Welcoming Trump – Manila Standard


UNITED States President Donald Trump is coming to the Philippines, after all, and in fact staying an extra day.

He confirmed this as he left Friday for his Asia tour—Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines, where he will attend a regional summit of East Asian leaders—when the US Embassy in Manila had first said he would miss it.

The US president leaves his country at a time when his own White House is in turmoil and his campaign is being investigated for its links to Russia.

As if our local politics weren’t colorful enough, Trump’s visit is likely to be fodder for talk here. The controversial businessman-turned-president, after all, has uttered many controversial statements in the past, including those on the environment, on immigrants, and on women.

Trump has also traded barbs—or bluffs—with the equally irrepressible Kim Jong Un of North Korea. Together the two of them can begin a nuclear war—or an era where talk is loose and threats are cheap.

Meanwhile, Filipinos should see Trump’s visit for more than its entertainment value, however difficult that may be. He is, after all, still the leader of an influential nation and a substantial trading and political partner. We have to take note of the conversations he will share with our own leader Rodrigo Duterte. We recognize these two appear to have many things in common—rambling speech, a show of appreciation for women, and controversial if not un-presidential demeanor.

Trump’s interaction with Duterte should not be pure spectacle. There are real issues that the two leaders need to talk about. We would be, for instance, caught in the crossfire should any real weapons war begin between the US and North Korea. How can they make sure the exchange of words does not escalate into a war between hotheads? What, too, will happen to Filipino migrants who only dreamed of leading a more comfortable life in the US? How can we nip terror plans in the bud? What are the implications of Trump’s announcement that he would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change? Should other countries of the world make their objections to the campaign on illegal drugs known? Does Mr. Trump have anything to say about territory we believe is ours but is denied by China?

And what of Mr. Duterte’s preference for the friendship of China and Russia? Didn’t the President call Trump’s predecessor nasty names—will he do the same with this current leader despite their being much alike?

There are too many questions, and we hope they will be answered satisfactorily by either or both leaders, beyond the usual sound bytes of Twitter-catchy phrases.

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