JAKARTA – The Philippines and Indonesia share the same serious problem on illegal drugs, President Duterte said here yesterday as he met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and agreed to cooperate to end the menace. The two leaders also vowed to collectively address terrorism and extremism, piracy in the high seas, maritime security and law enforcement as well as the dispute in the South China Sea. “We share the deep concern over trade in illicit and illegal drugs and its impact on our society. We will seek ways to intensify cooperation and the campaign against this menace. We will do our part in contributing to the aim of a drug-free ASEAN community,” Duterte said in a joint statement with Widodo at the Istana Merdeka or presidential palace here. Widodo, for his part, expressed hope for enhanced economic cooperation with the Philippines as bilateral trade continued to increase despite a global slowdown. Speaking in Bahasa, Widodo said Duterte’s visit comes at the right moment and “will give us a new spirit to improve efforts to strengthen cooperation between our two countries.”
The Philippines considers its relations with Indonesia as one of the most important, Duterte said as he noted that the two countries agreed to strengthen areas of bilateral cooperation. “We also expressed concern on recent developments in the region, including the South China Sea. We called on parties to respect the rule of law and welcomed the support of partners in efforts to ensure the security and stability of the region, especially in the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law. We understand that peace is a necessary condition for growth and progress,” the President said. Duterte said his meeting with Widodo was productive and fruitful and he expressed appreciation for Indonesia’s abiding support to the Philippine government “as we move forward with our peace processes.” Duterte said they reiterated their commitment to take all necessary measures to ensure security in the Sulu Sea and maritime areas of common concern, being the two largest archipelagos in the world. “We will explore cooperation in this area, particularly in human resource development, fisheries and aquatic resources expertise and shipbuilding cooperation,” Duterte said.
Duterte said they also recognized the value of connectivity in spurring and sustaining growth and discussed ways to boost air and sea connectivity and how enhanced trade and people-to- people exchanges could improve lives and spread progress. “Both sides likewise viewed with grave concern the threat of terrorism and violent extremism. We agreed to work together to prevent, arrest and prosecute all those who seek to sow fear and terror in our societies,” Duterte said. In his speech before the Filipino community, Duterte said he was also with Widodo in Vientiane, Laos for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit and related meetings earlier this week and they discussed the illegal drugs issue. “Mr. President, what’s the dimension of your problem?” Duterte recalled asking Widodo. “Me in Indonesia, I have four million drug addicts,” Duterte quoted Widodo as saying. “I said, you only have a few thousands more,” Duterte added, noting the 3.7 million Filipino drug addicts in the country. The President arrived here Thursday night for his working visit and met with the Filipino community at the grand ballroom of the Shangri-La Hotel Jakarta before his one-on-one meeting and joint press statement with Widodo. Duterte said his all-out war against illegal drugs led to the surrender of around 700,000 people as he explained the devastating effects of drug abuse, especially in driving its users to commit the most heinous crimes.
“According to the forensics in America…six months to one year (of shabu use) will shrink your brain and therefore rehabilitation is no longer viable. So what am I supposed to do with these cases?” Duterte said. Duterte said shabu, being a combination of deadly chemicals, was a big problem. “So how do you cope with 3.7 million addicts?” Duterte asked. The Philippines does not have a death penalty for those involved in drugs. He said China offered to build a rehabilitation center and was the only one helping so far. “I would like to thank China for being so generous to us. And I would like to thank President Widodo for understanding,” Duterte said. Duterte, in his speech laden with expletives, also said he exposed those who were suspected to be part of the illegal drug trade, including members of the police, and vowed not to stop until the problem was eradicated. “And I have six years to do it and even if it will take me the whole of the six years, I will do it. It will be relentless. I am sorry if you die in the process. But all you have to do, my advice, is very simple: Stop,” Duterte said. But he stressed anew that he was not responsible for the extrajudicial killings, the reason why he spoke about human rights in Laos. Duterte also said he has the back of police officers conducting legitimate operations against drug suspects. “I will suppress drugs and in the fullness of God’s time, maybe two years…you can walk about in the Philippines, free of fear of being mugged,” Duterte said as he appealed to the Filipinos to pray for him to stay alive. The President earlier pushed for a drug-free ASEAN and received the chairmanship of the regional grouping for next year. Duterte visited Indonesia as part of his traditional tour of ASEAN countries as new Philippine leader. Among the recent issues that affected the relations between Indonesia and the Philippines were the abduction of Indonesian nationals in Mindanao and other security concerns in maritime areas of common concern, the apprehension of Philippine vessels and combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said he had referred to Duterte the plight of Filipino fishermen detained in Indonesia so the President could bring up the issue with Widodo. The President said the issue on piracy in the high seas was a concern among the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. He disclosed that he also discussed the issue with Widodo when he was seated beside him in Laos. “In the high seas, the rule in the international waters is this: If you are a pirate, you can be arrested by any nation because piracy is a crime against humanity,” Duterte said.