Saudi Arabia summit sets tone for ASEAN-GCC cooperation --- DFA exec

The summit among leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) this week will “set the tone” for the regional blocs’ cooperation in tackling, among others, food security, energy, and the conflict in the Middle East.

ASEAN_GCC2.jpgForeign Affairs Assistant Secretary Daniel Espiritu speaks to the media about the ASEAN-Gulf Cooperation Council Summit to be attended by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Oct. 20, 2023. (RTVM screenshot)

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Office of ASEAN Affairs Assistant Secretary Daniel Espiritu said during a Palace media briefing that the one-day event on Oct. 20, which will be attended by President Marcos “will primarily be about endorsement of the framework of cooperation between ASEAN and GCC.”

“Actually, the importance of this meeting is that it will set the tone for the forward movement of this cooperation between GCC and ASEAN,” he stressed.

“Hindi ito (This is not) as active as the other cooperation partners. So ngayon (now), we are going to make it more active by focusing on political security, economic, and socio-cultural collaboration.”

But the official also divulged that a range of issues will be discussed during the summit, including energy and food security issues because the GCC, composed of “highly developed Arab countries,” can help ASEAN in addressing these issues.

“They are petro-chemical powerhouses,as well as hub and logistics economies. Now, they can help ASEAN in addressing energy and food security because they are petro-chemical powerhouses,” Espiritu stated.

He added that GCC can also help ASEAN with food security because some of the Arab nations, specifically Qatar, “are among largest producers of fertilizers and they can fill up the slack or the deficit on ASEAN side.”

Citing the “disruption in supply chain” as one of the “main features of the geo-political disruption in past two years,” the DFA official also claimed that GCC can “very well help ASEAN in the problems with the supply chain disruption the past several years” because they are hub economies with advance operations in supply chains, ports, shipping, and connectivity.

Meanwhile, Espiritu said that regional and international issues will also be discussed during the summit.

This refers to the “current developments” in the Middle East, with the official hinting of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

But he clarified that members of the GCC “are not exactly directly involved in the conflict.”

“So, probably the discussion will dwell on generalities on this. Focus will be given more on endorsement or the noting of framework of cooperation between ASEAN and GCC for the years 2024 to 2028 as well as on joint statement of the summit,” he said.

The Framework of Cooperation for 2024 and 2028 had already been passed, Espiritu added, but more needed to be done such as the “intensification of meetings” between the regional blocs for political and security cooperation.

Counter terrorism, transnational crime cooperation, and anti-piracy issues will also be discussed as the official noted that ASEAN and GCC “are actually astride” in terms of being “the two most important sea lanes of trade and communication in the world.”