ASEAN Future Forum 2024: Philipine Ambassador expects open discussions about ASEAN collective interests

WVR - Philippine Ambassador to Vietnam Meynardo Los Banos Montealegre expects honest and open discussions about ASEAN collective interests at the ASEAN Future Forum 2024.
Philipine Ambassador
Philippine Ambassador to Vietnam Meynardo Los Banos Montealegre said that how ASEAN responds to challenges will determine if ASEAN really matters in the 21st century. (Photo: QT)

What are your expectations about the ASEAN Future Forum 2024 when the atmosphere of the Forum can be clearly felt in recent days with hundreds of delegates from different genders inside and outside the region registering to attend?

In my view, ASEAN remains as a responsive, resilient, people-oriented and people-centered regional organization that actively engages with emerging and ongoing regional challenges. The decisions made on a regional scale typically come from a process of consultation and consensus. There are frequent discussions on shaping ASEAN's future, particularly in defining where each ASEAN Member State envisions ASEAN's role on the global stage. These conversations are vital for preserving unity and serve as a guide to member states toward a common path.

As we approach the upcoming Forum, I look towards honest and open discussions about our collective interests and objectives. These exchanges will help deepen our understanding of each member state's unique policy stances on current and emerging issues. Through these interactions, ASEAN will be better equipped to find common ground and effectively address challenges.

How do you evaluate the importance of the ASEAN Vision after 2025 and what are the key areas that ASEAN needs to promote?

The 45th High-Level Task Force on ASEAN Economic Integration (HLTF-EI) convened on 21 February 2024 in Vang Vieng, Lao PDR, marked a significant event where discussions centered on strategic aspects of regional economic integration. This included a focus on Lao PDR's Priority Economic Deliverables (PEDs), as well as the exploration of new issues within ASEAN Plus One Free Trade Agreements and ASEAN’s sustainability initiatives.

The Philippines fully supports the 14 PEDs put forth by Lao PDR since this aim to improve the flow of goods, services, and investments among ASEAN Member States (AMS).

The Mid-Term Review (MTR) of the AEC Blueprint 2025 presented a scorecard in terms of the progress in the first five years of the implementation of the Blueprint. The identified gaps and recommendations to address them will be instrumental in shaping a stronger blueprint for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Post-2025 Agenda.

The ASEAN Community is in the midst of a rapidly evolving geopolitical environment, which require effective and innovative responses to secure the future of ASEAN and its peoples.

The challenges as well as opportunities presented by the evolving geopolitical environment are unique and should be the basis by which ASEAN should be crafting a truly relevant and responsive Post-2025 Vision for the ASEAN Community. How ASEAN responds to these challenges will determine if ASEAN really matters in the 21st century.

For the Philippines, ASEAN’s new vision for the ASEAN Community - a vision which will run for the next twenty years - should steadfastly prioritize the consolidation and reinforcement of ASEAN's pivotal role as the primary driving force in shaping the regional architecture.

This vision must be sufficiently equipped to effectively respond to and manage regional tensions and disputes, including those involving superpowers and ASEAN Member States. We envision a cohesive ASEAN that contributes to a rules-based international order, devoted to upholding the principles enshrined in the UN Charter and the ASEAN Charter. We firmly oppose any attempts to alter or diminish these foundational principles.

For ASEAN to flourish in the upcoming two decades, it is crucial for ASEAN to focus on constructing highly integrated economies. This should go hand in hand with efforts to address developmental gaps among member states, while simultaneously promoting a sustainable development agenda that emphasizes inclusivity, active participation, and collaborative initiatives.

We envision ASEAN as a forward-looking community characterized by resilience, innovation, and dynamism equipped with the necessary capabilities to seize opportunities and effectively confront future challenges in the coming decades and remain deeply responsive to the aspirations and desires of its people.

Could you please share with us the advantages and difficulties of ASEAN in the current regional and international context?

ASEAN is increasingly acknowledged as one of the driving forces of regional architecture, as evidenced by the growing number of countries and regional organizations seeking formal partnerships with ASEAN. While the increasing interest in ASEAN offers greater opportunities for cooperation, it also threatens to expose the region to regional conflicts, extra-regional conflicts, major power rivalries and threats to some ASEAN Member States sovereignty, sovereign rights and territorial integrity.

It will be a challenge for ASEAN to effectively address regional security issues especially in the face of aggressive superpowers, and maintain its unity and centrality vis-à-vis such powers, while taking full advantage of the opportunities presented by its external partners.

The core principles of ASEAN are enshrined in the ASEAN Charter and subscribed to by all ASEAN Member States, including the Philippines. These principles include the respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity and national identity of all ASEAN Member States; renunciation of aggression and of the threat or use of force; reliance on peaceful settlement of disputes; and the centrality of ASEAN in its external relations.

What are your biggest impression of Vietnam's contributions as an ASEAN member?

We recall Vietnam’s efforts in shepherding the ASEAN Community during its Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2020. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam effectively collaborated with all ASEAN Member States to ensure the ongoing progress of ASEAN Community-building.

During Vietnam’s Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2020, major ASEAN initiatives such as the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund, the Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies (RRMS) for Public Health Emergencies (PHE), among others, were initiated to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. These initiatives were instrumental in the distribution of essential medical supplies to ASEAN Member States as well as facilitated ASEAN’s recovery from the pandemic through the implementation of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework.

Vietnam’s conscious and active contribution to ASEAN both in the domestic and external spheres and in various forums are truly remarkable and a concrete example of its diplomacy imbued with charecteristics of "Vietnamese bamboo"

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