President Rodrigo Roa Duterte pushed for a drug-free Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) community as he formally opened the 30th ASEAN Summit at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City on Saturday, April 29.
The opening ceremony, held at the Plenary Hall of the PICC, commenced with the singing of the ASEAN Anthem, “The ASEAN Way” led by Ms. Rachel Alejandro; followed by a cultural presentation dubbed, “Iisang Bangko Tayo” (We are in the Same Boat).
In his opening statement, President Duterte said the ASEAN must be resolute in realizing a drug-free ASEAN.
“The scourge of illegal drugs threatens our gains in community-building. I have seen how illegal drugs have ended the hopes, dreams, future and even lives of countless people, especially the youth,” President Duterte said.
“The illegal drug trade apparatus is massive. But it is not impregnable. With political will and cooperation, it can be dismantled, it can be destroyed before it destroys our societies,” he said.
The President also stressed that the ASEAN must not waver on its efforts to eliminate security threats.
“Piracy and armed robbery against ships disrupt the stability of regional and global commerce. Terrorism and violent extremism have brought the reality of attacks right on our shores and at our doorsteps,” Duterte said.
“Eternal vigilance is the price that we must pay to keep our citizens safe. We can only achieve this through advancing cooperation at the bilateral, regional, and multilateral levels,” he added.
President Duterte, who is also the chair of the ASEAN this year, likewise urged his fellow ASEAN leaders to strengthen its partnership with the business community.
“We can advance cooperation in our region by staying true, steadfast, and resolute to our processes of integration, innovation, inclusivity, and connectivity,” Duterte said, as he noted that the capacities of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) should be strengthened as MSMEs are engines of growth.
In the same speech, President Duterte thanked the ASEAN neighbors for its assistance to the Philippines in the wake of natural disasters.
“During our time of greatest need, you were there. We are eternally grateful. Today, I say the Philippines will do its own part to help those who are in need in our region and beyond,” the President said.
This year, ASEAN commemorates its 50th year. Likewise, the ASEAN commemorates its 40th anniversary of dialogue relations with Canada, the European Union (EU), and the United States of America, as well as the 25th anniversary of relations with India.
“These are relations that are valued. But they can be much more valuable and stronger if we learn to respect each other’s independence and treat each other as sovereign equals,” Duterte said.
“Our engagement with Dialogue Partners allowed us to set the table for meaningful discussions on maintaining peace and stability, the pursuit of development goals, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and the promotion of our peoples’ welfare,” he said.
“In this milestone year, the time is ripe – and indeed it is right – to make our decisions count. It is time for ASEAN to finally assert, with conviction, its position in the international arena,” Duterte said.
Following the opening ceremony, the leaders then proceeded to the Reception Hall for the 30th ASEAN Summit Plenary Session.
In his opening statement, President Duterte said the regional grouping is dedicated in its work towards genuine transformation that will benefit the people.
According to Duterte, ASEAN was defined by unity, solidarity, and cooperation over the last five decades and these are crucial to the body’s collective success.
He, however, acknowledged that their work is far from complete. “Faced with greater challenge, we are full of hope that we will rise to the occasion and emerge politically and economically stronger,” he said.
President Duterte said the leaders will discuss the implementation of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.
He was accompanied by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, and Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo.
The opening ceremony, on the other hand, was attended by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Cabinet officials, the Diplomatic Corps, former First Lady Imelda Marcos, former Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, and Philippine National Police chief Ronald Dela Rosa.
The cultural presentation featured the CEU Folk Dance Troupe, Sindaw Philippines Performing Arts Guild, Mga Anak ni Inang Daigdig, SFC Lahing Kayumanggi Mananayaw ng Marikina, and the Manila Symphony Orchestra. ###PND