PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Monday left for Laos to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summits, aiming to gather support from regional leaders and allies in addressing illegal drugs and terrorism following the weekend bombing in his home city of Davao.
Duterte will be joining his counterparts during the 28th and 29th Asean Summits and Related Summits, his first international engagement since he assumed office on June 30.
In his departure speech at the Davao airport, Duterte said he would take the opportunity to discuss during the meeting issues that affect peace, security, stability and the economy of the region.
“Recent events have shown that there are elements out there who seek to sow terror and wreak havoc in our society. We remain firm in our resolve, to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” Duterte said.
“I will use the opportunity for meeting with other Asean leaders and Asean dialogue partners to seek better support to regional efforts to address terrorism and extreme violent extremism,” he added.
A blast in the Duterte’s home city of Davao that killed 14 people and wounded dozens nearly made him cancel his attendance to the Asean summits in Laos.
Duterte was supposed to leave for Brunei and meet Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah on September 4, but chose to stay in the Philippines after the Davao City attack.
In Laos, Duterte said he and Asean leaders would also discuss the way forward in realizing the “Asean Community Vision 2025” of a “rules-based, people oriented, people centered Asean.”
“The security of our region hinges at the cooperation of Asean member states as well as our dialogue partners. Consistent with the Philippines’ cornerstone programs, we will call for renewed cooperation for a drug-free Asean Community,” he said.
The President also said the Philippines would continue to engage with other countries to promote and protect migrant workers and build capacity to improve emergency response and disaster management.
While in Laos, the President is expected to participate in at least a dozen meetings, not counting his bilateral meetings with other leaders.
The President will join the opening ceremony of the Asean summits on Tuesday afternoon in the Laos National Convention Center and join the rest of the Asean leaders for their first plenary meeting.
Asean leaders are expected to issue the “Asean Declaration on One Asean, One Response: Asean Responding to Disasters as One in the Region and Outside the Region,” that will emphasize “Asean’s commitment to respond to disasters as a collective outfit.”
At the end of the summits on Thursday, Laos will hand over the Asean chairmanship to the Philippines.
“I have the honor to accept in behalf of the Philippines the Chairmanship of Asean in 2017 from Laos. This will formally mark an important leadership role for the Philippines in the region as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Association next year,” Duterte said.
From Laos, Duterte will proceed to a working visit to Indonesia, where he will meet President Joko Widodo.