Mr Chairman,
Your Royal Highnesses,
Ladies and Gentlemen

This AMM began amidst some confusion and speculation as to whether there would be changes to ASEAN’s fundamental principles. These controversies have been laid to rest.

We are now clearly of one mind, resolute and united. The basic principles of non-intervention and decision making by consensus would remain the cornerstones of ASEAN.

In his Closing Statement last year, Secretary Siazon presciently exhorted us to, and I quote him, “never forget the success of the ASEAN way of consultation and consensus building”. He reminded us to ensure that, I again quote, “the fundamental principles will be conserved”, when meeting future challenges.

ASEAN’s principles have stood the test of time. The present economic crisis can strain all existing arrangements and enhance the potential for tension. it is therefore even more important that we hold fast to the principles that have guided ASEAN over the past three decades. They patterned the work practices and procedures which have become our hallmark.

We have had extremely fruitful discussions over the past two days. ASEAN has a full agenda for the coming year. I am very conscious of the heavy responsibilities you have placed on me as next chairman of the ASC to fulfil our common aspirations. I look forward to your continued support. I am confident that, marching forward in step, ASEAN will emerge stronger and more competitive.

Let me conclude by congratulating the Philippines for the leadership it has shown over the past year in handling this onerous assignment. I commend the energetic and able chairmanship that my friend Domingo Siazon has provided during this difficult period. I admire his inimitable style and wit and warmly felicitate him for guiding this meeting to a successful conclusion. Finally, on behalf of all the ASEAN delegations, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to the government of the Philippines, for the excellent arrangements and generous hospitality accorded to us during our stay in Manila.