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Terror threat, drugs main Summit agenda

Violent extremism and drug trafficking, two key problems that President Duterte had focus on, top the agenda of the two-day Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit, Mr. Duterte said yesterday.

“Terrorism and violent extremism endanger the peace, stability and security of our region because these threats know no boundaries,” he said.
Speaking before Asean heads of states and dialog partners at the annual summit’s opening rites at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Mr. Duterte said that which appears to be his country’s issues are also vital concerns of the region that should be confronted by the regional bloc.

Mr. Duterte did not mention in his speech about tensions between Asean member states and China on overlapping maritime claims in the South China Sea.
Unlike his speech during the Asean Leaders’summit last April, Mr. Duterte did not raise concerns like “territorial integrity”or “non-interference.”
The Asean chairman said that terrorism and illegal drugs, the usual topic of his domestic speaking engagements, should be the ones zeroed in during this summit.
“I only want to emphasize that our meetings for the next two days present an excellent opportunity for us to engage in meaningful discussion on matters of regional and international importance,” Mr. Duterte said.
Mr. Duterte stressed his government’s recent victory over Islamic State (IS)-inspired uprising that attempted to take over Marawi City in a nearly five-long bloody siege that resulted in more than a thousand lives lost.
Mr. Duterte expressed his gratitude to Asian neighbors for backing the Philippines’ bid against Islamist terrorism.
“Less than a month ago, Philippine government forces liberated the city of Marawi from terrorist groups who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Resolute, we are now in the process of helping people back on their feet to reclaim their lives,” the President said.
“We thank our international partners for providing assistance in dealing with the situation in Marawi City. Our Asean brothers provided support by sending relief items for the benefit of the internally displaced persons while others provided valuable assistance and bolstered our military campaign,” he added.
Strengthening his reputation as an anti-narcotics crusader, Mr. Duterte pointed anew the need for a common regional action against the narcotics trade.
“The menace of illegal drug trade continues to endanger the very fabric of our societies,” he said.
“These and other issues are high on the agenda of our meetings along with the other non-traditional security issues that challenge the prosperity of our economies, the integrity of our institutions, and more importantly, the safety of our people,” the regional bloc chairman emphasized.
Meanwhile, Mr. Duterte pointed out that he looks forward to push for the “pursuit of innovation for (Asean) economies.”
CoC tack awaited
Asean leaders are also awaiting China’s position on proposed negotiations to craft a Code of Conduct (CoC) in dealing with each other over matters regarding the South China Sea.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, who witnessed the Asean Leaders’ plenary meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), relayed to reporters that regional leaders are anticipating China’s official announcement marking the beginning of the negotiations.
The announcement will be done after the Asean-China meeting which, based on the draft statement obtained by some reporters, was described as an “important milestone.”
The regional bloc’s statement said that Asean leaders “have agreed to officially commence” with China after more than a year of discussions regarding the matter.
Asean heads of state said they are looking forward to “continue this positive momentum and work towards a substantive and effective CoC.”
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull lauded Mr. Duterte’s manner of handling national and regional concerns regarding the South China Sea during their bilateral meeting on Sunday evening.
A Palace press release said “Mr. Turnbull praised the President for his stance in the South China Sea issue.”
Australia, along with Japan and the United States, supported Asean and China’s CoC initiative to avoid “coercive unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions” last August during the regional foreign ministers’ summit in Manila.
Migrant protection pact set
Member states of the Asean are expected to ratify today a landmark document that would beef up efforts to protect and promote rights of migrant workers, Mr. Duterte announced.
In his speech during the opening ceremony of the 31st Asean Summit, Duterte said that Asean leaders have agreed to sign the document, dubbed as the “Asean Consensus,” centered on social protection for migrant workers.
“I will be joining other Asean leaders tomorrow in signing this landmark document that would strengthen social protection, access to justice, humane and fair treatment, and access to health services for our people,” Duterte said.
The agreement will finally be ratified after ministers of the Asean Socio-Cultural Community Council (ASCC) endorsed the consensus which aims to solve issues surrounding labour migration last September 13.
In the consensus, Asean leaders will agree to implement the Asean Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers also signed in the Philippines a decade ago.
According to the ASCC, “the many years of tireless negotiations have brought to fore many issues surrounding labor migration and enabled member states to better understand one another and work out solutions toward better protection and promotion of rights of our migrant workers.”
For the rest of the summit, Duterte said Asean leaders will be focusing at community-building and cooperation that would steer the association’s direction in the Asean Plus Three and the East Asia Summit.
Duterte said the summit will also tackle health, women and the youth, terrorism, radicalization and violent extremism, trafficking, poverty alleviation, food security, coastal and marine environment, and the pursuit of innovation for economies, among others.
“It has been a pleasure to work with our Asean family and our dialog partners in moving the Asean community forward in enhancing cooperation in various areas,” Duterte said, adding this is all for the realization of the Asean 2025 vision.
Aside from Asean leaders, among those present during the opening ceremony were Vice President Leni Robredo former presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and other members of the Senate and the cabinet.
Julius N. Leonen

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