handshake meeting between the two at some point during the Summit. Yasay also indicated that there is a deal in the works, confirmed by Chinese officials, for China and the Philippines to agree to joint fishing rights in the Scarborough Shoal, the most hotly contested issue between the two in the South China Sea.
Back home, Duterte has launched his policy of militarily crushing the terrorist gang Abu Sayyaf, which has funded itself by kidnappings, beheading several Filipinos and foreigners when the demanded ransom was not paid. Abu Sayyaf has declared allegience to ISIS. Several battles took place over the past week in Sulu province, an island chain southwest of Mindanao. On Aug. 26, six Abu Sayyaf were killed, including one of those responisble for the beheadings, but on Aug. 29 twelve government troops were killed in another clash.
Following the death of the soldiers, the government announced that 2,500 more soldiers, or five battalions, were being sent to Sulu to join the war. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana reiterated that the government was “going full force and has an all-out operation” to crush the Saudi-linked gang.