PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is set to raise issues “close to his heart” at the 32nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Singapore next week.
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for ASEAN Affairs Maria Hellen dela Vega said yesterday that Duterte will be joining a working dinner on April 27 and the Leaders’ Retreat the following day.
“On the part of the Philippines, the President would address issues that are close to his heart, especially matters that affect the well-being of the peoples of our region,” Dela Vega said at a press briefing in Malacañang.
“He will work with other leaders in putting an imprint towards the realization of ASEAN Vision 2025 by identifying and prioritizing initiatives that will move forward action lines in the political, security, economic and socio-cultural communities,” she added.
She said Duterte will particularly work on the deliverables of the Philippines’ chairmanship last year, including the ASEAN consensus on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers and the ASEAN declaration on the role of civil service as a catalyst to realize the ASEAN Vision 2025, and other declarations that focus on the overall health of the citizens of the region.
Singapore has chosen the theme of a resilient and innovative ASEAN, thus focus “will be on ways to make use of innovation and technology to improve the lives of our people,” according to the DFA official.
“Singapore will be introducing initiatives along this line, including one that will move forward city development, sustainable urbanization and connectivity among ASEAN cities,” Dela Vega said.
Also up for discussion by the 10-member bloc are transnational and trans-boundary issues such as terrorism, violent extremism, trafficking in persons, illicit drugs, disaster management, and the developments in the South China Sea.
“We can anticipate that the leaders will be tackling regional and global issues that impact on the peace and security of our region, as well as on current developments that now pose a challenge to economic integration and the promotion of a free, fair and rules-based trading regime,” Dela Vega said.
She added that two ASEAN leaders, which she declined to identify at the moment, have expressed interest in holding meetings with Duterte on the sidelines of the biannual summit.
A meeting between Duterte and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is also being worked out in hopes to get the latter’s “thoughts and his sentiments about the chairmanship so we can also help, support Singapore,” Dela Vega said.
Duterte may also touch base with the thousands of Filipinos living and working in the city state.
The April summit will be exclusive to Southeast Asia leaders with dialogue partners such as the United States, European Union, and China expected to take part in November.
In April last year, Duterte opened the 30th ASEAN Summit in Manila with an appeal for non-interference in member states’ internal affairs.
He emphasized how the ASEAN was founded based on mutual respect for independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, and non-interference.
Duterte — who has been criticized domestically and internationally for his anti-drug campaign that has seen thousands of drug suspects either get killed or jailed — also raised the problems on illegal drugs and migrant labor.
The Philippines’ chairmanship coincided with the 50th founding anniversary of the association.