0849 GMT July 17, 2019
Ties between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the West could grow stronger and more productive “if we learn to respect each other’s independence and treat each other as sovereign equals,” said President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday during the opening session of the summit in Manila.
Duterte added, “Relations bear fruit when they are based on mutual respect and benefit.”
The Philippine president underlined the need for the 10-nation bloc to address security issues such as terrorism and piracy, but avoided reference to the sensitive South China Sea territorial dispute, which pits China against its neighbors.
The summit is the first major international conference Duterte has hosted since rising to power nearly 10 months ago.
Duterte has frequently censured Western criticism of his tough anti-drug measures.
“The illegal drug trade apparatus is massive. But it is not impregnable,” Duterte emphasized. “With political will and cooperation, it can be dismantled. It can be destroyed before it destroys our societies.”
According to the latest draft of the ASEAN communiqué, participating leaders would also raise “grave concern” over the developments on the Korean Peninsula, including two nuclear tests launched by North Korea last year and subsequent ballistic missile tests, the latest of which took place Saturday.
“The actions of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) have resulted in an escalation of tensions that can affect peace and stability in the entire region,” read the draft statement as quoted in press reports.
Meanwhile, 14 people were reported wounded in a pipe bomb blast in Manila, Philippine police announced on Saturday, rejecting any link to the ASEAN summit underway in the nation’s capital.
“The incident is not in any way connected to or directed (at) the ongoing ASEAN summit,” said presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella in a statement.
“We assure our people that security measures are in place in today’s event and ask the public for their full understanding and cooperation in this regard,” he added.
The explosion took place late Friday nearly five kilometers from the heavily-guarded complex, where leaders of the 10-nation bloc are meeting as police said they were probing the possibility that it was a revenge assault.
Police authorities described the device as a “homemade pipe bomb” stuffed with low-grade explosives. No one has been arrested.