Palace to ASEAN hosting critics: They don’t know what happened beyond closed doors

Nov 16, 2017 | Human Rights, Issues, Leaders, Meeting, Palace, Press, World

President Rodrigo Duterte joins the leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states and dialogue partners during the opening of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City on November 13, 2017. The dialogue partners include New Zealand, Timor-Leste, Republic of Korea, USA, Australia, India, China, and Japan. ALBERT ALCAIN/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Thursday fired back at critics of the Philippines’ hosting of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, telling them they had no idea what transpired behind private meetings among world leaders.

“Obviously they did not know what happened beyond closed doors,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing.

 Meetings during the summit were held behind closed doors and members of the press were only allowed to cover the opening statements before sessions.

Members of the House opposition had criticized the way the country organized the 31st ASEAN meet for supposedly being a lavish photo social gathering while failing to address regional human rights concerns.

“Billions of pesos [were] spent hosting ASEAN [but] did we get anything in return? Puro (Purely) handshakes, obligated smiles and safe rhetoric like we hosted a giant party and photo ops,” Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said.

“State leaders have adopted a sort of diplomatic silence on the human rights abuse and EJKs under Duterte’s war on drugs,” Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, for his part, said.

Reacting to the opposition solons’ comments, Roque pointed out that back-to-back meetings on fighting global threats and maintaining peace were not petty talks.

“I can assure you that the threat of nuclear annihilation is not a matter of pageantry. The need for peace and stability on the South China Sea is not a matter of pageantry,” Roque said.

“And, of course, the issue of terrorism, the fact that terrorism today knows no territorial boundaries is no pageantry,” he added.

“So I beg to disagree. And obviously the opposition leaders who said this did not take time out to read the official accounts of how the summit went through or the outputs of the summit.”

The Palace official then touted the Philippines’ hosting of the regional summit as a “tremendous success.”

“Of course, now that all the guests are gone, there’s a sigh of relief that there was not one untoward incident,” he said.

“But thanks to the cooperation of the Filipino people, we averted such incidents. And the world community now recognizes not only the fact that the Philippine president is not just the president of the Philippines, a leader of Southeast Asia, but a recognized leader in the international community,” he added.

In its chairman statement released after the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila, Southeast Asian leaders shunned any mention of China’s island-building activities and its defeat in a United Nations-backed tribunal over its sweeping claims in the South China Sea.

ASEAN heads of state also avoided an outright condemnation of abuses committed by the Burmese military against the Rohingya people, although they “welcomed” the commitment by Myanmar to “take immediate steps to end the violence in Rakhine” and “address the refugee problem through verification process.”

Meanwhile, commuters vented their anger on the internet last Saturday as thousands got stuck in a sea of vehicles along major thoroughfares in Metro Manila, including EDSA, as world leaders arrived for the ASEAN meet.

“Siyempre po merong mga naabala lalong- lalo na doon sa closure ng EDSA, pasensya na po kayo (Of course there were those who got inconvenienced by the road closures especially on EDSA. We apologize),” Roque said.

“Ang naging kapalit naman ay ‘yung paghanga ng buong daigdig sa kakayahan ng bansang Pilipinas (The admiration of the international community for the Philippines’ capability is what we get in return),” he added.

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