MANILA, Philippines – Known worldwide for his bloody campaign against illegal drugs, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called for a "drug-free" Southeast Asia in a speech at a regional summit.
"We must also be resolute in realizing a drug-free ASEAN. The scourge of illegal drugs threatens our gains in community-building," said Duterte on Saturday, April 29, as he formally opened the 30th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Pasay City.
Duterte's emphasis on a regional fight against drugs is not surprising, given his war against drugs is a central theme of his presidency.
Other Southeast Asian countries have pronounced anti-drug policies as well, including Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei, and Singapore.
"The illegal drug trade apparatus is massive. But it is not impregnable. With political will and cooperation, it can be dismantled; it can be destroyed before it destroys our societies," said Duterte.
In his speech, he also emphasized the need to stick to ASEAN's non-interference policy in which member-countries agree not to publicly criticize, or in other ways, get involved in domestic issues of another member-country.
This principle is enshrined in the 1967 Bangkok Declaration, the document that founded ASEAN.
Duterte described as "cornerstones" of ASEAN "mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, and national identity of all nations and non-interference in the internal affairs of one another."
"Dialogue relations can be made more productive and constructive if the valued principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of ASEAN member states is observed," he added later on.
The Philippine President has responded previously to criticism of his policies by saying such criticism is a form of interference by other nations.
This was the case when the European Parliament issued a resolution calling on the Philippines to drop efforts to revive the death penalty. Duterte lashed out, saying European lawmakers should "mind their own business."
He also lambasted the United States State Department for expressing concern overv his administration's drug war in press statements.
True enough, Duterte, right after mentioning the importance of ASEAN ties with the US and EU, said such ties can be improved if there was no interference in domestic affairs.
"Dialogue relations can be made more productive and constructive if the valued principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of ASEAN member states is observed," said Duterte.
His opening speech formally opened the 30th ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings where he and the 9 other ASEAN leaders will discuss shared concerns: economy, security, resilience to natural disasters, among others. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.