Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte plans to tiptoe around the South China Sea dispute at the 30th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Manila, and might try to sell his radical anti-drug policy to the 10 leaders as a regional solution.
The ASEAN Declaration, signed almost 50 years ago, has kept the many disparate interests of member countries from erupting in conflict. The bloc is faulted for dodging controversial issues, such as the South China Sea dispute, yet it has a waiting list of suitors. China, Japan, Russia and a host of Pacific countries seek to tap into ASEAN's economic potential. Its ASEAN Economic Community, now two years old, is a prime attraction. It has created a single market for goods, services, capital, and labor that has the potential to become one of the largest economies and markets in the world. The suitors will be meeting ASEAN leaders on the sidelines of the main summit.
In Dec 2016, according to Reuters, Duterte said that he wanted to avoid confrontation with China and saw no need to press Beijing to abide by the Jul 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that went in favor of the Philippines. An official said that the ruling won't be on the ASEAN agenda, and added that the focus will be on the completion of a framework for a code of conduct to ease tension in the disputed waters, believed to be rich in oil and gas.
Duterte campaigned on cleaning up the Philippines' drug problem. During his inaugural address, the onetime mayor of Davao city vowed to "slaughter these idiots for destroying my country." The campaign targets anyone suspected of being involved in consuming or selling narcotics. Law enforcement officers, paramilitaries and vigilantes are widely reported to have killed thousands of Filipinos. Though widely criticized for the killings, Duterte extolls his approach.
Date written/update: 2017-02-10