Gala Dinner, Mall of Asia Arena 06 August
7 August 2017 | Manila, Philippines
Kung ano ang ating itatanim, yan din ang ating aanihin.
We reap what we sow.
We are here tonight to celebrate a great harvest brought about by the vision and perseverance of our Founding Fathers.
Colleagues in Government,
Ladies and Gentlemen
Brothers and Sisters:
A very pleasant evening to you all. Magandang gabi po sa inyong lahat.
It is a profound honor to welcome all of you, warmly back to the Philippines.
I speak for the Filipino people when I say that we as a nation are truly proud to have assumed ASEAN’s Chairmanship in this milestone year. But more than this we are proud of being part of a great organization. A dream that through hope, faith and hard work has become a reality.
In two days we will mark our Founding Fathers’ coming together from ASEAN and to lead us on a historic journey. A historic journey towards One vision, One identity and One ASEAN community.
It is easy to celebrate. In fact it is fun to celebrate. But it is almost impossible to achieve what ASEAN has achieved in the last 50 years. And that is why we are celebrating.
But the success of this mission impossible, with the aid of the Almighty gives us the faith, hope and the will to have higher aspirations for the next 50 years. Take note Singapore as we pass the next 50 years to you next year.
How can we not look back.
When we began this journey five decades ago, we were in the middle of a seemingly unending storm with strong winds and gloomy horizons.
Critics analyzed that ASEAN and the ASEAN way was born to fail.
Looking back – who can blame them?
Our region at that time had been marred by conflicts, and all previous attempts at Southeast Asian regionalism proved extremely difficult if not impossible. Our different national interests, diversity in our cultures, traditions and ideologies that were present during that time only reinforced this pessimistic outlook.
After all, the same differences that beset us here had led to a cycle of conflict elsewhere around the world. How could our region be any different?
The difference, dear friends, with aid of the Almighty, the stubbornness of our visionary founding fathers, stubbornness of our true leaders, the will to succeed by our people, led us to dream. And led us to pursue our dreams vigorously.
Where others saw gloom, our Founding Fathers, in their wisdom and discernment, saw light and promise. Where others saw conflict, they saw strength and unity in diversity.
Their common dream – a peaceful and prosperous community of truly independent nations. Nations united by common aspirations that were bigger than their differences.
We have come a long way since we began our journey. In the last fifty years, ASEAN has facilitated our region’s transformation from a troubled neighborhood into a caring and sharing community.
Despite the inherent differences in our culture, our political systems, and our ideologies, we have managed to avoid major conflicts. This allowed individual member countries to relentlessly pursue economic development for the benefit of our peoples. Today, ASEAN’s combined economy is the sixth largest in the world,
Peace and stability have largely characterized our region’s history since ASEAN’s inception. I am proud to say that we achieved this through friendship and cooperation on the basing of the guiding principles under the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, including mutual respect for the sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity and national identity of all nations; freedom from external interference; non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; peaceful settlement of disputes; renunciation of the threat or use of force; and effective co-operation among ourselves.
But the Challenge does not only remain, the challenge is now greater, because prosperity for our people is no longer just a dream, no longer just a plan, or no longer just in the pipe line, but one that is within our reach.
And our young citizens demand connectivity, they demand interdependence, they demand fast efficient and effective governance. They are our future so they dictate the pace of our desired progress and development. And we follow our young people.
ASEAN has not only succeeded; it has also become bigger than what our Founding Fathers originally envisioned it to be. ASEAN has grown into a ten-member association. It has become a full-fledged regional organization with a Charter and well-structured Secretariat headed by a Secretary-General. It has systematized its objectives and operations guided by three fundamental pillars, Political-Security, Economic Security, and the Socio-Cultural matters.
An association that was declared dead as soon as it was born 50 years ago, ASEAN has also given birth to more success stories: the ASEAN Dialogue Partnership, the ASEAN Plus Three, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit, and other ASEAN-led mechanisms that are today playing a critical role in keeping the peace in the region.
On this note we would like to thank our partners. Thank you partners. Thank you for your contributions in making ASEAN what it is today.
As we thank you for your help and support, ASEAN remains at the center of the evolving regional architecture. We ask you, our partners, to believe in ASEAN and to believe in the ASEAN way.
The success that you have seen and witnessed must continue. It must be better. We must have more success, more victories.
Our collective success in our quest for security and stability has been achieved by investing in earning trust and the rule of law instead of investing in arms, our quest for progress and development focused on cooperation, on complementing each other and friendly competition instead of being lulled into rivalries and mistrust.
Ladies and gentlemen:
There is much to celebrate. There is also much work that needs to be done. It is no way an easy task to build a community. But we are determined to do so. As we harvest we have to plant more seeds. Seeds of understanding, cooperation and collaboration.
Just in January of this year, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte led us in renewing our solemn, collective pledge to do all that we can for the very core of our national and regional, interests: Our people.
Our goal is to see every ASEAN citizen live a life free from poverty, dependence, narcotics, crime, and ignorance; full of opportunities for self-improvement; and surrounded by a society transformed and reformed. We can achieve this by doing what we have been doing since 1967: by building bridges.
Just as our Founding Fathers believed in the strength of our peoples’ resolve to bridge ideological differences in order to build a peaceful neighborhood, so should we remain fully committed to bridging differences to achieve a meaningful, substantive, and comprehensive regional free trade architecture and a regional consensus on the protection and promotion of the welfare of our migrant workers. A real ASEAN Community.
Likewise, we reaffirm our commitment to bridging the development of our micro, small, and medium enterprises, and the connectivity gap between and among our economies, particularly by nurturing sub-regional mechanisms as an example the BIMP-EAGA, which remain crucial in pursuing development initiatives at the grassroots.
Brothers and sisters:
ASEAN is a continuing dream.
Our advocacy to build bridges with our peoples at the core, peace and stability, maritime security cooperation, inclusive and innovation-led growth, ASEAN resiliency, as well as promoting ASEAN as a model for regional organization should go on well beyond the Philippines’ chairmanship.
The road ahead, while promising, is not without obstacles. Yet those who dare to dream are not discouraged by challenges; they are excited by the challenges.
Our joint communiqué that was released today is a testament to overcoming obstacles and finding consensus the ASEAN Way. Thank you members of ASEAN for coming together in consensus and expressing and articulating our common sentiment in our joint communiqué.
Today, our people stand ready to continue the journey our founding fathers started, to take a firm and secure place in the community of nations, and to build an ASEAN that is a force for effecting positive change for the world.
Brothers and Sisters, as we enjoy the evening let us continue the dream, continue to work hard, continue to pray, continue to plant the seeds to Partner for Change, To Engage the world and to Change the World, the ASEAN Way.
May I offer a toast, in honor of the vision of our founding fathers seeking the aid of the Almighty, to the last 50 and to the next 50 years, cheers!