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PIA Press Release

Commentary: ASEAN Summit deferment no political issue

By Renee F. De Guzman

San Fernando City, La Union (11 December) -- The ASEAN Summit organizers' last minute decision to postpone the 12th annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) in Cebu due to typhoon "Seniang" has triggered suspicion and criticism that there is something more than bad weather that prompted the postponement.

The approaching typhoon is expected to hit northern Cebu. The officials said the typhoon could mar the "near perfect" setting that they wanted for the summit.

Speculation focused on security, since the postponement was announced on the heels of travel warnings from the United States, Britain, Japan and New Zealand about a "credible" threat of a terrorist attack in Cebu during the summit. Another speculation was that the Administration did not want to be embarrassed by planned rallies in Manila and Cebu to coincide with the summit.

Some critics of the Administration also said the postponement of the summit, is not good for the image of the Philippines which is already suffering comparison with better performing neighbors. Even Vietnam has first successfully hosted the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum, which is bigger that the 10-member ASEAN.

Regardless of the reason, the postponement is good not only for the Philippines, the host nation but also the delegates and visitors.

"We still feel we made the right decision in considering the safety of the delegates," said Amb. Marciano Paynor, Jr., Chair of National Organizing Committee, referring to the postponement. While thankful that the typhoon was hardly felt in Metro Cebu, he said the hosts could not afford to put at risk the safety of the heads of state.

The Philippines did what any responsible nation and Government would do, and the postponement of the summit has been understood and accepted by the nations and leaders concerned.

The issue should not be politicized as what is important now is to resume the work on a new schedule and shape an ASEAN meeting more exiting and constructive as ever.

The Administration will move forward in all fronts of serving the people, in preparing for the summit, and in helping ASEAN attain a lasting regional security and prosperity.

The postponement of the summit has enabled the Government to devote its full time to the welfare of typhoon victims, which is its foremost priority.

The Philippines had rushed to get ready to host the meeting- building a new convention center from scratch that was still getting final touches as preliminary meetings started -- after Burma pulled out as host eight months ago amid criticism over its human rights record. (PIA La Union) [top]

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