MANILA–The 30th Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) opened in Manila, Philippines on Saturday with leaders of 10 ASEAN member nations looking to strengthen connectivity and promote the bloc as a global player.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc led the Vietnamese delegation to the event, the first summit in the year the Philippines holds the chair of the grouping.
In his opening remarks, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte highlighted the significance of this year – a milestone year for ASEAN as the bloc marks its 50th anniversary of establishment.
Duterte underlined the core priorities of the Philippines’ chairmanship, which are building a people-oriented and people-centered ASEAN, maintaining a peaceful and stable region, cooperating in maritime security and advancing inclusive and innovative-led growth, promoting ASEAN’s resiliency, and promoting ASEAN as a model for regionalism and as a global player.
He then chaired the summit plenary that focused its discussion on how to strengthen ASEAN connectivity and effectively implement the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the master plans for the ASEAN Community pillars.
Speaking at the event, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc voiced support for the priorities for cooperation initiated by the Philippines as this year’s chair, saying they are practical, reflecting the need for connectivity within the bloc and promoting ASEAN as a global player.
Phuc hailed the progress in implementing the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and said the grouping should give priority to building a people-oriented and people-centered ASEAN, enhancing the effectiveness of ASEAN operations and promoting intra-group cooperation and regional connectivity.
He underlined that to win support of people across the region in building the ASEAN Community, the bloc needed to pay more attention to people-connected projects, provide more cross-border career opportunities and promote cultural exchanges and tourism, so that the people could benefit more from the integration process within ASEAN.
Phuc noted the fact that there had been rapid growth in trade between ASEAN and its partners but trade within ASEAN had barely budged over the past few years. Therefore, it was necessary to accelerate intra-bloc cooperation in order to take full advantage of the 620-million-people market, he added.
The Vietnamese government leader urged the quick finalization of an action plan for the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) development strategy for 2016-2025, as SMEs accounted for over 90 percent of the number of firms in Southeast Asia. More resources should be allocated for startups and innovative projects together with support for them to access funding and markets.
Viet Nam would partner with Thailand to take a leading role in improving productivity and promoting technology, creativity and innovation.
ASEAN leaders later attended the ASEAN Summit’s retreat and dialogues with the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) and ASEAN Youth.