Duterte flies to Bali for Asean show of unity
BALI, Indonesia — President Rodrigo Duterte is joining other leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in a show of unity as they hold their annual summit on this Indonesian resort island on Thursday.
The President was expected to arrive here on Wednesday night, after the Philippines sent over $300,000 in aid to survivors of a 7.5-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that devastated the island of Sulawesi on Sept. 28.
More than 2,000 people died and more than 5,000 others remained missing in the aftermath of the disaster.
A military C-130 plane carrying the aid left Manila on Wednesday morning for Jakarta.
The aid includes power generators, water and medicines, Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia Leehiong Wee told a news briefing here.
In Manila, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the humanitarian flight was the first of two this month. The second flight leaves for Indonesia on Oct. 15, he said.
Wee said private donors contributed $200,000 worth of goods to the aid for the survivors of the disaster.
He said it was possible the President would turn over the aid to Indonesian President Joko Widodo during informal talks on the sidelines of the Asean summit.
Indonesia, this year’s Asean chair, aims to show the world that the bloc is united to enhance the region’s image as the world’s big economies look to Southeast Asia for greater trade, Wee said.
Asean groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Going for big events
Indonesia plays host to the Asean summit after successfully hosting the Asian Games, which has provided impetus to considering going after big, international events.
“In fact, I learned that they are bidding [for the 2032 Olympic Games to be held] in Jakarta,” Wee said.
The Asean summit precedes the International Monetary Fund-World Bank (IMF-WB) meeting, which will be held also in Bali from Oct. 12 to 15.
“The Asean leaders, I think through President Widodo, will be able to express to the IMF-WB the sentiments of Asean, the needs of all of the Asean countries,” Wee said.
The Philippines and Indonesia, which have a border security agreement, will push for greater cooperation for regional security at the summit, he said.
“We have been talking with Indonesia in many forums to help us develop the peace and order in the Philippines, especially in the southern part of the Philippines and also the border between the seas, the Celebes Sea,” he added.
Informal talks between Presidents Duterte and Widodo, Wee said, may focus on combatting terrorism and trade development.
He said the Philippines and Indonesia were discussing introducing air services between Davao and Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi, and that he expected the route to be opened later this year or early next year.
The ambassador said a Philippine fast-food chain was considering opening an outlet in Jakarta. He did not identify the company.
Wee also said the government was looking into the case of a Filipino woman who was sitting on death row in Semarang, Central Java.
The diplomat could not name the woman or provide details of her case, as he learned about her only last week.
He said, however, that the case involved illegal drugs.
Wee said President Duterte might discuss with Widodo the case of another Filipino woman, Mary Jane Veloso, who is on death row in Yogyakarta.
Widodo has stayed the death sentence on Veloso to give the Philippine government time to bring to justice the people who had promised her a job as a maid in Indonesia but turned out to be drug traffickers who used her as courier.
Apart from legal aid, the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta is also giving Veloso financial assistance, Wee said.
He said the Indonesian government had released 28 of 48 Filipino fishermen, mostly from Mindanao, who had been caught illegally fishing in Indonesian waters. —With a report from Jaymee T. Gamil
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