MYANMAR - President Aquino has arrived in Myanmar to participate in the 24th Summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations or ASEAN.
Aquino arrived on board Philippine Airlines Flight PR 001 at Nay Pyi Taw International Airport at past 3 p.m., local time.
Aquino’s official delegation includes Secretaries Albert del Rosario of Foreign Affairs, Cesar Purisima of Finance, Gregory Domingo of Trade, Sonny Coloma of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, Julia abad of the Presidential Management Staff and Mindanao development Authority Chair Lualhati Antonino.
Also with the entourage is House Speaker Sonny Belmonte, who is representing the Philippine House of Representatives in the ASEAN Interparliamentary Assembly which is also meeting at the sidelines of the ASEAN summit. Belmonte leads a delegation of Congressmen that include Kit Belmonte, Victor Ortega, Mark llandro Mendoza and Giorggidi Aggabao.
Aquino was met at the airport by Philippine Ambassador to Myanmar Alex Chua and other officials of the Philippine embassy and the government of Myanmar.
Aquino and his delegation will attend a welcome dinner later tonight at the Myanmar international Convention Center. Security around the areas of the summit is strict, even the movement of the media is restricted.
This year’s summit theme is "Moving Forward in Unity to A Peaceful and Prosperous Community,” which emphasizes the importance of a united ASEAN.
On Sunday, the President is scheduled to attend the ASEAN Summit Plenary, the Summit Retreat, and the meetings with representatives of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, the Civil Society Organizations, and the ASEAN Youth.
President Aquino will also participate in the 10th Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) Summit.
The President is expected to depart for Manila on Sunday evening.
Before leaving Manila, the chief executive said that he will update the leaders of the region on the progress of the Philippine filing before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea regarding disputed areas of the South China Sea.
"Ibabahagi rin po natin ang isinumite nating Philippine Memorial sa Arbitral Tribunal sa ilalim ng United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea noong Marso. Ang nais po nating ihayag: itaguyod at sundin ang rule of law sa pagresolba sa mga usapin sa teritoryo, upang mangibabaw ang pagkilala at respeto sa karapatan ng bawat bansa. Sumasalamin ang hakbang na ito sa ating paninindigan: Hindi maaaring madaan sa diyalogo ng dadalawang bansa lamang ang mga usaping nakaka-apekto sa iba’t ibang kasapi ng rehiyon."
The ASEAN summit occurs amid rising tensions in the South China Sea between Vietnam the Philippines and china which all have claims over portions of the waters. The Philippines has rejected a China bid to release a Chinese fishing vessel it arrested in half Moon shoal.
Aquino will likewise talk about the progress of the implementation of the comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib razak was present during the signing of that agreement in Manila.
President Aquino first visited Myanmar in June 2013 to attend the 22nd World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia. President Aquino and President U Thein Sein had their first bilateral talks on the sidelines of the WEF.
In December last year, President Thein Sein visited the Philippines upon the invitation of President Aquino. The state visit was the Myanmar leader’s first visit to Manila since his assumption to office in 2011.
"On 19 to 20 May this year, Philippine and Myanmar aviation officials will discuss in Yangon the air services agreement between the two countries, which may result in the first direct flights between the Philippines and Myanmar," he said.
The Philippines and Myanmar established diplomatic relations in 1956.
Last year, President Aquino and President U Thein Sein witnessed the signing of an agreement that would allow Filipinos holding ordinary passports to enter Myanmar without a visa and stay there for up to 14 days.