Cayetano highlights Asean 50 years of resiliency
On the 50th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano extolled the regional bloc’s resiliency despite criticisms that the organization was “doomed from the start.”
During the closing ceremony of the Asean foreign ministers meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) on Tuesday, Cayetano gave an opening address for the celebration of the Asean’s 50th year.
“In the last few days, we have reminisced, we have marveled, we have celebrated, we have rejoiced on how an organization that the critics said will be dead when it is born, where critics said that it is doomed from the start is now turning 50 or has now turned 50 today,” the former senator said in his speech.
The region that was once “marred by conflict and poverty, beset by different in our ideology, in culture and different political systems” has proven the critics wrong, he said.
“Five decades later we find ourselves living in peace, stability, prosperity, with Asean at the center of the evolving regional architecture,” Cayetano said.
“We have proven the critics wrong. But who could blame the critics at that time? Similar regions with far less problems ended up in conflict, yet the Asean found its way,” he said.
Philippines chaired this year’s Asean, whose members include Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.
But the foreign affairs secretary said that the Asean cannot help but have “both a sense of unease and a sense of hope” for the next 50 years.
“When I looked at our agenda for this ministerial meeting, when I looked at the sensitive issues, when I looked at how the varying national interests sometimes coincided but a lot of times conflicted, in the language that people wanted in the joint communique or in the other statements of Asean, whether to make a statement or not to make a statement, I sort of lost hope, to be honest,” he said.
But still, Cayetano said the regional bloc managed to overcome “the divisions, the fears, and the hostilities.”
“We need not be immobilized from the shock of rapid changes felt around the world. However, it behooves Asean to choose to actively shape and secure its own future from within and with partnership with our external partners. While the future that awaits our region remains a bright and prosperous one, we need to think more of ‘we’ than ‘I,’ more of a family, more of a… less than being a family, we need to think that we are a community, more than a community, not just a nation but a region,” he said.
Cayetano then assured that the Philippines, even beyond its Asean chairmanship, will continue working with all its partners.
“And our president, like the different Prime Ministers and Presidents, have directed the relevant agencies and departments to act and to go towards one identity, one vision, one community,” he said. JPV