Aquino to attend 9th ASEM Summit in Laos

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Monday, October 29, 2012

MANILA -- President Benigno Aquino III is set to participate in the 9th Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM 9) summit, which will be held in Vientiane, Lao People's Democratic Republic, on November 5 and 6.

This will be the first time Aquino will attend the event since he became the country's president in 2010.

In a press briefing in Malacañang Monday, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Buensuceso said the President's attendance "signals the Philippines' renewed focus on Europe and reaffirms the importance of the region as an economic and political partner."

Buensuceso said Aquino would take advantage of the opportunity to engage European partners in order to firm up support for the development of Bangsamoro.

She noted that European partners were among the first to welcome and express support to the recently sealed Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

The European Union is a member of the International Monitoring Team of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace process, while the United Kingdom is part of the International Contact Group.

"Political cooperation between Europe and the Philippines is strong," Buensuceso said.

She likewise said that Aquino is expected to highlight the country's accomplishments in good governance and inclusive growth, while calling for a reinforced Asia-Europe economic partnership to further advance Asia's economic emergence and Europe’s long-term economic recovery.

The Chief Executive will also participate in the discussion on migration, underscoring the importance of upholding the rights of migrant workers at this time of economic difficulties in a number of European host countries.

He is also expected to announce a new initiative in ASEM and that is in the area of disaster management.

At the sidelines of ASEM9, the President will conduct bilateral meetings with counterparts from the European Council, European Commission, Italy, Norway, Poland and Switzerland, said Buensuceso.

In the meeting with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, the President is expected to discuss the progress the Philippines has made in addressing the European Union's concern on maritime training and certification system as well as compliance with air safety standards.

The meeting with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti will focus on enhancing bilateral relations, particularly in the area of defense and finance, the Foreign Affairs official said.

The President will also meet with Norwegian Prime Minister Jen Stoltenberg to discuss Norway's continued role in the peace processes as well as strengthening bilateral maritime and labor cooperation, and possibly a good project on climate change.

A meeting with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has also been arranged wherein the two leaders will explore opportunities for cooperation in the areas of defense and higher education.

Aquino will also exchange views with Swiss President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf on bilateral issues such as the Human Rights Compensation Bill, cooperation in disaster risk reduction and management, and economic cooperation.

While in Lao PDR, President Aquino is also set to meet with the Filipino community numbering around 300 composed mostly of professionals – teachers, nurses, engineers, and hotel employees.

The theme for the ASEM 9 Summit is "Friends for Peace, Partners for Prosperity."

"There will be a wide range of issues, ranging from the international economic crisis, migration, counter-terrorism, disaster management," said Buensuceso.

"ASEM is the only forum where Europe and Asia engage one another at the highest levels of government--that is the summit. They discuss international issues of common concern and to formulate mutually beneficial cooperation on a region-to-region basis," she added.

ASEM is a dialogue process started in 1996 with the main objective of forging a comprehensive partnership between Asia and Europe. It is currently composed of 48 partners – all 10 member countries of the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations, nine other Asian member-countries, 27 member states of the European Union, the European Commission and the Asean Secretariat.

The Philippines is a founding member of the ASEM.

Norway, Switzerland, and Bangladesh will be admitted into the forum at the ASEM9 in Vientiane.

Buensuceso said the Philippines supported the entry of Norway and Switzerland into the ASEM "because of the value that they will add into the ASEM process." (Jill Beltran/Sunnex)

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