16 Feb 2016

President Aquino arrives in California for special U.S.-ASEAN Summit
(RANCHO MIRAGE, California) President Benigno S. Aquino III has arrived in Palm Springs to a red carpet welcome to attend the US-ASEAN Summit, a meeting between US President Barack Obama and Southeast Asian leaders.

Philippine Airlines chartered plane carrying President Aquino and a lean Philippine delegation landed at Palm Springs International Airport at 9:01 a.m., Monday (February 15). (Manila is 16 hours ahead of California.)

President Aquino were welcomed at the airport by a Senior Protocol from the US State Department, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia, Jr. and Consul General Leo Herrera Lim.

Cabinet secretaries accompanying the President to the summit include Albert Del Rosario (Foreign Affairs), Cesar Purisima (Finance), Voltaire Gazmin (Defense), Adrian Cristobal, Jr. (Trade), Emmanuel Esguerra (NEDA), Herminio Coloma, Jr. (Communications), Jose Rene Almendras, and Emmanuel De Guzman (Climate Change Commission).

The US-ASEAN Summit is the first standalone meeting held in the United States. It will take place at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, where US President Obama hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping in June 2013.

Later in the afternoon, President Aquino will attend the first retreat session of US-ASEAN Summit on the theme of “Promoting an Innovative, Entrepreneural ASEAN Economic Community.” It will be followed by his attendance to the working dinner hosted by President Obama.

On February 16 (Tuesday), President Aquino will participate in the second retreat session of the Summit under the topic “Protecting Peace, Prosperity, and Security in the Asia-Pacific.” Then he will join his counterparts for the official family photo opportunity.

After the summit, President Aquino will head to Los Angeles for a working visit, where he will receive three major American companies and will address the Los Angeles World Affairs Council (LAWAC) at the Intercontinental Hotel.

President Aquino will also take the opportunity to greet the members of the Filipino-American community in Los Angeles before flying back to Manila on February 17. PND (co)

Philippine envoy cites importance of US-ASEAN summit to Ph
(RANCHO MIRAGE, California) President Benigno Aquino III’s presence in the special summit between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United States will show the Philippines’ solidarity with the other ASEAN leaders in promoting regional stability, a Philippine ambassador said.

In an interview with Radio Television Malacañang (RTVM), Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr. underscored the importance of the President’s attendance to the summit, which will be the first meeting of the ASEAN leaders with US President Barack Obama since both sides elevated relationship to strategic partnership.

“The summit is an opportunity for leaders of the ASEAN and the US to have candid conversations about issues of mutual concern. It is an important step for the leaders to substantiate their strategic partnership between the US and ASEAN,” said Cuisia.

More to the point, the summit underscores the central role of ASEAN in ensuring stability and prosperity in the region. As a member of ASEAN, the Philippines appreciates the significance of a summit in the development of a regional framework,” he added.

He noted that a summit reaffirms the commitment of the US to continue playing a key role in ensuring the regional security architecture for the 21st century.

President Aquino along with his lean delegation led by outgoing Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario arrived here today (February 15) for the two-day special summit.

The summit is described as “unprecedented” since it will be the first time Obama will be meeting all ASEAN leaders on US soil.

Among the agenda of the summit include the South China Sea, trade, climate change and counterterrorism.

Ambassador Cuisia, meanwhile, underscored that the bilateral relations between the Philippines and the US “have never been better.”

“As we mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of Philippine-US relations, we highlight the durability, comprehensiveness, and dynamism of our ties. We have always been supportive of the rebalance to Asia-Pacific policy of the United States as it is an opportunity to deepen further our alliance in various areas of cooperation,” he said.

He said the Philippines intends to be a reliable and responsible ally with the US as both countries have reaffirmed commitment to jointly address maritime security, climate change, and violent extremism, among others.

“Our defense and security arrangement has never been stronger and nor more focused,” he said.

He further noted that the Philippines cooperation with the US in the area of maritime security and maritime domain awareness has actively contributed to the security and stability of the region.

He said the recent approval of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement “will further strengthen our alliance and this will help us in expanding further our capability and it will also help us in our defense modernization efforts.”

Cuisia likewise said the Philippines has likewise expanded its relations with the US in terms of the bilateral economic engagement.

“US is the second largest source of inward tourism, and the US is also the third largest in terms of foreign direct investments in the Philippines,” he said.

He noted that the positive transformation of the Philippine economy as a result of the reform agenda undertaken by the government of President Aquino has made the Philippines a stronger and more attractive partner, economic partner of the US.

He said the Philippines is also working to further enhance economic relations with the US by joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is also likely to be discussed in the summit.

“We are not yet a member of but we hope that with the support of the US and other countries that are presently members of TPP, we will eventually become a member of TPP,” he said.

In the field of development cooperation, Cuisia said the Millennium Challenge Corporation Board selected the Philippines for a second compact.

“As you know, we will be completing the first compact in May and that has helped our efforts in terms of poverty reduction, inclusive growth, infrastructure development, and battling corruption. We hope that the second compact will allow us to leverage on the gains that we have achieved in the first compact,” he said. PND (jb)

U.S. President Obama seeks stronger partnership with ASEAN nations
(RANCHO MIRAGE, California) United States President Barack Obama has reiterated his country’s commitment to build a “strong and enduring” partnership with the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Donning a suit without a tie, President Obama welcomed the ASEAN leaders one by one at the Annenberg Retreat in Sunnylands here for the two-day special summit.

In his remarks during the opening of the ASEAN-US Summit on Monday (Tuesday in Manila), Obama said he was looking forward to having a fruitful meeting with the ASEAN leaders as they discuss various issues such as trade, commerce, innovation, entrepreneurship, maritime security, terrorism, climate change, human rights, and resolving disputes in the region through peaceful and legal means.

“Economic growth that is inclusive, creating opportunity for all; mutual security and the peaceful resolution of disputes; human dignity, including respect for human rights, and development that is sustainable — that is our vision. That’s what brings us here together today,” he told the ASEAN heads of state, among them Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III.

He said his engagement with ASEAN leaders is part of the US’ goal to play “a larger and long-term role” in the Asia Pacific amid “urgent threats” confronting the world.

Obama noted that as part of his administration’s aim of deepening partnership with the ASEAN nations, he has met with the leaders of the ASEAN seven times, more than any former US presidents had ever made.

These meetings have led to the elevation of the partnership between the ASEAN and the US to a strategic level, which was sealed during the ASEAN Summit in November last year.

“Our sustained engagement is delivering concrete results that benefit all of us — momentum that we can build on here at this summit,” the US President said.

Obama urged ASEAN leaders to continue “to increase the trade and economic partnerships that create jobs and opportunity for our people”.

He cited the 55 percent increase in trade between the US and ASEAN nations during his administration.

The ASEAN, he said, is currently the fourth largest goods trading partner of the US, which has generated more than 500,000 jobs for Americans.

“US companies have been the largest source of foreign investment in ASEAN — one of the many reasons that the region’s GDP has surged in recent years, lifting people from poverty into the middle class,” he said.

He said he expects leaders at the summit to build on the progress of ASEAN integration and do more to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth.

Obama likewise rallied ASEAN leaders to work together in increasing security cooperation.

He said that in recent years, the US has increased maritime security assistance to its allies and partners in the region, “improving our mutual capabilities to protect lawful commerce and to respond to humanitarian crisis”.

“Here at this summit, we can advance our shared vision of a regional order where international rules and norms, including freedom of navigation, are upheld and where disputes are resolved through peaceful, legal means,” he stressed.

On the Trans-Pacific Partnership, in which the Philippines has expressed intention of joining, Obama noted that Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei “have committed to high labor and environmental standards”.

Obama likewise underscored the need to address transnational challenges, citing the attack in Jakarta last month that left two civilians dead.

“The scourge of terrorism demands that we stay vigilant, share more information and work cooperatively to protect our people,” he said.

Following the recent signing of climate change agreement in Paris, Obama called on ASEAN nations to implement the accord and “step up investment in clean, affordable energy, including for developing countries”.

On a lighter note, Obama revealed why he decided to hold the special summit in Sunnylands and not in Washington, where his usual meetings with world leaders are held.

“You and the people of ASEAN have always shown me extraordinary hospitality, and I hope we can reciprocate with the warmth today and tomorrow — which is why I did not hold this summit in Washington. It is cold there. It’s snowing. So, welcome to beautiful, warm Sunnylands,” he said.

In response to Obama’s statement, Lao President Choummaly Sayasone, who is the chairman of this year’s ASEAN, committed to ensure that the ASEAN’s strategic partnership with the US “will bring about fruitful results”.

“This ASEAN-US Special Summit is providing us an excellent opportunity to exchange our views and also provide direction for our officials in order to implement the outcome of previous ASEAN-US Summit in view of further strengthening our strategic partnership for the promotion of durable peace, stability, and prosperity for the future benefits of our nations and peoples,” he said.

“I firmly believe that our deliberation in the summit will also be crowned with the great success,” he added. PND (jb)

President Aquino underscores importance of upholding the rule of law in resolving territorial disputes
(RANCHO MIRAGE, California) President Benigno S. Aquino III has underscored the importance of upholding the rule of law in resolving the territorial disputes in the South China Sea on the first day of the US-ASEAN Leaders Summit here.

US President Barack Obama is hosting the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for a special summit at Sunnylands, the historic Annenberg estate where Obama held a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in June 2013.

The US-ASEAN Summit commenced Monday, February 15. (California is 16 hours behind Manila.)

The summit is divided into two sessions covering the following topics: promoting an innovative, entrepreneurial ASEAN Economic Community; and protecting peace, prosperity, and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The leaders exchanged views during a retreat that focused on promoting regional prosperity through innovation and entrepreneurship and continued their discussions over a working dinner,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said, quoting the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on the highlights of the first day of the summit.

At the working dinner where the main topic was on the regional strategic outlook, Secretary Coloma said President Aquino “spoke on the importance of upholding the rule of law and peaceful resolution of disputes in the region.”

In their discussions, Coloma said President Obama and the ASEAN leaders expressed “collective concern over continued militarization in the South China Sea, which they recognized as a core issue in region.”

“There was also concern expressed over unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the region through island building, construction activities and test flights. In this regard, the crucial importance of freedom of navigation and overflight was highlighted,” he said.

The importance of ASEAN solidarity and centrality and close cooperation and consultation in upholding regional peace and stability was also emphasized during their discussions, according to Secretary Coloma.

“It was established that ASEAN should speak with one voice to ensure that all parties modify their behavior to conform with the rule of law and ensure the preservation of status quo,” he said.

“It was noted that this remains crucial for promoting respect for international law and norms for the management of regional tensions and in building regional security architecture,” he added.

China is asserting ownership of almost the whole South China Sea. The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, as well as Taiwan, also have overlapping claims in the disputed area.

Also during the US-ASEAN meeting, Secretary Coloma said the seriousness of the North Korean issue was discussed, as well as the developments in the Middle East, the Syrian conflict and efforts to combat violent extremism.

“The Leaders discussed ways to strengthen protection against digital recruitment of terrorism. They also expressed their strong views that the building of nuclear arsenal in North Korea is destabilizing and called for North Korea to denuclearize,” he said.

Moreover, Coloma said US President Obama and the ASEAN leaders were confident of closer ASEAN-US cooperation in areas of common endeavor, such as maritime security, economic engagement and people-to-people ties.

In his brief remarks at the opening of the US-ASEAN Leaders Summit, US President Obama described the landmark gathering on US soil a reflection of his commitment to a strong and enduring partnership with Southeast Asian nations.

This is the first time that the leaders of ASEAN countries are meeting in the United States. The aim of the summit was to deepen US engagement with Southeast Asian nations.

The ASEAN, established in August 1967, groups Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. PND (co)

President Aquino in Los Angeles for a working visit
(LOS ANGELES, California) President Benigno S. Aquino III arrived in Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday afternoon for a two-day working visit following his participation to the US-ASEAN Leaders Summit.

President Aquino left Palm Springs International Airport after attending the special summit hosted by US President Barack Obama with leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the Sunnyland’s Estate in Rancho Mirage.

On Tuesday morning (February 16), the President attended the second retreat session themed “Protecting Peace, Prosperity, and Security in the Asia-Pacific.” He also joined a family photo opportunity with other world leaders. (California is 16 hours behind Manila)

While in Los Angeles, President Aquino will participate in a series of business meetings with the top executives of Walt Disney International, Western Digital Corporation, and AECOM’s Enterprise Growth Solutions.

After the meetings, the President will deliver a speech before the Los Angeles World Affairs Council (LAWAC) to discuss “the growing tension between the Philippines and China over sovereignty issues in the South China Sea.”

The Chief Executive will also speak about “the new defense agreement between Manila and Washington, security in East Asia, and the future for economic growth in the Philippines and its neighbors in South East Asia.”

Founded in 1953, the LAWAC is a non-partisan and non-profit organization that seeks to promote greater understanding of current global issues by inviting authoritative and influential speakers.

Tomorrow (February 17), President Aquino will meet and greet the members of the Filipino community in Los Angeles. The Chief Executive will return to Manila after his meeting with the Filipino community. PND (co)

Aquino calls on international community, including China, to abide by the decision of the U.N. tribunal on South China Sea
(LOS ANGELES, California) President Benigno S. Aquino III has called on the entire international community, including China, “to demonstrate respect for the rule of law by abiding by the decision of the UN arbitral tribunal” on the case filed by the Philippines over disputed territories in the South China Sea.

Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said President Aquino issued the statement during the second retreat session of the US-ASEAN Summit on the theme, “Protecting Peace, Prosperity, and Security in the Asia-Pacific”.

The second retreat session of the summit, which took place at the Sunnylands Estate in Rancho Mirage, was participated in by US President Barack Obama and ASEAN leaders on Tuesday morning (Wednesday in Manila).

The ASEAN is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations composed of 10 member countries namely, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

On Tuesday, President Aquino brought up the maritime dispute with China during the US-ASEAN Summit retreat.

“On the occasion of this important gathering, where we must collectively address the challenges we face together, it is essential that ASEAN shall resolve in promoting a rules-based regime for the resolution of disputes and management of tensions in the region,” the President said.

“In this regard, confronted with the common challenges in the South China Sea, it is crucial that ASEAN collectively and in a unified voice urge all countries to share with us full respect for the rule of law,” the Chief Executive said.

“For this purpose, it is especially important that we all commit to abide by the decision of the arbitral tribunal. In this manner, we will avoid chaos in our relations and ensure greater stability, predictability, and security,” he added.

Last year, the United Nations arbitral tribunal at The Hague ruled that it has jurisdiction over the maritime dispute between China and the Philippines involving parts of the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

China claims sovereignty over almost the whole of the South China Sea.

The Philippines filed a case in 2013 and called for the UN arbitral tribunal to rule on the dispute. China has refused to take part in the hearing before the Permanent Court of Arbitration. PND (co)