Your Royal Highnesses,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I wish, first of all, to thank His Excellency Dato’ Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, Prime Minister of Malaysia, for giving us the morning this insights and vision about ASEAN, which has-provoked us into deep thought.
Secondly, on behalf of my delegation, I thank the Prime Minister, the government and the people of Malaysia for the warm welcome and generous hospitality they have extended to us ever since our arrival in this vibrant metropolis.
Not least we extend our deep appreciation to our Chairman, Dato’ Seri Abdullah Haji Ahrnad Badawi. Foreign Minister of Malaysia. Our distinguished colleague has led us through a very eventful twelve months. His wisdom and decisiveness carried ASEAN forward, and helped us overcome many substantial challenges in the to year just passed.
Our thanks and appreciation, too, go to our Secretary-General, Dato’ Ajit Singh, and to his staff, for their unfailing support and assistance during the year.
New ASEAN Members
Yesterday, Mr. Chairman – fittingly enough, in our thirtieth anniversary, year, — we implemented our leaders decision, to admit Laos and Myanmar into our association. By adding two new members, we have substantially increased the diversity of ASEAN. But our diversity has always been a unique source of strength in ASEAN, and it is in this spirit that we also look forward to the admission of Cambodia.
Cambodia is part of Southeast Asia. We worked with the Khmer people on the Paris peace accords, and in the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia. We have a natural. close and abiding concern-over the welfare of Cambodia, and we are prepared to extend our fraternal cooperation to Cambodia to help it overcome its present difficulties. A New Regional Order
ASEAN has exceeded all its early expectations as a model for regional cooperation and consensus in promoting peace, stability and security.
We have given our region normative instruments to enhance its Internal- stability, most notably our concept of the Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality, our Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, and our Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone.
ASEAN has led in the establishment and the management of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). Our leadership within this critical regional body reflects the international recognition, crediblity and aspect that ASEAN has won in the arena of regional security affairs.
The Imperative of Economic Integration
The ASEAN Free Trade Area, unthinkable even at the mid-point of .ASEAN’s existence, is now inexorably on the way to completion by 2003 for most of ,us – by 2000, or in three years, for most of our products.
We are expanding ASEAN’s economic horizons even further, The sensitive sector of unprocessed agricultural products is now included in AFTA. Trade in services is being liberalized, An ASEAN investment area is under planning. Cooperation is expanding in transportation, communications and other strategic sectors.
Human and Dialogue Networks
ASEAN cooperation has also expanded in functional areas like social development, the environment, drugs control, culture and information, human resources development, science and technology and the civil service.
We have generated dense and intricately ramified networks, of human contact in many of these areas, not only among ourselves, but between ASEAN and all of its ten dialogue partners.
An outstanding example of cooperation with a Dialogue Partner is the ASEAN Regional Centre for Biodiversity Conservation, a joint project. of ASEAN, and the European Union, which will be inaugurated in Laos Banos this August a few days from the 30th anniversary of our association.
As ASEAN approaches the twenty-first century it must re-tool itself, drastically if necessary, so as to deal more effectively with old and new challenges.
In this security arena, especially, we need fresh and fresh and innovative thinking. We must move the ARF forward, with deliberate speed, so that we can maintain the momentum of positive, cooperative and transparent dialogue we have achieved in regional security consultations.
ASEAN has been at the forefront of the campaign for nuclear disarmament. Now, we should also turn our attention to the problem of anti- personnel land mines.
The International community is intent on concluding by the end of the this year a treaty that would ban the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of these inhumane weapons.
The Philippines understands that some ASEAN countries view land mines as necessary for their defense dreaded weapons from their soil, and to rehabilitate the people that they have maimed and distinguished.
The South China Sea
Prudence further dictates that we continue working together to manage, contain and eventually resolve the dispute in the South China Sea.
The Philippines appeals to all claimants to keep their claims within the limits of reason and of what is allowed by International law, in particular by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea.
Regional Growth Areas
In the economic sphere, we must be equally resolute and innovative. We should press forward with the development of our sub-regional growth areas. These growth areas-like the Singapore-Johor-Riau- Growth Triangle and the East ASEAN Growth Area among Brunei Darussalam, eastern Indonesia, East Malaysia and southern Philippines are already forging new and strong linkages among our peoples.
The Mekong River Basin, which five Southeast Asian countries share, is another area of collective ASEAN Interest.
A New Growth Area
We are now exploring the creation of a new growth area linking Cambodia Loose northwest and central Philippines, southeast Thailand and Vietnam.
This area has immense potential, due to its rich natural endowments, its sizeable markets and its talented people, most of whom are young. We aim to transform the sea between the countries of this area from a barrier, as its perceived today, into a highway linking us together as it was used in times gone by.
Integrating Economic and Functional Cooperation
In addressing our future, functional cooperation within ASEAN has to be elevated into a co-equal third pilar along with cooperation in the politic security and economic sectors of ASEAN’s growth and development strategy.
It no longer makes sense to rigidly separate our economic and functional cooperation programs. This is because there are obvious overlaps between them. Economic growth cannot be separated from education, human resources development, science and technology and the environment.
We might begin to connect these areas together through special ASEAN initiatives for cooperation in information technology and for sharing our experiences and expertise in technical assistance.
If it is necessary to reform ASEAN’s structure and process for this purpose, then let us do so. A panel of eminent persons might be constituted to make recommendations on this subject.
Reinvigorating the ASEAN Dialogue System
ASEAN’s distinctive dialogue system has undergone its own transformation in recent years.
ASEAN’s dialogue relationship started out with a focus on development cooperation. Today, we tend to concentrate on the hard issues of trade, investment and technological exchange. We increasingly discuss political and security issues.
Nonetheless, development cooperation retains a place in the dialogue relationship. Development, cooperation could also be tripartite , with ASEAN and its dialogue partners supporting cooperation in least developed countries of Southeast Asia and other regions.
Environmental degradation, global terrorism, international crime and, other transnational problems also demand our increased attention. We need a more concerted drive against transboundary pollution, terrorism, the trade in illicit arms and drugs. money laundering, and the pernicious traffic exploiting human beings, particularly women and children.
Perhaps it is time us to formulate norms and common standards, if not binding agreements, to govern behavior and foster cooperation in these critical areas.
Another inevitable result of globalization and of the information technology revolution is that public opinion and perceptions are now more engaged than ever before in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of public policy in all our countries.
Transparency, openness and public dialogue are critical ingredients ,in forging the self-image of our people, countries and our regional organization that is ASEAN.
Let us seize this information revolution for ourselves. Let us harness its enormous power for the positive goal of projecting ASEAN to our peoples in a way that will be more immediate, more intimate and more relevant for them as individual human beings.
Building an Genuine ASEAN Community
In this manner, we will lay the foundations for a genuine regional community in Southeast Asia, built on the aspirations of our people to improve their lives and to live in harmony as good neighbors with one another.
Today, ASEAN stands out proudly as the most enduring, the 0most dynamic and the most successful grouping of developing nations anywhere in the world.
If ASEAN is to continue this remarkable, performances into the next century, then it must head the dreams of all its peoples for greater opportunity, upliftment and freedom.
We must reach out for a new vision, a vision that will see our peoples as common stakeholders in the destiny of our region. Our citizens on their own, with stimulate the growth of closer people to people linkages, drawing strength from both our regional diversity and solidarity.