Duterte urges heightened Asean commitment vs drugs, terror, crime
VIENTIANE – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) must have a firmer commitment to stamp out the narcotics trade, terrorism and other cross-border crimes to ensure development in the region.
President Rodrigo Duterte delivered this message on Tuesday night to senior business leaders during the Asean Business and Investment Summit, one of the related conferences being held on the sidelines of the three-day 29th Asean summit.
Reading a prepared speech, the President underscored the importance of enhanced cooperation in curbing transnational crimes to enable the 10-member organization to “confidently play its rightful role as a global player contributing to the economic growth and prosperity.”
Duterte, who earned global notoriety for his controversial take-no-prisoner policy against illegal drugs, deviated from his usual profanity-laced speeches as he urged business leaders to take a more active role in regional development.
“The trade (of) illegal drugs, in particular, has emerged as a pressing problem for our countries undermining social cohesion and the rule of law and socio-economic program of a country,” the President said in his seven-minute speech.
“Asean needs stronger resolve and action to combat transnational crime, one of the most difficult and complex problems that we face in the region and a pressing concern for the Philippines,” he told the gathering at Muong Thanh Luxury Hotel.
Duterte, who caused international stir for his verbal outburst against US President Barack Obama before flying here on Monday, said terrorism would only stunt economic progress in the region of 625 million people.
Amid the continued security threats from terrorist organizations, he said the Asean should come together “in concert to ensure that the economic gains we made so far will advance at full speed.”
“We shall not be cowed. We will press on. We must redouble our efforts to concentrate on intelligence gathering, prevention, interdiction, arrest and prosecution,” he said.
Facing allegations of human rights abuses arising from his administration’s war on drugs, the President stressed that he put “great importance on how laws are crafted and implemented to bring good governance and order.”
Duterte, a former state prosecutor, said a country’s legal system should “provide an enabling environment for the country’s progress and prosperity.”
In his debut in the international stage, the President pointed out four important factors which the Asean should do to attain the regional bloc’s aim to become a global player.
First, he said the Asean should effectively enforce the previous agreements crafted since its founding in 1967, among them improved economic integration between member-states.
Said Duterte: “On the part of the Philippines, our economic focus will be towards the promotion of inclusive growth through innovation in four areas–micro, small and medium enterprises, e-commerce, youth and women entrepreneurship.”
“It certainly took to an immense amount of effort and compromise as member-states shared their commitment and political resolve to accommodate and reconcile national interest with the regional the aspiration of one nation Asean community,” he added.
Next, he said the Asean should work for faster growth and integration through the sub-regional cooperation frameworks such as the Greater Mekong Sub-Region, the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle and the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
The President said his administration would make use of the BIMP-EAGA to promote development in Mindanao and the Visayas by speeding up government spending on public infrastructures like national roads and bridges.
He said the Philippine government would also work on expanding the roll on/roll off sea ferries servicing the Davao-General Santos and Bitung in Indonesia route.
Third, the President said the Asean should promote the development of micro, small, medium enterprises and “look for all ways to connect them in the countries of the Asean and the world.”
“We will work on enhancing the policy and regulatory environment providing an affordable and innovative digital platform and accessing best practices and financial resources,” he said.
Lastly, the Chief Executive said the regional bloc should work with other nations “in a robust way in economic sphere.” CDG
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