Presence of all 17 leaders, testament to summit prestige, says PGMA.
CEBU, Philippines – Finally, it all came together.
With the sun finally peering through the clouds and the reassuring presence of all country leaders lending prestige, Cebu's coming out party that was the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, and the accompanying 2nd East Asia Summit (EAS) have proven to be a huge success.
No less than President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo acknowledged this in her opening statement at the EAS Monday when she cited ASEAN's role in bringing so many nations and leaders together to discuss peace, security and social justice and economic growth.
"The fact that leaders of 17 great nations are here is a testament to the desire of leaders and their people for greater collaboration among nations," she said.
Aside from the leaders of ASEAN and the dialogue partners, the Prime Minister of Timor L'este also came.
But the country's hosting of the Summit did not start out all that well. The original Summit scheduled for Dec. 10-14 was postponed on account of Typhoon "Seniang."
Detractors of the government insisted that the weather had nothing to do with the postponement. Rather, they jeered that the Summit was called off at midstream when senior ASEAN officials had already started their meetings in Cebu, out of fear of terrorist attacks.
This claim was reinforced by the travel warnings issued by the Japanese, US, Canada and Australian governments a day before the heads of states were to start arriving in Cebu.
Additionally, there were threats of massive anti-summit demonstrations in Cebu by leftist militants, including foreign nationals.
But in the end, the threats fizzled out, the nail-biting uncertainties over whether the summit would push through this time; even the weather, a constant worry for the summit organizers, cooperated.
The Cebu International Convention Center (CICC), the alternate venue of the gathering, had proven its worth. Once the center of controversy over its construction, the CICC finally came to full bloom Monday morning when leaders of the 10-member ASEAN and its six dialogue partners arrived one by one and journalists from all over the world converged to lend prestige to the occasion.
Since last week, the only major meeting held at CICC was last Friday's discussion between the 10 ASEAN heads of state and the Eminent Persons Group. For four straight days too, dark clouds had hovered over this province and intermittent rains threatened to spoil Summit proceedings.
On the final day of the gathering, however, so-called Queen City of the South, could not be denied its glory in hosting this year's summit.
Leaders of the 17 nations, led off by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, arrived at the CICC for the East Asian Summit, welcomed by tribal dancers in colorful attires and flag bearers in gala uniforms waiving the flags of the participating nations.
Hun Sen was followed by Laos PM Bouasone Bouphavanh, Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong, Myanmar PM Gen. Soe Win, Malaysian PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Thailand PM Surayud Chulanont, Vietnam PM Nguyen Than Dung, Australian PM John Howard, Chinese President Hu Jin Tao, Brunei Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin, Indian PM Dr. Manmohan Singh, Japan PM Shinzo Abe, Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, and New Zealand PM Helen Clark in that order.
President Arroyo, in an elegant white barong suit, welcomed the leaders at the lobby with the assistance of Foreign Affairs Secretary Carlos Romulo, Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila