While the major players have already begun arriving in the country over the weekend, it was this Monday that President Rodrigo Duterte formally opened the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, with guest heads of state from other nations of note in the Asia-Pacific region. This is the thirty-first ASEAN gathering and the first to be held in the Philippines under the Duterte Administration. In many ways it represents a prime opportunity for the first Mindanaoan President of the country to make an impression as host of a major international conference, barely a year and a half in office.
As CNN Philippines tells it, President Duterte during his opening address for the 31st ASEAN Summit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines this November 13 was quick and blunt in bringing up security concerns in the region, particularly the Marawi Crisis, in order to make his initial points for the summit.
“I only want to emphasize that our meetings…present an excellent opportunity for us to engage meaningful discussion on matters of regional and international importance,” said Duterte during his introductory remarks, wherein he also noted the present dangers of armed robbery, piracy and illegal drugs where regional and international commerce is concerned. He then thanked the other countries who have offered both support to the government during the five-month long siege of Marawi, and assistance in the rebuilding of the battered city.
There are currently ten member nations in ASEAN, and each annual summit brings them together along with other countries that have a vested interest in the developments of the region. As per previous summits, foremost issues include the stemming of religious extremism, territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and the Korean peninsula standoff, plus trade and other important matters. This gathering will take place over two days, ending on Wednesday, November 15.
Before the start of the 31st ASEAN Summit proper today, there had been a gala dinner to welcome the delegates last Sunday evening. Some of the highlights in that occasion include President Duterte indulging US President Donald Trump’s request to sing a duet with one of the featured entertainers that evening, Pilita Corales. They performed a rendition of the song “Ikaw” to grand applause.
Earlier that Sunday, another guest head of state, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, made quite the impression on Filipino social media when, upon arriving for the Summit at 2PM of November 12, he passed the time between then and the ASEAN Gala Dinner by visiting a Canadian-funded local women’s health center and eating at a Jollibee fast-food restaurant while interacting with the staff and other diners. He even ordered takeout.
Photo courtesy of philstar.com