Philippines turns over ASEAN chairmanship to Singapore

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 14) — Singapore will host the next summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2018. 

President Rodrigo Duterte turned over the chairmanship to Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a ceremony at the end of the 31st ASEAN Summit on Tuesday. Hosting of the regional bloc’s meetings is rotated among the 10 members annually.

“As the Philippines’ chairmanship of ASEAN draws to a close, I reiterate my commitment that my country, as ASEAN Chair, will remain steadfast in upholding the ideals and values we hold dear and in working for the realization of our shared aspirations,” Duterte said.

Lee accepted the symbolic ASEAN gavel from Duterte in the ceremony, and congratulated the Philippines for a successful chairmanship.

“I’d also like to thank Philippines also for its chairmanship activities at each of the three ASEAN pillars, including the finalization of a Framework for a Code of Conduct of parties in the South China Sea, the conclusion of a free-trade agreement between ASEAN and Hong Kong, and the adoption of an ASEAN consensus on the promotion and protection of rights of migrant workers,” said Lee.

He added Singapore will work on themes of resilience and innovation, and will continue to push for integration.

Lee also announced the appointment of Lim Jock Hoi, permanent secretary at the Brunei Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as ASEAN secretary-general. He will have a three year term, replacing Le Luong Minh of Vietnam.

Among the highlights of the Philippines’ chairmanship are the signing of the ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of Rights of Migrant Workers, approval of the framework agreement on a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, and the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the regional grouping.

Related: ASEAN to sign Consensus to protect, promote migrant workers' rights

However, the Philippines has also been criticized for what is seen as its softer stance on the South China Sea dispute as shown in the chairman's statement at the 30th ASEAN Summit in April.

The closing ceremony ended the Philippines’ hosting of  the ASEAN meetings.  It followed the ASEAN's commemorative summit with the European Union and the East Asia Summit earlier in the day. The EAS is composed of ASEAN members, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, and the United States.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Summit -- which covers a proposed free trade agreement among ASEAN, Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand -- also took place Tuesday.

The events followed the ASEAN Summit and the regional organization's separate summits with the U.S., China, Japan, South Korea, and India.

The ASEAN was founded in 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. It has since grown to include Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam.