Will the Philippines break with ASEAN?

Philippines Foreign Secretary Alberto RomuloThis week, Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo indicated she would support a campaign by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo if he decided to enter the race for UNSG. The nomination is being urged by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, the Chair of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee, who feels that the Thai coup has irreparably damaged Surakiart’s chances.

The senator pointed out that President Arroyo was amenable to the Romulo nomination during the Friday meeting between her and the Chief Executive in Malacanang.

“President Arroyo said that if the idea is attractive to Romulo, then the Philippines could start a serious campaign. It is timely, because early birds in the nomination process are usually overtaken by a dark horse,” she said.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita noted that the President would support a Romulo campaign if he decided to enter the race, but that the decision would be made by Romulo, not the government.

“We do not know the personal preference of Secretary Romulo. If he’s disposed towards approving the proposal, of course the President will support him. But we really have to discuss this, even with him,” Ermita said in a press conference.

Ermita said the President’s support for Romulo hinges on the latter’s own decision on the issue.

At the same time, Ermita expressed misgivings about Romulo’s chances of getting the top UN post due to the short period of time that the Philippines would be left to campaign for the post in case Romulo decides to push through with it.

It would be ironic if Romulo decided to jump into the race, considering it was he who announced ASEAN’s continuing support for Surakiart after an ASEAN ministerial meeting last week.

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