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Duterte to attend 34th ASEAN Summit in Thailand

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President Rodrigo Duterte will be among the 10 state leaders expected to attend the 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit on June 22 and 23 in Bangkok, Thailand.

In a pre-departure briefing, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Junever Mahilum-West confirmed that Duterte will make his third visit to Thailand accompanied by at least seven secretaries.

The Cabinet secretaries who will join the President include Teodoro Locsin Jr. of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ramon Lopez of Trade and Industry, Rolando Bautista of Social Welfare and Development, Carlos Dominguez III of Finance, Arthur Tugade of Transportation, Bernadette Romulo-Puyat of Tourism, and Emmanuel Piñol of Agriculture, according to Mahilum-West.

Duterte’s last visit to Thailand was in March 2017 to meet Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during his two-day state visit to the country.

Mahilum-West said there will be four important events for the Philippines during the summit, namely the summit plenary, the gala dinner for leaders, the leaders retreat, and the 13th Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) summit.

During the plenary session on June 22, she said leaders will discuss ASEAN community building under the “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability” and there will be a retreat of the leaders during which they will exchange views on ASEAN’s external relations and the way forward and significant regional and international issues.

Sixteen outcome documents are expected to be signed during the summit, four of which are to be adopted by the ASEAN state leaders, Mahilum-West said.

These include the Asean Leaders Vision on Partnership for Sustainability, the Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris in the Asean region, the Asean Leaders Statement on Asean Cultural Year for 2019, and one on Asean Indo-Pacific Outlook.

South China Sea issues Mahilum-West confirmed that South China Sea issues will be among the topics in the summit agenda.

“Under the agenda item, regional and international developments, South China Sea will be on the agenda and the leaders are going to exchange views on this issue,” Mahilum-West said.

However, she said it was “premature” to say that the Philippines may bring up the Recto Bank (Reed Bank) incident in the West Philippine Sea where a Chinese vessel allegedly rammed and later abandoned a Filipino fishing boat on June 9.

Mahilum-West said government is still waiting for investigation results on the incident from both the Philippine and Chinese authorities.

“On the agenda would be regional and international developments under which the South China Sea could fall but also there are pending major factors that we have to wait for. For one thing, there is this investigation that’s ongoing that up to the present discloses certain facts we did not know before,” Mahilum-West said.

“Also, we lodged a strong protest with China and we are awaiting China’s response to this. So, in the meantime that these major factors are pending, I think it would be premature of me to say that we will raise the issue at this summit,” she added.

The DFA official, meanwhile, emphasized the importance of having a Code of Conduct in resolving issues such as the Recto Bank incident.

Duterte is also expected to have a “couple” of bilateral talks with other ASEAN leaders, she said.

Mahilum-West, meanwhile, expressed hope that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will be concluded within the year.

RCEP is envisioned to be the world’s largest free trade pact, accounting for 48 percent of the world’s total market and 30 percent of global gross domestic product and trade.

“We hesitate now to say that we conclude it by the summit, a definite deadline, because when we don’t meet the deadline then our credibility is a little bit questioned so by this year, we hope that RCEP would be concluded,” she said.

However, the DFA official said she has no knowledge of a scheduled meeting between Duterte and the Philippine community as the President has a “hectic schedule.”

“I haven’t heard of any FilCom meeting being arranged because of the hectic schedule because aside from the summit meetings we also have the bilateral meetings to arrange,” she said. (PNA)

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