DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Association of South East Asian Nations marked its fifty years of existence and President Rodrigo Duterte said the Asean, “as a community of nations, is now stronger, more vibrant, and more robust.”
Duterte delivered his message on Tuesday as ministers from Asean member-nations gathered in Manila for the historic gathering.
Not only Asean, but other countries as well, including the United States, China, Japan and even North Korea sent their foreign ministers to join the slated meetings and official gatherings.
“Not [too] long ago, the uncertainty that faced our region was unsettling. In the 1960s, lines were drawn in a Cold War we did not need nor want. Ideological fissures divided our nations. And it appeared that discord and threats were brewing a perfect storm in Southeast Asia. To be sure, there was or there were attempts to build a viable inter-governmental organization for our regions. But efforts did not prosper until five men of vision and wisdom were drawn together,” Duterte said.
Duterte added that aside from the belief on cooperation and dialogue, ”the leaders of the five nations that started Asean were also aware of the need to protect each other from the effects of regional and global geopolitical shifts.”
Asean was formally established on August 8, 1967, by the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand.
The community’s membership later expanded to include Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam.
Asean covers around 4.4 million square kilometers of a land area inhabited by more than 625 million people.
Despite the pessimism, Duterte said Asean was able to prevail and found the strength within the diversity of its people.
“We proved that regionalism – developed at our own pace and under our own terms and with our values – can work. Today – fifty years hence – we remain firmly convinced that we will prevail against the new and emerging challenges we now face as an Asean Community,” he pointed out.
Duterte said Asean must be secure, which means that its people can live without fear from the lawless elements and the debilitating effects of corruption and transnational crimes; and stable, where democratic institutions work, where nations regard each other with mutual respect and understanding, and where the rule of law reigns supreme in the relations between states.
He added that Asean must also be sustainable and inclusive in its growth, where no one is left behind and everyone has the opportunity to realize their potentials.
He also asked Asean leaders to express gratitude to the founders of the community “who have dared to dream of the impossible and made this real for us.”
“On this day, therefore, we pay tribute to the Founding Fathers whose patriotism went beyond borders, and whose idealism drew our nations and our peoples closer together. With their legacy, they deserve a special place in our shared history. They deserve to be remembered in our collective memories. They deserve our applause,” Duterte said.
Call for private sector Duterte also asked the private sector to play a bigger role in spurring and sustaining growth in the Asean community.
“Public Private Partnership must be harnessed fully to lift our peoples from poverty. Indeed, the Asean Business Advisory Council’s Alliance for Prosperity for All is showing how the inclusive business model can help achieve growth [for] our MSMEs and our peoples in the grassroots,” he said.
He added that Asean governments are working to achieve the enabling environment for businesses to thrive as he expressed a belief that prosperity should not be the right of the few but a blessing that must be enjoyed by all.
He also asked Asean leaders to take a serious look at economic integration, saying that the community has “a bigger stake than any other part of the world in standing up against protectionism and securing the rules of the game in the international trade.”
“The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP will provide further impetus to our efforts. Negotiations should conclude swiftly as decided by RCEP leaders in 2016. I was reminded that the Trans-Pacific, it was a dream that was no longer there,” Duterte said.
As chair of Asean, Duterte also reported the engagements of the Philippines over the past eight months to the other member states.
“Our meetings and commemorative activities will build on our prior accomplishments. They will also build up the momentum for the Philippines’ Asean
Chairmanship,” he said.
Duterte also expressed gratitude to the leaders of member-states for the valuable support and active participation various Asean activities and programs.
“The Philippines will continue to work closely with all stakeholders in the Asean to achieve what we set out: An Asean that is proactive, relevant and transformative,” he said. (davaotoday.com)