By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
BALI, Indonesia–President Duterte and Indonesian President JokoWidodo are set to discuss terrorism when they meet during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Leaders’ Gathering later Thursday.
Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia Leehiong Wee told Palace reporters in a briefing that part of the initiatives of the Philippines and Indonesia would be the peace and order situation in the ASEAN region.
He said the Philippine embassy has been meeting with Indonesia in many forums in Lombok and Bali to discuss peace and order and terrorism concerns.
“We have been talking with Indonesia in many forums to help us develop the peace and order in the Philippines especially southern part of the Philippines and also the border between the seas – the Celebes Sea,” Wee said Wednesday.
He noted that terrorism in the wide Celebes Sea “has always been a problem. Althoughwe have done a lot of things to improve that.”
According to Wee, military attaches from both the Philippines and Indonesia have been meeting monthly to address the threat of the Islamic State (ISIS) in the region. There are reportedly many ISIS operators in Indonesia and Mindanao.
Duterte arrived in Bali Wednesday evening for the one-day annual ASEAN Leaders’ Gathering.
Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said President Duterte will highlight the government’s efforts to improve its performance in achieving ASEAN’s sustainable development goals.
The ASEAN Leaders’ Gathering will take place Thursday afternoon and will be immediately followed by the ASEAN Leaders’ Gathering Dinner. They will be joined by the IMF Managing Director, the World Bank President, the UN Secretary-General and the ASEAN Secretary-General.
Duterte will be joining the other leaders of ASEAN member states in showcasing ASEAN leadership and intensifying cooperation in managing economic growth to create better prosperity and equity and in delivering meaningful progress in achieving ASEAN’s goals.
Ambassador Wee said there is a slim chance that the case of convicted Filipina drug mule Mary Jane Velosowill be raised since it was already discussed during Duterte’s previous visit to Indonesia two years ago.
“Right now, we are doing what we can to make her feel comfortable,” he added
According to Wee, he will soon visit Veloso. He also assured that she is in good condition, and that her relatives are allowed to visit her.
“The Embassy is doing everything to help her out. We have lawyers to help her on the legal side, and nagbigay din tayong (we also gave) financial assistance,” he said.
“Every three or four months, the Embassy sends people to see her. In the next week or two, I will also be going there,” he added.
Veloso is on death row in Indonesia and was supposed to be executed by firing squad after being accused of drug trafficking after she was caught with 2.6 kilograms of heroin at an Indonesian airport in 2010. Veloso denied knowledge about the contraband.
In April, 2015, she was granted a last-minute reprieve after a reported phone call from former President Benigno Aquino III to the Indonesian government, saying her alleged recruiters have already surrendered to Philippine authorities.
Aside from Veloso, Wee revealed that there is another Filipina in Semarang on death row for drug charges. He gave no further details as he has yet to visit the drug suspect.
Meanwhile, the Philippines has donated US$300,000 in humanitarian assistance to Palu, Indonesia after it was hit by a deadly earthquake and tsunami two weeks ago.
The C130 carrying the assistance arrived in Palu Wednesday morning.
“We are also pleased to give 300,000 dollar for humanitarian assistance and part of what we are donating are generators, waters and medical kits as the need arises,” Wee said.
Indonesian Ambassador to the Philippines Sinyo Harry Sarundajangexpressed gratitude for the assistance extended by the Philippines to Palu.
“We’d like to thank the government and the people of the Philippines for the support,” Sarundajang said. “I’m very very happy.”
Aside from the government, the Filipino envoy said that private individuals are also extending help to Indonesia.
“There are many other private people in the Philippines that are giving donations in the Embassy of Indonesia in the Philippines,” he said.
“I learned that the ASEAN BAC (Business Advisory Council) donated US$100,000. I have friends in the Philippines that also give a lot of cash donation,” he added.
According to Wee, both the Philippines and Indonesia have enjoyed 69 fruitful years of bilateral relations. He said the neighboring countries have been helpful in terms of disaster that are happening to the two nations.
“This is a good way of a brotherly relationship between the Philippines and Indonesia,” Wee said.