Rodrigo Duterte

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to visit Hong Kong ahead of ‘Belt and Road’ summit in Beijing

Two-day trip will include meeting with city’s Filipino community

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 May, 2017, 2:10pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 July, 2017, 11:50pm

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will pay a two-day visit to Hong Kong from Friday before heading to Beijing for the high-profile “Belt and Road” summit.

Duterte is expected to arrive on Friday morning. He will attend an event near the airport on Saturday afternoon to meet the city’s Filipinos, before leaving for the capital later that day.

It will be Duterte’s first visit to Hong Kong, home to more than 193,000 Filipinos working as foreign domestic helpers as of last month.

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Robert Quintin, the Philippine vice-consul in the city, said it was unlikely Duterte would meet any Hong Kong officials during his stay.

The community event would mostly include domestic helpers, as well as businesspeople and professionals, Quintin added.

Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body spokesman Eman Villanueva, who will attend the event, said his group would take the chance to highlight various issues to Duterte.

“We want to raise our concerns regarding the fees that are extracted from migrant workers before they leave the country for work. That includes government fees and the illegal collection [of fees] by the agencies,” he said.

Villanueva said he hoped the Philippine government would extend the validity of passports from five years to 10 years as domestic workers in Hong Kong, many of whom return to their hometown only once every two years, are forced to renew their passport after using it just two times.

“We also hope the president would pursue peace talks with the National Democratic Front in pushing for social and economic reforms,” the activist said, referring to the country’s communist rebels, waging one of Asia’s longest insurgencies.

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“This is important to the overseas workers as it is the reason we have to leave our country in huge numbers – there are insufficient jobs and low wages. If they provide jobs, we do not have to come to Hong Kong to work as domestic helpers.”

Villanueva said it remained uncertain whether his group could have an in-depth and serious discussion with Duterte, but he had already asked for at least a brief meeting so they could convey their demands.

A police source said the force would enhance security for Duterte, who has been vocal on dealing “harshly” with terrorism. The source said that given concerns about global terrorism, there were high security risks surrounding the leader’s visit.

“The country itself is facing problems of terrorism. Terrorist groups such as Abu Sayyaf and other insurgent factions are active and based on the islands,” the police insider added.

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“We should not overlook the safety of the president. The scale of security operations for Duterte will be similar to the one for Indonesian President Joko Widodo who paid a two-day visit last month.”

Elite personnel from the VIP protection, counterterrorism response and special duties units will be deployed to protect the president during his stay.

Democrat lawmaker James To Kun-sun on Wednesday urged Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to discuss with Duterte the progress of a case where four Hong Kong fishermen were arrested for operating a “floating” drug lab in the country last year. Last week new evidence in court contradicted police claims, and offered a glimmer of hope for the men.

The “Belt and Road” summit will be held in Beijing on May 14 and 15, and will be attended by more than 1,000 delegates and state leaders from 28 countries.