Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Your Majesty, Excellencies,
Major upheavals call for decisive responses. This is true today, more than ever, as we confront complex issues with far-reaching consequences for our peoples.
From COVID-19 to climate change and to geopolitical tensions — we face grave challenges [to] our security and way of life. How we respond will shape our collective future.
One thing is clear — no country can address these issues on its own.
The fate of the powerful can no longer be separated from those of the weak. This is our reality today.
We must act with a greater sense of shared responsibility and common destiny. The way forward is enhanced multilateralism.
We may differ in national priorities. But the Philippines believes that we share enough fundamental interests to unite us into action.
First, we all want sustained and inclusive growth. But this will not — or will be beyond reach if we fail to revitalize our economies.
We have to reopen our — we have to reopen while containing the spread of [the] virus. However, without a vaccine or a cure, this is a difficult balance to achieve. We must work together to ensure that all countries have access to safe vaccines at affordable terms.
COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic. The next big one will come and it will just be a matter of ‘when’. We must have effective early warning systems — as correctly pointed out by President Widodo — and timely response mechanisms.
We seek support from our partners for the ASEAN Center for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases and the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies.
We must also deepen regional economic integration. It brings the most benefit to the greatest number of people.
We look forward to the conclusion and swift implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.
More importantly, we must take care of the most vulnerable in our societies, including migrant workers. This pandemic has affected them disproportionately.
We call for enhanced cooperation in promoting and protecting the rights of migrant workers, regardless of their status.
Second, we want to live in sustainable and resilient communities. But this will be unattainable unless we fight climate change decisively.
This year, we mark the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. We urge our partners to recommit to climate action and lead the way towards net zero emissions.
We call for increased climate financing, technology transfer, and capacity building in our region so that we, too, can have a fair chance to develop and progress.
Climate change is not just a matter of survival. It is equally a matter of justice.
Finally, we all want peace and stability in our region. But we compromise these if we give in to divisions and rivalry.
The Asia-Pacific has always been a contested region where big powers vie for control and domination. Our challenge is to manage the unavoidable shifts resulting from this dynamic.
To do this, we need an open and inclusive regional architecture where ASEAN plays a central role.
The Asia-Pacific must remain a region of peace where the rule of law is supreme — where all countries are equal, neither pawns nor lackeys of any power.
We welcome the interest of EAS partners to cooperate with ASEAN in line with the principles and agenda of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. The Philippines particularly looks forward to enhanced engagement in maritime security.
Our disputes in the [South] China Sea may seem intractable. But they are not greater than our combined capacity to manage and solve.
Let us [not] make the South China Sea another locus — or let us not — a locus of power play. It is a dangerous game to play and one without a victor.
Let us lower tensions, not raise them; build confidence rather than doubts; listen and understand instead of threaten.
Certainly, the 1982 UNCLOS prescribes a clear way forward.
The 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea is a definitive application of this constitution of the seas. It is part of international law.
We must commit to the rule of law — fully and firmly. There is simply no other acceptable basis for order in our region — but the law
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