Partnering for Change, Engaging the World

President Rodrigo Duterte, President of Philippines, along with the head of states of ASEAN member countries

MANILA: Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit level meeting took place in Manila, Philippines, last month. The regional block completed fifty years of its inception this year. Opening the ceremony, President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Roa Duterte said,  “The Philippines is honored to be the Chairman of ASEAN 2017 and we look forward to the year ahead as we continue to pursue and enhance cooperation with you,
our neighbors”.

The theme ‘Partnering for Change, Engaging the World’ reflects the Philippine government’s advocacy to promote unity with and among ASEAN member states and its global partners. The leaders as expected discussed the implementation of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the way forward, external relations and future directions.Regional, international and other issues were also taken up as the leaders signed the ASEAN declaration on the role of the civil service.

After the conclusion of the meeting in a statement ASEAN Chairman said  “we engaged in productive and fruitful deliberations reflective of our commitment to renew the aspirations and the enduring values of the ASEAN Founding Fathers, in adherence to the purposes and principles enshrined in the Bangkok Declaration which launched ASEAN in 1967 and the ASEAN Charter and to realize the six thematic priorities selected by the Philippines as ASEAN’s main deliverables for 2017, the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of ASEAN, namely: (a) A people-oriented and people-centered ASEAN; (b) Peace and stability in the region; (c) Maritime security and cooperation; (d) Inclusive, innovation-led growth; (e) ASEAN’s resiliency; and (f) ASEAN: a model of regionalism, a global player.

But the leaders could not come to a consensus on the crucial question of South China Sea. An issue that has dogged the Bloc and their position split over the years. All twelve nations had agreed not to use threats or force to assert any territorial claims. But since then China has been accused of building artificial islands in the disputed areas. Four years back Philippines went to an arbitral tribunal and sought clarification from it whether China’s nine-dash line could negate Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone as guaranteed under United Nation’s maritime law. The tribunal concluded last year that China had no historic claim to the areas falling within the nine-dash line. 

At the ASEAN Summit, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is also the sitting chairman of ASEAN, said any discussion about the fortification of reclaimed islands in the South China Sea by China was useless. He also made it clear the he does not seek any trouble with China.

China later welcomed final statement from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and reaffirmed cooperation with ASEAN on the South China Sea issue. “We read the chairman’s statement from the 30th ASEAN Summit concerning the South China Sea issue. With the joint efforts, the situation is becoming more positive,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang.