Duterte to join ASEAN Summit, ‘advance PH positions’ on South China Sea and other issues

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 11) — President Rodrigo Duterte will push for the country’s position on key issues as he attends the 37th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit and Related Summits from November 12 to 15, Malacañang said Wednesday.

The President will join high-level meetings via video conference as the coronavirus pandemic continues to prevent face-to-face engagements.

He will be joined by key Cabinet members, including Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin, Jr., Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, and Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista.

“He will advance Philippine positions on public health emergencies cooperation, regional economic integration, migrant workers’ rights, climate change, disaster risk reduction management, counter-terrorism, and the South China Sea issue,” the Palace said in a statement.

Meetings will include the ASEAN-China summit, Chinese state-run Xinhua reported. The 10-member regional bloc is in talks with Beijing for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, which will determine the only allowable actions countries can take in the disputed waters.

The Philippines is country coordinator for the negotiations. ASEAN has been pushing for a legally binding Code of Conduct for decades but progress has been slow due to resistance from Beijing, which claims almost the entire South China Sea and has built artificial islands there.

Aside from the Philippines and China, other states with overlapping claims over the global waterway include Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and self-governing Taiwan.

Vietnam as this year’s ASEAN chairman will host the upcoming summits, with the theme “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN.”

More than ten outcome documents are expected to be signed, the Palace said. These include agreements on ASEAN cooperation on the coronavirus disease, public health emergencies, and community-building efforts.

The Philippines has recorded nearly 400,000 COVID-19 cases, the second highest in Southeast Asia, next to Indonesia.