Aquino to push for support for peace process, economic and political ties at 9th Asem summit

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President Benigno Aquino III MALACAÑANG PHOTO BUREAU

MANILA Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III will be pushing for firm support of the development of Bangsamoro and enhanced economic and political ties with European leaders when he attends the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem9) in Vientiane, Laos early next month.

In a statement Wednesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Aquino would be in Vientiane, Laos from November 5 and 6 to attend the summit, his first since he took office.

“The President’s attendance signals the Philippines’ renewed focus on Europe and reaffirms the importance of the region as an economic and political partner,” it said.

Asem, the DFA noted, is the only forum where top leaders from Europe and Asia engage one another to discuss international issues of common concern and to formulate mutually beneficial cooperation on a region-to-region basis. It said that the Philippines was a founding partner of Asem. Norway, Switzerland, and Bangladesh will be admitted into the forum at the Asem9 in Vientiane, it said.

“Under the theme ‘Friends for Peace, Partners for Prosperity,’ Asem Leaders will exchange views on a wide range of issues, such as the Eurozone crisis, trade and investments, energy and food security, disaster management, counter-terrorism, migration, and regional issues,” it said.

It said that the summit came at a time when there was strong political cooperation between the Philippines and Europe, citing how the country’s European partners were among the first to express support for the PH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

“The President will seize the opportunity provided by Asem to engage relevant European partners in order to firm up support for the development of the Bangsamoro,” it said.

It added that the European Union (EU) is a member of the International Monitoring Team of the PH-MILF peace process, while the United Kingdom is part of the International Contact Group.

It said that during the summit, Aquino would highlight the Philippines’ accomplishments in good governance and inclusive growth, and would call for an enhanced Asia-Europe economic partnership in the face of global economic and financial uncertainties.

The DFA noted that Europe was the country’s third largest trade partner after North America and Asia. In 2011, trade with Europe amounted to about $13 billion accounting for about 12% of the country’s total trade to the world.

Aquino, it said, would also underscore the importance of upholding the rights of migrant workers, especially at a time of socio-economic difficulties in a number of European host countries.

It noted that based on statistics, around 746,701 Filipinos were living in Europe and that high demand for highly-skilled Filipino workers remained in countries like Germany, Norway, and Switzerland. It added that 25% of Filipino seafarers abroad were employed by European-flagged vessels.

“A new Philippine initiative on disaster management will also be announced at the summit,” it added.

Bilateral meetings with European leaders set

Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Buensuceso of the Office of European Affairs, in a separate statement, noted that at the sidelines of the summit, Aquino would also be conducting bilateral meetings with counterparts from the European Council, European Commission, Italy, Norway, Poland and Switzerland.

She said that in his meetings with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Aquino would discuss the country’s progress in addressing the EU’s concern on our maritime training and certification system as well as compliance with air safety standards.

She said that the meeting with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, meanwhile, would cover enhancing bilateral relations in the area of defense and finance. Aquino would also discuss with Norwegian Prime Minister Jen Stoltenberg Norway’s continued role in the peace process and strengthening bilateral maritime and labor cooperation.

Aquino’s dialogue with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk would explore opportunities for cooperation in the areas of defense and higher education.

She added that Aquino would also hold a meeting with Swiss President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf on issues such as the Human Rights Compensation Bill, cooperation in disaster risk reduction and management, and economic cooperation.

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