Relations between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and international partners could be “much more valuable and stronger” if there is mutual respect of sovereignty and non-interference on internal affairs, President Duterte said yesterday.
The President kicked off the regional summit with a call not only to the ASEAN to find its place on the world arena but also to the United States, European Union, and other dialogue partners not to meddle with the affairs of the regional bloc.
“Relations bear fruit when they are based on mutual respect and benefit,” the President said in his opening remarks at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.
“Dialogue relations can be made more productive and constructive if the valued principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of ASEAN Member States is observed,” he added.
Duterte highlighted ASEAN’s time-honored principles on mutual respect, territorial integrity, and non-interference while citing the upcoming milestones with some dialogue partners this year.
He noted that ASEAN will mark its 40th anniversary of dialogue relations with Canada, the European Union, and the United States, the 25th anniversary of relations with India, as well as the 20th anniversary of the ASEAN Plus Three (Japan, China, and South Korea).
“These are relations that are valued but they can be much more valuable and stronger if we learn to respect each other’s independence and treat each other as sovereign equals,” he said.
Duterte recognized that the ASEAN’s engagement with dialogue partners has advanced discussions on promoting peace and stability, pursuit of development goals, and the promotion of peoples’ welfare.
In the same speech, the President called for the peaceful resolution of disputes and respect for rule of law among stakeholders.
Duterte, however, neither mentioned the South China Sea dispute involving four ASEAN members and China nor the Philippines’ arbitration win against Beijing’s territorial claims in his remarks.
“Relations also remain solid if all stakeholders learn to respect and value the peaceful resolution of disputes,” he said.
“In an era where there can be much uncertainty, we must faithfully adhere to the supremacy of the law and rely on the primacy of rules as responsible members of the international community,” he said.
ASEAN is scheduled to hold another round of summit and related meetings with dialogue partners in Manila this November. Among the ASEAN dialogue partners are Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, United States, and the EU.
As the group marks its 50th anniversary this year, the President urged ASEAN to assert its position in the international arena without sacrificing its values and identity.
“History will judge us on how we are able to help our people and our region become (even) better and stronger based on the values and heritage we hold dear,” Duterte said.
“In this milestone year, the time is ripe – and indeed it is right – to make our decisions (count). It is time for ASEAN to finally assert, with conviction, its position in the international arena,” he added.
He said ASEAN has a compelling narrative of positive change that can hold up to the world.
“Through our distinct ASEAN way, our region – with all its promise – stands at the center of the future of the Asia-Pacific region. Let us with brave hearts and firm mind resolve to do all we can to make all our aspirations a reality. (This) will be the lasting legacy of ASEAN not just for our peoples but for the whole world,” he said. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)