Asean leaders face hectic sked

THE Philippines, as chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations  this year, will change the format of meetings between the regional bloc and their dialog partners (Asean Plus One), a diplomat privy to summit preparations said Friday.

Contrary to the previous format, only the country coordinator will deliver a speech on behalf of the bloc while the leader from the partner nation will give his remarks.

“This is an improvement,” the diplomat, who asked not to be named, said.

If there is enough time, it is up to President Rodrigo Duterte, as country chairman, to call on another leader to add his remarks.

Traditionally, all leaders in the Asean Plus One summits would deliver their messages, and the meeting would last until midnight.

“We do not want what happened in Laos [during the 30th Asean Summit] where leaders were able to have their dinner at past midnight,” the diplomat said.

The diplomat said most of the leaders from the Asean and dialogue partners will arrive on Nov. 12 in Clark, Pampanga.

They will be flown to Manila by helicopter, then proceed to the Gala Dinner at 7 p.m. in SMX Convention Center, Pasay City.

Duterte, as country chairman, will face a punishing schedule on Nov. 13 and Nov. 14 since he will chair a series of meeting for 31st annual Asean Summit and related summits.

The diplomat said that on Monday, Duterte will have 19 hours straight of meetings, a concern for the 72-year-old President.

“The meetings in the first day will take 19 hours straight, so you can hardly fit in the bilateral meetings,” the diplomat said.

As the Asean chairman, Duterte can not afford to excuse himself from any of the meetings among 21 heads of state, like he did in the Asean Summit in Laos in September last year when he was not feeling well.

The diplomat said when Duterte hosted his nine-Asean counterparts for the 30th Asean Summit, the President was so fatigued afterwards that he joked about wanting to cancel the bigger summit this November to avoid “another punishing schedule.”

The diplomat also said that the Foreign Affairs officials has already advised Duterte “to stick to the timetable” so the meeting and programs end on time and the visiting leaders can return to their home countries as scheduled.

“What we impressed on him is that every summit should last up to one hour, and a half. If one summit ends late, it will have a domino effect like what happened in Laos. We don’t want that to happen,” said the diplomat.

Duterte is known for not following the scripts provided by his staff and can go on with his spontaneous speech for one or more than two hours.

The diplomat said DFA officials have already briefed the President in Davao last week from 5 p.m. to midnight about what he needs to mentioned or not.

In a previous Asean Summit in September last year in Laos, Duterte set aside his prepared statement and gave a passionate impromptu speech against President Barrack Obama and his government before the 17 other heads of state who had convened for the 11th East Asia Summit.

While Duterte has to follow the prepared speech as chairman, the diplomat said that, as a President, he may make last-minute changes once he speaks for the Philippines.


If Duterte can not attend a meeting, Foreign Secretary Alan Cayetano will sit in on his behalf as the most senior Cabinet in rank.

The Japanese Embassy has already confirmed the attendance of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who is scheduled to arrive on Nov. 12.

While at the Summit, the Prime Minister will take part in the Canada-Asean Commemorative Summit to review relations between Canada and the 10 Asean countries and identify areas where we can increase collaboration.

The United States President Donald Trump will also arrive on Nov. 12 and may spend an extra day in the Philippines to attend the East Asia Summit.

“We’re actually staying an extra day in the Philippines. We have a big conference, the second conference, and I think we’re going to have great success,” Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving for his trip.

The diplomat said that Trump may raise the issue on North Korea during the Asean-US Summit.

Until now, the diplomat said, the Philippine government is still working on a possible bilateral meeting between Duterte and Trump.

The diplomats noted that, if a bilateral meeting will push through, this will be an official meeting with the two leaders but both do not expect to discuss issues in great detail.

Meanwhile, the National Coordinating Committee for the Asean summit has ordered tarpaulins that carry the wrong spelling of Philippines (misspelled as “Philppines”) taken down, saying they did not conform to the final approved output. The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) later issued a statement accepting responsibility for the mistake and said the tarpaulins would be replaced.

On Sunday, the Philippines will host a gala celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of Asean.

Duterte will host the Asean leaders and dialog partner leaders and their spouses and respective delegates.

The gala celebration, which will showcase the best of Filipino artistry and talent through an evening of music, dance, design, and culinary arts, will be held at SMX Convention Center and will begin with a welcome message and toast from President Duterte.

The Asean leaders and dialogue partners and their spouses will wear an intricately designed Philippine national costume.


Topics: Association of Southeast Asian Nations
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