President Rodrigo Duterte reported a productive conclusion of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits on Tuesday, November 14, announcing landmark outcomes of the meetings during the Philippines’ hosting.
President Duterte noted the highlights of the Summit such as the start of talks for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and the signing of a Consensus on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers.
“Yesterday, during the 20th ASEAN-China Summit, we announced the start of formal negotiations on a Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” President Duterte said, announcing the negotiations on the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.
“Just a few moments ago, the other ASEAN Leaders joined me in signing the ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers – our commitment to our people.”
The President said that has graciously agreed for the crafting of a binding COC, promising unbridled freedom of overflight and navigation in the busy waterway.
The President reported that the ASEAN held successive summits with its Dialogue Partners as well as the ASEAN-led mechanisms — the ASEAN Plus Three and the East Asia Summit, noting the importance of cooperation in addressing issues that affect the peace, security, and prosperity of the region.
President Duterte also chaired and hosted the first meeting of the Leaders of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), wherein, along with other leaders, he expressed resolve to realize a substantial conclusion of negotiations on the economic instrument.
The leaders also had two business council meetings — the ASEAN Business Advisory Council and the East Asia Business Council.
“We looked at the progress of our cooperation with external partners and the future direction of ASEAN’s engagement with them, noting the importance of ASEAN centrality, and the reality that relations bear fruit if cooperation is anchored on mutual respect and benefit,” the President said.
Threats of terrorism overshadowed discussions
In the press conference, the President said the issue of terrorism loomed large in the agenda of the talks with ASEAN leaders and their dialogue partners.
“Half of the time during the interventions actually was the issue of terrorism. Everybody’s scared with the new vogue of dying just suddenly in the explosion of any… whatever,” President Duterte said.
“We vowed to work closely. We discussed it in confidential meetings. We have agreed on so many things to enhance the defense of our country.”
He said the attack in Marawi City by the ISIS-linked Maute group is a stark reminder of the risks each country face, with all the leaders mentioning the heroism of Filipino soldiers and policemen who fought the terrorists.
The rising tension in the Korean Peninsula was also a major topic for the talks, particularly in the discussions involving China and the US, the President said, adding that the region cannot afford to ignite a very disastrous war.
As the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits draw to a close, the President led the symbolic turnover of the ASEAN chairmanship to Singapore.
President Duterte also expressed his gratitude to the press who gave extensive coverage of the country’s hosting of the 31st ASEAN Summit.
“Before I close, I wish to express my appreciation to the members of the media for your coverage throughout the year of the Philippines’ Chairmanship of ASEAN,” he said.
“You have been [our] invaluable partners in raising ASEAN awareness to our peoples, particularly our hard work toward improving the lives of our peoples and in strengthening our ASEAN Community. I thank you for getting that message across to the public,” Duterte said.
With the country’s ASEAN hosting this year which coincides with the regional grouping’s 50th founding anniversary, the President said, “We are honored that world leaders joined us in celebrating ASEAN’s achievements and contributions to [regional] peace, stability, and prosperity for the past 50 years.”
The country’s hosting has a theme of “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World.” ### (PND)