11 May 2017 | Pasay City, Philippines

To our keynote speaker, who will be properly introduced later, distinguished delegates from ASEAN member states – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam, friends, partners, ASEAN Secretariat. – it is with great pleasure to see each other again, after the 17th meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, exactly one year ago today, in May 11-12, 2016. We miss our partners from Brunei, Malaysia and Myanmar but of course their inputs are always welcome.

Special thanks to the government of Myanmar for giving way to Philippines’ hosting this year of the 18th meeting of AWGCME as the country aims its momentum as the new chair of ASEAN.

We especially welcome and recognize the attendance of Lao PDR, a landlocked state, in this 18th meeting. This reinforces the view that we are indeed connected and not isolated. This is exactly the theme this leadership desires to promote. Integrated Coastal Management (ICM), Integrated Watershed/River Basin Management, Highlands to Oceans or H2O, Integrated Coastal Zone Management –whatever it is called – one message across these is, everything is interconnected.

Manila Bay that you see from this venue, for example, is a catchment basin of 36 watersheds from three regions. Management of the bay is challenged with various issues including pollution, marine litter, unplanned coastal developments, and overfishing. These shows an example that whatever we are doing inland impacts our coasts and seas that connect our nations to oceans of neighboring regions and continents. So are our biodiversity where our conservation efforts as a region lie.  I am glad, some lessons on these subjects can be shared and learned from this 18th meeting.

It is hoped that this meeting can come up with a common understanding and a collective statement of concern and call for action that can be elevated this year in ASEAN bodies such as ASOEN for support and adoption. The recommended ways forward for AWGCME hopefully will be enshrined in the ASPEN (ASEAN Strategic Plan for the Environment) currently being drafted as our blueprint or roadmap to the 2025 vision of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community that engages and benefits the people, that is inclusive, sustainable, resilient and dynamic and reflects what is truly ASEAN.

Good morning and I wish the success of this working group meeting. I wish you all a very pleasant stay in the Philippines!

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