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Despite the non-issuance of a joint communique that included an item on the West Philippine Sea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario remains hopeful that the ASEAN will hold until its self-imposed deadline to create an ASEAN Community by 2015.
"Despite the myriad challenges that have confronted the group through the years, ASEAN has maintained its central role in advancing its members’ interests, particularly in achieving its cherished ideals of peace, freedom, and social justice,” he said, without mentioning the West Philippine Sea, a subject of territorial dispute with China, which claims all of the seas and islands and rock formations on it, as well as other ASEAN member-countries.
At Friday morning’s celebration of the 45th Anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the Department of Foreign Affairs’(DFA) Main Building in Pasay City, del Rosario even lauded ASEAN for making a remarkable progress as a regional bloc.
“In four decades after its founding, ASEAN…has emerged as a driving force in promoting dialogue and cooperation in regional stability and security, economic prosperity and socio-cultural amity,” del Rosario said in his keynote speech.
He said that the establishment of the ASEAN Community in 2015 will be a significant milestone in the journey of ASEAN and its success will have far-ranging implications to the region as it will redound to the benefit of the nearly 600 million people in the region.
Del Rosario said that ASEAN “has steadily progressed with various regional programs and initiatives in achieving the goal of an ASEAN Community by 2015, backed by a legally binding Charter that guides its activities and external relations.”
Aside from China and the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam are the other states with claims over the resource-rich seas.
ASEAN commemorative 50-peso bills
During the celebration, del Rosario also led the launching of the issuance of a special edition P50 Philippine currency bearing the ASEAN logo.He then gave souvenir copies of the special edition currency (four P50 bills) to the ASEAN ambassadors and representatives: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The special edition currency project, spearheaded by the ASEAN-Philippines Secretariat, aims to raise the public’s awareness of ASEAN and the emerging ASEAN Community in 2015.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) will circulate 10 million pieces of these special edition 50-peso bills to promote greater awareness on ASEAN in the country.
The celebration also included an opening of photo exhibits on “Water Festivities of Southeast Asia” and “ASEAN Heritage Parks.”Ambassadors and representatives from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, assisted by grade school students from De La Salle Zobel, wearing national costumes of the 10 ASEAN member-states, also joined del Rosario on stage during the singing of the ASEAN Anthem.
Other festivities will be held nationwide in commemoration of ASEAN Day.
These festivities will include the designation of ASEAN Week in schools and universities in cooperation with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the ASEAN University Network, conduct of seminars by universities and partner organizations, and a film showing by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in October.
Present during the celebration were former President Fidel V. Ramos, the ambassadors and representatives of the 10 ASEAN member-states, DFA officials and employees, and the media.
Other participants included members of the diplomatic corps and government agencies implementing the activities of the three pillars of ASEAN Political and Security Community, ASEAN Economic Community, and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.