MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday stressed that for ASEAN to become an effective model of integration, member countries must ensure that their citizens have a clear understanding of the importance of ASEAN in their daily lives.
In his speech at the 14th ASEAN Leadership Forum at the Manila Hotel, Duterte said that the ASEAN integration in 2015 had in mind an outward-looking region, with economies that are vibrant, competitive and highly integrated.
“We envisioned an inclusive community bound by a strong sense of togetherness and common destiny. Simply put, the ASEAN story is about seeking positive change in the lives of our people,” he said.
The President said that since the integration in 2015, the bloc continued to advance the region’s common interests be it in the inclusive and innovative growth of our economies, the preservation of our heritage and culture or the pursuit of stability and security in our societies and the threats such as terrorism, violent extremism and criminality such as the illegal drug trade.
“This is what we mean by people-centered, people-oriented ASEAN,” Duterte noted.
However, he stressed that it is not enough that member countries work for the realization of these common aspirations.
“It is equally important that we make our peoples understand how important ASEAN is; how its past gains have directly contributed to their well-being; and how the realization of ASEAN’s goal will make their lives better,” the President said.
Duterte, who chairs the ASEAN on its 50th anniversary, urged that getting citizens to own the ASEAN story as their story and to see their future in the ASEAN future should be among the focus of efforts among ASEAN leaders.
“We need to cultivate their sense of ownership by putting ASEAN in their consciousness, let them feel that they are a part of efforts to achieve common aspirations. This way, we can truly turn ASEAN into an effective model for regional integration,” he said.
“This way, we can contribute to the spirit of international cooperation and cross-cultural collaboration that have shaped up the development of our world. This way, we are on track in realizing the ASEAN identity that will serve as a strong foundation of our ASEAN citizenship. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that the process of forging our common regional destiny remains inclusive,” Duterte said.
As part of its chairmanship, the Philippine government kicked-off a national awareness campaign after a survey published by the ASEAN Secretariat showed that while 81 percent of ASEAN citizens have heard of the regional grouping, only 24 percent have a basic understanding of what it is and its purpose.
The ASEAN public awareness campaign is being conducted through a year-long series of roadshows in various regions of the country.