By Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos
The threat of terrorism was a cause of concern for world leaders who participated in the recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and related meetings.
President Duterte bared this at the closing ceremony of the ASEAN Summit at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City Tuesday night, saying the issue of terrorism dominated discussions during the summit.
According to the President, everybody was concerned about the threat of terrorism in the Southeast Asian region.
“Half of the time (taken) during the interventions was the issue of terrorism. Everybody’s scared that suddenly there will be an explosion, or whatever,” he said in a press conference following the closing ceremony of the 31st ASEAN Summit.
The Philippine government itself had just concluded its five-month war against terrorists in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
Duterte revealed that leaders of the regional bloc and their dialogue partners, including Japan, the United States, and China vowed to work together to combat terror groups.
“We discussed it in confidential meetings. We have agreed on so many things to enhance the defense of our countries. But unfortunately, these are things I cannot talk about publicly,” he added.
It was revealed throughout the Summit that world leaders commended Duterte and the Philippine government for being able to handle the Marawi crisis well.
In their joint statement, US President Donald Trump expressed his condolences for the loss of lives in Marawi City and vowed assistance in the rehabilitation of the war-torn city.
“President Trump expressed his condolences for the tragic loss of life in Marawi City at the hands of ISIS-affiliated terrorists, and congratulated the Armed Forces of the Philippines for its success in liberating Marawi,” the joint statement read.
Despite the commendations from his fellow leaders, Duterte revealed that nobody really won the war in Marawi, even if the Philippine government troops were able to neutralize the terrorists’ leaders.
“We fought for about four months and at the expense of the lives of many people, Christians and Muslims alike. We got nothing. Nobody won that war, not (the) government,” Duterte said in one of the related summits Sunday.
“We’re able to kill, how many? Terrorists and even…? The confict did not promote peace in this world. We were just acting on a police punitive action,” he added.
Meanwhile, Duterte also thanked his fellow world leaders and their respective governments –particularly Japan, Russia, US, and China – for their support to the Philippines during the war, and even now during the rehabilitation of Marawi.
He said that with the collection of billions of pesos of unpaid taxes, his economic advisers assured him that the government can now start laying down the foundation of the city.
With this security concern, India earlier urged the ASEAN to collaborate to effectively address the threat of terrorism and violent extremism in the region.
The statement was made by Indian Prime Minister NarendraModi during the 15th ASEAN-India Summit at the PICC on Tuesday.
Modi, in his opening remarks, assured ASEAN of India’s steady support toward achieving the rules-based regional security architecture that best attests to the region’s interest and its peaceful development.
He also said that India knows what it is like to address terrorism, urging the ASEAN countries to find a joint solution to the issue.
“We have, individually, in our own countries, tried very hard to fight terrorism and violent extremism,” Modi said.
“It is time that we jointly address this challenge by intensifying cooperation in this crucial area and find a joint solution,” he added.
Modi, meanwhile, expressed confidence that ASEAN will continue on its way as one independent community.
“On this historic occasion, I’m confident that ASEAN will further resolve to work together with one vision, one identity, and as one independent community,” he said.
The Indian Prime Minister also said that India’s Look East policy is shaped around ASEAN and ASEAN centrality in the regional security architecture of the Indo-Pacific region is evident.
“Our wide-range agenda of cooperation under the third ASEAN-India plan of action has progressed well, covering the three crucial pillars of political security, economic, and cultural partnership,” Modi said.
He also commended ASEAN for the maritime links that enabled the trade relations between India and the regional bloc to grow.
“Maritime links established thousands of years ago between India and ASEAN countries have enabled our trade relations in the past and we have to work closely together to further strengthen them,” Modi said.
President Duterte, for his part as chair of the 31st ASEAN Summit and related summits, thanked Modi for his earlier message on the 50th anniversary celebration of the regional bloc.