PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte called on fellow leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and its dialogue partners to help in addressing terrorism and illegal drugs, and maintaining peace and stability in the region.
Duterte made the statement on Monday as he formally opened the 31st Asean Summit, which gathers leaders of the 10-nation regional bloc and dialogue partners, including the United States and China.
In a speech he delivered at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City, Duterte warned about terrorism and illegal drugs, which he said, were threats to the region’s peace and stability.
“I apologize for setting the tone of my statement in such a manner. But I only want to emphasize that our meetings for the next two days present an excellent opportunity for us to engage in meaningful discussion on matters of regional and international importance,” Duterte said.
“Terrorism and violent extremism endanger the peace, stability and security of our region because these threats know no boundaries,” he added.
The President then cited the five-month long siege in Marawi wherein Islamic State-inspired Maute group stormed inro Marawi City to establish a caliphate for Southeast Asian terrorists.
The terrorist group’s plan was however foiled after the country’s state forces killed infamous terror leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, the frontrunners of Marawi siege.
A month before the Asean summit, Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi City from the hands of the terrorists following the death of Hapilon and Maute.
In his speech, Duterte personally thanked Asean member-states and other world leaders who extended assistance as the Philippines sought to end the Marawi crisis.
“Less than a month ago, Philippine government forces liberated the city of Marawi from terrorist groups who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Resolute, we are now in the process of helping people back on their feet to reclaim their lives,” the President said.
“We thank our international partners for providing assistance in dealing with the situation in Marawi City. Our Asean brothers provided support by sending relief items for the benefit of the internally displaced persons while others provided valuable assistance and bolstered our military campaign,” he added.
Duterte, who continues to push for his war against narcotics trade despite global criticisms, said that drug menace “continues to endanger the very fabric of our societies.”
He also said that piracy and armed robbery in the seas “put a dent on our the growth and disrupt the stability of both regional and global commerce.”
“These and other issues are high on the agenda of our meetings along with the other non-traditional security issues that challenge the prosperity of our economies, the integrity of our institutions, and more importantly, the safety of our people,” Duterte said.
Meanwhile, Duterte announced that Asean-member states have come to an agreement on the Asean consensus on the protection and promotion of rights of migrant workers.
“I will be joining other Asean leaders tomorrow in signing this landmark document that would strengthen social protection, access to justice, humane and fair treatment, and access to health services for our people,” he said.
The President said other deliverables that would see fruition include those concerning health, women and the youth, terrorism, radicalization and violent extremism, trafficking, poverty alleviation, food security, coastal and marine environment, and the pursuit of innovation for our economies, among others.
“Your Majesty, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, it has been a privilege for the Philippines to chair Asean during its milestone year. It has been a pleasure to work with our Asean family and our dialogue partners in moving the Asean community forward in enhancing cooperation in various areas,” he said.