Cambodian PM Hun Sen arrives in PH for Asean Summit
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen arrived in the Philippines on Saturday in time for the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit and Related Summits.
Sen arrived at 1:26 p.m. at the Clark International Airport in Pampanga. He was welcomed by Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana and former president and now Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
He was also welcomed by the following local government officials: Mabalacat City Mayor Cris Garbo; Angeles City Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan; Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda; Clark International Airport President and CEO Alex Caugiran; and Bases Conversion Development Authority President Vince Dizon.
Sen was the first leader to arrive in the country for the Summit. He was welcomed in a Filipino feast-like ceremony with 2,000 children wearing Filipiniana attire and performing traditional dance.
The strongman, who has served as Cambodia’s PM for more than 30 years, arrived at the Clark Freeport Zone to meet President Rodrigo Duterte and other Asean leaders in the next three days in different venues in Manila.
The Philippines is the chairman of this year’s Asean Summit, which coincides with the regional bloc’s 50th anniversary.
Duterte met with Hun Sen in April during the sidelines of the 30th Asean Summit and in December last year during his state visit to Cambodia. The two leaders inked four bilateral agreements on anti-transnational crime, tourism, labor protection, and sports.
Sen has commended Duterte for standing up against Western countries and even cited the Filipino leader in Cambodian government’s crackdown against illegal drugs.
The prime minister has been in power since 1985, making him the world’s longest-serving prime minister. He was last reelected in 2013 for another five-year term amid allegations of fraud.
Cambodia is a known ally of China, which claims a large part of the South China Sea, including areas within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. It reportedly blocked efforts to mention in Asean statements the ruling of the international arbitral tribunal on a petition filed by the Philippines.
However, the government maintained that the sea dispute “is not the defining issue” of the bilateral relations between Cambodia and the Philippines.
Cambodia is the youngest member of the Asean.
Despite posting 6.9-percent GDP growth in 2016, the country remains the poorest in the region in terms of gross domestic product per capita at US$1,270, next to Myanmar. It is a lower middle income country and its economy relies on agriculture, which accounts for almost a third of the Cambodia’s economy. /jpv
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