MANILA, OCTOBER 26, 2010 (STAR) By Aurea Calica - President Aquino leaves today for Vietnam with a promise to talk tough on the issue on Myanmar and other pressing global concerns such as climate change.

He is also expected to push for a pro-active engagement among countries with territorial claims in the South China Sea to avoid an outbreak of hostilities in the region.

“On Myanmar, you can expect that,” Mr. Aquino said when asked if he would make strong statements about Myanmar during his attendance in the 17th Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Hanoi. His trip to Vietnam is also a state visit, his first to an ASEAN member country as chief executive.

Aquino was here yesterday to vote for barangay officials at the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Elementary School in Barangay Central. The village polls were conducted simultaneously with the Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affair said Aquino would urge the junta-ruled Myanmar, which would hold its first national elections in two decades on Nov. 7, to stand by its commitment for full democratization.

Aquino will also call for the unconditional release of all political prisoners including Nobel Peace laureate and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi “as a gesture of goodwill,” the DFA said.

In the summit, the President is expected to push for stronger protection of Filipino migrant workers’ rights, particularly through the creation of a legally binding instrument that will implement the 2007 ASEAN Leaders Declaration on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers, the DFA added.

The President said while he was not eager to go on foreign trips, it was important for the Philippines to engage its neighbors and the world. He said he was particularly interested in addressing the global warming and climate change issue since the Philippines had been a victim of environmental degradation even if it had not contributed much to the depletion of the ozone layer.

“So there must be concerted action there. The idea of prosperity, you cannot have prosperity without addressing questions like piracy, pollution, threat of terrorism. So at the end of the day, just like a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, we will also have an improvement that will be firmer,” he said.

The DFA also said Aquino would also push for the creation of a binding code to prevent armed hostilities among countries with territorial claims to islets and reefs in the South China Sea, that is believed to contain huge oil and gas reserves.

“It will be good if no hostilities will flare up in the area and maybe the next phase should be, how do we explore the possibility that all claimant-countries can really start reaping the fruits of the potentials of this area so that it will be beneficial,” Aquino said.

“The idea is if we will benefit from this all at the same time, our economies grow and the state of living of all our constituents improve, then we will move away farther from the fear that something untoward will happen in the South China Sea – so in the end – a really a greater cohesion, a greater cooperation in the economic field more than anything,” he said. “And hopefully that will lead to greater stability within the region.”

Aquino also said he would be having a number of bilateral meetings with various leaders on the side of the summit.

Meanwhile, the President said he sees no need to appoint a caretaker during his absence.

“I’m not incapacitated. I think I can still do my function. I can do it. We’re not that far away. We can do it through the executive secretary’s office if there’s any need,” he said.

“That’s the only point, you need to delegate somebody else if there is incapacitation, temporary or permanent and I don’t think I am incapacitated in any way. I can still do what I have to do,” Aquino said.

Aquino said after the Vietnam trip, he is set to attend Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Japan in November.

He said several foreign trips are lined up for next year but he has to choose which of them should get priority.

“As much as possible, (when) a trip doesn’t redound to immediate and direct benefits to our country, I’d rather pass up on it. There’s an international publication that already criticized me for not wanting to go on trips. (It said) I’m less of a statesman

.But I think before we are able to do our role in the world stage, let us make sure that government is doing it’s role on the local stage,” Aquino said. 

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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