China, ISIS expected topics in ASEAN meet
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III will join other heads of state at the 25th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Myanmar from Wednesday, November 12 to Thursday, November 13, where topics of discussion include the Code of Conduct (COC) for the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), and the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
According to Foreign Assistant Secretary for ASEAN affairs Luis Cruz, Aquino will be attending 9 meetings, including the 25th ASEAN Summit Plenary Session the 12th ASEAN-India Summit, the 17th ASEAN-Japan Summit, the 6th ASEAN-UN Summit and the 40th ASEAN-Australia Commemorative Summit on Wednesday. The day after, he will take part in the 9th East Asia Summit Plenary Session, the 2nd ASEAN-US Summit, the 17th ASEAN-China Summit and the 17th ASEAN Plus Three Summit.
He will also grace the launch of the ASEAN Institute of Green Economy, and a Gala Dinner hosted by Myanmar President U Thein Sein for all ASEAN leaders and their delegations.
Because of Aquino’s tight schedule, Cruz said the President, at the moment, has no planned bilateral meetings but he is “not closing his doors” for possible talks, including one with China’s leader Xi Jinping.
This will be Aquino’s first ASEAN attendance since the Philippines submitted its memorial to the United Nations arbitral tribunal. He is expected to ask for updates on the proposed Code of Conduct (COC) for the South China Sea and enjoy support from ASEAN neighbors for its push for a peaceful settlement to maritime disputes.
“I think all parties are in agreement that there’s a need to conclude the COC,” Cruz said.
The Philippines has a maritime dispute with China in the South China Sea. Other ASEAN countries like Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei are also claimants in the disputed area, along with Taiwan.
On March 29, the Philippines submitted a nearly 4,000-page document, called a memorial, in a bid to end what it considered decades of bullying by China. China however has refused to acknowledge the designated arbitral tribunal's jurisdiction to hear the case.
Aquino has said he plans to bring up China's recent actions in the disputed waters – including the sighting of two Chinese hydrographic ships in the potentially oil-rich Recto (Reed) Bank in the West Philippine Sea – when he goes to Nay Pyi Taw.
Cruz also said “nontraditional security issues” will be discussed at the East Asia summit. Asked whether ISIS would be a discussion point, Cruz said whatever is brought to the table must be of interest to all parties.
“ISIS would be a topic that would concern most countries,” he said.
ASEAN Community 2015 will also be the main topic during the plenary session, as well as other regional and international issues. The theme of this year’s summit “Moving Forward in Unity to a Peaceful and Prosperous Community,” aims to emphasize the importance of a united ASEAN.
As for the Philippines, Cruz said the priority of Aquino would be increased connectivity, greater cooperation on disaster risk reduction and management, increased protection for migrant orders, promotion of women’s and children’s rights, and increased support for small and medium sized enterprises.
On the summits with dialogue partners, India, Japan, the UN, US, Australia, China and ASEAN Plus Three, leaders are expected to share views on the future direction of ASEAN’s relations with dialogue partners as well as other matters.
Aquino is also scheduled to speak at the summit with Australia, since the Philippines is the country coordinator for Australia until 2015.
Other world leaders expected to attend aside from Xi are US President Barack Obama, newly elected Indonesian President Joko Widodo, and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. – Rappler.com