Preparations for Potential Pacquiao Visit in Works

Cambodia is making preparations to welcome renowned Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao, who may make his first visit to the country in the coming days alongside his country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, who is set to arrive on Tuesday.

After Prime Minister Hun Sen suggested in a speech on Friday that the boxer may be joining the official visit, the Foreign Affairs Ministry instructed the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia to begin preparations for a welcoming ceremony, according to Vath Chamroeun, the committee’s secretary-general.

cam photo pacquiao
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, walks with boxer and senator Manny Pacquiao in the Malacanang Palace in Manila in August. (Presidential Communications Operations Office)

“We see that it is an honor for our country, because in our country, most people are fans and supporters of Pacquiao,” he said. “They will be very excited at the arrival of the world’s king of boxing.”

Mr. Pacquiao has won a litany of boxing awards and is considered to be among the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Last year, however, he lost to Floyd Mayweather in what was marketed as the fight of the century.

Mr. Chamroeun said the committee planned to invite Cambodian athletes—both amateur and professional—to meet the Filipino star, but said that they were still awaiting confirmation and an agenda for his potential visit.

During a two-day visit, Mr. Duterte is expected to meet with Mr. Hun Sen and sign memorandums of understanding on “Cooperation in Combating Transnational Crime” and “Sports Cooperation,” according to a Foreign Affairs Ministry statement.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman and officials at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs since taking office in May has led to thousands of deaths and intense international criticism. However, he has repeatedly attacked those who press him on the issue, and remains widely popular at home.

According to the Manila Bulletin, Mr. Duterte and Mr. Hun Sen may also discuss the South China Sea—a controversial topic for both countries, which have sought close ties with China. Cambodia has for years been seen as acting Beijing’s proxy in Asean, blocking or softening statements from the bloc about the disputed waters.

The Philippines, in contrast, was one of the main antagonists in the dispute with China until Mr. Duterte came to power. Despite winning a landmark case in The Hague against China in July, the new Philippine president has appeared to shelve discussion of the sea, instead saying that the country was saying goodbye to the U.S., its longtime ally, in favor of China.

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