MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday laid down five key points that the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should do for the regional bloc to become a truly global player.
In his speech before leaders of the ASEAN business community during the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Vientiane, Laos, the President said that the Association must first ensure the effective implementation of various agreements concluded through the years.
Duterte noted that since the establishment of ASEAN in 1967, several key economic agreements had facilitated a regional economic integration of natural persons and mutual recognition, an arrangement of certain professions.
“It certainly took an amount of effort and compromise as member states share their commitment and political resolve to accommodate and reconcile national interest with the regional aspiration of a one nation, Asian community,” the President said.
“On the part of the Philippines, our economic focus will be towards the promotion of inclusive growth through innovation in four areas: micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), e-commerce and youth, and women entrepreneurship,” Duterte said to the ASEAN business community.
Secondly, he said that Asia must hasten the growth and integration of sub-regional cooperation frameworks in the ASEAN.
The President said that at the moment, then region’s existing cooperation structures are the Greater Mekong Sub-Region, the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle, and the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area, otherwise known as the BIMP-EAGA.
“Hailing from Mindanao, I commit to promote BIMP EAGA we intend to open up our other major islands like Mindanao and the Visayas with high quality backbone infrastructure,” he said.
He added that the Philippines would accelerate infrastructure spending by improving national roads and bridges such as the Mindanao Logistics Infrastructure Network and other network plans including the inter-island linkages.
”We hope to further expand our roll-on roll-off (RORO) facility to Davao, General Santos and Bitung in Indonesia,” The Philippine leader said.
Third, he said that ASEAN must provide support of the MSMEs.
He said that the Philippines would work and collaborate with ASEAN in helping the MSES look for all ways to connect them and the countries of the ASEAN and the world.
“We will work on enhancing the policy and regulatory environment providing an affordable and innovative digital platform and accessing best practices and financial resources,” Duterte said.
Fourth, he said that ASEAN must engage the world in a robust way in the economics field.
“ASEAN is making further progress in fulfilling its commitments to the Asian free trade agreement (FTA). ASEAN’s FTAs in Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, India, and South Korea are mutually beneficial signifying Asia’s ability to carry its weight in the area of economic partnership,” he said.
He said that with the establishment of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP, ASEAN is now gaining further momentum.
“In November 2016, the Philippines will host the RECP senior officials to further improve the pace and substance of our negotiations and conclude a comprehensive and high-quality RECP agreement in timely manner,” Duterte said.
Last but not the least, he said that ASEAN needs a stronger resolve and action to combat trans-national crime.
“Trans-national crime is one of the most difficult and complex problem that we face in the region and a pressing concern for the Philippines. The trade in elicit and illegal drugs in particular has emerged as a pressing problem for our country. It undermines social cohesion and the rule of law, and the socio-economic program of a country,” he stressed.
He said that recent events have also shown terrorism and violent extremism rearing its ugly heads, threatening to pull us back from our forward advance to progress.
“We shall not be cowed. We will press on; we must re-double our efforts to concentrate on intelligence gathering, prevention, interdiction, arrest, and prosecution” .
“We should act together in concert to ensure that the economic gains we made so far will advance in full speed so that ASEAN can confidently play its rightful role as a global player contributing on the economic growth and prosperity,” Duterte said.
By Cielito M. Reganit