By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
“It’s your worry now.”
President Duterte formally handed overlast night the gavel to Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to symbolize Singapore’s turn to host and chair the 32nd and 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summits and related meetings next year.
The gavel, symbolizing the ASEAN chairmanship had been received by Duterte from Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith last year.
The official turnover happened during the closing ceremony of the 31st ASEAN Summit and related summits at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City Tuesday night.
In his speech, Duterte said it has been honor for the Philippines to host the “fruitful and productive” exchanges with the leaders of the 10 member states on issues of regional and global importance.
“We hope to translate [them] into concrete actions that would benefit the peoples of our region,” Duterte said.
During his bilateral meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Duterte said he told Lee that the burden of the ASEAN chairmanship is now on the Singaporean Prime Minister’s shoulders.
“We were just endorsing the authority to Singapore. I gave him the gavel and said, ‘It’s your worry now,’” Duterte told Ardern in their late Tuesday night meeting.
Duterte said the 10 ASEAN leaders were able to adopt and note a number of declarations, statements, and action plans, highlighted by the completion and signing of the ASEAN Consensus on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers.
“This historic governmental document is our promise to our people to strengthen social protection, access to justice, humane and fair treatment, and access to health services,” he said.
The ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers was first endorsed by the Ministers of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Council in Tagaytay last September.
In the ASEAN website, the ASEAN Consensus is said to have brought regional cooperation to greater heights in building a people-centered, people-oriented community, since the signing of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers in 2007.
As the Philippines’ chairmanship of the ASEAN closed, Duterte reiterated that the Philippines will remain steadfast in upholding the ideals and values of the regional bloc.
“We remain committed to building a strong and resilient ASEAN Community. Our chairmanship was an auspicious one for ASEAN, as we also marked the 50th anniversary of its founding,” he said.
Duterte also thanked the ASEAN member states, dialogue partners, and various stakeholders in making the Philippines’ hosting of the summits successful.
“We thank all of you for your unwavering support and cooperation in making our chairmanship of ASEAN and the celebration of ASEAN’s 50 years a success,” he said.
Filipino warmth and hospitality
Duterte also expressed hope that the Philippines was able to make the delegates feel the Filipino warmth and hospitality.
“It has been an utmost pleasure and honor for the Philippines to have hosted you and your delegations throughout the year in various meetings, activities, and events,” Duterte said.
“We hope that you have taken with you the warmth of Filipino hospitality and the genuine care and affection that we give to our guests,” he added.
Support for Singapore
Duterte assured Lee that Singapore can expect the same support it has given to the Philippines during its chairmanship.
“The Philippines will be there with you and will be working with you, with other ASEAN Member States, Dialogue Partners, and external parties in moving ASEAN community forward,” he said.
Singapore will officially assume chairmanship of the ASEAN on the first day of 2018. The Philippines will serve as host and chairman of the summits again in 2027.
In his speech during the closing ceremony, Lee said Singapore will promote and uphold a rules-based regional order so that ASEAN can better deal with emerging security challenges.
He also assured a continued regional economic integration so that ASEAN can remain competitive and prosperous.
Lee vowed to continue to build better relations with external partners, noting that the ASEAN will hold special summits in Australia and India next year.
President Duterte was personally invited by Indian Prime Minister Narandra Modi to attend the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit next year.
Duterte, however, did not give a definite response but said he will be in India when the right time comes.
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