Monday, December 18, 2006

RP official defends ASEAN postponement

The Philippines Inquirer
December 17, 2006

By Nikko Dizon


PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo knew her government would be heavily criticized whether or not the 12th ASEAN Summit was postponed because of inclement weather, an official of the organizing committee said yesterday.

"She risked this kind of criticism in making her decision. Either way, I don't think she would have gotten universal approval for whatever decision she made," Victoriano Lecaros, summit spokesperson, said.

The Inquirer sought Lecaros' reaction to a scathing column published Sunday in The Nation, one of Thailand's English dailies.

Titled "ASEAN caves in to the bad guys," columnist Thang D. Nguyen said a reported terrorist threat and a political maelstrom in Manila were the real reasons for the summit postponement.

"[The] typhoon never came. Over the weekend, there were only rains and strong winds in the area," Nguyen wrote.

The columnist said ASEAN had "lost face over the Cebu non-summit" and called the postponement, a "debacle [that] has caused considerable damage to the image of the ASEAN as an organization."

Nguyen wrote: "For one thing, it reflects poorly on the leadership of the Philippines as the host of the summit. Even if the typhoon was the real reason they shut it down, blaming it on the weather is just lame. Besides, if the weather in Cebu was a problem, why not move the summit to another city?"

He added: "The non-event this year also shows that current ASEAN leaders are not as strong as their predecessors. Indeed, by backing down this year, ASEAN has shown that it will cave in to terrorism. This is ironic because one of Asean's projects is tighter cooperation among its 10 leaders to fight terrorism."

The ASEAN Summit and the 2nd East Asia Summit should have been held on Dec. 10-14 but were postponed because of a typhoon forecast.

Speculations arose that the deferment was actually because of a terror threat, with the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan issuing travel advisories to their citizens, discouraging them from going to Cebu during the summit.

A political storm was also brewing in Manila after various sectors condemned Arroyo's allies in the House of Representatives for attempts to railroad constitutional changes through forming the House into a constituent assembly to make the changes.

Lecaros said it was "understandable" for people who "were not in the room with the organizing committee, [who did not see] the weather maps, and [did not talk] to the weather bureau" to cast doubts on the real reason behind the summit's deferment.

"It was a case of choosing how we wanted to be criticized: For being irresponsible or for being weak?" he said.

Lecaros, who is also the country's ambassador to Malaysia, stressed that the organizing committee wanted to ensure the safety of the leaders who were scheduled to arrive on the day Typhoon "Seniang" (international code name: Utor) was expected to hit northern Cebu.

"We have to hand it to the President. She knew the kind of reaction [the decision to postpone the summit] would elicit. Still, she took the recommendation of the organizing committee," he said.

Calling the wave of criticisms over the summit postponement a "distraction," Lecaros said they would rather concentrate on preparing for the summit, which had been rescheduled to January 11-13.

Several ASEAN leaders have already confirmed their attendance. The Inquirer reported on Saturday that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had confirmed his attendance.

"The only [way to] answer these criticisms is to have a successful summit in three weeks' time," Lecaros said.

©Copyright 2001-2006 INQ7 Interactive, Inc. An INQUIRER and GMA Network Company

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your interesting article ...Democracy over theocracy...

One only has to study the history of Islam with a sense of justice and open mind.

If Islam had not been hijacked after the death of the Prophet, p.b.u.h., and the Caliphate had gone to the rightful Caliph, we would be living in a world of peace and harmony.

Interested muslims should read Prof. Mohammad al-Tijani al-Samawi's research books such as Then I Was Guided and others.

Regards.

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