PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Marking his 14th foreign swing since he assumed office in 2010, President Benigno S. Aquino III is set to arrive here today to attend the 20th Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits.
Along with nine other ASEAN leaders, Aquino will attend the welcome dinner hosted by Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Padei Techo Hun Sen, chairman of the 20th ASEAN Summit and Luk Chumteav Kattiprithbendit Bun Ray Hun Sen.
In his first overseas trip this year, the President is scheduled to depart Manila for Cambodia tonight at 8 o'clock after checking government security preparations for the Holy Week vacation.
He will be accompanied by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas, Mindanao Development Authority chair Luwalhati Antonino, and Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda.
Aquino, who has kept his travel expenses low and official delegation small, will be joined by his entourage aboard a chartered plane.
As this year's ASEAN chairman, Cambodia has chosen the theme ''One Community, One Destiny.''
Tomorrow (April 3), Aquino will be joining Southeast Asian leaders in the opening ceremony of the Summit, which also celebrates the 45th anniversary of the founding of ASEAN.
The ASEAN leaders are expected to attend the plenary session after the 9:30 a.m. opening ceremony. They will discuss the following items on the agenda: the Phnom Penh declaration of ''ASEAN, One Community, One Destiny;'' the progress of implementation of the ASEAN Charter and roadmap for ASEAN community under the political security, economic and socio-cultural pillars; the progress of implementation of the master plan on ASEAN connectivity involving physical, institutional and people to people connectivity, realizing a drug-free ASEAN by 2015; and the adoption by ASEAN of the initiative of establishing a global movement of moderate.
On the same day, the President will rub elbows with the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Representatives, the Civil Society Organizations Representatives, and the Youth Representatives. The Philippine-AIPA delegation will be composed of House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., and La Union Rep. Victor Ortega and the AIPA Secretary General, former Rep. Antonio Cuenco.
Tomorrow night, the President, along with nine other ASEAN leaders will also have a Royal Audience with His Majesty Norodom Sihamoni, the King of Cambodia who will host a royal state banquet for them.
The ASEAN Leaders' Retreat on April 4, the last day of the Summit, marks the'' freewheeling discussion on issues of common interests,'' the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said. Mr. Aquino is expected to tackle the West Philippine Sea issue and the Pyongyang's long-range missile test in his informal meeting with his fellow Southeast leaders.
Assistant Secretary for ASEAN Affairs Teresita Barsana said the President will continue to promote the country's interest in the West Philippine Sea amid the Cambodia's purported refusal to discuss the issue following its strong alliance with China.
The President will raise the issue in terms of the implementation of the Code of Conduct of State Parties in the South China Sea, citing the Manila's insistence to establish a ''zone of peace, friendship, freedom and cooperation (ZoPFFC)'' in the disputed islands.
The 10 ASEAN member-countries, including Philippines are tied up with the drafting of a formal code of conduct (CoC) in the West Philippine Sea.
The North Korea's rocket launch scheduled between April 12 and 16 will also be part of the President's agenda during the Leaders' Retreat. The DFA said there are about 60, 000 Filipinos in the Korean peninsula, 10,000 of whom are in North Korea.
Apart from maritime security, the President, during the summit, will also promote climate change and disaster risk reduction management, migrant workers' protection and welfare, and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to strengthen the implementation of the ASEAN Charter and to contribute to regional efforts towards achieving the establishment of an ASEAN Community in 2015.
Barsana disclosed that the President, along with nine other ASEAN leaders will also have a Royal Audience with His Majesty Norodom Sihamoni, the King of Cambodia.
After the concluding session of the ASEAN summit, the President will join Brunei's Sultan and yang Di-Pertuan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Malaysian Prime Minister Dato Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Abdul Razak in the 8th Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) Summit. The four leaders will tackle the core strategic thrusts of BIMP-EAGA within the next five years in the fields of enhanced transport, power and communication connectivity, food basket strategy in agri-business and fisheries development, tourism development and environment and natural resource development, according to Barsana.
Before his departure for Manila, Mr. Aquino is expected to meet with members of the Filipino community in Cambodia. There is an estimated 3,000 Filipinos in Cambodia, 2,000 of whom live in Phnom Penh and work in various fields in medicine, business and NGOs, Barsana said.
The ASEAN was established on August 8, 1967 with the signing of the Bangkok Declaration by the five founding members, including Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
In Manila, civil society and youth groups called on the ASEAN leaders to work together to abandon nuclear plans and invest in the region's renewable energy sources.
The groups, led by Greenpeace Southeast Asia and Young Progressives of Southeast Asia (YPSEA), handed a petition to Dr. Seoung Ratchavy, Cambodia State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and chair of the ASEAN in behalf of Cambodia.
''Cambodia is chair of ASEAN and can set this imperative agenda. We want to see ASEAN leaders enhance cooperation and promote constructive climate and energy solutions,'' Kim Eng Yong, member of YPSEA-Cambodia and president of People Centre for Development and Peace (PDP-Centre), a Cambodia based organization, said.
''ASEAN leaders must learn from Fukushima. Nuclear reactors are fundamentally unsafe, and endanger lives and communities. A year after the catastrophe, people are unable to return to their homes and rebuild their lives - the risks of radioactivity persist for generations,'' Francis dela Cruz, Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner, said.
A report by Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council found that modern energy systems based on energy efficiency and renewable energy can easily replace nuclear power.
Current energy trends also show that renewable energy (RE) power plants has outstripped nuclear power, with RE accounting 26 percent of all new power plants added to the worldwide electricity grid in the past 10 years, compared to nuclear power stations representing just 2 percent of new installations in the same period. (With reports from Genalyn D. Kabiling and Ellalyn B. De Vera)