Bandar Seri Begawan - The Philippines yesterday expressed its full support for Brunei as the ASEAN Chair and reaffirmed its commitment to work with ASEAN member states to strengthen peace, stability and growth in the region.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had on Wednesday (January 2) announced that Brunei's top agenda as ASEAN Chair was to come to a political solution to the ongoing territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
Philippines Ambassador, His Excellency Nestor Z Ochoa in an email to The Brunei Times said maritime security and cooperation were necessary to ensure freedom of navigation, combat piracy, and maintain peace and stability in the region.
"The Philippines fully supports Brunei as ASEAN Chair and reaffirms its commitment to work with ASEAN member states in strengthening the region's stability and security, economic growth, social progress, and cultural development," the ambassador said.
"Brunei shall likely build on ASEAN's accomplishments in previous years (where are we now?), be guided by the vision of an ASEAN community (where do we want to go?), and pursue its priorities as ASEAN Chair based on internal and external considerations Chow do we get there?')," he said.
The Chair shall also be able to benefit from the ASEAN Secretariat's institutional memory and advice on matters such as ASEAN's unfinished business, he added. "We hope that ASEAN and its regional partners are able to find ways to effectively implement the Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea, which shall highlight the fruits of constructive dialogue, strengthen ASEAN's resolve, and respect for international law such as United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); one such initiative in support of these principles is the drafting of a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, as called for in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (2002)," he said. Another priority will be to carry out activities of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, a consultative body established in 2009 to promote regional co-operation on human rights.
"The Philippines looks forward to the implementation of instruments for the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers and their families, and for combating trafficking in persons," Ambassador Ochoa said.
One of Brunei's primary economic objectives during its tenure will also to support negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership - a free trade pact encompassing ASEAN, Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
The Sultanate also aims to promote inter-ASEAN trade and lower the cost of doing business in Southeast Asia.
Ochoa said, "The Philippines is confident that with the declaration of 2013 as 'ASEAN Small to Medium Enterprises (SME) Year,' ASEAN can further promote SMEs as effective engines for inclusiveness and hence benefit ASEAN peoples."
ASEAN is right on track in achieving one community by 2015.
Connectivity remains a priority for ASEAN in 2013 onwards given that it is a vital building block in realising the ASEAN Community by 2015, the ambassador said.
"ASEAN will give equal importance to physical, institutional and people-to-people connectivity initiatives as these three elements of ASEAN Connectivity, as a whole, will accelerate ASEAN's community building process," he added.
Ambassador Ochoa also touched on the importance of sub-regional initiative such as the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) in realising ASEAN's community building goals. "In BIMP-EAGA, the Philippines is especially pleased with the work done by the sub-regional mechanism, especially in the prospective launching of direct air and sea links, development of Community-Based Ecotourism (CBET) sites to increase tourist arrivals in the sub-region, and implementation of the sub-region's food basket strategy (agri-business and fisheries development)," he said.
ASEAN's dialogue partners are an integral part of the community building process through initiatives in the various areas of cooperation within the dialogue partner mechanisms such as the ASEAN Plus Three (APT), ASEAN Plus One, ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and East Asia Summit (EAS). Some of these initiatives are the signing of the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR) Agreement, launch of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations in November 2012, he said.
Asked how awareness and understanding of the ASEAN Spirit and ASEAN community can be increased among the region's population of more than 600 million, he said ASEAN member states can best achieve this by communicating the benefits of ASEAN to their stakeholders to validate and reinforce domestic support for ASEAN.
"Brunei's theme of 'Our People, Our Future Together' during its chairmanship of ASEAN in 2013 clearly demonstrates Brunei's commitment towards realising ASEAN's community building goals and achieving one caring and sharing community by 2015. Its emphasis on ASEAN peoples sharing one future together further shows Brunei's focus not only on continuing ASEAN's community-building agenda but also on accomplishing the action lines set in the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community by 2015," the ambassador said.--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin