President Rodrigo Duterte speaks with U.S. President Donald Trump on the phone on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Manila. (Photo by King Rodriguez)
A leading Catholic bishop in the Philippines said President Rodrigo Duterte should accept a White House invitation by U.S. President Donald Trump to visit for the sake of Filipino migrants in America.
"It is a personal and privileged opportunity to appeal for Filipino immigrants for leniency and fair treatment," said Bishop Ruperto Santo of Balanga.
The prelate, head of the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, said a meeting of the two leaders would "benefit the country."
Bishop Santos said it is a chance for Duterte to manifest to the U.S. government that Filipinos in America are "hardworking and trustworthy people."
"We are contributing much for the greatness and prosperity of America," said the prelate, adding that it is also a chance to "appeal for assistance for our occupied territories" in the South China Sea.
The South China Sea disputes involve maritime claims among several countries in the region, including China, The Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
Several countries, including the United States, are conducting "freedom of navigation" operations in the area.
Trump invited Duterte to the White House in a phone call on April 29.
The American leader, who marked his 100th day in office over the weekend, made the call after the conclusion of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.
"It was a very friendly conversation, in which the two leaders discussed the concerns of [ASEAN] regarding regional security," read a media release from the White House.
In a speech at the conclusion of the ASEAN meeting in Manila, Duterte said he planned to urge Trump to exercise prudence on the North Korea issue.
"The Philippines welcomes the United States' efforts to consult with its allies and partners in the region on this shared concern," said Duterte spokesman Ernesto Abella.
The U.S. is a dialogue partner of ASEAN, and is the oldest and most powerful ally of the Philippines, one of only two treaty allies of the U.S. in Southeast Asia.