Extremism, drugs, piracy take center stage in Asean

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Monday saw the need to highlight the growing problem of extremism, narcotics trade, and piracy at the opening ceremonies of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Manila.

Speaking with Asean leaders and dialogue partners, Duterte acknowledged the importance to discuss with world leaders the pressing security issues that different nations are facing.

"Your Majesty, your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I apologize for setting the tone of my statement in such a manner. But I only want to emphasize that our meetings for the next two days present an excellent opportunity for us to engage in meaningful discussion on matters of regional and international importance," the President said before the heads of state.

Duterte urged the leaders to seek for remedial ways to counter security threats that pose dangers, if not addressed.

Duterte stressed that terrorism and violent extremism "endanger the peace, stability and security of our region because these threats know no boundaries."

On May 23, Maute terrorists laid siege to Marawi City in Mindanao after a government raid to arrest one of their leaders, Isnilon Hapilon, failed. Hapilon and the Maute brothers, Omar and Abdullah, have been killed in military operations in Marawi. Defense officials terminated the war on October 23, less than a week after Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi.

In his speech, Duterte thanked Asean member-states and other world leaders who extended assistance to the Philippine government to combat terrorism in the southern Philippines.

"Less than a month ago, Philippine government forces liberated the city of Marawi from terrorist groups who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State," the President said.

"We thank our international partners for providing assistance in dealing with the situation in Marawi City. Our Asean brothers provided support by sending relief items for the benefit of the internally displaced persons while others provided valuable assistance and bolstered our military campaign," he said.

Duterte, who continues to push for relentless campaign against narcotics trade despite global criticisms, said the drug menace "continues to endanger the very fabric of our societies."

He added that piracy and armed robbery in the seas "put a dent on our growth and disrupt the stability of both regional and global commerce."

"These and other issues are high on the agenda of our meetings, along with other non-traditional security issues that challenge the prosperity of our economies, the integrity of our institutions, and more importantly, the safety of our people," Duterte said. (SunStar Philippines)
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