Mr. Pantaleon D. Alvarez, Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Philippines and President of the 38th ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly; Mr. Isra Sunthornvut, Secretary-General of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly; The ASEAN Secretary General; Distinguished Speakers of Parliaments; Distinguished Heads and Members of Delegations of AIPA Member-Parliaments; Distinguished Heads and Members of Delegations from AIPA’s Dialogue Partners; Excellencies from the Diplomatic Corps; My Colleagues in Government;
Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen; A pleasant “Good Morning” to all of you.
It is a great honor for me to address my fellow Parliamentarians from the same region where my country, the Philippines, belongs. There is an added historical significance to our 38th ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) this year as it was also in Manila, on September 2, 1977, during the 3rd ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Conference, where the AIPA, formerly known as AIPO, was born. Thank you Speaker Alvarez for inviting me to deliver the opening remarks for this General Assembly’s Opening Ceremony.
For the information of our foreign guests, the TEAMWORK between the Senate and the House of Representatives here in the Philippines has designated the House of Representatives as the legislative chamber in charge of the Philippine Legislature’s participation in AIPA.
Congratulations are therefore in order for the House of Representatives for their successful organization of this year’s AIPA events.
If we trace our roots and go back to our basics, we realize the close links between AIPA and ASEAN.
ASEAN is now 50 years old; AIPA is now 40.
As ASEAN has grown, so has AIPA. ASEAN was established to promote regional peace, stability, and prosperity. AIPA was established to help achieve ASEAN’s goals.
The past 50 years of ASEAN can be considered a “modern miracle”.
More than 600 million people living in our Southeast Asian region have seen much improved living conditions and remarkable economic progress in the 50 years since the formation of the association.
As of today, all ten Member States of ASEAN boast a combined GDP of about US$2.5 trillion dollars, the third largest economy in Asia and the seventh largest in the world.
Given its robust and resilient economy, it has been projected that ASEAN will be the fourth largest economy in the world by 2030. So, how were we able to achieve such a miracle?
ASEAN Member States have shown respect for each other’s sovereignty, have been talking to each other, working with each other, cooperating with each other, consulting each other, building group consensus, and have observed a policy of non-interference in local issues, among others.
In my vocabulary, this is called TEAMWORK. For as long as we maintain this TEAMWORK within ASEAN, I can confidently predict the continuation of ASEAN’s “miracle” in its next 50 years.
However, ASEAN, just like any other regional organization, faces some challenges and could also benefit from some assistance. Please allow me to name two of these challenges: Our diversity within ASEAN is not limited to our cultures. Our economic situations are also very “diverse”.
There is still a large gap between the richest and the poorest nations of ASEAN. And within our own nations, inequality remains a major issue. Knowledge about ASEAN and what it is all about, has not come down to the people.
If ASEAN is indeed going to succeed over the long term, ownership of the organization must shift from governments to the people, from Ministries to communities.
For Governments come and go, the people do not. Let us in AIPA help ASEAN. Through our activities in AIPA, I hope that we can address the two challenges being faced by ASEAN which I just mentioned.
The issue of inequality can never be solved or addressed without the participation of Parliament. Here in the Philippines, both the Senate and the House of Representatives have agreed to address this issue of inequality among the Regions and among individuals.
We have agreed to embrace the concept of “change”, up to the level of structural change.
We are also conscious of why we want change and it is to help the poor live a comfortable life with equal opportunities like the rest of us to improve his quality of life.
With this kind of TEAMWORK, I am confident we will be able to address this issue of inequality in Philippine society.
The second challenge should be an easier challenge for us, because as Parliamentarians we should find it easy and natural for us to be the “bridge” between ASEAN and the People of ASEAN.
Just as we wish more success to ASEAN, we also wish more successes for AIPA. I believe that with TEAMWORK, AIPA’s longevity and relevance to the People of ASEAN will be assured. ASEAN’s formula for success, TEAMWORK, should therefore be AIPA’s formula too.
So, let there be TEAMWORK between and among AIPA’s Member Parliaments.
Let there be TEAMWORK between AIPA and its Dialogue Partners.
Let us help each other by teaching each other and learning from each other.
Since one of AIPA’s purposes is “to study, discuss, and suggest solutions to problems of common interest”, please allow me to suggest key issues for AIPA’s study:
- THE PROBLEM OF ILLEGAL DRUGS
- THE PRESENCE OF TERRORISM
- OUR REGION’S STATE OF DISASTER PREPAREDNESS
- THE ISSUE OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING
- AND, THE INEQUALITY IN THE LEVEL OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF OUR VARIOUS REGIONS
Let our TEAMWORK be manifested in our collective effort to find solutions to the said problems of common interest. You have very busy days ahead of you. I wish you all the best.
I pray for good health, the gifts of wisdom, friendship and camaraderie, and the virtue of TEAMWORK for all of you.
After your busy day today, the Philippine Senate will host you for a relaxing dinner tonight.
Through the partnership of AIPA and ASEAN, we can improve the quality of life of every citizen in our nations. I wish all the best to ASEAN.
I wish all the best to AIPA. Thank you very much and Mabuhay!