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Aquino arrives in California for US-ASEAN summit

/ 06:46 AM February 16, 2016

Rancho Mirage, California — President Benigno Aquino III touched down at the Palm Springs International Airport at 9:01 a.m. Monday (1:01 a.m., Tuesday, Feb. 16, in Manila) to attend the first summit between the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as strategic partners.

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The gathering, to be held at the Sunnylands estate, is expected to discuss the South China Sea disputes and to tackle ways to boost trade following ASEAN’s decision to integrate its members’ economies. The leaders will also discuss terrorism and transnational issues.

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr. and Consul General Leo Herrera Lim welcomed President Aquino upon his arrival.

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Mr. Aquino is expected to arrive at the Sunnylands estate, the venue for the two-day summit, at 3 p.m. Monday afternoon (7 a.m., Tuesday, Feb. 16, Manila time), where he will be welcomed by US President Barack Obama.

For this day, the summit will tackle the promotion of an innovative, entrepreneurial ASEAN economic community.

It will be followed by a working dinner on the regional strategic outlook.

Joining Mr. Aquino in his US trip are outgoing Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, Trade Secretary Adrian Cristobal, Jr., National Economic and Development Authority chief Emmanuel Esguerra, Climate Change Commission chief Emmanuel De Guzman, and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation chair Cristino Naguiat.

President Aquino will talk about his continued commitment to the peace process in the Philippines, which he called the country’s contribution to staving off extremism and maintaining stability in the region.

He expressed his continuing support for the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, a key component of his government’s peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, despite its non-passage in the Philippine Congress, believing it would be the best path to forging peace in Mindanao. (Many lawmakers and constitutional experts in the Philippines believe that the original draft BBL is full of unconstitutional provisions and would enable the MILF to secede.)

The US and ASEAN have strengthened their relationship by deciding to become strategic partners last November.

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The team-up is expected to last beyond the soon-to -conclude term of Obama, who initiated the US’ pivot to Asia early on in his presidency.

The Philippines is counting on the US to help maintain security and stability in the region.

It has sought stronger ties with the US, especially with the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that will allow American forces access to Philippine bases.  SFM

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