President Rodrigo Duterte, current chair of ASEAN, successfully led the convening of the 30th ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings on 29 April in Manila, the first of the two ASEAN Summits to be hosted by the country this year.

Pres. Duterte facilitated frank discussions on the deepening integration process in the 10-member association, as well as on relevant regional and international developments. Leaders of ASEAN Member States (AMS) have strongly called for advanced cooperation in the region by staying true and steadfast to ASEAN’s processes of integration, innovation, inclusivity and connectivity.

“On the economic front, ASEAN must build the capacities of the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as engines of growth and nurture sub-regional cooperation in order to bring progress to those who deserve it the most – those who have the very least in our societies,” Pres. Duterte said.

He also stressed the role of the MSME sector as the backbone of the region’s economic integration leading to an inclusive, people-oriented, and people-centered ASEAN.

The PH thematic priority on “inclusive, innovation-led growth” for the ASEAN Economic Community sets the tone for an agenda of increasing trade and investments, integrating MSMEs in the Global Value Chains (GVCs), and fostering an innovation-driven economy.


On 30 April, President Duterte and Indonesian President Joko Widodo launched the ASEAN Roll-on Roll-off (RORO) Davao-General Santos-Bitung route, the connectivity set to benefit Filipino producers, especially Mindanao and Palawan as they grow their businesses and link their markets in Bitung and the rest of Indonesia.

Products that can be exported to Indonesia include animal feeds, aqua products, charcoal, coffee beans, construction materials, copra, feed ingredients, fertilizers, food and beverages, fresh fruits, ice cream products, meats, peanuts, poultry (halal), soya, sugar, and synthetics.

This sub-regional cooperation can spur more investments and thus can help improve the quality of life of people.

ASEAN External Relations

Recognizing the changing geopolitical and economic landscape, ASEAN Leaders deliberated on the role of the region as a network of countries working together towards the stability and prosperity of its people. ASEAN has grown by around 5 percent a year for nearly two decades and has endured difficult economic and financial crises.

Collectively, amidst uncertainties, ASEAN must demonstrate a concrete plan of action for preserving a robust global economic system of which we have been a major beneficiary, according to President Duterte.

“We must continue to work with our economic partners if we are to succeed in integrating our region into the global economy”, he added.

A milestone year, 2017 also witnesses commemoration of 40 years of relations between ASEAN and Dialogue Partners, Canada, the European Union and the United States. ASEAN is also celebrating its 25th anniversary with India.

Regional economic partnership

“The economic and political juncture at which we find ourselves emphasizes a responsibility for maintaining open and market-driven economies, in order to ensure that regional and global growth and development continues to move forward”, said Trade Secretary and chair of the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting Ramon Lopez

With rising protectionist and anti-globalization views, the substantial progress and eventual conclusion of the negotiations is necessary in order to maintain momentum of the region’s growth.

Specifically, PH shares the desire of all Parties to bring the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations to a substantial conclusion this year. However, President Duterte said that despite the urgency, ASEAN “should not sacrifice quality and the long-term economic gains that will be realized under an expanded and integrated market that accounts for about half of the world’s population, a third of global income, and a quarter of global exports.”

RCEP is a reflection of ASEAN’s thoughtful and deliberate process towards economic integration, according to Sec. Lopez.

“It has now become imperative for ASEAN to show its political willingness to move RCEP forward, which will expand the current ASEAN market of about 600 million to an even greater market of 3.5 billion with ASEAN and its six Dialogue Partners,” the trade chief said.

Sec. Lopez also underscored that “it is important for RCEP to be inclusive and forward-looking – by integrating MSMEs in the GVCs, as well as secure improved market access for goods and services for businesses in the region.”

The PH economic interventions in the Summit are anchored in Dutertenomics, which sums up Pres. Duterte’s socio-economic agenda that aims to widen the gains of economic development, to address inequality, and to uplift the quality of life of Filipinos.