By Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral

PHL chairmanship of ASEAN 2017 launched

Posted on January 16, 2017

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Sunday led the launching ceremony of the Philippines’ chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) 2017 as he vows to “strengthen the capacities” of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and urge the regional bloc’s dialogue partners to observe “non-interference.”

“We can work to strengthen the capacities of micro, small and medium enterprises, promote and protect the welfare of migrant workers, and ensure social protection for the vulnerable sectors of society,” Mr. Duterte -- departing from his now-standard impromptu remarks -- said in a prepared message during yesterday’s event held at his hometown of Davao City, adding:

“Particular attention will be directed to sub-regional mechanisms, including BIMP-EAGA which the Philippines will also chair this year. They continue to be crucial in pursuing development initiatives at the grassroots.”

Mr. Duterte then called 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.”

As stated in Article 2 of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation of 1976, “high contracting parties” are “guided” to observe “the right of every State to lead its national existence free from external interference, subversion or coercion.”

To recall, Mr. Duterte, in numerous occasions, has emphasized he is charting an independent foreign policy after the United States and international bodies like the United Nations criticized his brutal drugs war, which has claimed the lives of more than 5,000, including the innocent, as he himself had earlier acknowledged.

For his part, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto R. Yasay, Jr. said ASEAN may have “detractors,” but the regional association “now enjoy peace, security, and stability in the region largely due to ASEAN’s key role as platform for co-constructive dialogue, consultation, and confidence building through consensus.”

He also qualified that ASEAN “is an economic powerhouse” and “a huge market,” citing the “free trade of goods” among its member states.

Member states of the ASEAN include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Yesterday’s ceremony was attended by representatives of ASEAN members states; former Philippine Presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; members of the Diplomatic Corps; members of the Cabinet; Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea; and some members of Congress.

The Philippines’ chairmanship of the ASEAN Summit coincides with the regional bloc’s 50th anniversary after the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand organized the group in August 1967, amid the upheavals then in communist China and the Vietnam War in progress then.

The Philippines last hosted the said summit 10 years ago in Cebu.

In a press briefing early this month, Communications Secretary Martin M. Andanar said his office will spearhead a campaign that will help ordinary Filipinos understand the importance of the upcoming ASEAN leaders’ meetings.

“ASEAN representatives from PCOO (Presidential Communications Operations Office) will deliver talks, conduct seminars, and even distribute comics and other reading materials written in different Philippine dialects,” Mr. Andanar said.

“This way no one is left behind and we reach those without access to the Internet or traditional media.”

“We will also provide media coverage logistics, Internet connectivity for each of the ASEAN 2017 meetings, including as mentioned the ASEAN launch in Davao on the 15th of January; the 30th ASEAN Summit on April 2017, the 50th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and related meetings coinciding with ASEAN’s 50th anniversary celebration here in Metro Manila by August and the 31st ASEAN Summit at Clark, Pampanga in November,” Mr. Andanar added.