Press Briefing

Press Briefing of Ms. Daphne Oseña-Paez with Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for the Office ASEAN Affairs Daniel Espiritu

Event PCO Press Briefing with DFA

MS. OSEÑA-PAEZ: Magandang umaga, Malacañang Press Corps, and welcome to our press briefing today, our pre-departure briefing ngayong araw, October the 16th.

This week, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. will participate in the first ASEAN-Gulf Cooperation Council or GCC Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Apart from the Summit, the President will meet with the Filipino community and Saudi Arabian business leaders.

We have here today, Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for the Office of the ASEAN Affairs Daniel Espiritu to discuss details about the upcoming ASEAN-GCC Summit and other activities in Riyadh. Good morning, Asec. Espiritu.

ASEC. ESPIRITU: Good morning, Daphne.

MS. OSEÑA-PAEZ: Go ahead.

ASEC. ESPIRITU: And good morning also to our Malacañang Press Corps. Hi! It’s a pleasure to be with you again.

Okay, as Daphne said, the President will be participating at the first ASEAN-GCC Summit which will be held in Riyadh at the Ritz Carlton Hotel on October 20, 2023.

It will be a short affair. It’s just a one day meeting, but it will be preceded by a Filipino community meeting, hopefully in the morning of the same day, October 20.

So, the President will fly in on October 19, and then he will be leaving the venue right after the dinner on October 20 – right after the Summit. So, it will be very fast ‘no parang more than 24 hours lang na stay there.

And the meeting will be very focused and the activities will be very focused because aside from the meeting proper itself and the FilCom meeting, they’re also planning to hold a business roundtable with the Arab business, together with the Ministry of Investments of Saudi Arabia. But I cannot give you so much details on this yet because these meetings are still being finalized.

Now, there are also planned bilateral meetings with Saudi Arabia, as well as with Bahrain. But again, beyond the generalities, I cannot give you details yet because they are still being finalized.

Suffice it to say that the probable bilateral meeting with Saudi Arabia could focus on the 54 years of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia, and that one with Bahrain could also focus on the 45th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Of course, part of the discussion could be the presentation of the Maharlika Fund to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its businesses; again, the protection of our nationals abroad especially in terms of labor reforms being proposed for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; and the Arab assistance to the development of our BARMM, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in [Muslim] Mindanao.

Now, to focus on the Summit proper itself, it will be just a one day affair on the 20th, and it will primarily be about the endorsement of the framework of cooperation between ASEAN and GCC.

You know, the relations between ASEAN and GCC date back to 1990, but this is the first summit and we intend that this time to intensify cooperation between these two regional organizations because the cooperation has not yet been optimized yet.

Now, it’s very important because the GCC is composed of highly-developed Arab economies, and at the same time, they are petrochemical powerhouses, and as well as hub and logistics economies. Now, they can help ASEAN in addressing energy and food security – energy security because they’re petrochemical powerhouses – but also food security because some of the countries there, especially Qatar, are among the largest producers of fertilizers and they can fill up the slack or the deficit on the ASEAN side.

At the same time, since among the main features of the geopolitical disruption in the past two years have been the disruptions in the supply chain, since most of these hub economies are advanced in terms of operations of supply chains and ports and shipping and connectivity, they could very well help ASEAN in the problems with supply chain disruption the past several years.

Now, during the meeting, they will also discuss regional and international issues. So, among those would definitely be the current development in the Middle East. But, we have to remember that these countries are not exactly, directly involved in the conflict so probably the discussion will dwell on generalities on this. Focus will be given more on the endorsement or denoting of the framework of cooperation between ASEAN and GCC for the years 2024 to 2028, as well as on the joint statement of the summit.

I guess, I will stop there for now; it will be very fast anyway. So, yes, please.

MS. OSEÑA-PAEZ: Go ahead, Maricel Halili/TV5.

MARICEL HALILI/TV 5: Hi, sir. Magandang umaga po. Sir, bakit po ganoon lang kaikli iyong pagbisita ni Presidente sa Saudi? Kasi parang lumalabas na overnight lang kasi we thought at least mag-start siya ng November 18. So, hindi po ganoon iyong nangyari?

ASEC. ESPIRITU: Well, ang difference kasi nito sa iba nating summit is that most of our other summits are composed of several meetings. And in fact, most of them usually start with a senior officials meeting and ministerial meeting, and usually naman isang lang or maximum ng dalawang araw iyong the ones involving the President. But, this time iyong SOM meeting nauna na sa amin, among ASEAN, and then hindi na itinuloy iyong ministerial meeting. Nagkaroon naman ng pagpupulong on that sa side ng UN noong September. So, mas minabuti na tutukan na lang iyong pagpupulong ng mga leaders.

As I said, medyo nascent stage pa itong cooperation between ASEAN and GCC. So, actually, the importance of this meeting is that it will set the tone for the forward movement of this cooperation between GCC and the ASEAN. So, hindi kasi ito as active as the other cooperation partners. So, ngayon, we are going to make it more active by focusing on political security, economic and socio-cultural collaboration.

Now, I can only dwell on the generalities, although napasa na iyong framework of cooperation for 2024 and 2028. In the interest of times, let me just say that under political and security cooperation, it will include the intensification of meetings between GCC and ASEAN, especially between its secretariats. Then, there will also be activities of cooperation or areas of cooperation on counter-terrorism and transnational crime, cooperation between the GCCPOL and the ASEANPOL – that is the … parang Interpol ng ASEAN and GCC. So, these are the areas na pagtutulungan including anti-piracy. Because if you look at it, these two regional areas are actually a stride of the two most important sea lanes of trade and communication in the world. You know, the Arabian Sea, which includes the Suez Canal and the Red Sea, as well as the Persian Gulf, and then the South China Sea, both of which are actually the avenues for more than half of global trade and shipping.

So, both are very important for the stability of international commerce, and from that derives the continued prosperity not only of their regions, of the GCC region and ASEAN region, but also of the rest of the world. Kasi most of the trade of the rest of the world passes through these two international sea lanes or sea gates. So, that’s very important for us, that we have this cooperation on security.

And at the same time, as I said kanina, since these are petrochemical powerhouses, GCC can assist ASEAN in addressing our energy security needs. And of course food security needs, kasasabi ko kanina, among the countries here, especially Qatar, produced fertilizers and these are hub economies and actually these countries are awash in terms of investment funds that we can use in the region.

MS. DAPHNE-OSEÑA: Asec. Espiritu, thank you for explaining the significance of the relationship between the Gulf Economies and ASEAN. I am just wondering, why is this the first summit between the two considering they have had a relationship since 1990?

ASEC. ESPIRITU: Yeah, that’s true. It seems that since our relationship started in 1990s, we were so engrossed with community building activities. If we will look at it, even ASEAN only achieved what we can call a community status in 2015. And even then, the economic integration in ASEAN is not yet perfect. We’re still far, far from the usual model – the European Union Model.

So, the same is true with GCC actually which only started in 1981, so it’s quite understandable that during our developmental or formative stages that we focused more on our own internal consolidation activities. And because we very well know that up to now, both organizations are still trying to improve coordination among its bodies and cooperation in different areas of mutual interest.

So, I think that explains that. But lately because of recent geopolitical developments, it does become imperative that the two original organizations partner with each other to address common concerns.

MS. OSEÑA-PAEZ: Thank you. Mariz Umali, GMA 7.

ASEC. ESPIRITU: Good morning, Mariz.

MARIZ UMALI/ GMA7: Good morning, sir. You mentioned that this will also help assist in our energy and food security needs. Does this mean that after this summit, we will be expecting more rollbacks rather than price hikes in terms of petroleum products? Because one of the causes of threats to transport strikes, including the one that we’re having today, is because of the continuous price increases in petroleum products.

ASEC. ESPIRITU: Okay, actually, we’re going far, far ahead na because so far we’re only … at this point, we’re still talking of possible cooperation on supply activities. But anyway, indirectly, yes, because among the—of course, the basic root of the high energy prices are of course shortages and instability in the region.

If the two original organizations can cooperate on that and assure each other a continued and reliable supply in spite of what we called the vicissitudes of energy economics and the geopolitical instabilities, then we can more or less assure each other of a—or we can rather assure ASEAN of a continued and consistent volume of supply throughout the year. Now, with that, we can mitigate the higher prices of oil in ASEAN.

MS. OSEÑA-PAEZ: Okay. Let Narciso, DZRH

LET NARCISO/DZRH: Good morning, sir. You mentioned about labor reforms as part of discussion sa bilateral meeting with Saudi. Will the President follow-up on settlement of the unpaid salaries of a more than 10,000—

ASEC. ESPIRITU: Actually, that is on the agenda. Thank you.

LET NARCISO/DZRH: Pero, sir, ano na po bang nangyari talaga doon?

ASEC. ESPIRITU: I can’t give the details yet because these things are still under discussion. But it will be part of the bilateral meeting between Saudi Arabia and the Philippines. Probably, as for the more finer details of these issues, you can address your questions to OUMWA. Every once in a while may regular ano sila, briefing at the DFA.

MS. OSEÑA-PAEZ: Okay, thank you very much.

Q: Sir, sino ang kasama sa biyahe?

ASEC. ESPIRITU: Okay, it will be a very lean group, most of them working level – of course, the President and the officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Trade. But, of course, it will also include the support group of the President but it’s much, much smaller than the previous months because napakaiksi nga naman ng biyahe.


ASEC. ESPIRITU: Most probably. Yeah, anyway nandiyan naman sila palagi when it comes to workers’ issues.

Q: Sir, may business delegation po?

ASEC. ESPIRITU: Yes, as I said kanina, there might be a business roundtable but these are still being finalized ‘no.

MS. OSEÑA-PAEZ: Okay. Thank you very much—one last question.

MPC: May effort po ba para doon sa kaso naman ni Marjorette Garcia?

ASEC. ESPIRITU: I don’t have a detail on that, but could be kasi, I said, kasama iyong assistance to nationals and protection of our migrant workers sa agenda.

MS. OSEÑA-PAEZ: All right. Thank you very much, Malacañang Press Corp. And thank you so much, Assistant Secretary Daniel Espiritu.

ASEC. ESPIRITU: My pleasure, Daphne.

MS. OSEÑA-PAEZ: Thank you.