Through his administration’s resolute actions in addressing corruption in government, President Rodrigo Duterte said he is optimistic the country will get over its current economic hump and keep up with the rest of its Southeast Asian neighbors.
At the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) Leaders’ Gathering at the Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort here, Duterte maintained the economy “is on an upward trajectory of growth.”
With only 12 more years to go before the deadline for the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the President said the indications are encouraging for the country to meet the United Nations (UN) targets to end poverty.
“My government continues to work hard to build and strengthen our enabling investment environment. Make no mistake: We are serious in practicing good governance. We are committed to address corruption. And we are resolute in securing our nation from criminal elements and terrorist threats,” the Chief Executive said in his speech at the one-day meeting of ASEAN leaders and key multilateral and international organizations.
Personally invited to the event by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Duterte also stressed the “real challenges that we must face” like the escalating trade tensions and protectionism which threaten to undermine the gains the ASEAN has achieved in the economic front.
There is also the natural threat of natural calamities brought by more severe and disruptive weather patterns burdensome to governments with limited resources and citizens with even less capabilities to handle disasters.
The President touched on the continuing threats of terrorism and extremism in the region, along with transnational crimes such as the illegal drugs trade.
”We have no other option but to confront these challenges head on. To do so, we must be prepared to invest in ourselves,” Duterte expressed.
Strong ASEAN needed
Mr. Duterte also bared the measures undertaken by the country in terms of its trade and investment policies to further drive growth such as the “Build, Build, Build” program that can support domestic consumption and cushion the impact of decreased external demand.
He also called on the whole ASEAN to take bolder steps and treat each other as key economic partners to intensify trade and investments within the region. A stronger ASEAN, Duterte said, “will allow us to effectively deal with regional and global economic powerhouses.”
“This, so the world can see that ASEAN is worth investing in. This, so global institutions should rightly support us in achieving our goals,” he said.
The President also assured the Philippines’ active participation and support for the ASEAN and all ASEAN-centered efforts to advance greater peace, progress and prosperity in the region.
Duterte team safe
Mr. Duterte and his entourage are safe and are all accounted for after a 6.4 magnitude hit the nation anew.
Citing the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta, DFA Assistant Secretary Elmer Cato said the earthquake struck East Java, killing three and wounding several others.
Cato said the tremor was also felt in Lombok and in Bali, hours after Duterte arrived in Denpasar for the ASEAN Leaders’ Gathering on Thursday.
Ambassador to Indonesia Lee Hiong Wee, for his part, said none of the estimated 201 Filipinos in East Java and 56 in Bali was affected by the earthquake.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, meanwhile, spearheaded the symbolic hand over of the Philippines’ assistance to the earthquake and tsunami victims in Central Sulawesi.
Unity in response
The “One ASEAN, One Response” hand-over ceremony was held a few hours before President Duterte attended the ASEAN Leaders’ Gathering at the Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort here.
Cayetano said the Philippine government has so far extended a total of $500,000 (P57 million) worth of assistance, including $200,000 (P10.8 million) worth of relief goods, tents, generators and family and medical kits to Central Sulawesi.
“We are here today not only to extend sympathy to the community affected by earthquake and tsunami on 28 September but also to express our love by helping the sufferings in our humble way,” Cayetano said in his speech.
“In the spirit of One ASEAN, One Response, the Philippines has offered to provide humanitarian assistance and support to Indonesia, our good neighbor and partner. So we humbly ask you to accept our assistance,” he added.
A 7.5-magnitude earthquake hit the island on 28 September, triggering a tsunami as high as six meters that left more than 800 people dead, particularly in the city of Palu.
Indonesian Ambassador to the Philippines Sinyo Harry Sarundajang received the Philippines’ assistance on behalf of Indonesian government.
With Mario J. Mallari