US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to discuss human rights concerns with Philippine officials on the side of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) ministerial meetings in Manila, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Sunday.
The DFA said the reported plan of Tillerson to discuss human rights concerns during his visit to the country should be seen as an opportunity to dispel the negative perception of the country’s human rights situation and as part of his duty as a government official of the US, a long-time ally of the Philippines.
It added that the discussion would not be limited to human rights concerns in the Philippines, but also in the rest of the world.
So far, Tillerson is the highest ranking US official to have visited the Philippines under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The extrajudicial killings resulting from Duterte’s drug war has strained Philippine relations with the US, which has lent its voice to the growing concern raised against the bloody campaign.
Tillerson, who arrived in Manila Saturday night, is also expected to discuss with other Asean foreign ministers the North Korean threat and South China Sea dispute.
On Saturday, the Asean foreign ministers after formally opening the Asean ministers’ forum have endorsed a code of conduct on the South China Sea to be discussed at the Asean Summit in November and issued a statement asking North Korea to “fully comply” with the approved UN security resolutions.
The North Korean statement was issued after the communist state tested several missiles which neighboring South and other countries in Asia viewed as a threat to peace and stability in the region.
Earlier on Sunday, Tillerson laid a wreath at the Manila American Cemetery and was scheduled to meet with Burmese Minster of State Kyaw Tin, according to the US official’s itinerary, a copy of which was obtained by The Manila Times.
He will also meet with South Korea Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Philippines Foreign Secretary Alan Cayetano.
Tillerson will also deliver his opening remarks at the US-Asean Ministerial meeting, and at the 10th Lower Mekong Initiative Ministerial meeting.
Later on Sunday, Tillerson is also scheduled to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Lastly, Tillerson will attend a gala dinner with all of the Asean heads of delegation.
Tillerson was met by Sung Kim, the US ambassador to the Philippines, as well as other embassy and Philippine government officials upon his arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)..