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Preparing for ASEAN

The world may seem like a big place but in reality, it’s getting smaller and smaller by the day. I’ve written in previous columns about how no place is alone in the world anymore and all of our actions don’t just affect us but the larger community as well. That is why it is important to note that what a nation does no longer is just about them these days, but could have ripples that affect people halfway around the world.

I have been thinking about the bigger global community these past few days as the much-anticipated ASEAN is fast approaching. The leaders of many nations will be coming to the Philippines to discuss politics, international relations, trade deals, and so much more. Essentially it’s a gathering of some of the most powerful people in the global community discussing what the future might possibly hold for all of us.

Some people have been complaining about how the summit is going to disrupt daily life. Even if the government is trying to take every precaution and doing their best to prevent it from causing undue stress to Filipino citizens, we can’t deny that November 10-14 is going to be a very busy time in the country and we are all going to have to do our part in ensuring that it goes as smoothly and peacefully as possible. And if this means suspending work in some places and school for the kids, then that’s a small price to pay for all the potential good that could happen.

I believe the ASEAN Summit is one of the most important events taking place in our neck of the woods since APEC in 2015. Twenty-one world leaders plus the United Nations Secretary General are set to attend. Alongside the heads of state of the 10 ASEAN member nations the summit will also be welcoming leaders of the regional bloc’s dialogue partners from Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, China, Russia, India, the EU, and of course the United States. In fact, Trump has even stated that he will be extending his stay in the country for more discussions. It will be his first official visit here and we’re all definitely interested in how he will get along with President Duterte.

Seeing the guest list of the who’s who in the global community flying in for this prestigious event it’s no wonder every precaution is going to be taken. Security is going to be a nightmare and the eyes of the world are going to be on the Philippines as we welcome all the important summit guests to the slew of events all around the National Capital Region including the Special Gala event commemorating the 50th anniversary of ASEAN.

We can probably expect some rerouting and heightened security checks during the week of the summit as security measures are incredibly elaborate with thousands and thousands of cops deployed in Clark in Angeles City as well as convoys of escorts shuffling back and forth between events and motorcades ushering world leaders to and from meetings, technical working groups, dinners, lunches, galas, and more.

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In addition to suspending classes and some work in certain areas, the government is also imposing a 15-day gun ban in Metro Manila and Central Luzon. They will also be locking down certain thoroughfares like the North Luzon Expressway and EDSA while the international contingents are traveling through.

Personally I don’t think we can prepare enough. With what is on the line there is no such thing as over-preparing. We need to make sure the event goes smoothly and peacefully. That is really the most important thing. Safety is the top priority and something our government needs to make sure is at the head of the list. As long as they do that and ensure everything goes as planned, the leaders and delegates can focus on the important issues they have come together to discuss.

I think everyone has high hopes for what will come out of the summit. There has been so much political upheaval in the past year and much miscommunication on where the Philippines stands in the global community and where the country’s relationship with allies like the United States and Europe stand in the wake of a Duterte presidency. The talks that will happen at this summit are crucial for all nations to make it clear where they stand and what direction they will be taking in the future.

I think we all need to watch with keen interest when the ASEAN summit and meetings happen and take note of everything that comes from these discussions because they are all going to affect us all in the years ahead. And with all the preparations in place, I think we can be cautiously optimistic that everything will turn out well. I pray everything goes off without a hitch. This is a rare chance for our country to put our best foot forward, highlight our hospitality, and show the world that we can handle big ticket events like this with ease.


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