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Partnering for change, engaging the world
September 23, 2017, 4:51 pm

Philippine chairs ASEAN 2017

The Philippines leads the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2017 works on its main principle, ‘Partnering for Change, Engaging the World’, which envisions an integrated, peaceful, stable and resilient ASEAN Community that actively takes a leading role as a regional and global player in advancing political-security cooperation, sustainable economic growth and sociocultural development in Southeast Asia and in the world. In an exclusive interview with The Times, Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait His Excellency Renato Pedro Villa talks about the Philippines’ ideals in leading the ASEAN Community in 2017.

The Times: Can you give us a brief background of the ASEAN?
Ambassador Villa: In August 1967, foreign ministers from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand and in 1984 met in Bangkok and issued the ASEAN declaration inviting all other countries in South East Asia sharing same objectives, aims and purposes.  Brunei Darussalam joined. In the 1990 Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam joined to form the ten countries of ASEAN.

The Times: What are the essential data which make ASEAN influential globally?
Ambassador Villa: The ASEAN inherently is influential globally due to its extensive land area covering 4.3 million square kilometers making it the 7th largest and with $2.3 trillion gross domestic production in 2016, the 7th biggest consumer base in the world. Moreover, if it were a country, its 625 million people would make it the 3rd largest country after China and India.

The Times: What has the ASEAN achieved in the past 50 years?
Ambassador Villa: ASEAN is founded on three pillars namely: Political Security Community, Economic Community and Socio Cultural Community. Among the highlights were: in 1971 ASEAN signed the Declaration of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality; 1976 signed Declaration of Concord and Treaty of Amity Cooperation; 1992 signed the Free Trade Area; 1993 Regional Forum was established; 2003 signed the ASEAN Concord 2; in 2004 ASEAN and China signed the conduct of parties in South China Sea; 2005 established center for Bio Diversity; in 2007 signed the ASEAN Charter and adapted the economic blueprint; in 2009 adapted blueprint in economic and socio cultural; in 2009 established the committee on human rights; 2010 signed the ASEAN connectivity; 2011 established the ASEAN coordinating center for human assistance for disaster management; 2012 signed the human rights declaration and in same year held convention on trafficking in person; and in 2015 established the ASEAN Community.

The Times: How has Philippines’ relation with ASEAN been over the past 50 years?
Ambassador Villa: Philippines as founding member has been active and has witnessed the odds and evens of the ASEAN group despite all the challenges Philippines remained steadfast as member. It has also chaired ASEAN three times in years 1992, 2006 and 2017.

The Times: How is ASEAN with Philippine President Duterte’s Administration?
Ambassador Villa: Philippines as chair will highlight ASEAN as model global player in the interest of its people. Philippines adapted the theme ‘Partnering for Change, Engaging the World’, which captures and consolidates common goals for its peoples, forging of common identity as ASEAN. The six thematic priorities include people oriented ASEAN, peace, stability in the region, maritime security and cooperation, ASEAN resiliency to capture challenges environmental degradation and calamities. ASEAN has followed its way of consensus building consultation and noninterference in its domestic affairs.

The Times: A message to the ASEAN Community and Filipinos
Ambassador Villa: The nine ASEAN countries have huge population in Kuwait and one of its goals is to establish a closer tie with the GCC. For the Filipinos, I know how focused they are with their work and probably similarly with other ASEAN nationals and that they would have limited knowledge of the ASEAN but I do hope they reach out to each other not only to their countrymen but other ASEAN nations and foster friendship and cooperation and that they consider visiting each countries as touristic destinations in the region.

- Ricky Laxa
Staff Writer


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