Mr. Chairman,

Your Royal Highness,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

As we come to the close of the 30th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, it is only fitting that we recall ASEAN’s many past achievements — not only to celebrate them, but to remember what made them possible.

From this perspective, we rendered tribute to the foresight, wisdom and courage of our founding fathers for the boldness of their vision of a single Southeast Asia embraced within ASEAN.

We also lauded – and we should never forget – the success of the ASEAN way of consultation and consensus-building, of steady but sustained progress, of making haste without waste.

The ASEAN Way allowed us to work together in advancing our common interests and in overcoming those differences that divided us. Future challenges may require some modifications in the details of how we achieve our objectives, but the sound fundamentals will be conserved.

It is auspicious that we mark the 30th anniversary of ASEAN’s foundation with the admission of Laos and Myanmar. Their entry into ASEAN brings us closer to our founders’ vision of a regional Southeast Asian community under ASEAN.

We look forward to welcoming Cambodia in the not-too-distant future as well. We have reaffirmed our close bonds with the people of Cambodia, and pledged that we will continue to work in their best interest.

As the Phflippines assumes the chairmanship of the ASEAN Standing Committee, we recognize our responsibility for maintaining the prudent dynamism that has come to charecterize ASEAN. As we take an this formidable task, we will remain mindful that ASEAN is now a regional grouping of nine countries, soon to be ten, which has gained for itself the respect, trust and confidence of the world.

Our task does not end simply with the admission of new members. ASEAN’s expansion must be accompanied by ASEAN’s deepening, if we are to preserve our regional solidarity, and to maintain Southeast Asia as a vibrant, cohesive and peaceful collectivity under the now conditions of the 21st Century.

ASEAN’s diversity has contributed to the richness of our shared experience and to the shaping of our world view as a cohesive region. We, the nations of ASEAN, have shown that, indeed,, we can have unity in diversity, and that we will not let our differences obscure the larger regional dimension of our respective national aspirations.

The integration of Laos and Myanmar into the ASEAN mainstream will be facilitated as we resolutely combine our energies and our talents for this purpose. Their integration should strengthen ASEAN as the voice and the embodiment of Southeast Asia’s regional personality.

We will also adhere to the principle of non-discrimination in all ASEAN activities. By virtue of their admission into ASEAN, Laos and Myanmar became equal partners in all our dialogue relationships, and are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and benefit from out collective cooperative endeavors.

Another challenge in the year ahead will be the implementation of ASEAN’s Framework for Elevating Functional Cooperation to a Higher Plane, In this regard, we rnay note that considerable progress has been made in a number of ASEAN flagship projects covering science and technology, the environment, culture and information, social development and drugs control.

ASEAN’s functional cooperation is a patent multipurpose tool. We should maxirnize its use on two major fronts: first, in generating a stronger regional identity among our peoples; second, in attaining a more comprehensive approach to socio-economic development in ASEAN programs, especially in such new areas as information technology.

The Second Informal ASEAN Summit, and the other summit meetings with Northeast Asian countries, which are scheduled this December here in Malaysia, will be the focus of a special effort. We need to ensure ASEAN’s responsiveness to the changing regional environment in East Asia, which calls for closer relations with Northeast Asia.

ASEAN will seize the opportunity provided by the summit meetings with the Northeast Asian countries, and similar occasions with other dialogue partners, to expand cooperation on transnational issues,. including transboundary pollution, terrorism, the trafficking of people, illicit drugs and arms, piracy and communicable diseases.

We are anticipating that the ASEAN Foundation will provide new avenues for closr contact among our peoples. We look upon the Foundation as an instrument for enhancing inter-regional ties, while keeping intact the moral and human dimensions important to ASEAN and its members states.

Let me conclude by congratulating the people and government of Malaysia for the outstanding leadership exercised during the past year.

In particular, may I highlight the unwavering commitment of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, H.E. Dato’ Seri Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamed, to a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Southeast Asia, which has always been a source of inspiration for us all.

Finally, let me salute the exemplary and outstanding chairmanship that H.E. Dato’ Seri Abdullah Bin Haji Ahmad Badawi provided throughout the year, which deserves a most special mention.

As the Philippines takes hold of the helm of ASEAN for the coming year, we look forward to working and cooperating with Your Excellencies, and to your unfailing support, for the sake of the increased resilience, unity,stability and prosperity of Southeast Asia.