MANILA (UPDATED) - President Benigno Aquino III left Saturday afternoon for Myanmar to join fellow leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the 24th ASEAN Summit this weekend.
In his pre-departure speech at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2, the President said he will discuss with other ASEAN leaders the Philippines' case against China over the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
He reiterated the Philippines' respect for the rule of law, and stand that filing a case with the United Nations is better than holding bilateral talks in resolving conflict.
The Philippines filed a memorial with an arbitral tribunal last March to debunk China's nine-dash line, which justifies its claim over 90 percent of the entire West Philippine Sea.
China has refused to participate in the UN arbitration process.
"Ibabahagi po natin ang isinumite nating Philippine memorial sa arbitral tribunal sa ilalim ng United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) noong Marso. Ang nais po nating ihayag: itaguyod at sundin ang rule of law sa pagresolba sa mga usapin sa teritoryo upang mangibababaw ang pagkilala at respeto sa karapatan ng bawat bansa," Aquino said.
"Sumasalamin ang hakbang na ito sa ating paninindigan: Hindi maaaring madaan sa dayalogo ng dadalawang bansa lamang ang mga usaping nakakaapekto sa iba't-ibang kasapi ng rehiyon," he added.
He said the summit, which is scheduled in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar from May 10 to 11, aims to continue to strengthen cooperation in achieving regional security, fighting climate change, and helping lessen poverty.
According to the President, he would also take the opportunity to thank ASEAN members who provided assistance in the aftermath of super typhoon "Yolanda," noting that the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) has helped hasten disaster response.
He said he will also share with the other leaders the success of the recently signed Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which he said is a model for pursuing lasting peace.
The upcoming ASEAN integration in 2015 is also expected to be taken up at the summit.
"Patuloy nating patutunayan sa mundo: Ang Pilipinas ay isa nang maaasahang kabalikat sa kaunlaran, at handang makipagsabayan at magpakitang-gilas sa iba't-ibang larangan. Sa patuloy ninyong pagtitiwala, at sa sama-sama nating paghakbang sa tuwid na landas, maipapamana natin sa susunod na salinlahi ang isang Pilipinas na hinahangaan hindi lang sa ating rehiyon, kundi saan mang panig ng daigdig," said Aquino, who boarded the plane at around 1 :15 p.m.
Upon his arrival, Aquino will attend the welcome dinner hosted by Myanmar President Thein Sein for ASEAN leaders and their delegations.
He will attend the ASEAN Summit plenary and meetings with representatives of the ASEAN interparliamentary assembly, civil society organizations and the ASEAN youth on Sunday.
In a statement, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said through this summit, government hopes to foster fruitful dialogue on a range of international concerns including climate change, human trafficking, and the rule of law with the ultimate goal of promoting peace and prosperity in the region.
Aquino will be back in Manila early morning on Monday.
The Philippine delegation to the 24th ASEAN Summit included Presidential Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma, House Speaker Sonny Belmonte, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, and Julia Abad.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. -- With reports from Jay Ruiz, ABS-CBN News; Henry Atuelan, dzMM