Duterte eyes meeting with ASEAN leaders


MANILA - Presumptive president-elect Rodrigo Duterte may attend a social gathering of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders in Brunei in August.

Duterte spokesman Peter Laviña said Thursday they are considering attending the event since it would be a good opportunity for the new President to meet other foreign leaders and show support for ASEAN integration.

"The new president might immediately want to meet his counterparts in the ASEAN and he might visit Brunei," Laviña said during a press conference in Davao City.

"This will be a good opportunity to meet everyone as soon as possible and convey that the new administration is ready and fully supportive of the ASEAN integration."

Laviña said they are also reviewing protocols on paying official state visits to fellow ASEAN leaders.

It is tradition on the part of a new head of state to immediately conduct introductory visits to fellow ASEAN member states.

The visits would come amid rising tensions over the competing claims of the Philippines, China and other Southeast Asian countries on resource-rich the South China Sea.

The ASEAN earlier expressed concern with Beijing's land reclamation and escalating activity in the disputed sea.

Duterte, meanwhile, has said he is willing to ''shut up'' about the West Philippine Sea dispute as long as China will offer to build vital transportation facilities and other infrastructure in the Philippines.

The superpower said it aims to forge better ties with the Philippines under its new government.

"We hope that with the new government of the Philippines, we can meet each other half-way, take effective measures to properly handle differences and promote the healthy development of Sino-Philippine relations to get them back on track," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang.


During the conference, outgoing Senator Pia Cayetano said the Duterte administration would form a gender-sensitive Cabinet.

Cayetano, a staunch advocate of women's rights, was tapped as a member of the selection committee for the next Cabinet members.

She stressed the importance of ensuring that the concerns of women reach the top officials of the Executive branch.

"It is important that we have a gender-balanced leadership, that the voice of women are heard and the concerns of women are addressed at the highest level because after that, it will flow," she said. "I want to assure the public that we will do everything to make sure that the best women are selected for these positions."

She added that although female politicians are traditionally more active in social concerns, there would be other opportunities for them under the Duterte administration.

"Many women are qualified for any position and I know for a fact that the door is open for all women in this administration," she said.

"Whether we have a female or a male Secretary for any position, our objective is to ensure that they are gender-sensitive -- that they run their department in a manner that is conducive for the growth women within the departments addressing the concerns of women for that particular sector."

Cayetano is the sister of Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, the losing running mate of Duterte.

Duterte earlier came under fire for kissing female supporters and for saying "the mayor should have been first" after seeing the body of an Australian missionary who was raped during a prison riot.

However, he has also earned points for condemning discrimination against the LGBT community.

During his two-decade rule in Davao, Duterte codified a gender development system that was cited by the national government. He is also credited for assembling a team of lawyers to assist women in domestic-violence cases and paying for the legal fees himself.

Duterte earlier said he was eyeing close friends and former military men in his Cabinet.

He said he was considering hotelier and former agriculture secretary Carlos Dominguez as his finance or transportation secretary, while former presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza would be taken in for his experience in Mindanao affairs.