It is President Rodrigo Duterte’s turn to play host to an international event, and the world will be watching.
Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gather in Manila this week for their first of two summits here. This will be the Philippines’ 3rd time to host an ASEAN summit, and it’s auspicious since the regional bloc is also celebrating its 50th founding anniversary this year.
It’s the perfect perfect time to take stock of how ASEAN has struggled with the old world, and how it intends to deal with the new. It’s the perfect time to assess if its conduct in the last 50 years has helped the region and its peoples, or has in fact delayed resolution to their long-festering problems.
Beyond the challenge of economic integration are cross-border concerns that ASEAN nations can resolve only through cooperation and information exchange: the exploitation of labor, the transit of illegal drugs, the breeding of terrorists, the yawning gap between the capital and the communities in the margins.
ASEAN members have done steps to address these, but they’re not enough – as proven by the resilience of the people and sectors that are causing these problems. Let us not forget that the same issues have caused the breakup of regional unions in other parts of the world.
The things that have made ASEAN last this long are also what, observers say, have stunted its growth and muted its relevance: consensus, non-interference, the preference for dialogue over confrontation.
Truth be told, President Duterte is a stranger to these principles. The host of this year’s regional event is a leader in a hurry to implement change in a country that he feels has been delayed by too much consensus, too many points of view, and endless dialogues.
But as this year's summit chair, he will have to ensure the protocols are honored, time limits allotted for leaders are followed, and that they are – including himself – present in all the sessions where they're needed. More importantly, President Duterte will learn to help fellow leaders arrive at a consensus, and shepherd them to a common understanding.
It's a good lesson in leadership. And the theme is most appropriate both for the host country and the region: "Partnering for change, engaging the world."
As he hosts this summit, we hope the Philippine president comes face to face with the value of consultation, of listening to views contrary to his, and of spending time to talk to people.
These processes slow down decisions, yes, but they also provide leaders a better understanding of the complexities of societies, the challenges of governance, and the stubbornness of deep-seated problems that outlive presidents and their slogans. – Rappler.com