(Eagle News) – President Rodrigo Duterte is now back in the country after his official visits to Cambodia, Hong Kong and China, saying that he is now more convinced that the future of the country lies in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Asian cooperation.
“I am glad to be back,” he said upon arriving around 3 a.m. on Tuesday from his trip in Beijing, China where he met with Chinese president Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and signed several documents.
“They were the last two officials that I met,” he said of the top two Chinese officials whom he met in Beijing before he boarded the plane back to Manila.
He said they had separate talks and China was interested in ensuring that commitments made during his previous state visit to China were going to be implemented for the benefit of the Philippines.
Duterte said he is now convinced that the Philippines’ partners with the ASEAN and Asia will help the country in moving forward, even as he foresees the region to be the future of economic development.
“I return with a renewed sense of belief that indeed the future of the Philippines is in ASEAN and Asia,” he said at the Davao International Airport upon his arrival.
The President assured they are looking at ways “to complement our integration efforts in Southeast Asia even as we seek to reinforce ASEAN centrality.”
Duterte admitted he hadn’t slept a wink since Monday morning with the start of the events in China until his arrival at the Davao airport Tuesday dawn (May 16).
“I woke up very early yesterday morning…started our bilaterals and the plenary at 9 am. I haven’t had a wink of sleep since then,” he told reporters during a presscon early Tuesday that started at around 3 a.m.
He said that at Phnom Penh, Cambodia, he “saw the support of the region” and realized how “Southeast Asia now stands at the center of the Asia-Pacific.”
Southeast Asia itself is a region full of rich natural resources.
He said working with ASEAN, Asia and other regional partners will make the country reach its economic potential and along the way, provide more employment for more Filipinos, as well as development for the country’s infrastructure..
“Working with them, we can narrow the development gap,” said President Duterte who is also this year’s chair of the ASEAN.
Meeting with business and world leaders at WEF, OBOR
He said he spoke of the mutual benefits of working together, both in the World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and at the One Belt, One Road or OBOR forum in Beijing, China, where he reached out to a larger audience of world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Duterte talked of his administration’s economic platform, the “Dutertenomics,” where the “Build, Build, Build” program is a key project that his government is promoting for investments and partnerships.
He described it as the “largest effort to date to modernize and integrate Philippine infrastructure.”
He also assured the country’s “commitment to provide an enabling environment for business to thrive where criminality is addressed, corruption is curbed, and contractual obligations are complied.”
“In short, I told them, it is no longer the ‘business as usual’ in the Philippines,” he said.
One Belt, One Road opportunities
The President said in the “One Belt One Road” project in Asia, “we have opportunities to synergize our efforts to bring progress and prosperity and the peace and stability that our peoples and our region deserve.”
“OBOR can be the parallel program or platform for growth in the region,” he said.
“We can use it to stimulate growth and improve market access, as it facilitates connectivity and provide much needed funding.”
But even with the promise of greater economic development in the country, to be achieved by partnering with other nations, Duterte assured, “Our people’s welfare will always be at the center of your government’s agenda.”
“As your president, my mandate is not only to build infrastructure, but it is to build a strong and progressive nation,” he said.
“I will remain faithful and committed to this solemn vow,” he added.