Duterte to push for OFW rights in Asean summit
BANGKOK — President Duterte was expected to continue promoting migrant workers’ rights before his peers during the 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit this weekend, Philippine Ambassador to Thailand Mary Jo Bernardo-Aragon said on Friday.
The summit, hosted by Thailand this year, focuses on “Advancing Partnership for sustainability,” and will formally open on Sunday. It will be followed by the 13th Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area Summit.
“The President is very strong in protecting the welfare and interest of our Filipino migrant workers not only here in the Asean region, but wherever we can find Filipinos employed in different countries,” Aragon said, referring to the close to 30,000 Filipino migrants in Thailand.
During the summit, Asean leaders were expected to discuss issues concerning the South China Sea, the bloc’s Indo-Pacific outlook, the implications of the trade war between the United States and China, terrorism and extremism, climate change, transnational crimes and marine protection, among other concerns.
Duterte, who was expected to fly to Bangkok on Friday, has appointed Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to oversee the executive branch’s day-to-day operations and its general administration during his absence from June 21 to 23.
Duterte was also expected to hold bilateral meetings with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Thai Premier Prayuth Chan-ocha.
He will discuss with Asean leaders ways to deepen cooperation on inclusive, equitable and sustainable economic development, and promote the Philippines as an investment destination.
Duterte is also set to meet with top business leaders involved in banking, food manufacturing, agriculture, agribusiness and real estate, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.
This year’s summit was expected to adopt the Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris in the Asean region. The declaration seeks to reaffirm the regional bloc’s commitment to conserve the marine environment by addressing such issues as wastes thrown in the region’s oceans.
Ban trash imports
Environmental activists have been urging the 10-member regional bloc to ban trash imports from developed countries, particularly plastic and electronic waste that often end up in oceans and kill marine life.
Lopez said the Philippines would back any initiative that would get the Asean to ban waste imports, as this mirrored the country’s own policy on the matter.
“That’s a unilaterally set policy, so if there will be such a move in Asean, obviously it is something we will support,” Lopez said.
He said the government backed “stiffer penalties” against those who imported foreign trash. The Bureau of Customs, he added, was expected to enhance technology to be able to detect illegal trash imports into the country.
The trade official said Asean economic ministers were also set to meet on Friday afternoon to discuss the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement that, he said, was being fast-tracked because of the trade tensions between the United States and China.
Lopez said the major issues hindering the completion of the agreement could be resolved by September, and the deal concluded by the end of the year.
The RCEP is a free trade deal between the 10 member states of the Asean and six free trade agreement partners—China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand—that seeks to level market access among the participating countries.
The completion of the RCEP will also benefit China as it is part of the deal, Lopez said.
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