ASEAN 2017: Philippine Chairmanship Kick-off Briefing with PCO Secretary Martin Andanar and DFA Undersecretary Enrique Manalo
Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building, Malacañan
05 January 2017

SEC. ANDANAR: Hi, good morning, Rocky. How was your New Year’s celebration?

Rocky Ignacio (PTV 4): Happy, sir.

SEC. ANDANAR: And what is your New Year’s resolution?

Ms. Ignacio: Mas lalong maging mabait.

SEC. ANDANAR: Ayon, mabait kana. Wala ka nang ibabait pa.

Hello everyone. Good morning. Happy New Year to everyone. This is our first press briefing this year with me and it sure is a sign of positive reports for the following weeks to come.

Magandang umaga po sa lahat ng nanunuod sa atin sa PTV 4 at lahat din po ng nanunuod sa atin sa Facebook at sa iba’t ibang mga Facebook pages ng ibang network, be that TV, radio, or online.

The Southeast Asian region is composed of 630 million people with a diverse number of ethnicities, religions, and languages.

Ever since its inception in 1967, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, has grown to 10 member-countries, covering more than 1.7 million square miles, with an economy valued at 2.5 trillion dollars.

This unprecedented growth just proves that we are stronger together. We are one community with one shared identity, one vision, we are ASEAN.

As the Philippines assumes chairmanship of the ASEAN 2017 which also coincides with its 50th year anniversary, our stride is wade by a sense of pride and excitement as we step into the century and the world hand in hand.

Our ASEAN 2017 theme rings through: “We Are Partners for Change, Engaging the World.”

The role of the Presidential Communications Operations Office as the lead of the committee on media affairs and communications is to spread awareness and educate the public about the ASEAN.

Our objective is to let every Filipino and ASEAN citizen know what their stake is in the community. ASEAN could be quite an intimidating subject for ordinary citizens.

Our insights is that while 81 percent of ASEAN citizens have heard of the ASEAN, only 24 percent have a basic understanding of what it is and its purpose. This is alarming because every citizen benefits from this regional organization.

It is the vision of PCOO that every Filipino will know how ASEAN has benefitted them. We created a campaign that speaks to everyone from all walks of life, from government workers, media, NGOs, civil society, the academe, business sector, the youth, and even the grassroots communities.

The farmer has as much at stake in a unified ASEAN as a CEO of a multinational corporation.

In order to do this, we plan to have roadshows all throughout the year. We will travel to different barangays all over the country.

ASEAN representatives from PCOO will deliver talks, conduct seminars, and even distribute comics and other reading materials written in different Philippine dialects.

This way no one is left behind and we reach those without access to the Internet or traditional media.

So how exactly has ASEAN benefited us? This 2017 theme answer the question. It is the role of PCOO to communicate to the public by persuasive and creative executions made accessible to all through various mediums and channels.

1. A people-oriented and people-centered. We’ll prioritize health and nutrition for ASEAN citizens and the social protection of women and the elderly and disabled.
We will also focus on the rights of our migrant workers and how we can ensure that they will not be exploited or mistreated.

2. Peace and stability. All the ASEAN members work together to keep the peace to stop the proliferation of illegal drugs and to stop the proliferation of terrorism.

3. Maritime security and cooperation. Ensures we protect our seas and the citizens who depend on it. Our fishermen and individuals who use these waters must be able to enjoy their rights and perform their tasks without feeling insecure about their safety.

Due to the importance of shipping and seaborne trade in the region, we will need to conduct a series of workshops and dialogues to strengthen maritime security and cooperation.

4. Inclusive. Innovation-led growth means promoting entrepreneurship especially micro, small, or medium enterprises. It will help employ or we will help employees become business owners, while our businessmen are encourage to go digital in order to compete globally.

5. Resilient ASEAN. We know that storms, droughts, and other natural catastrophes are impossible to prevent, but if we boost our region’s contingency capabilities and risk management programs, we can make ASEAN disaster-resilient and adaptable to climate change.

6. ASEAN, a model of regionalism, a global player. We are stronger together. Our unity gives us better influence in addressing critical issues that serve the world.

On January 15, all eyes will be in Davao City as we welcome our brothers and sisters in the ASEAN community.

We will officially launch ASEAN 2017 at the Davao SMX Convention Center and PCOO has partnered with different government agencies led by the Department of Tourism to create a memorable event that will set the tone to this important year-long commitment.

PCOO has created some videos by the way that will succinctly explain our ASEAN 2017 roadmap. For this conference, we will show four videos, one AVP to summarize the ASEAN 2017 agenda and three others to briefly talk about the three pillars of ASEAN namely: political security; socio-cultural; and socio-economic in animation form.

[AVP video]

SEC. ANDANAR: There you go. That’s four of the videos that we produced internally here at the PCOO led by the head of our branding, Howie. Where are you Howie? There you go. Howie Uyking is the one who produced that, of course, with Assistant Secretary Kissinger Reyes.

There are more videos to come. Iyong ibang videos naman ay para sa ibang merkado, may English, may Tagalog and other dialects, and comics, and then pamphlets.

Allow me to also launch today our social media pages with the official hashtag: #ASEAN2017. For Facebook, it’s For and our Instagram account is @ASEAN2017.

Aside from the launch, the PCOO will coordinate and ensure the public has access to live streams, videos, and outcome documents so they can be aware and participate in the happenings during ASEAN 2017 summits, meetings and events.

We will take care of the media coverage with your help. Information will be available in our various social media sites and ASEAN 2017 websites.

We will also provide media coverage logistics, internet connectivity for each of the ASEAN 2017 meetings, including as mentioned the ASEAN launch in Davao on the 15th of January; the 30th ASEAN Summit on April 2017, the 50th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and related meetings coinciding with ASEAN’s 50th anniversary celebration here in Metro Manila by August and the 31st ASEAN Summit at Clark, Pampanga in November.

We look forward to a year that is both a challenge and a privilege and the attention of the region and the world is on the country as Chair of ASEAN 2017.

We will rise to every occasion and even stronger ASEAN will begin here, one that is a model for thinking nationally, working regionally and engaging globally. We are one ASEAN. Thank you very much.

We also have with us today in our press briefing to give us the more substantive of the ASEAN 2017, including the meetings, when it would be held, anong mangyayari, you can address all those questions to Usec. Enrique Manalo of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Thank you so much for listening. Now I give the floor to Undersecretary Manalo.

USEC. MANALO: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. Members of the media, good morning, magandang umaga and, of course, a Happy New Year to all of you.

I want to give a — just a few points here, state a brief remarks and then if you have any questions later, I’ll be very happy to entertain them and I’ll be adding on a bit on what Secretary Andanar spoke about this morning.

On January 1 this year, the Philippines officially assumed the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN for the year 2017,which also happens to coincide with the 50thanniversary of ASEAN.

This milestone event is an occasion for ASEAN to reflect on its success and achievements during the last 50 years and to prepare for the new challenges ahead in our region.

As one of the five founding members of ASEAN, the Philippines has always been at the forefront of pushing for what is best for the region and its peoples. ASEAN itself is the fulcrum in which the current regional security architecture balances.

ASEAN has been performing this function incredibly owing to years of success in espousing cooperation and cultivating peace and stability through the ASEAN way its peaceful and non-confrontational approach in resolving differences.

The ASEAN Community was formally launched on December 31, 2015 and this community “envisions an outward-looking region with economies that are vibrant, competitive and highly integrated and an inclusive community that is a embedded with a strong sense of togetherness and common identity.”

This community encompasses all facets of life as reflected by its political, security, economic and socio-cultural pillars.

The Philippines is and has been active in all the three community pillars of ASEAN. All three communities are equally important for us to attain the ASEAN’s vision 2025 of a rules-based, people-oriented and people-centered community with shared prosperity, where our peoples enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms and a higher quality of life.

It’s in this spirit that the Philippines aims for a positive change in the lives of ASEAN citizens through initiatives that significantly impact on their lives and we envision ASEAN’s greater international engagement to advance our common interests.

These are the guiding principles behind our chairmanship’s theme, “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World.” And serving as our beacons for moving forward our national interests and that of the region are the six thematic priorities that the Philippine chairmanship will pursue in 2017. I’ll just repeat them as Secretary Andanar already went over them.

Firstly, a people-oriented and people-centered ASEAN; secondly, peace and stability in the region; third, maritime security and cooperation; fourth, inclusive innovation and growth; fifth, ASEAN’s resiliency; and sixth, ASEAN as a model of regionalism and a global player.

These thematic priorities shall guide the work of the relevant Philippine government departments and agencies throughout the year. Under each thematic priority, the Philippines will be pursuing, among others, the adoption of important documents, the conduct of activities in ASEAN, the crafting of work plans, action agendas on vital issues and areas such as peace and security in the region, maritime cooperation, health and nutrition, the environment, women and children, migrant workers, radicalization and violent extremism, trade and investments, medium and small scale, medium enterprises, and innovation and inclusive growth.

Now, in preparing for our substantive participation and our role as chairman of ASEAN, the ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh and his team from the ASEAN Secretariat conducted a working visit to the Philippines last month and during his visit, the Department of Foreign Affairs, as the lead agency for the ASEAN political security pillar; the Department of Trade and Industry as the lead of the ASEAN economic community pillar; and the Department of Social Welfare and Development as the lead of the ASEAN socio-cultural pillar, along with our other relevant agencies, held consultations with these officials of the Secretariat to discuss the Philippines’ priorities during our chairmanship and how we can coordinate with the ASEAN Secretariat throughout the year.

Now to carry out these priorities and that of ASEAN in 2017, the Philippines will be hosting around a hundred meetings spread throughout select cities and regions of the country and this will include, as mentioned earlier, the two Leaders’ level summits in April and November.

With 2017 being the 50th anniversary of the founding of ASEAN, the Philippines will also organize commemorative activities to celebrate this milestone in addition to the ASEAN meetings that we will be holding.

Activities in support of our chairmanship are also being planned by our Philippine Embassies, missions and consulates abroad. Thank you very much and good day.


Pia Ranada (Rappler): Good morning, Sec. Hello? Good morning, Usec. Sir, the South China Sea dispute has always been part of the agenda of the ASEAN Summits even in the past. And as chairman, President Duterte will have a lot of influence on the agenda. So, but we also know that President Duterte has a strategy to not mention The Hague ruling just yet given our friendship with China. So has there been any discussion on how the dispute will be tackled during the summit? And as early as now, has the President given any directive on how it will be tackled? Will the topic be avoided?

USEC. MANALO: No, the issue of the South China Sea, of course, is in the agenda of the ASEAN. In fact, we will be undertaking ongoing work throughout the year focusing on the unfinished Code of Conduct of the South China Sea and the Declaration of the Code of Conduct and the principles of the Code of Conduct.

In fact, one of our main goals this year in cooperation with China, not only Philippines but ASEAN and China, is to try and arrive at a framework for the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea by the end of the year, that will be one of our main priorities.

And I think all of this work will be consistent with the environment that we are now facing on the South China Sea, on how we can address the disputes, not only the Philippines but our other members of ASEAN as well.

So I think, definitely, that will be an issue before us during our chairmanship.

Ms. Ranada: But sir, will The Hague ruling be discussed during the Summit?

USEC. MANALO: Well, actually, there’s no need to really discuss The Hague ruling because it already exists. It’s already a part of the law, of the international law, so it’s there and the focus will be of course on — I think the priority now is to try and get a Code of Conduct.

Ms. Ranada: But surely The Hague ruling as an international law won’t it be a consideration in forming a Code of Conduct that will guide the maritime cooperation?

USEC. MANALO: Well, I see that would be but it — the Code of…The Hague ruling will not be on the agenda in the sense that it’s already part of international law. So we really can’t discuss the ruling, it’s there.

Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines):  Good morning, sir. How do you, how do we then reconcile the idea of us working for a Code of Conduct by the end of the year with China and at the same time, receiving reports that China continues to build military structures in Scarborough Shoal? I mean, aren’t we making an appeal for China to stop — in disputed areas, let me clarify. How — are we not going to make an appeal to China to stop this pending the finalization of the COC?

USEC. MANALO: Well, that’s the challenge we face in coming out with the framework. It’s not only the Philippines who faces this challenge but other claimant states in the region.

And I think the whole purpose of the Code of Conduct is to try and see how these disputes can be managed in a peaceful way and in a non-confrontational way. And this is the position that the Philippines and the other ASEAN countries will be taking when we discuss a possible framework for the Code of Conduct and the implementations of the principles on the Declaration of the Code of Conduct.

Reymund Tinaza (Bombo Radyo): Hi, sir. Sir, during the previous administrations, during the previous Leaders’ Summit, we have witnessed some, well, clear heated engagement during the dialogue, especially there are open neighbor or member ASEAN countries who are pro-China. And now that we have the new foreign policy of the President, more friendlier to China, do we see a different scenario, atmosphere during our hosting?

USEC. MANALO: Well, we certainly hope we will have a pleasant scenario during our chairmanship but we will be guided by our national interest. We will also be guided by the concerns of our ASEAN colleagues. And we will talk to China in away where we will push forth our interests, just as we expect China will play theirs, put forth theirs and we will see how we can discuss that.

But certainly, we need to have a discussion, at least an atmosphere which is conducive for productive discussion and that’s what we will aim for.

Mr. Tinaza: Sir, aside from West Philippine Sea issue, I understand the President already made some rounds and consultations with his fellow ASEAN leaders to get their consensus of what to be, or what to put forward during the — on the table during the Leaders’ Summit. And after your consultations also with your counterparts, may we know at least what are the key priority or topics, agenda we will put forward during the meetings?

USEC. MANALO: Oh I think I’ll need another briefing on that because there are really quite a lot, it’s  — as we mentioned, we have the six priorities.

And just to give you an idea, in fact, only on one priority, for example, on peace and stability in the region, where we will be focusing on areas such as preventing or combating radicalization, violent extremism.

We also will be looking at other maritime security issues not only the South China Sea.  And so you can already see that there will be quite a number of issues not only on — even on non-traditional issues such as ASEAN resiliency, which is one of our — and combating natural disasters, preventive action.

I think all of these issues will be taken up — we would be taking up during our chairmanship. So there are quite a number. And I think probably, what I — would be very useful perhaps, even before meetings, to give you a more detailed presentation. But there are really quite a number, very difficult to enumerate.

And we also expect other issues may come up during the year which were not aware of yet. So, we have to be prepared. But I think the six thematic priorities we have already singled out will basically cover in a broad terms the major concerns of the Philippines and the ASEAN countries.

Celerina Monte (Manila Shimbun): Good morning, sir. Sir, follow up on Pia’s question regarding The Hague ruling. During last year’s summit, I believe, the Philippines tried to include in the joint communiqué or joint statement that ruling but we failed to do so. So in this case, are we expecting or is it safe to say that there will be a mention on this particular ruling or there will be none?

USEC. MANALO: Well, I can’t look into the future. But just to make a point, actually the Philippines did not fail, it’s just there was no consensus because you know before we can get anything into an ASEAN, we need to have an ASEAN consensus.

But anyway, that being said, I think as I mentioned already earlier The Hague ruling is a fact, it’s a fact of law so there is nothing really to discuss about, it’s there. And it’s not for all countries to absorb it as they wish.

But I think what’s important is that certainly the South China Sea will be an issue during it in the terms of the Code of Conduct and the DOC and that in itself is already a major challenge which we will have to face during the year to see if we can come up as I said with a framework which would involve the agreement of China and the rest of the ASEAN countries.

Ms. Monte: So, sir, just to push on that issue. So, definitely there will be no mentioning of that ruling if ever in the joint communiqué?

USEC. MANALO: I can’t predict what will be done but I said — as I said we are looking at the Code of Conduct and the DOC.

Ms. Monte: I just want to ask why the summit per se will be in Clark?

USEC. MANALO: Why it will be — ? I think that was the decision of the NOC. They were the one…I mean, it was identified that that would be the part. I think perhaps, I think someone else will be in a better position why we pick that place. But the thing is it will be one of the two summits at least as of now are being planned to be held there.

Marlon Ramos (The Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning, Usec. With the Philippines being the host of this year’s ASEAN Summit, did the President give any instruction, order for the NOC or the DFA on how to handle issues he is very vocal about particularly the trafficking, maritime cooperation, terrorism and climate change?

USEC. MANALO: Yes, I think, the President has already fully approved all the points that we have said — I have mentioned to you today. And as I said not only the President but other ASEAN partners are also on board.

So, I think in that sense we all share these common concerns as you mentioned especially those issues you mentioned drug enforcement, combating terrorism, those are — those will be the key points which not only the President and Philippines will be pushing but even our ASEAN colleagues.

Mr. Ramos: Did he give any specific instruction or order lalo na doon sa — in the crafting of the COC?

USEC. MANALO: Yeah, he approved everything that we mentioned here. Those are his orders.

Mr. Ramos: No, but did he give his own input?

USEC. MANALO: Yeah, he said he approves all the move towards — you know, our efforts on terrorism and combatting violent extremisms, et cetera.

Mr. Ramos: Maybe Secretary Andanar could also help answering the next question because I am just wondering how the Philippine government would go about educating Filipinos, the public regarding the ASEAN integration? Will there be any specific events or discussions?

USEC. MANALO: Here in the Philippines?

Mr. Ramos: The ASEAN integration.

SEC. ANDANAR: As mentioned earlier, we will have a road show and one this coming January 14th, right? In Davao City. And the road show would essentially show everyone and give everyone a rundown of what will happen during the ASEAN 2017 Ministerial Meetings and the Summit itself including road shows that will also include those in the barangays and the puroks. Therefore, we have materials prepared targeting different markets of society.

Leila Salaverria (The Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning, sir. Will there be an ASEAN Plus Three summit during this year, during the Philippine hosting of the… ASEAN Plus Three, will there be?

USEC. MANALO: Yes, yes. We will have…Not only the ASEAN Summits and the ASEAN Plus Three, and we will also have with our dialogue partners, individually. We’ll also have the EAS Summit, East Asia Summit.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, how do we see the ASEAN Plus Three Summit influencing the crafting of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea?

USEC. MANALO:  Well, the Code of Conduct is between ASEAN and China. So officially, the ASEAN Plus Three does not tackle this issue.

Ms. Ranada: Usec, how will…How is President Duterte preparing for his role as host? Is he getting briefings on topics to be discussed and second level to that question would be, will he also be briefed on protocol for example? Because in past summits, we know that he missed some events and given the kind of guest he was at summits, what kind of host will he be this year?

USEC. MANALO:  The President is being fully briefed on every step of the way. And he will be…And, of course, all our officials will be holding regular meetings with the President and also with each other as we proceed during our chairmanship.

So the President, in fact, has been briefed in quite detail on this even last year before we became chairman.

Ms. Andolong: Sir, are representatives of these state leaders arriving expressed maybe any concerns on security threats in the country during the summit and if so how are you allaying their fears and what measures are you undertaking?

USEC. MANALO: Well, I’m not aware of any, anything to that effect. But we are sure, of course, that full preparations are being made, of course.

Ms. Ignacio: May invitation na Usec sa mga leaders na pupunta? And kasi sa East Asia, pumupunta ‘yung US President and Russian President, nagpalabas na tayo ng invitation to them, sir?

USEC. MANALO: Not yet. First of all, hindi po presidente si…So we have to wait. But yes, we will in due course be sending out the invitations to all the heads of state of the EAS in November, in the meetings in November. So we will at the appropriate time send out the invitations.

Ms. Ignacio: Including China, Japan, and–?

USEC. MANALO: All of them. In fact, we will be having our summits with them individual too. So they will all be receiving those invitations.

Ms. Ignacio: Sir, kasi sa Laos, isang beses na lang ginawa ‘yung ano, ‘yung ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting. Tayo, we decided na gawin April and November.

USEC. MANALO: Well, actually ‘yung sa Laos, that was the special case kasi they—Laos sought the approval of ASEAN to have only a back-to-back. But the normal ASEAN way is to have two separate summits so one just amongst the ASEAN and the rest with our partners.

Vic Somintac (DZEC): Sir, may we know how much is the budget intended for hosting the 2017 ASEAN?

USEC. MANALO: I think the NOC would be the right…Well, I only know what I read. But I think the NOC would be the best body to ask on the exact figure of the budget.

Henry Uri (DZRH): Sir, ano hong inaasahan nating pakinabang ng publiko pagkatapos nitong ASEAN Summit na ito? Para po saan? Ano ang magiging pakinabang ng sambayanang Pilipino rito?

USEC. MANALO: Well, first through the economic, a stronger ASEAN economy. Makaka-benefit lahat ng tao, not only the Philippines, but across the ASEAN region.

In terms sa social welfare greater participation of the citizenry not only for the Philippines but for the region.

And ang sinabi ni Secretary, greater awareness of ASEAN and our role as a region at saka ‘yung influence natin not only in the region but beyond the region.

So we see so many benefits that can result from this year, hopefully, especially during its 50th anniversary in those various areas, and also in the area of security, ‘yung combatting drugs, terrorism, violent extremism magkakaroon ng cooperation amongst with the ASEAN countries hopefully to jointly see how we can work together to prevent that scourge of terrorism.

So I really see many ways that we can benefit and our job is to see how we can pursue this effectively as chairman in the coming year. 


Mr. Ramos:  Sir, just a brief ano lang, discussion on what the public should expect on the launch on January 15. Will there be leaders attending or just foreign ministers of the ASEAN members?

USEC. MANALO: I think this should be mainly a domestic affair. But, of course, the Diplomatic Corps, I think, will be there sa Davao for the opening.

Mr. Ramos: Sir, this time with the ASEAN being held in the Philippines, will the President be seated next to the UN Secretary General and next President of US?

USEC. MANALO: Malalaman natin by — before November.

Ms. Ranada: Usec, this will be the first international summit to be hosted under the Duterte admin. So, did the President give any specific directives on how it will be done, for example, in previous events he was very keen on making sure it is simple. He didn’t want to feed pa nga diplomat’s food like he just wanted to feed them softdrinks or something. So will there be something like that for the hosting of ASEAN 2017?

USEC. MANALO: No, our job is to ensure that which is effective and that we do our job and it truly reflects the 50th anniversary of the ASEAN. So we will be doing our best. Those are our instructions.

Mr. Ramos: Tanong lang kanina, sir, ni Ina, is there any specific security threat on the hosting or did any member states raised this concern?

USEC. MANALO: I am not aware. We haven’t received anything on that.