BANGKOK, Thailand — President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s attendance at the 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit will give him an opportunity to follow through with the Philippine advocacies when the country chaired the ASEAN Summit in 2017, Philippine Ambassador to Thailand Mary Jo Bernardo-Aragon said Thursday.
“This is an opportunity for us to follow through with the advocacies that we have enumerated in our chairmanship of ASEAN in 2017,” the ambassador said during an interview.
“One of those priorities in 2017 was our advocacy in protecting the welfare and interest of migrant workers in the ASEAN community. So, of course, this will be to our interest that we follow through with that…and fully implemented within the ASEAN region.”
The protection of migrant Filipino workers is one of President Duterte’s major advocacies and has worked to include workers within the ASEAN region, Ambassador Bernardo-Aragon said, noting this is a key pillar of Philippine foreign policy.
Being a major labor exporter, the Philippine government continues to be in touch with overseas Filipino workers to ensure their welfare and protect their rights.
Aside from workers’ welfare, the President’s attendance at the summit will create renewed push on the sustainability of the ASEAN community, according to Ambassador Bernardo-Aragon.
“So our participation in all ASEAN summits, especially at the level of the summit…the leaders’ summit is an extremely important opportunity for us to be part of developing an ASEAN community that is people-oriented, people-centered…that will uplift the lives, the livelihood of all the people in the region and wherein no one is left behind,” she said.
And what is important here is to be able to sustain the economic and social development of the people, she added.
A cohesive ASEAN community will benefit Filipinos because, as the ASEAN progresses, the regional grouping envisions borderless movement of people who seek employment opportunities in different ASEAN countries, she stressed.
Describing the Philippine-Thailand relations, Ambassador Bernardo-Aragon said the relationship is “very warm and close,” noting trade ties between the two countries have been increasing.
“And last year, it has reached the level of over $10 billion. And we are happy to host several top Thai companies in the Philippines and there are also several Philippine companies that are based here in Thailand,” she said.
Filipinos are preferred by the Thais considering their skills in different areas. Many Filipinos in Thailand are professionals who are employed mostly in international organizations, hotels, entertainment industry, and foreign companies. Many also work as English teachers.
This year, the two countries are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations when the Treaty of Friendship was signed in Washington D.C. on June 14, 1949. ### (PND)