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President Duterte reaffirms strong PHL-SG relations during his State Visit to Singapore
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President Rodrigo Duterte was in Singapore on 15-16 December 2016, to undertake a State Visit at the invitation of Singapore’s President Tony Tan Keng Yam.  Accompanying the President on his first visit to Singapore were key members of his cabinet and other officials of the Philippine government.  The State Visit of President Duterte was significant for both countries whose economic partnership has remained vibrant and resilient.

Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (in white barong) and the President of Singapore Tony Tan Keng Yam trooping the Honour Guards during the welcome ceremony at the Istana Grounds on 15 December 2016. Photo courtesy of the Manila Times (download).

During the first day of the State Visit on Thursday, 15 December 2016, President Duterte was given honours at a welcome ceremony at the Istana, which was followed by a call on President Tony Tan Keng Yam where both had a warm exchange of views on PHL-Singapore relations. The leaders looked back to the almost 50 years of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Singapore.  They affirmed that the two countries have come a long way and that it has been a smooth journey together.  They also noted the mutual partnership both countries continue to share, which encompasses the change of leaders in both countries.  They share the same view that there is no better way to go but to build on this achievement and further the ties.

President Duterte also met with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at Istana.  The atmosphere of the meeting was very comfortable as the two are no longer strangers to each other.  They had an introductory bilateral meeting at the side lines of the ASEAN Summit this year at Vientiane, Laos.  The two leaders were pleased to have the opportunity this time around to have a more detailed discussion about the countries’ relations.

President Duterte expressed his admiration to Singapore, how it was able to transform itself to first world country in just 50 years. He noted that Singapore continues to play a significant role in every country’s development in the region such as the Philippines

After the meeting with Prime Minister Lee, President Duterte was hosted by President Tan to a State Banquet at the Istana. In his toast remarks, President Duterte expressed his gratitude to President Tan for the warm and generous hospitality extended to him and his delegation. He underscored that he came to Singapore with a singular purpose of reaffirming and renewing the friendship and cooperation between the Philippines and Singapore and that of their peoples.

On Friday, 16 December 2016, President Duterte was hosted to lunch by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Coconut Club where both leaders and their respective delegations were served with the famous nasi-lemak and durian.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong about to have a taste of durian during the lunch hosted by the latter at the Coconut Club on 16 December 2016. Photo courtesy of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, Malacañang (download).

President Duterte held a series of meetings with representatives of the business community and shared with them the many developments and reforms in the Philippines especially in the key growth sectors: energy and infrastructure. He told business leaders that the Philippines is open for business and they are welcomed with what they have to offer. The President encouraged big businesses to invest in the Philippines by assuring them that his campaign against drugs and criminality have made the streets of the country much safer.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, with DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez and DFA Secretary Perfecto R. Yasay Jr. (4th and 5th from left, seated) posing for a photo opportunity with officials and staff of the Philippine Embassy in Singapore led by Ambassador Antonio A. Morales at the lobby of the Shangri-La Hotel in the evening of 15 December 2016.

In the afternoon of the same day, President Duterte was led to the Singapore Botanic Gardens for a ceremony to name an orchid in his honour. At the event, he was presented with an orchid christened “Dendrobium Rodrigo Roa Duterte””.

Another major highlight of the President’s State Visit was his much-anticipated meeting with the members of the Filipino community at The Max Pavilion in the early evening of 16 December 2016. The gathering, the largest ever by Filipinos in Singapore, was jointly organized by the Philippine Embassy and volunteers from the Filipino community.

The popularity of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte among Filipinos in Singapore is strongly evident with the huge crowd that gathered at The Max Pavilion on 16 December 2016. This was the biggest gathering of Filipinos in the city-state with around 7,000 people.

Expectedly, the presence of the President electrified the crowd who trooped to the venue as early as 8:00 in the morning. The Filipinos, mostly OFWs, were elated to see the President and to hear him speak about the important role that they play in the economies of both the Philippines and Singapore and in maintaining good relations between the two countries. He also spoke at length about the government’s unceasing work and determination in effecting positive changes in the Philippines and its citizens.

The President’s meeting with the Filipino community was preceded by a pre-program organized by volunteers showcasing talents from the community to prime up the crowd prior to the President’s arrival. After the meeting, President Duterte and his delegation proceeded to Changi International Airport for their return flight to the Philippines.

The State Visit was successful in several ways in that it forged good rapport between the President and his counterparts in Singapore and reaffirmed long-standing bilateral ties between the two countries. It was also a milestone for the Filipino community in the city-state where President Duterte garnered 80% support from overseas voters during the May elections this year.

Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Antonio A. Morales recognized those who contributed to the success of the State Visit, including from Manila – Department of Foreign Affairs, Presidential Management Staff, Office of Presidential Protocol, Presidential Security Group, Radio Television Malacañang (RTVM), Presidential Communications Operations Office and from the Singapore side – the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore Police Force Security Command, The Max Pavilion and more importantly, the Filipino community in Singapore.

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