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Duterte flies to Myanmar, then Thailand

President Duterte is seen at the launch of the Philippines' chairmanship of ASEAN in Davao City in January 2017 PNA file photo. On Sunday (March 19), the President embarked on back-to-back visits to Myanmar and Thailand, capping the series of his introductory visits to ASEAN members, as the country prepares for key events in the year it has been designated ASEAN 50th anniversary host. PHIL. NEWS AGENCY
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MANILA - President Duterte embarked Sunday on  a three-day state visit to Myanmar and Thailand, with a focus on increasing bilateral relations with the two ASEAN neighbors, and on a slew of issues related to regional security.

In a speech before flying out of Davao International Airport, Duterte noted the twin visits form the final leg of his introductory trips to my colleagues and friends in ASEAN. "These are timely meetings as our country prepares to host the 30th ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings in Manila this April."

Myanmar and the Philippines, which have had relations for over 60 years, share a "common interest in sustaining inclusive growth and development for our peoples," Duterte said.

"Myanmar’s economic development is recognized as one of the fastest in our region and therefore bilateral trade and investment will be a key area of discussion."

As expanding Philippine businesses make their mark around the region and in Myanmar, Duterte said, "we can encourage collaboration in mutually beneficial sectors of growth, including in pharmaceuticals and food and beverage."

The President said he also saw the visit as boosting cooperation with Myanmar in fighting common problems: traditional and emerging transnational crimes, including terrorism and violent extremism, piracy and the illicit drug trade.

In Nay Pyi Taw,  Duterte is set to meet with President U Htin Kyaw; as well as State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Commander-in-Chief of Defense Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

From Myanmar, Duterte will proceed to Thailand, which he noted has shared the longest formal relations (67 years) with the Philippines among its ASEAN friends and neighbors.

"It is fitting that as Chair of ASEAN, I make this important trip to a co-founder of ASEAN in the capital where the foundation of ASEAN was laid 50 years ago," said the President.

"In my visit to Bangkok, I will renew the Philippines’ commitment to further enhance our excellent relations with Thailand.

There is much at stake in relations. We have to move forward together on shared interests in securing security and stability in the region as we seek to sustain growth and development for our peoples," said Duterte's pre-departure speehc.

He will meet Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to discuss strengthening defense and cooperation.

Duterte said he was looking forward to meeting Filipinos based in both Myanmar and Thailand.

"These visits will complete my swing of our ASEAN neighborhood. It will also presage the important regional leadership role reposed upon us for this historic year for ASEAN." With Gem Avanceña, News5