Opening Remarks of
Secretary of Foreign Affairs
On the Occasion of the First Meeting of the 40th ASEAN Standing Committee
7 September 2006
Manila Hotel

Distinguished Members of Delegations,

  I am pleased and honored to welcome you to the City of Manila.

We are drawn together today by deep sense of brotherhood, a brotherhood made more meaningful by a keen appreciation for our shared history and animated by a profound sense of purpose toward a common future.

 That we meet today in a historical landmark speaks volumes of the significance we attach to the first meeting of the 40th ASEAN Standing Committee.

Manila Hotel has served as home to some of the world’s most prominent personalities – presidents, statesmen and world celebrities – during their stay in the Philippines.

It is history that we are making today, as we move further forward our aspirations for a more peaceful, progressive and prosperous Southeast Asian region.

 As much as today is an auspicious beginning, it is also an occasion to remember that everything that we enjoy now and what we will achieve in the years ahead are the legacies of our forebears.

Our forefathers had foresight and a vision for us, brothers and sisters in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).  And it is upon our shoulders that rest the tremendous responsibility of carrying on and realizing the dream of a community whose diverse peoples live side by side, with respect and understanding, and enjoy the fruits of peace and development.

I firmly believe we are up to that challenge.

 I wish to thank the Department’s Office of ASEAN Affairs, headed by Assistant Secretary Luis Cruz for the preparations undertaken for this meeting.  I am confident that this Meeting will be fruitful and contribute significantly to moving us closer to achieve our collective aspirations.

As Chair, the Philippines is committed to build on the accomplishments of our predecessors and steer our region towards integration and greater development.

With the support of our ASEAN brothers and sisters, we will resolutely sustain ASEAN’s community building efforts through the implementation of identified priority measures under the Vientiane Action Program.

In the strong belief that our strength lies in our people – our greatest and most valuable resource – we have chosen the theme of “One Caring and Sharing Community.”  This aptly describes the Philippines’ vision for a people-centered regional community that is rules-based, dynamic, united and responsive to current challenges.

It is vital that ASEAN create a caring environment where we could intensify our efforts in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.  Our community should be united in the desire and commitment to share its natural, human and cultural resources for sustained regional development.

 To achieve our shared goals, the Philippines has embarked on several key initiatives that will strengthen our region and address common issues of concern.

Energy security will continue to have a direct effect on economic integration and development.  Already, we have seen how the rising price of oil has affected domestic markets and intra-regional trade.

Given this, our chairmanship will give priority to cooperation in enhancing energy cooperation, tapping alternative sources of energy and promoting efficiency in the energy sector.  The East Asia Summit (EAS) session on energy security in Cebu this December will provide the venue for closer cooperation on this issue.

 Terrorism will continue to seriously challenge ASEAN security and stability.  To address this, the Philippines will pursue efforts for the completion of an ASEAN Convention on Counterterrorism.  The Philippines has also drawn up a draft document to heighten engagement between ASEAN and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

 Another important global force that affects world economies is migration.  To ASEAN, it is an important element of our growth and future.  The Philippines – along with our stakeholders in the region – places utmost priority on the welfare and protection of migrant workers.  In line with this, the Philippines is working with our brothers and sisters in the region towards the creation an ASEAN Declaration on the Rights of Migrant Workers.

 There is also a need to strengthen ASEAN as an institution.  To do this, the ASEAN Eminent Persons Group has been tasked to come up with a blueprint on the ASEAN Charter that will be presented and approved by our Leaders in Cebu this December.  Once the blueprint is approved, the ASEAN High Level Task Force can proceed with the drafting of the Charter and hopefully complete it in time for the next ASEAN Summit in Singapore.

 ASEAN has also taken the lead in uniting the region into a broader East Asian Community.

At the Second East Asia Summit, the Philippines will spearhead discussions on identified priority areas such as energy, finance, education, avian influenza and natural disaster mitigation.

          At this point, I wish to commend the ASEAN Directors-General for their contributions towards the accomplishment of these goals.  Already, you have helped us lay down the firm foundations for the realization of the Philippines’ initiatives.

 The Ministers have acknowledged the vital role of the ASEAN Standing Committee (ASC), which serves as a focal point for coordination of ASEAN activities, ensures the effective implementation of approved priority projects, and monitors ASEAN’s external relations with its ten dialogue partners and the incoming development partners.

The ASC’s functions are, therefore, crucial:  It is key to ASEAN’s actual development and growth into a caring and sharing community.

As ASC Chair, the Philippines faces a great responsibility which we intend to carry out to the best of our abilities.

I am confident that the tasks at hand are achievable and doable, more so with your assistance and untiring support for our common endeavors.

Through continued hard work, close cooperation and coordination, we can and will make our shared vision of a people-centered community a reality.

A great statesman once observed that the world has narrowed to a neighborhood before it has broadened into a brotherhood.

In our region, we are succeeding in building a closer neighborhood with a broadened and stronger brotherhood at the same time.

Allow me then to quote from a passage which I believe articulates the desiderata of our Association and peoples since ASEAN’s inception in 1967:

There is a destiny that makes us brothers;
None goes his way alone:
All that we send into the lives of others
Comes back onto our own.

We have begun well.  With our shared commitment to the vision of our forefathers, we shall see that everything ends well.  For us, and for the generations that will follow.

 Thank you and good morning.