Duterte to advance South China Sea issue in ASEAN Summit, says official
President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to bring up important positions of national interests, including the development in the South China Sea, when he joins his Southeast Asian counterparts in the summit on Friday, a Palace official said on Thursday.
In a virtual press briefing, Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje said Duterte and the other leaders of ASEAN would hold the 36th ASEAN Summit via video conference, with Vietnam as the chair.
Asked if Duterte would discuss the West Philippine Sea or South China sea issue during Friday's event, he said, "That would fall under international and regional developments and that's a general discussion point in ASEAN."
"The President has always been very consistent in his participation in ASEAN summits. He advances all the important positions of national interest to the Philippines, including what is happening in the South China Sea and migrant workers affairs," he said.
While other countries, like the Philippines, are busy addressing the coronavirus pandemic, China has been accused of taking advantage of the health crisis in advancing its claim in the South China Sea.
China reportedly plans to implement an air defense identification zone over the South China Sea, which is being claimed not only by the Philippines, but other ASEAN countries, such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. Taiwan has also claim in the disputed area.
With the theme "Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN," Borje said during the summit, Duterte and his ASEAN counterparts would review current initiatives and explore new avenues for enhanced cooperation to strengthen the region's capacity to address the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Their discussions will build on the agreements adopted during the Special ASEAN Summit on COVID-19 held last April, seeking ways to facilitate the ASEAN region's transition to the 'new normal' and post-pandemic recovery," he said.
The summit is expected to adopt more than 10 outcome documents on key areas of cooperation, such as food security and supply chain connectivity in the context of pandemic response, countering radicalization and violent extremism, and human resource development among others, he added.
Joining Duterte in the summit are some Cabinet members, including Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, and Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Joselito Bautista.
Friday's event would be the first regular ASEAN Summit to be convened via video conference in view of the constraints posed by COVID-19. Celerina Monte/DMS