The much anticipated Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summits formally came to an end on November 14, 2017 through a press conference at the Summit Halls Delegation Building at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City, Manila.
Here are the highlights of what went down during the 31st ASEAN Summits:
World Leaders in the Philippines
On Saturday and Sunday, November 11 to 12, twelve ASEAN world leaders arrived at the Clark International Airport (see.ASEAN World Leaders Arrive at the Philippines: A Live Account). Two Heads of State were the early birds stepping on the Philippine soil on Saturday:
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen who is said to be a close ally of the Chinese Government. Sen recently said that he admires President Rodrigo Duterte due to the latter’s efforts of moving away from Western assistance particularly when it comes to domestic affairs.
Meanwhile, Myanmar’s Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi was the second world leader to land in Pampanga despite being severely criticized for the on- going Rohingya refugee crisis— the migration of people from Myanmar and Bangladesh also known as the “Boat People”.
China’s Premiere Li Keqiang arrived in the Philippines at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 3:19 p.m. The 20th ASEAN-China Summit also took place at the PICC delegation building. In which, bilateral meetings were said to be mostly about China’s aggressive “One Belt, One Road” initiative, a foreign policy and economic strategy that seeks to interconnect Eurasia, Africa and Oceania with East Asia through two routes— one land based, and one maritime based.
It is also apparent that Philippines, that the Chinese investments (mostly state and government) loans will likely be the icing of the cake during bilateral talks.
When it comes to the South China Sea disputes, it is assumed that Beijing does not really want it tackled or mentioned in multilateral meetings. It is foreseen that delegates will be at their best efforts to refrain if not set aside the topic of the territorial disputes between China and the Philippines. Nevertheless, it should be noted that if the issue is tackled, China will likely minimize its importance and protest the presence of the United States’ warships in the region under the disguise of the Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPS).
Republic of Korea Summit
The South Korean President Moon Jae In on the other hand also arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Sunday noon. Although South Korea is a dialogue partner for ASEAN in ASEAN+3, it historically placed less emphasis on the ASEAN bloc unlike China and Japan.
At this year’s ASEAN Summit, President Moon Jae In would have unveiled his ASEAN policy to be on the same level as other regional powers.
The 19th ASEAN- Republic of Korea Summit’s closed door meetings assumed to have tackled the “New Southern Policy” which aims to boost ties and economic cooperation with ASEAN countries. Other concerns such as economic sanctions, naval exercises and diplomatic measures were also dealt behind closed doors.
Summit of the Rising Sun
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set foot at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport also on Sunday noon. Japan has been well known for sending significant economic assistance (e.g loans that have far lower interest rate than China) to promising economies in the Southeast Asian region like Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Aside from trade and economic cooperation, Japan would have likely brought up defense and security coordination-cooperation with ASEAN countries, especially in regards to both the South China Sea disputes and North Korea crisis.
Prime Minister Abe is apparently more geared up towards holding joint maritime exercises with the likes of Vietnam and Philippines, that would provide financial grant to the said countries to acquire Japanese warships and/or coastal vessels to defend their territories.
The Take on Climate Change
It is also reported that one of the salient points of the ASEAN Summits was the countries’ take on Climate Change.
On Saturday, November 11, 2017, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull arrived at the Clark International Airport. All are known as strong advocates of Climate Change.
Trudeau, who is criticized for his “hypocrisy” on climate change, went on to discuss how Canada is “taking significant steps” to phase out coal while also moving beyond investing in renewable energy.
He said on November 14 that reducing coal consumption remains the “greatest challenge” in addressing climate change.
“Let me be very blunt about this: Coal represents perhaps the greatest challenge to the world not meeting its climate change targets,” Trudeau said on the sidelines of the summit.
The meetings between the ASEAN world leaders on the topic of Climate Change would is said to be interesting for the fact that United States Donald Trump has withdrawn from the “Paris Climate Accord”. An agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance starting in the year 2020.
Behind The Summit
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on November 13, 2017 clarified at the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in World Trade Center(see.Du30’s meets Trump in ‘bilat’ talks, seals US-PH relationship) that issues on humanitarian concerns like alleged extra judicial killings in the Philippines and the refugee crises in Myanmar and Australia were not discussed.
He also said that the apparent sour ties between the Philippines and the United States have only started when former U.S President Barrack Obama criticized President Rodrigo Duterte on his policies on drug prevention when the latter assumed the presidential position.
Roque also reiterated that the U.S and the Philippines will continue to close allies, especially after Trump and Duterte’s confidential ‘bilat’ talks.
Meanwhile, National Youth Commissioner Aiza Seguerra announced the ASEAN Adoption of the Youth Development Index Report(see.Young people needs ‘uplift’ in employment). An unprecedented comprehensive document on the youth sector, in which she said that the literacy rate in Southeast Asian Region has had observed remarkable changes in statistics.
She also stressed that, the only room for improvement should be in the youth employment sector and the inculcation of unique Southeast Asian values.
On the evening of November 14, 2017, moments before the official closing ceremony of the Summit here in the Philippines, the ASEAN Consensus on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers was signed.
The healthcare and basic rights protection of migrants were the apparent key points in the discussion, despite the on-going refugee crises in Myanmar and Australia together with Trump’s ideology during his early Presidential campaign of “taking back” America from immigrants.
“No nonsense” Duterte
President Rodrigo Duterte’s press conference was the final stop of November 14’s activities.
Minutes after the ASEAN Summits President Rodrigo Duterte have engaged in a press conference at the PICC(see.Duterte hits back on critics, refuses to answer human rights queries). The Philippine President apparently lashed out at the United Nations for the organization’s’ stance on extra- judicial killings and Trudeau’s support for human rights.
Duterte who was cordial during the summits returned to his blunt nature while answering the questions of the press.
Duterte, who said that he is deprived from proper sleep, stated that he is satisfied that everything was in order, based on comments received from government personnel.
All ASEAN world leaders will leave the country on November 15, 2017. President Donald Trump however, has officially put an abrupt end to his marathon 5-nation Asia tour. It was reported that he have left the country on November 14, 2017, a few hours later than planned.