MANILA – United States President Barack Obama arrived in the Philippines Tuesday to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Meeting.
PH NAVY FLAGSHIP
Air Force One carrying the US president arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) past 11 a.m.
US National Security Advisor Susan Rice earlier said the South China Sea dispute would be a central issue during Obama's visit in the Philippines and subsequently, to Malaysia, even though China has already balked at the idea of discussing political issues during the largely trade-related gathering.
Obama's visit in Manila also comes as France is reeling from the terrorist attacks by the Islamic State.
Obama's visit to Manila for the APEC gathering on Wednesday and Thursday comes on the heels of the G20 summit in Turkey where discussions about the violence emanating from Syria's 4-1/2-year-old civil war dominated the agenda.
He will then fly to Kuala Lumpur for the ASEAN and East Asia summits.
On his three-day trip to Manila, Obama will also hold bilateral meetings with Philippine President Benigno Aquino and other allies, and meet heads of state of the 12-member Trans-Pacific Partnership group. He will also have a meeting with members of the Pacific Alliance, a Latin-American trade bloc.
Obama will also visit the Philippine Navy's flagship, the US-made Gregorio del Pilar, shortly after arriving in Manila.
The White House said the visit seeks to highlight American commitment to regional maritime security.
"In the afternoon, the president will tour the BRP Gregorio del Pilar," a White House statement said on Monday as it detailed Obama's plans for his first of three days in Manila.
Obama's aides had earlier said the president planned an event that showcased "US maritime security assistance to the Philippines and the region".
The White House statement detailed the venue, with the frigate a symbolic choice as it was formerly a US Coast Guard cutter that was acquired by the Philippines in 2011.
Obama's move risks irking China, which is embroiled in a bitter territorial row over the South China Sea with the Philippines and some of its other Asian neighbors.
In 2014, Obama was in the Philippines for a two-day state visit. His visit was preceded by the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which would allow US military forces access to Philippine bases.
The fate of the military deal remains in the hands of the Supreme Court. - with Agence France-Presse, Reuters