Jakarta, 9 April 2011

Bismillahirrahmanirrahin

Assalamu’alaikum Wr. Wb.

Excellencies,

Distinguished Delegates,

First of all, allow me to extend a warm welcome to Your Excellency Mr. Takeaki Matsumoto, Foreign Minister of Japan, and to Your Excellencies the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN Member States, as well as to ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan. Your presence here today is truly appreciated.

I wish to convey our heartfelt condolences to the Government and people of Japan in the wake of recent disasters that have befallen the country. All of us, without exception, have been following attentively and with profound sadness the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on 11 March 2011.

Nevertheless, we have only the highest confidence in the resilience of the Japanese nation. The serenity of the Japanese people in the face of the grief and hardships they have suffered is awe-inspiring.

Hence, I am sure that Japan will recover. That Japan will rise above this tragedy.

Japan has always been a friend and partner in responding to natural disaster in our region. In this hour of Japan’s sorrow and need, the least we can do is to express our sympathy and extend every help that we are capable of.

We in ASEAN stand ready to render any assistance and support in any manner required.

As individuals and as nations, the peoples of ASEAN have shown in various ways their solicitude for and solidarity with the people of Japan.

Through Your Excellency Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto we say to the Japanese people: we are with you in your grief. We are there for you as you rebuild your devastated communities and recover from this tragedy.

Excellencies,

Distinguished Delegates,

Our region is so vulnerable to natural disaster: earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, floods and mudslides. They take a heavy toll in human lives. They crush properties and infrastructures. Last year in Indonesia, we endured earthquakes, tsunami and volcanic eruptions. Earlier this year, an earthquake battered New Zealand. And as recently as 24 March 2011, another earthquake struck Myanmar.

These calamities hamper the sustainable economic development of our region. They aggravate the plight of our peoples.

And if there is one lesson to be learned from these misfortunes, it is the fact that natural disasters can strike anytime, anywhere-regardless of national boundaries and local situations. We in the region are therefore called upon to be fully prepared and coordinated in our efforts to mitigate and reduce the losses inflicted by these natural disasters.

We must be prepared and coordinated not only for relief and recovery efforts when a natural disaster has already struck. We must also work hard at disaster risk reduction so that we will become less vulnerable. So that we can more thoroughly mitigate the impact of disasters.

All these efforts can be built through the faithful implementation of decisions we have already reached, such as the Cha-am Hua Hin Statement on East Asia Summit (EAS) Disaster Management in 2009.

In ASEAN, we should give the highest priority to the full implementation of the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Energy Response (AADMER). Its implementation will enhance cooperation between the civilian population and the military establishment and empower civil society organizations for disaster management. It will strengthen cooperation among all stakeholders in disaster risk reduction.

For the same reason, the full operationalisation of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA) centre must no longer be delayed. The Centre will organize and coordinate the immediate and effective deployment of all relevant ASEAN assets in times of emergency.

I also envisage an added role for the AHA Centre in the not so distant future: it can organize and coordinate the sending of ASEAN support to areas beyond our region that are struck by natural disasters.

That will be an important part of the ASEAN Community’s outreach to a Global Community of Nations.

Excellencies,

Distinguished Delegates,

We should also work to enhance mechanism that build capacity and confidence, strengthen cooperation and coordination among the civilian and military agencies, and provide a rapid, coordinated, and effective disaster relief in a broader context than ASEAN.

These mechanisms include ASEAN plus Three, the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus that complement disaster management cooperation in the framework of the ASEAN-Japan Partnership.

As a matter of fact, we have already begun to carry out region-wide joint activities in the field of disaster management, notably the recent ASEAN Regional Forum Disaster Relief Exercise (ARF DiREx) co-chaired by Japan and Indonesia in Manado, Indonesia.

It is to the external credit of Japan and a tribute to its endurance and farsightedness that it persevered in serving as co-chair even as it had to address the impact of the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March.

The exercise provided an opportunity to enhance our capacity for rapid, coordinated, and effective disaster response.

Let us build on the success of that exercise and thus ensure robust civilian led-military supported disaster relief operations whenever needed.

At the same time, we can expand the ASEAN Standard Operating Procedures for Regional Stand-by Arrangements and Coordination of Joint Disaster Relief and Emergency Response Operation (SASOP). We can make these arrangements more inclusive and dependable through practice.

Excellencies,

Distinguished Delegates,

As we meet today, let us reaffirm our commitment to further promote ASEAN-Japan cooperation in disaster management.

Let us also learn all the valuable lessons that the Tohoku Pacific Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan can teach us about disaster mitigation and management. And let us apply what we have learned the next time that natural disaster strikes.

Excellencies,

Distinguished Delegates,

Natural disasters can be overwhelming to governments and societies alike.

Again and again they prove humankind’s frailty and vulnerability to the unpredictable forces of nature. They constantly remind us of the reality that no nation can survive alone.

We are therefore called upon to reach out to one another. To work shoulder to shoulder. And to strive in concert for our common, long-term survival.

We have answered that call. We are working together in the spirit of compassion and solidarity. I am therefore confident that we will overcome th

is challenge looming before us. I am sure that this crisis will pass.

And we will emerge a stronger community. One better prepared for any eventuality.

I thank you.

Wassalamu’alaikum Wr. Wb.