Vientiane, Laos (CNN Philippines) – President Rodrigo Duterte accepted Thursday night the country’s chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for 2017.
In a speech during the closing ceremony of the ASEAN Summit, Duterte said he will “highlight ASEAN as a model of regionalism and a global player with the interest of the people at its core.”
“We will pursue initiative and enhance cooperation with global partners to ensure ASEAN citizens live in peace, stability, security and growth,” he said.
“The Philippines is ready and willing to steer and guide the Association. But crucial to the realization of our goals is the cooperation and support of all ASEAN member-states and our dialogue partners.”
Duterte also unveiled the theme for the 2017 ASEAN Summit in Manila.
“Our theme ‘Partnering for Change, Engaging the World’ captures our resolve to consolidate our community for our peoples with the sense of togetherness and common identity, ready and able to take our rightful place in the global community of nations,” he said.
“The Philippines-ASEAN chairmanship coincides with a historic milestone event. We will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of our Association. It will be an occasion for us to set the tone for the next 50 years.”
According to his communication team, Duterte will still have last-minute bilateral meetings with the leaders of New Zealand and Russia before leaving Thursday night for a working visit to Indonesia.
Missed ASEAN-U.S. meeting
Earlier in the day, Duterte missed two ASEAN meetings, including one with U.S. President Barack Obama, because he was not feeling well.
Foreign Affairs secretary Perfecto Yasay attended the meetings on the President’s behalf.
However, Duterte and Obama met briefly on Wednesday night. Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said the two leaders have “ironed things out” after Duterte had colorful words for Obama before leaving for Laos that led to the cancellation of bilateral talks between the U.S. and the Philippines.
Malacañang and Washington are scheduling a meeting at a later date.
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza said despite his physical condition, Duterte was able to attend the larger East Asia Summit in the afternoon together with 18 world leaders, along with the rest of the day’s activities.
By David Santos and VJ Bacungan, CNN Philippines
September 8, 2016