ASEAN ministers expected to discuss Trump presidency

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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ASEAN ministers expected to discuss Trump presidency
In Boracay, ASEAN foreign ministers will hold their first meeting since US President Donald Trump took office

NEW LEADER. Observers expect ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to discuss the leadership of US President Donald Trump when they meet in Boracay, Philippines, on February 21, 2017. File photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP

BORACAY, Philippines – Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will likely discuss the new leadership of US President Donald Trump when they meet here on Tuesday, February 21.

In a news conference, Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Charles Jose said that ASEAN foreign ministers will “be taking stock of the different challenges” facing their regional bloc.

He said these include “political challenges,” such as if “there are new leaders in other countries bringing their own style of governance and leadership.

“So all these things, if they pose a particular challenge to ASEAN’s community building, then I think these will be discussed,” Jose explained in response to a reporter’s question.

Quoting a Jakarta-based ASEAN diplomat who requested anonymity, the Myanmar Times also reported on Friday, February 17, that the ASEAN foreign ministers will “exchange views on the Trump administration’s policy.”

The US has been an ASEAN dialogue partner since 1977.

Dialogue partners “meet regularly with ASEAN at the working and senior levels to guide” the development of regional relations, the US State Department said.

The event on Tuesday is the first high-level ASEAN meeting since Trump succeeded Barack Obama on January 20. The meeting is set in the Philippine island of Boracay, one of the country’s top tourist spots, as the Philippines chairs ASEAN this year. 

The meeting comes as Trump’s first month in office has generated much uncertainty around the world. 

On the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) issue, for instance, Trump’s victory “is also a veritable game-changer,” UP School of Economics teaching fellow JC Punongbayan wrote on Rappler.

“In contrast to Obama’s ‘rebalancing’ strategy in Asia-Pacific, there is now doubt whether Donald Trump will show a similar degree of interest in the region. Hence, with less US ‘interference,’ China could now flex its muscle more in the region,” Punongbayan said. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email