Pres. Duterte calls on ASEAN to help Myanmar attain peace; says PHL ready to accept Myanmar refugees

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his remarks during the plenary session of the virtual 38th and 39th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summits and Related Summits hosted by Brunei Darussalam at the Malacañang Palace on October 26, 2021. KING RODRIGUEZ/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO


(Eagle News) — President Rodrigo Duterte urged member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to help Myanmar in resolving its domestic issues, and expressed the country’s commitment to accept refugees from Myanmar.

The 76-year old Philippine leader, participated in his last ASEAN Summit, and said that the ASEAN should collectively address the Myanmar issue “as a responsible community”.

“The lack of progress in Myanmar has put ASEAN’s credibility into question. How we respond collectively will either affirm ASEAN’s relevance or reveal our impotence,” Duterte said on Tuesday.

Speaking via video conference during the 39th ASEAN Summit, President Duterte urged all parties in Myanmar to heed the ASEAN’s plea for peace.

“The Philippines urges all parties in Myanmar to engage in constructive dialogue with ASEAN. We are, after all, an ASEAN family. And if we cannot trust each other and work together, then who can Myanmar trust and work with?” he said.

“We stress that ASEAN’s Special Envoy must be able to visit Myanmar soon and meet all the parties involved,” he added.

-PHL open to refugees from Myanmar-

Duterte said that the Philippines is committed to help Myanmar citizens and the Rohingya people who want to seek refuge, saying that the country would accept them.

He also encouraged stakeholders to continue providing humanitarian assistance to all who are in need, especially Rohingya and citizens of Myanmar who seek refuge.

The Philippines, he said, will commit to help individuals caught up in “situations beyond their control”.

“Our doors are open to our Rohingya brothers and sisters and other peoples of Myanmar who seek refuge,” he added.

The ASEAN had so far drawn up a roadmap aimed at restoring peace but there have been doubts over the junta’s commitment to the plan.

All sides should be heard in order for the ASEAN community to be able to “effectively assist Myanmar in pursuing enduring peace and stability,” President Duterte said, noting history has shown that taking the consultative approach paves the way for democratization.

Myanmar’s rejection of ASEAN’s sincere offers of assistance may undermine the mutual trust and confidence that ASEAN-member states share, as well as that of key external partners and other international organizations, he said.

-Myanmar boycotts ASEAN summit-

Myanmar’s junta boycotted a Southeast Asian summit Tuesday after its chief was banned from the event, deepening the regime’s isolation nine months after it took power in a coup.

The virtual gathering kicked off three days of meetings hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), with US President Joe Biden as well as China’s premier in attendance.

Myanmar topped the agenda of Tuesday’s talks between regional leaders, with the country still in chaos following February’s military takeover and the subsequent deadly crackdown on dissent.

Myanmar’s refusal to let a special envoy meet ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi prompted the bloc to bar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing from this week’s summit.

Min Aung Hlaing’s exclusion from the Southeast Asian summit was an unprecedented snub from an organisation often seen as toothless.

The junta slammed the decision as a breach of the bloc’s policy of non-interference in member states’ affairs.

The 10-member group invited a senior official from the junta-appointed foreign ministry in the general’s place.

But the regime said on the eve of the meeting that sending a more junior figure would “affect our country’s sovereignty and image”.

At the opening of the summit, a big screen showed the leaders participating — with just a blue display carrying the word “Myanmar”, where the country’s representative was supposed to be.

Addressing the meeting, Southeast Asian leaders sharply criticised the junta, its lack of cooperation with ASEAN, and its slow progress towards restoring peace.

(with a report from Agence France Presse)