Malacañang has confirmed that President Rodrigo Duterte joined his fellow heads of state and government of the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in their plenary session in the evening of November 2.
A statement released by Malacanang on Sunday reads that President Duterte talked about the challenges that face ASEAN, such as, transnational crimes, advances in technology, protectionism and trade-related tension among ASEAN partners, environmental sustainability and geopolitical transformation.
The Palace said that the President thereafter shared his insights in addressing said challenges.
In elaborating geopolitical transformation, the Chief Executive made mention of the issue of the South China Sea “which he considers as one that is of strategic importance to ASEAN”, stressing his firm stance that it “must be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”
The President further mentioned that maintaining freedom of navigation and overflight above the South China Sea is a priority of ASEAN.
With its role as ASEAN-China Country Coordinator, the Philippines “vowed to do its utmost best to conclude the negotiations on the Code of Conduct — one that is effective and substantive — at the soonest possible time.”
The President also discussed the changing landscape of the Southeast Asian region “which recognizes the rise of the dragon (China) in a world still dominated by a soaring eagle (United States).”
The statement also confirmed that the Chief Executive called on ASEAN leaders not to choose — or be forced to choose — sides by pointing out what he calls a “strategic mistake” committed by the Philippines’ past leaderships, which he is now rectifying through his independent foreign policy.
The Palace further said that, for the remainder of this year’s ASEAN Summit, the President will likely continue elaborating and discussing the Philippines’ position in relation to important matters that are beneficial not just to the Filipino people but to the citizens of ASEAN member countries. (with details from Rosalie Coz) /mbmf