If there’s one thing the Philippines achieved with the participation of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in the recent in Phnom Penh, it was to enhance our position in the 10-nation grouping as a consistent advocate of dialogue, consensus, cooperation, peaceful settlement of disputes, and the establishment of a rules-based order not only in the region but also in the international community.
At the 40th ASEAN Summit Plenary, Marcos emphasized the need to reassert ASEAN Centrality amid geopolitical dynamics and tensions in the region and the proliferation of Indo-Pacific engagements, including the requests of dialogue partners for closer partnerships.
The President, also concurrent Agriculture chief, urged enhanced ASEAN food security cooperation through strengthened initiatives and expanded projects.
He pointed out the need “to solidify our food resilience and promote food self-sufficiency, through the use of new agricultural technologies, in order to protect the region and our countries from shocks to the global food value chain, as well as against adverse effects of climate change.”
On the Myanmar crisis, Marcos stressed the need for the speedy implementation of the Five-Point Consensus, which the ruling junta agreed to in the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting in Jakarta in April 2021.
The Five-Point Consensus includes an immediate end to violence in the country; dialogue among all parties concerned; the appointment of a special envoy; provision of humanitarian aid to Myanmar by ASEAN; and a visit by the bloc’s special envoy to Myanmar to meet with all parties.
The President said while the country adheres to the ASEAN principles of non-interference and consensus, the protracted suffering of the people in Myanmar, in part due to the lack of progress in the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus, also challenges the ASEAN-honored principles of democracy and the respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the ASEAN Charter.
During the ASEAN Summit, Marcos also raised the climate crisis and said the developing countries are the most vulnerable to changes brought about by climate change.
“Addressing climate change is our collective responsibility and developed countries should play a bigger role in global efforts to mitigate its risks, its effects, its damage and loss.”
On the South China Sea issue, Marcos told the summit that since Southeast Asia is primarily maritime in character and concerns, the regional grouping should strengthen the multifaceted character of maritime cooperation.
He urged ASEAN to work together to ensure safety and freedom of navigation and thus promote peace, stability, security, and prosperity in accordance with the relevant international and regional treaties and agreements, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
All in all, the President demonstrated a firm grasp of regional issues and more important, showed the way forward for ASEAN to remain relevant and responsive in the years ahead.