President Aquino leaves for 21st ASEAN Summit in Cambodia
MANILA, Philippines (Updated) - President Benigno Aquino III is set to leave for Phnom Penh, Cambodia Saturday evening, November 17, to attend the 21st ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit and related summits from November 18 to 20.
President Aquino is expected to push ASEAN countries to form a consensus on the territorial disputes over the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), as well as rally for support from Western leaders attending the summit.
Since April, the Philippines has been engaged in a stand-off with China over the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Out of the 10 member countries of the ASEAN, 4 countries are fighting for overlapping claims on the territory - Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
President Aquino has urged the ASEAN to employ a multilateral approach toward the issue and work on drafting a Code of Conduct that will be used to implement the Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea. China has insisted, however, on pursuing bilateral talks to solve the disputes.
ASEAN member countries also include Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Burma (Myanmar), Singapore and Thailand.
The leaders of Australia, South Korea, China, Japan, and the United States, and officials of international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, and the Asian Development Bank are also attending the summit.
The trip is also seen to improve the Philippines' ties with Cambodia, a known ally of China. Relations between the two countries turned sour in July when ASEAN member countries failed to issue a customary joint statement because Cambodia refused to mention the Scarborough Shoal stand-off.
“I think we have made progress for 2012 even (if) the July thing that you were asking me a while ago (happened),” Wong said in an interview with Radio-Television Malacañang.
“There are contentious issues, of course, but overall I could say that we are making progress toward that… The contentious issues are only part of the so many issues that we are going to consider,” he added.
Aside from the main summit, a series of meetings will also be held among the world leaders, including the 7th East Asia Summit, the 15th Asean-Japan Summit, 15th Asean-Korea Summit, Asean plus three Commemorative Summit, 10th Asean-India Summit, 15th Asean-China Summit and 4th Asean-US Leaders Meeting with US President Barack Obama.
Deputy Palace Spokesperson Abigail Valte said one-on-one meetings with other leaders are not on President Aquino's schedule.
"If we are talking about bilaterals, I haven't seen any bilateral meetings on the schedule," she said in a radio interview.
The President will immediately return to Manila after the closing ceremonies. - Rappler.com