THE Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is turning 50 years old this year. The 10-member organization will celebrate a milestone, from starting as a loosely constructed regional association at the height of the Cold War to becoming a stable organization that has overcome a myriad of challenges that have come its way.
Perhaps the biggest prize for ASEAN has been the preservation of peace, stability, prosperity and close relations among its members, including Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. This stable bond has propelled ASEAN’s economic growth and has boosted its international profile.
President Rogrido Duterte on Sunday, Jan. 15 called for a stronger ASEAN free of external interference, dependence and ignorance as he launched the Philippine chairmanship of the bloc’s 50th founding anniversary.
“For an ASEAN citizen, the ASEAN community must provide opportunities for a truly better life. This is a life that has broken the bonds of dependence and ignorance. This is a life that has given opportunities for self-improvement. This is a life that is provided by a society transformed and reformed,” Duterte said.
With the theme “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World,” the Philippine hosting of the 2017 ASEAN meetings aims to have “inclusive and innovation-led growth,” and turn ASEAN into a “model of regionalism.
“We express our shared determination to ensure stability and security from external interference in any form of negotiation in order to preserve our national identity,” the president added.
The Philippines will be hosting 118 ASEAN meetings this year—including two summits with the heads of states of the 10 member-nations and dialogue partners—which will take place in various locations nationwide, including Metro Manila, Laoag, Pampanga, Legazpi, Palawan, Boracay, Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Bohol, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao.
“Fifty years, hence, we see ourselves much changed for the better. Lives have been improved. The march towards sustainable development and inclusive growth continues to take place. And we have established amongst ourselves good neighborliness that allows for secure and stable relations. But we also see in ourselves the very same burning desire to move forward together based on shared values,” Duterte said in his speech.
Despite these achievements, some political pundits have challenged the organization to grow economically and politically, to have a more dynamic ASEAN Code of Conduct, and a facilitation of a deeper and more meaningful dialogue and consultation.
ASEAN must also address the brewing tension in the contested waters of the South China Sea. China asserts sovereignty on almost the entire South China Sea. China has been aggressive when it comes to territorial disputes. It has continuously rejected other nations’ claim (including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei) on the oil- and gas-rich waters.
Despite obstacles set by conflicts among nations, ASEAN is moving forward to pursue higher goals. The ASEAN community is sure to meet its vision of becoming an alliance that has withstood the test of time, assuring regional peace and stability for its people. Allies not only by common interests, but also by shared values and aspirations among its people, the ASEAN will set precedents for creating a solution to global challenges. (AJPress)