MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATED – 11:03 a.m.) President Rodrigo Duterte formally opened the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit by placing the fight against terrorism, piracy and illegal drugs high on the agenda of the regional meet.
Duterte apologized to his fellow heads of state for leading off his opening statement with the liberation of Marawi City, even as he thanked his “ASEAN brothers” for sending relief for those displaced by the fighting and other countries for assistance he said “bolstered the military campaign.”
“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 to engage in meaningful discussions on matters of regional and international importance.”
Duterte explained why he placed the three concerns high on the summit’s agenda.
“Terrorism and violent extremism endanger the peace, stability and security of our region because these threats know no boundaries; piracy and armed robbery in the seas put a dent on our growth and disrupt the stability of regional and global commerce; the menace of the illegal drug trade continues to endanger the very fabric of our societies,” he said.
Duterte also announced the signing on Tuesday, November 14, a “landmark” agreement on the protection and the promotion of the rights of migrant workers.
All the other leaders of ASEAN member-states attended the opening ceremony:
- Brunei – Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei
- Cambodia – Prime Minister Hun Sen
- Indonesia – President Joko Widodo
- Laos – Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith
- Malaysia – Prime Minister Najib Razak
- Myanmar – State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi
- Singapore – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
- Thailand – Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha
- Vietnam – Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc
So were ASEAN dialogue partners who flew in for the summit, except European Council President Donald Tusk:
- Australia – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
- Canada – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
- China – Premier Li Keqiang
- Japan – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
- India – Prime Minister Narendra Modi
- New Zealand – Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
- Russia – Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev
- South Korea – President Moon Jae-In
- United States – President Donald Trump
- United Nations – Secretary General Antonio Guterres
Also present were Cabinet officials as well as Vice President Leni Robredo and former presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The opening ceremony will followed by the summit plenary and, in the afternoon, the ASEAN leaders’ interface with the ASEAN Business Advisory Council, the ASEAN-US 40th anniversary commemoration summit, and the 20th ASEAN-China Summit.