Ladies and Gentlemen:
Welcome to the Philippines and the Third ASEAN Informal Summit.
Allow me to extend special welcome to His Excellency Abdurrahman Wahid, President of the Republic of Indonesia, and to His Excellency Samdech Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, on this their first participation in an ASEAN summit.
Cambodia’s attendance today is particularly meaningful since this is the first time our Cambodian brothers are attending an ASEAN summit as full member. ASEAN’s investments in the restoration of peace and stability in Cambodia have paid off ASEAN is finally complete; and its completeness should be a boon to our strength.
We in the Philippines see this summit as a bridge the last bridge, in fact, that we cross in century together. And like a bridge, this summit, we hope, will help link the two sides of three divides, namely, those of the past and the future, of experience and vision, and of promise and fulfillment,
Bridging the Past and the Future
What was our past; what is to be our future?
Some four decades ago, Southeast Asia was a region of states so close yet so far from one another. Many were very young, just then recently set free from centuries of colonial rule. All were still preoccupied with the task of rebuilding lives and neighborhoods from the ravages of the Great War. The ideological divide was deep and wide.
Regional identity, then, was an ideal, cerebrally remote and practically removed from the day-today lives of mainly rural, agricultural populations. Southeast Asians were the proverbial hewers of wood and drawers of water, supplying the world with products of farm and forest and little else.
Now, Southeast Asia is an integral part of the global village. Interdependence is a recognized and accepted fact. Globalization is in the lips of everyone, sometimes with derision, at other times, with affection, but always with discernment that it is the wave of the future.
That future could mean a bit of Southeast Asia in nearly all computers or new gadgets sold then. It could mean a bit of Southeast Asian mind running those wonder devices. And it could mean a bit of Southeast Asian human and financial capital powering the firms that make them.
It is with this view of the future that the Philippines cared to arrange our dialogue at this summit with the private sector on information technology. “Wiring” Southeast Asia onto the information grid of the 21st century is a wise investment we should be making today. The success of e-ASEAN can also trailblaze and hasten progress in the region.
Linking up with our private sector now sends another message. Our peoples are our greatest common resource. And the future belongs to them before all else. We, as heads of government, lead and act only on their behalf. With their direct involvement in charting and realizing our common destiny, we open the doors to the fullest flowering of our peoples’ potential. We also affirm human dignity.
Bridging Experience and Vision
ASEAN has both the experience and the vision we need for success. Our organization has the power and privilege to lead our region onto the future with confidence. We know how to do it.
In the first decade of ASEAN’s existence, we concerned ourselves with establishing harmony among the member states. We set up the internal’ processes that, over time, came to be called the ASEAN Way. We built peace by advancing amity.
In our second decade, we concentrated in expanding functional cooperation. We went through the learning curve of working together and producing results. We developed the habits of cooperation.
Only in our third decade did we begin in earnest working on the express mandate of our organization-that of instituting economic cooperation as our collective approach to prosperity. And in this, as in the previous focuses of our work, we have been quite successful. Spurred by our common experience of the past two years, we accelerated our AFTA, AIA and AICO timetables.
By the start of the new century , more than 90 percent of the tariff lines in the inclusion list of the six original CEPT signatories will have tariffs of zero to five percent. In addition, nearly one fifth of the excepted items will have been transferred to the inclusion list. This is good progress indeed.
We took our biggest step into the future two years ago when we adopted the ASEAN Vision 2020. We have set our goal: “a concert of Southeast Asian nations, outward-looking, living in peace, stability and prosperity, bonded together in partnership in dynamic development and in a community of caring societies.” Then, last year, We gave our mandate to the first blueprint to realize that vision: the Hanoi Plan of Action.
Today, we have reached an important juncture, At this summit, we begin an iterative process of evaluating, with a constructively critical eye, the progress on the ground, And, the significance of convening the first Special Joint Ministerial Meeting should be clear to us all.
For the message we want to air is this: cooperation, to be truly effective, must be comprehensive, Greater economic cooperation should lead to and accompany deeper and broader cooperation on matters of peace and security.
The experience of our finance officials on the ASEAN Surveillance Process offers important lessons not only on macroeconomic coordination. It may teach us, too, about how to manage cooperation on security and other transnational concerns. This is the way to bridge experience and vision.
Bridging Promise and Fulfillment
The ASEAN Vision 2020 embodies our collective hope; it is the promise of a true community of Southeast Asian nations. But we know that between this promise and its fulfillment lies a tortuous road. A road we need to pave to make our passage smooth and light.
For us, the best paving material is openness. And it entails transparency public accountability and good governance. I have no doubt in my mind that we will fulfill the promise, but first we must learn the habits of openness.
When we have done so, we probably will need to meet more often than we do now, Twice a year, perhaps, as others do, without fanfare nor great expense, For those meetings will not be for show but for results to complete specific tasks and to begin new ones.
In addition to greater openness among ourselves, the fulfillment of the promise requires a greater openness with our ,neighbors. For, let us face it, our future is intertwined with that of greater East Asia.
In recent years, East Asia has been coming together in many important ways. In trade, the level of ASEAN’s exports to Northeast Asia increased by an unprecedented 37 percent in 1997 the same year the Asian financial storm struck. It accounted for nearly one-fourth of ASEAN’s total exports and exceeded those to the United States or to the European Union in that year.
Of course, the considerable resources and assistance committed by Japan, as well as China’s enlightened response, have helped contain the crisis, mitigate its adverse impacts, and facilitate economic recovery in our region. And Korea, gravely affected as it was by the crisis, kept its assistance to uplift ASEAN’s human resources flowing.
Northeast Asia’s stability is extremely vital to peace in the ASEAN region, The active participation of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea in the ARF and ASEAN+3 processes augurs well for regional security. We need to intensify our dialogue with them on all issues, on all fronts.
At this summit, we take an important step with the proposed statement on East Asian economic cooperation. If we adopt it, we can move on to even more specific projects and issues. There is Prime Minister Mahathir’s idea on an Asian Monetary Fund. And we can work further to enhance the prospects of stability and peace in the South China Sea.
If we persevere and work harder, maybe, the promise we fulfill will realize an even loftier dream. An East Asian common market. One East Asian currency. And one East Asian community a family from the happy union of the north and south.
Your Majesty, Your Excellencies, the bridge we will cross today has the strong foundations of trust, friendship and partnership. It can carry us all through. Let us now cross it.