MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines will mark the end of its turn as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with a Summit bringing together the leaders of the 10 member countries and some of the world’s top economies, marking the bloc’s 50th year.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will welcome 20 world leaders, plus the heads of the European Union and the United Nations, to the regional meeting, which will also commemorate the bloc’s 50th anniversary.
All 10 ASEAN member-states will be represented, as well as regional partners including India, Japan, New Zealand, United States, China, Russia, Australia, and South Korea, during the Summit from Sunday to Tuesday (November 12-14).
The Manila Summit will also be the last stop of US President Donald Trump’s maiden trip to Asia. Prior to this, he had been to Japan, South Korea, China, and Vietnam.
There will also be a gala celebration to mark the regional group’s golden anniversary, which Malacañang said, will “showcase the best of Filipino artistry and talent.”
Most of the leaders will be coming in from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Danang, Vietnam.
At the end of the 3-day event, the Philippines will turn over chairmanship duties to Singapore.
From trade to human rights
Ahead of the Manila Summit, Duterte, at the APEC Summit in Vietnam, urged ASEAN to speed up economic integration to power the region up the manufacturing chain, retain its skilled workers and educate those “left behind.”
“We only provide the raw materials” which are then sent back by richer manufacturing countries for “4 times the price,” he said, adding “that is globalization.”
He vowed to “forcefully” carry the message of unity to the ASEAN Summit.
The Summit also comes as the region faces a number of burning issues, from the Rohingya crisis to China’s aggression in the South China Sea.
The brewing tensions in the Korean peninsula will also be a hot topic, coming as Trump urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to work “hard and fast” to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis, after getting backing for its “all options” policy from Japan’s Premier Shinzo Abe.
Observers will also see if the topic of human rights will be broached, with at least two countries facing criticism: Myanmar, for its handling of the crisis facing the Rohingya; and the Philippines, with its deadly war on drugs. (READ: The Deafening Silence of ASEAN on Human Rights Violations)
The leaders are also expected to discuss trade, regional security, transnational crime, and other issues related to the much-vaunted ASEAN regional integration.
One major item would be the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is often described as China’s answer to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) because it noticeably excludes the US.
It is a proposed trade deal among the 10 ASEAN members, plus their regional trading partners, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and India.
It aims to cut tariffs but has far less regulatory standards attached than the TPP.
It also exempts certain goods from the tariff cuts to protect local sectors and gives less developed members more time to comply.
It’s still in the negotiation stages but interest in it has renewed since the American withdrawal from TPP – a matter of concern for those who wish to see the US taking the lead on global trade.
School and work have been suspended in Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan and Pampanga for the duration of the Summit, to avoid massive traffic jams associated with VIP convoys using the city’s major highways. (READ: #WalangPasok Guide: 31st ASEAN Summit)
Students in Metro Manila, meanwhile, will see a week’s worth of classes suspended, after the Metro Manila Council also suspended school on Thursday and Friday (November 16 and 17).
More than 60,000 police, military, and safety personnel have been deployed to secure the high-profile event.
The government also allotted resources for support, including patrol vehicles, helicopters, ambulances, bomb- and drug-sniffing dogs, and snipers.
To minimize commercial aviation interruptions, the Clark International Airport in Pampanga will serve as the arrival and departure airport of the world leaders.
A drone no-fly zone has also been set up in Manila and Clark during the Summit.
The area around the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) complex will be on lockdown, and non-accredited people and vehicles will not be allowed entry into the area near the Summit venues. (READ: LOOK: Partial, total lockdown of areas during ASEAN summit) – with reports from Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com