• Duterte’s first foreign trip: Laos

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    PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte will have his first international engagement next month when he meets fellow Southeast Asian leaders as well as US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Vientiane, Laos.

    “He (Duterte) has confirmed his participation in the summit this coming September in Vientiane, Laos,” Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said in a roundtable discussion with The Manila Times editors, columnists and reporters on Monday.

    The Asean summit is set for September 6 to 8, with the region’s heads of state and government expected to attend along with leaders of dialogue partners such as the United States, China, Japan and India.

    In July, Duterte skipped the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. He was represented by Yasay in the meeting that discussed the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) maritime row and other key issues.
    Yasay said Duterte was also eyeing “working visits” to other Asean countries after the summit.

    “But I don’t think visiting China is the priority of the President compared to visiting the Asean member-states,” he said.

    Yasay off to Saudi Arabia, Norway
    The Foreign secretary is set to leave for Saudi Arabia today, along with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd, to assist troubled Filipino workers who were retrenched by nine financially troubled companies.

    About 11,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are spread across makeshift camps in the Middle Eastern kingdom, unable to go home because they are broke and their employers still owe them money.

    “We will go there to see through the repatriation of these Filipino workers. We also want to see what are the forms of support and assistance that they need that we can immediately grant,” Yasay said.

    Last week, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) led an interagency Assistance to Nationals team to Saudi Arabia to provide humanitarian, legal and other consular assistance to the OFWs, especially those without food and in dire need of medical care and other services.

    The delegation was composed of officials and technical staff from DFA, the Departments of Labor and Employment, Social Welfare and Development and Health and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

    About 1,400 workers have been repatriated by the government, Yasay said. They will receive cash assistance of P20,000 each. Each OFW family will also get P6,000.

    Yasay also said he would attend the resumption of peace talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines in Oslo, Norway on August 20, as well as meet with the Norwegian foreign minister who is scheduled to visit the Philippines.

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