Emergence of East Asian Community inevitable — Arroyo

Jun. 25, 2007

SINGAPORE (via PLDT) Confident that the emergence of the East Asia Community is inevitable, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said on Sunday the region will be up to the task of leading a more dominant role in world economic and political affairs.

“I am bullish on Asia, what we have accomplished and what we will achieve in the next 20 years. Our time has come. Asia will be up to the task of leading our people and our region into a more dominant role in world economic and political affairs,” the President said in her opening speech before 200 participants at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia 2007 at the Shangri-La Hotel here.

The President told the participants that “when we think ahead and ponder the next 40 years, we see increasing integration and prosperity and at the same time the likelihood of greater income disparity.”

“We see a more peaceful world, yet more countries with nuclear capability. We see a cleaner environment, yet in achieving that, we must first address the challenge of global warming,” she said.

Balancing these contradictions would be the test of leadership in the region, she added.

She asserted that the real issue is not about leadership deficit, because the region has any number of able leaders of strong nations as well as institutions like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to provide individual, regional and multilateral global leadership.

Rather, the real issue is the rapid economic rise of the region at a time when the global order has undergone enormous swings, she said.

“One swing was caused by the rise of China and India to add to the power of Japan in the region. Another was the global war on terrorism which has influenced Americas role in the world and in Asia,” the President said.

She pointed out that as the major political and military player, the United States has been preoccupied with Iraq in the Middle East and other crisis areas.

This, the President said, has left the perception of a leadership deficit in Asia and has also left the impression that there is a political “opening” for others such as China and Japan to fill.

She also pointed out that China and Japan have stepped up their game, notably in coming together to facilitate peace on the Korean Peninsula. “Yet, this is the interim game: the real issue is how the region will handle the next 20 or 40 years.”

As the regions largest source of official development assistance (ODA), Japan will provide leadership to the important arena of sustainable development, she said.

“We would like to see Japan playing a leading role in contributing to integration in the region and maintaining and pursuing international peace and security as we try to forge the East Asia community,” the President said.

She added that as China and India become true political and economic giants, their leadership obligations to their neighbors also increase, separate from their obligations to their own citizens.

The President said that while Japan, China and India are active participants in the East Asia summit, which has the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in the drivers seat, it is through Aseans leadership that the vision of an East Asia Community, once unthinkable and believed unattainable in this lifetime, is gradually taking shape,” she added.

As chair of Asean this year, the President recalled that during the Asean Summit last January in Cebu City, Asean exercised leadership in integration by taking several important steps to “create a regional community by 2015.”

The most notable of such steps, the President said, was the declaration on the Asean Charter. “At a time of uncertainty in the world, we are proud that

Asean took a bold step forward and not a timid step back,” the President said. (OPS)

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