MANILA – Malacanang said on Sunday President Benigno S. Aquino III is expected to tackle political and security concerns, particularly the West Philippine Sea (WPS) issue, in the United States-Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Sunnylands, California this week.

President Aquino is set to leave on Monday to attend the two-day special summit between the leaders of the ASEAN and the US to be hosted by President Barack Obama.

”Expected to be discussed are the political and security issues such as the maritime security, transnational challenges and effective fight against the threat of violent extremism,” Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a state-run Radyo ng Bayan interview.

Coloma said the US-ASEAN Summit will be informal where the leaders of the ASEAN member nations can express their opinions regarding issues that they feel need to be addressed.

”Based on the discussion during the last ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur last November, it is most likely that President Obama will hold dialogue with ASEAN member states regarding the maritime security,” Coloma said.

The Palace Communications chief said maritime security has emerged as a vital concern to ASEAN.

”The goal of achieving ASEAN economic integration through the ASEAN economic community, as well as the US initiative on establishing a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to promote free trade in the Asia-Pacific region may be enhanced through more vigorous trades that, in turn, must be assured by freedom of navigation in the main navigational routes of global trade and commerce, including the South China Sea,” Coloma said.

”President Aquino has always represented the Philippines’ position on the importance of ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight, as well as adherence to UNCLOS and international law,” he added.

Coloma said President Aquino has also been a leading advocate for a legally binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, as well as on the importance of seeking peaceful avenues for dispute resolution that underpins the Philippines’ petition before the UN Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague, a move that is being followed closely by other states with maritime entitlement claims.

After the ASEAN-US Summit, Coloma said President Aquino is scheduled to meet the Filipino community and some groups of investors and businessmen in Los Angeles.

President Aquino will be presented with an honorary degree in Humane Letters by the Loyola Marymount University in recognition of his achievements as President of the Philippines, “for his integrity and for embodying the spirit of the Jesuit education.” Jelly Musico/PNA/