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Duterte off to Bangkok for Asean leaders’ meet

/ 05:14 AM June 21, 2019

TO BE REPRISED President Duterte will again join other Asean leaders in a summit in Thailand this Friday, as he did in this
group photo taken in Singapore in November 2018. —AFP

President Duterte flies to Bangkok on Friday to discuss regional concerns with other leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), including matters concerning the South China Sea.

Foreign Assistant Secretary Junever Mahilum-West said there could be an “opening” to bring up the Recto Bank incident in the Asean leaders’ meeting during the three-day summit, although there was no certainty that Mr. Duterte would do so.

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The “little maritime incident,” as the Philippine government prefers to call it, involves a Filipino fishing boat that sunk after being rammed by a Chinese vessel on the Recto (Reed) bank near midnight of June 9.  The vessel then left the 22 fishermen floundering on open sea, until they were rescued by a Vietnamese fishing boat.

The summit was not the best place for a full-scale discussion of the matter, West said, adding that the Philippine government was waiting for the results of an ongoing investigation and China’s response to the country’s diplomatic protest.

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The Department of Foreign Affairs official said the ramming and sinking of FB Gem-Vir 1 underlines the importance of having a code of conduct in the South China Sea to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

The Asean and China are in the process of crafting one such code meant to lay down protocols to reduce tension in the strategic waterway that is the subject of several competing claims.

This year’s Asean summit hosted by Thailand will gather the leaders of the 10 members of the regional bloc for a plenary, a gala dinner and a leaders’ retreat.

But expected to dominate the summit is the trade disputes between the United States and China, with Asean leaders dissecting the impact of the US-China tariff war that has pushed some major manufacturers to flee China for Southeast Asia, and cast doubts over the future of free trade.

Joining the presidential trip—  Duterte’s third to Thailand since assuming office—are Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat and Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol. —WITH REPORTS FROM AFP

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TAGS: Asean leaders’ meeting, Bangkok, Philippines, Rodrigo Diterte, Thailand
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