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PHL welcomes Trump visit to Manila, says ties ‘improving, strong, irreversible’

The Philippines has welcomed a White House announcement confirming US President Donald Trump's visit to Manila in November, with officials saying the two allies' relations are "improving" and on an upward "irreversible" path.

"President Trump will definitely receive a very warm welcome in Manila," Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in a statement Saturday after the White House confirmed the US chief executive's participation in the East Asian Summit.

"President Duterte is looking forward to welcoming President Trump in Manila," Cayetano said. "Our people are excited to see the first face-to-face meeting between our two leaders."

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella also confirmed Trump's visit in November, saying it "underscored the improving PH-US ties."

"As host country, we hope to make the event productive and pleasant to our foreign guests.  We will let them experience our world-famous Filipino hospitality to make sure they would have good memories of their stay in the Philippines,"Abella said in a statement on Saturday.

To recall, Duterte changed his rhetoric against the United States, saying this time that he'd "rather be friendly to them now."

Trump's visit to the Philippines will be part of a 12-day trip from November 3 to 14 that will also take him to Japan, South Korea, China.

Trump will join other world leaders who will attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) East Asian Summit in the Philippines to be held on November 10 to 14 in Clark, Pampanga.

Trump's visit comes at a time when the Philippines and the US are adjusting to the new political realities in Manila after President Rodrigo Duterte rose to power in June last year.

Duterte's swing toward China and harsh criticisms of the US have raised questions about the trajectory of the 66-year treaty alliance of Manila and Washington, but relations have steadily improved.

"The American-Filipino relationship is so resilient that it bounces back right always regardless of personalities and issues,” Cayetano said.

Duterte's deadly war on drugs sparked concerns from the State Department last year, causing him to resort to curses-laden verbal attacks against the agency and then US President Barack Obama, who he once asked to "go to hell."

Duterte has also vowed to realign the country's foreign policy by befriending China and Russia while vowing to step back on military engagements with the US.

But Trump's visit, said Cayetano, underscores the improving relations between the Philippines and the United States.

"No less than Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told me it is on an upward vector," he said, describing relations between the two allies as "strong and irreversible." — with Ted Cordero/MDM, GMA News