Duterte stresses fighting terrorism, other issues on Asean agenda
President Rodrigo Duterte stressed the importance of international security, especially fighting terrorism, at the opening of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit and related meetings in Manila where he cited the Philippines’ five-month battle with Islamic State-allied extremists in Marawi.
At the same time, Mr. Duterte called for a continued fight against the illegal drug trade, one of the key campaigns of his administration that had earned him international censure because of the killings of thousands of drug suspects.
But he made no mention of the maritime disputes in the South China Sea and the nuclear threat on the Korean Peninsula, which are expected to be taken up during the series of meetings of world leaders.
Mr. Duterte said the series of meetings in Manila offered the opportunity to discuss pressing regional and international concerns.
He started off his remarks by recalling his announcement last month that Marawi had been liberated from terrorists.
“Resolute, we are now in the process of helping people back on their feet to reclaim their lives,” he told 20 other leaders attending the meetings.
He thanked the international parties that helped the Philippines battle Islamic State-allied fighters and provided aid to displaced residents.
The President apologized for setting the tone of his statement in such a manner.
“But I only want to emphasize that our meetings for the next two days present an excellent opportunity for us to engage in meaningful discussion on matters of regional and international importance,” he said.
He went on to list the crucial issues on the table as the world leaders hold their series of meetings.
Terrorism and violent extremism endanger the peace and stability of the region as these know no boundaries, he said. Piracy and armed robbery in the seas also affect the countries’ growth and disrupt regional and global commerce, he added.
Mr. Duterte brought up the illegal narcotics scourge once more. At the Asean Summit in April, the President also called on Southeast Asian countries to fight illegal drugs.
“The menace of the illegal drug trade continues to endanger the very fabric of our societies,” he said.
“These and other issues are high on the agenda of our meetings along with the other nontraditional security issues that challenge the prosperity of our economies, the integrity of our institutions, and more importantly, the safety of our people,” he added.
Mr. Duterte also lauded the expected signing of the Asean consensus on the protection and promotion of rights of migrant workers. The accord was signed on Monday.
Asean members are also expected to come to agreement on matters concerning health, women, the youth, trafficking, poverty alleviation, food security, coastal and marine environment, and the pursuit of innovation in economies.
For the second time this year, Mr. Duterte presided over the summit attended by leaders of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
He will preside for the first time over Asean meetings with dialogue partners Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, United States, Canada, the European Union and the United Nations. —With a report from Dona Z. Pazzibugan
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