As Asean chair, Duterte must be ‘neutral’
President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to be a neutral arbiter when he chairs the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit and other related meetings next month, according to Marciano Paynor, who heads the preparations for the forthcoming events.
Paynor, director general for operations of the Asean 2017 National Organizing Committee, on Tuesday said Mr. Duterte’s views as Philippine President would have to take the back seat when he acts as Asean chair.
Aside from the Asean Summit, the East Asia Summit and the Asean-European Union and Asean-Canada meetings are also expected next month.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, also attending the Asean meetings are UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, the body that defines the European Union’s political direction and priorities.
Mr. Duterte has slammed the European Union and the United Nations for expressing concern about human rights under his administration and criticism of his war on drugs.
Paynor said Mr. Duterte’s tirades against the European Union would not affect the Asean’s relationship with the 28-member bloc.
There would be a difference between Mr. Duterte’s statements as an Asean member and as chair of the regional group, Paynor said in a press briefing.
He said during bilateral meetings that Mr. Duterte could espouse fully Manila’s positions on various issues.
“But when he is chairing, that’s a totally different hat he’s wearing. He is wearing the hat representing all of Asean. And therefore, his views—country views—are in a way a little bit more subtle [and] cannot be pushed as much as he would have been able to push if he were sitting as part of the meeting, rather than the chair,” Paynor said.
“During the Asean Summit itself where he is chair, he must be seen as neutral and trying to be arbiter and put things together,” he added.
Mr. Duterte recently launched into another diatribe against the European Union when he mistakenly blamed it for warning that the Philippines could be kicked out of the United Nations because of the human rights situation in the country.
He also said the Philippines would no longer accept any aid or grant from the European Union because it was supposedly trampling on the country’s sovereignty. But palace officials said the Philippines was still open to trade with the European Union.
The President earlier also said he would not allow anybody, not even the United States, to dictate on the Philippines.
“And I will tell it straight in November in the Asean (Summit),” he said in a recent speech.
He had griped that critics of his drug war were only looking at deaths of drug suspects and not of law enforcers and other victims of the illegal narcotics trade.
Paynor said Mr. Duterte’s statements about the European Union were made as President of the Philippines.
“Therefore, it is a bilateral issue between the Philippines and the EU,” he said.
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