DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 Jan) — Expect more strengthened relations among members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) under the chairmanship of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte who vowed to work for a stronger and more resilient community.
This year’s theme is “Partnership for Change. Engaging the World.”
At the launch of the Philippines’ chairmanship of ASEAN 2017 at the SMX Convention Center here on Sunday, Duterte called for unity and cooperation among the 10 ASEAN member-states as he vowed to work on the promotion and enhancement of the interests of the region through policy initiatives, coordination, consensus and cooperation.
“We will steer ASEAN toward the strengthening of relations and more meaningful and constructive engagements with our Dialogue Partners,” Duterte told a crowd of about 1,000, including members of the Cabinet, the diplomatic corps and all ambassadors of the nine other ASEAN member-states.
US Ambassador Sung Kim and Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua also attended the launch.
Reading his prepared speech, Duterte assured he will advance the cooperation among the members of the ASEAN community by engaging the dialogue partners to be more dynamic and vibrant stakeholders as they work towards a continued development of the region.
The ASEAN member-states are the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The organization was established on August 8, 1967. The Philippines’ chairmanship coincides with the organization’s 50th anniversary.
Under the Philippine chairmanship, Duterte highlighted five priorities: “our peoples at the core; work for regional peace and stability; pursue maritime security and cooperation; advance inclusive, innovation-led growth; strengthen ASEAN resiliency; and promote ASEAN as a model of regionalism and as a global player.”
Duterte also called on ASEAN members to renew its commitment to the principles and purposes of the regional organization while giving “adherence to the rule of law” a paramount importance.
“Now, more than ever, it is ASEAN’s spirit of community that will enable us to overcome challenges that we face as a region,” he said.
Duterte acknowledged that a tremendous task awaits him as the ASEAN chair “but one that is not unachievable.”
“In this journey, I call on all Filipinos to take an active and constructive part during the Philippines’ Chairmanship of ASEAN. Now, more than ever, it is our spirit of bayanihan that will help define us as a responsible leader of our region during this crucial time,” he said.
He also sought the help of ASEAN’s dialogue partners to support the region’s continued development while emphasizing its important role in the region’s security, stability and growth.
“I also call on ASEAN Dialogue Partners to renew their dedication to the valued purposes and principles stated in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation – including non-interference – in promoting regional peace and stability through abiding respect for the rule of law,” he said.
Duterte reiterated the importance of interconnectedness among members of the ASEAN and emphasized respect for sovereign independence.
“This is one of the important lessons that ASEAN can hold to the Asia-Pacific region and to our world,” he said.
“We realize that, in truth, there is still a lot of hard work to be done for true transformation that will benefit all our peoples in the region. I say to you today in full humility: the Philippines –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,” he added.
Former Presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Senator Tito Sotto and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Philippine National Police director-general Ronald dela Rosa were also present. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)