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Duterte to attend India’s Republic Day with ASEAN leaders as chief guests

President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to attend India's Republic Day celebration as one of the chief guests along with the other leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Aside from the Republic Day, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Ma. Hellen De La Vega of the Office of ASEAN Affairs said Duterte will also be in New Delhi for ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit for the culmination of the 25th anniversary of ASEAN-India relations.

"The President and other ASEAN member states have also been invited to India’s Republic Day celebration which takes place the following day on 26th January," she said at a briefing in Malacañang on Friday.

"And this year, the 10 leaders of ASEAN will be the guests of honor during the Republic Day celebration," she said.

Duterte will be in India on January 24-26, making it his first foreign trip of the year. 

In previous Republic Days, India had the following guests like Queen Elizabeth II in 1961, late South African President Nelson Mandela in 1995, Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2007,  and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2014, United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in 2017.

"So for 2018, India has decided to invite all 10 leaders of ASEAN. So that demonstrates India’s -- the importance that India attaches to ASEAN," De La Vega said.

Duterte is the third Philippine President to visit India. Former President Fidel Ramos visited India in 1997 and former President and incumbent Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2007.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque previously said that Duterte's trip to India was a "personal appeal" by Indian Ambassador Jaideep Mazumdar.

"That in 2012, the Commemorative Summit held in 2012 in India, the Philippines was the only country that was not represented by a Head of State ‘no, and that is why he has confirmed his attendance," he said.

One of the outcome documents of the commemorative summit will be the Delhi Declaration, which will tackle how to substantiate political, economic and cultural cooperation.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Manila last November invited Duterte to India. Meanwhile, Duterte also raised the Philippines' openness to explore India's pharmaceutical industry. 

De La Vega said that one of the Duterte's agenda in India is its pharmaceutical industry, which will be discussed "at the leader's level."

"When I mentioned about the cheaper medicine, I was also talking about it in the context of ASEAN, I mean, in terms of cooperation. On the bilateral, particular bilateral meeting between them, we’re waiting for confirmation," she said. — RSJ, GMA News