Philippines takes ASEAN helm at summit
16 January 2017 – Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gathered in the Philippines yesterday for the launch of the nation’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, as chairman of the group.
The opening ceremony in the southern Mindanao region in the city of Davao – Duterte’s hometown – was attended by representatives, diplomats, and business leaders from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
It was also attended by ASEAN partners like the United States, China, Japan, and South Korea, and Filipino politicians led by former President Fidel V. Ramos, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as the majority of Duterte’s cabinet secretaries.
When Duterte accepted the ASEAN chairmanship last September in Laos, he said, “The Philippines is ready and willing to steer and guide the association.”
The chairmanship rotates annually, based on the alphabetical order of the member states’ English names.
His ASEAN chairmanship is anchored on the theme “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World.”
In a prepared speech, the Philippine leader promised to promote maritime security and the rule of law amid Manila’s territorial dispute with Beijing and several other countries over the South China Sea.
Duterte said he will prioritize regional stability and maritime security, among others, as it leads the 10-nation bloc this year.
“In our work, we will be guided by the following priorities: We will place 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 model of regionalism and as a global player,” he said.
Calling on ASEAN member states and dialogue partners to reaffirm their commitment to the rule of law and peace in the region, Duterte said: “In this journey, I call on all ASEAN member states to rededicate themselves and commit anew to principles and purposes behind this establishment of our association: adherence to the rule of law. Now more than ever, it is the ASEAN spirit of community that will allow us to face challenges.”
He also called on ASEAN partners to renew their dedication to the value, 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.
“Now more than ever, it is a time for a change through constructive engagements. We are on this journey together.”