President Duterte on Tuesday said Turkey and Mongolia expressed interest in becoming part of the Asean, a proposal that dumbfounded a prominent Asean leader.
“I had a talk with [Turkish] President [Tayyip] Erdogan and [Mongolian] Prime Minister [Jargaltulgyn] Erdenebat; gusto nila magsali sa Asean [they want to join the Asean],” Duterte told reporters upon his arrival in Davao City. “And since I am the chairman [of the Asean], they wanted me to sponsor their entry, and I said: ‘Why not?’”
However, Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi is unimpressed by Turkey and Mongolia’s plea, as she finds the inclusion strange. From the Philippine standpoint, Ankara is 8,827 kilometers away from Manila, while Ulaanbaatar is 3,917 km off the capital.
“Have you considered the physical—the geography—whether they are part of the Asean or not?” Duterte said, quoting the Burmese leader’s remark on the bizarre proposal.
Favoring Turkey and Mongolia, Duterte retorted, saying, “They are. I would say they are. Turkey seems to be ambivalent whether to be a bridge [of Asia to Europe] or [to be] an Asian [nation]. Wala silang klaro diyan. There has always been an ambivalent view. Sometimes they say they are part of Asia, sometimes they say they are a bridge of Asia to Europe.”
Geographically, the two countries are nowhere to be found near Southeast Asia. Turkey is located in between east of Europe and west of Asia, while Mongolia is situated above China.
Duterte last Sunday had bilateral talks with Erdenebat and a sideline dialogue with Erdogan during the leaders’ roundtable session of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China. The President was there to enlist the Philippines in China’s most ambitious development plan in history: the revival of the maritime Silk Road.
Aside from attending the two-day session, Duterte held an expanded bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, highlighted by the signing of four key agreements on economic and technical cooperation, human-resource development, energy and news publishing.