By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte will talk about the economy, illegal drugs, and terrorism as he embarks on a trip to Singapore on Monday, November 12, to participate in the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and related summits slated next week.
In a pre-departure briefing in Malacañang Friday morning, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary JuneverMahilum-West said the President is expected to discuss several key issues that affect the Southeast Asian region during the three-day Summit.
“The issues that are very important to us: micro, small and medium enterprises; infrastructure development because of our ‘Build, Build, Build’ program; economic integration, economic building, economic community, economic cooperation; and connectivity,” West said.
“‘Yung mga (Also included are the) non-traditional issues like countering terrorism, violent extremism, combating illicit drugs, and trafficking in persons. We would also be very interested in women and youth development, disaster management, climate change, and people-to-people exchanges,” she added.
According to West, apart from the meeting of the 10 ASEAN leaders, they will also have summits with leaders from dialogue partners in the format of the Plus One Summit, ASEAN Plus Three, and the East Asia Summit.
“They are going to meet individually with Australia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States,” she said.
“At the ASEAN Plus Three Summit, that means ASEAN 10 with the leaders of China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. And in the East Asia Summit which includes Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States,” she added.
West said the ASEAN Summit will be an opportunity for leaders to see the progress of the implementation of the ASEAN Community blueprints, and the work in moving community building forward, as well as bringing ASEAN closer to the realization of a rules-based, people-oriented, and people-centered ASEAN Community.
The related summits, on the other hand, will be an opportunity for President Duterte and other ASEAN leaders to look into the progress of ASEAN’s relations with the dialogue partners and the deepening cooperation with them on a number of priority areas.
West said four to five ASEAN leaders and dialogue partners have expressed their intentions to have a meeting with President Duterte during the Summit. She, however, refused to reveal who they are.
“Yes, there are a number of countries. But since arrangements are still being made, I think it’s better if I won’t mention them yet,” she said. “At most four to five (leaders).”
Under Singapore’s chairmanship and with the theme of Resilient and Innovative ASEAN, West said that the ASEAN Member States will take a look at developments in the ASEAN Smart Cities Network, an initiative that hopes to move forward city development, sustainable urbanization, and connectivity among the cities of ASEAN.
“We can expect engaging discussions on regional and international issues that impact on the peace, security, and overall well-being of the peoples of our region,” she said.
Among the issues that may be discussed are the Korean Peninsula, the South China Sea, the global economy, and the challenges to economic integration and to a rules-based multilateral trade system. Transnational and trans-boundary issues, such as terrorism, violent extremism, trafficking in persons, illicit drugs, climate change, and disaster management may also be discussed.
On the issue of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, West said that it can be expected that it would be discussed in certain meetings during the Summit. She assured that ASEAN is ready to answer the issue.
A number of outcome documents will be adopted, issued, and noted by the leaders at the ASEAN Summit and in the Plus One summits, the ASEAN Plus Three as well as the East Asia Summit.
The leaders will also hold the second summit on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to look into the progress in the negotiations of this very important document.
According to West, the Philippines was hoping that the RCEP would be concluded by the time of the Summit but it seems that it would still take some time.
“During the Summit, the leaders would express their commitment to conclude the negotiations because this is very important for the region, especially in view of the rising trade developments, tensions, unilateral actions, and we expect the leaders to call for the expeditious conclusion of the RCEP,” she said.
“The leaders won’t say that we will finish by this year, but will call on all parties to make sure that we have an early conclusion of the agreement,” she added.
South China Sea
The South China Sea issue as well as the developments in the Korean Peninusla are expected to be discussed during the 33rd ASEAN Summit and related summits, according to West.
“As you know, the Philippines has assumed the coordinatorship of the ASEAN-China dialogue partnership from this year until 2021, that’s a period of three years. And we are quite sure that the South China Sea, as I’ve mentioned before, would be one of those regional developments that would be taken up in the Summit. As to the detail of the discussions, I cannot say but for sure there’s going to be discussion on the South China Sea,” she said.
West also said that there is a possibility that President Duterte will get the chance to talk to Chinese President Xi Jinping at the sidelines of the Summit given the size of the venue. Xi is expected to visit the Philippines this month.
“Well, it’s a very small place, the Suntec Conference Center, so there’s always the possibility. But any meetings would have to be, of course, prepared for beforehand. So we’ll just see,” she said.
West also disclosed that US President Donald Trump will not be attending the 33rd ASEAN Summit and will be represented instead by US Vice President Mike Pence.
Russia, meanwhile, will be represented by its President Vladimir Putin. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev was the one who attended the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila last year.
“For the US, it’s going to be Vice President Mike Pence who’s going to represent President Donald Trump. And we have been advised that it’s President Putin of Russia who will be attending,” West said.