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Significance of the Philippines’ Hosting of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits

13 November 2017 -- On 12-14 November 2017, the Philippines will host the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits at the PICC in Manila.  There will be a total of fifteen official Leaders’ level meetings and events.

The main meeting is the 31st ASEAN Summit, part of the biennial meeting of the Leaders of the ten countries of ASEAN, where Leaders will discuss and give guidance to the various ASEAN sectoral bodies on the way forward in building a region of peace and progress for the benefit of the peoples of ASEAN.

ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers. At the 31st ASEAN Summit on 13 November, the ASEAN Leaders will sign the landmark document - ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers - ten years after the ASEAN Leaders signed the Cebu Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers in January 2007.  This document strengthens the social protection and access to justice and health services of the region’s migrant workers, and ensures their humane and fair treatment. About 212,435 Filipino migrant workers in the ASEAN region, majority of whom were employed in Singapore and Malaysia, according to 2016 statistics from the POEA, stand to benefit from this agreement.

Among its many important provisions, the ASEAN Consensus document upholds fair treatment of migrant workers with respect to gender and nationality, provides for visitation rights by family members, ensures the protection of their right to access information pertaining to their employment and employment-related conditions, and respects their right to fair and appropriate remuneration and benefits and their right to join trade unions and association. The implementation of the ASEAN Consensus will be subject to the respective laws of the ASEAN Member States.

The document strengthens ASEAN cooperation in preventing abuses, exploitation and violence towards migrant workers.  When migrant workers are imprisoned, they will have rights no less favorable than those applied to the local workers. They also have the right to file grievances with the relevant authorities in the countries they are working in.

One Caring and Sharing ASEAN Community. At the 31st ASEAN Summit, the Leaders will discuss how to resolve problems plaguing the region such as terrorism, violent extremism, piracy and armed robbery against ships, and the menace of the trade, production and use of illicit drugs. 

The Leaders will be expounding on, and pushing for, policies related to health, women and youth, anti-terrorism, countering radicalization and violent extremism, poverty alleviation, food security, coastal and marine environment, the pursuit of innovation for the ASEAN economies, entrepreneurship and inclusive growth.  These initiatives, as well as those already done in the past, show the long-term commitment of ASEAN to building a people-centered, people-oriented and inclusive community.

Engaging the world. The ten ASEAN Leaders will be meeting with US President Donald Trump, Chinese Premier Li Kequiang, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and the leaders of five other dialogue partners of ASEAN, one-by-one during the ASEAN Plus One Summits.  They will also meet with the Leaders of China, Japan and South Korea during the 20th ASEAN Plus Three Summit and with six Dialogue Partners during the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Summit.

The Dialogue Partners help ASEAN in its community-building efforts in various ways, such as funding youth, cultural and educational exchange programs, providing humanitarian assistance when disasters strike the region, including in Marawi and in the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda, providing financial and other support to ASEAN’s programs and centers such as the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity (ACB) in Los Banos Laguna, the only ASEAN center of excellence hosted by the Philippines. The ACB works for the “conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of biodiversity in the ASEAN region”.

The ASEAN Leaders will also exchange views with the Leaders of the US, China, Russia, Japan, Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand during the 12th East Asia Summit Meeting (EAS) on 14 November 2017.  The EAS is considered as the premier strategic forum in the region wherein ASEAN is able to exchange views with major powers and important regional neighbors regarding important international and regional issues such as the North Korean nuclear threat, terrorism, drug-trafficking, and transnational crimes, among others. 

Alone, the Philippines would be unable to invite all these influential countries to come to the Philippines to listen to, and consider, our views and proposals, but as part of ASEAN, we are able to engage them at the highest levels on a regular basis.

Concrete Benefits for the Filipino People.  As Chair and Host of ASEAN, the Philippines is able to push for its own initiatives.  For example, in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), a sub-regional grouping within ASEAN, the Philippines has identified priorities that address current shortfalls in physical and institutional infrastructure, which will help increase people mobility in Mindanao and Palawan. 

By increasing connectivity, we at the same time enhance trade which benefits not only the Philippines but the entire ASEAN region.  With a growing economy and a market of more than 600 million people, ASEAN is bringing greater economic opportunities to the world.

During its Chairmanship, the Philippines played an instrumental role leading to the finalization of the ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers, a very important document for our country.

As Chair of ASEAN, the Philippines is also able to showcase its able leadership in the various sectors of cooperation, and has spearheaded many initiatives related to human rights, women, youth, civil service, and greater people involvement in ASEAN.  

Through the year-round hosting of the Philippines of various ASEAN meetings and events all over the country, local tourism has been boosted while home-grown talents and products have been advertised and appreciated.  Just as important, the local and national economies have been infused with capital from the spending of both the government and the delegates to the various meetings.

Long-term benefits.  The billions of pesos and the thousands of manpower hours spent preparing for and hosting the more than two hundred sixty meetings all over the country in 2017 are the Philippines’ contribution and investment in building an integrated region for the benefit of the future generations of Filipinos. 

Twenty, 30, 40 years from now, our children and grandchildren can call, not only their province or city or country, but rather the whole Southeast Asian region, which is expected to grow in influence and affluence, as their home. They will be comfortable with their ASEAN identity and proud to be citizens of ASEAN.

And as ASEAN community-building deepens, as travel and living costs become cheaper and comparable, and as ASEAN continues to harmonize its immigration requirements, business requirements, and other relevant laws, the whole of Southeast Asia becomes more and more a region of opportunities that our future ASEAN citizens can explore and benefit from. END