Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte to address compatriots during Hong Kong visit
Leader of archipelago nation in city ahead of trip to Beijing
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to reach out to his compatriots in Hong Kong on Saturday in a townhall-style meeting attended by 1,000 people.
Duterte landed in the city on Thursday night for his first visit, ahead of a summit in Beijing. He was understood to be on a personal schedule on Friday, while his partner, Cielito Avanceña, was spotted window-shopping at a major mall in Causeway Bay.
Duterte will make a speech when he meets Hong Kong’s Filipino community at the Regal Airport Hotel on Saturday afternoon, followed by a possible question-and-answer session, according to a group invited to the event.
Rex Aguado, chairman of the Philippine Association of Hong Kong, confirmed that the Filipino consulate had invited several community organisations to join an audience of 700 to 1,000.
Aguado, whose organisation represents Filipino business professionals in Hong Kong, said the gathering would be a good opportunity for their community to raise issues on the country’s economic and investment policies as well as concerns over conditions that domestic helpers face in Hong Kong.
“It’s an honour for us that it’s the president’s first time dropping by Hong Kong,” Aguado said.
“Lots of Filipino businesses in Hong Kong still don’t have a clear direction of the Philippines’ role in the Belt and Road Initiative.”
He was referring to China’s ambitious plan for maritime and land trade links with countries along the old Silk Route.
“Hopefully [Duterte] can draw a much clearer perspective of how we can fit into our role, and how businesses can take advantage of this new initiative,” Aguado said.
Duterte leaves on Sunday for Beijing, where he is to join the two-day Belt and Road Summit, a gathering of state leaders from 28 countries and more than 1,000 delegates.
Meanwhile, a South China Morning Post photographer spotted Duterte’s common-law wife – the pair are not legally married – shopping trip at Times Square in Causeway Bay.
Avanceña, also known as “Honeylet” was seen sporting a black dress and a pearl necklace, accompanied by several suited bodyguards. She window-shopped at British shoe and bag retailer Jimmy Choo, and spent at least 20 minutes at luxury Italian leather goods store Salvatore Ferragamo.
A saleswoman said Avanceña had stayed for around 20 minutes, but did not reveal what she bought.
The city is home to some 180,000 Filipinos, most of whom work as foreign domestic helpers. Saturday’s community event will mostly include domestic helpers, as well as businesspeople and professionals.
The Philippine consulate said there were no plans for the president to call on the city’s chief executive or other officials.
Security is tight with roads blocked around the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Wan Chai, where Duterte and his family have been staying.