MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday called on the dialogue partners of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to respect the independence and sovereignty of the bloc’s member states to ensure a more constructive and productive relationship.
In his speech during the opening ceremony of the 30th ASEAN Summit at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), President Duterte noted that besides commemorating the 50th anniversary of the regional association this year, the ASEAN also marks the 40th anniversary of dialogue relations with Canada, the European Union, and the United States, as well as the 25th anniversary of relations with India.
2017 also marks the 20th anniversary of the ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan, Korea).
“These are relations that are valued. We (ASEAN) must continue to work with our economic partners if we are to succeed in integrating our region into the global economy,” the President said.
“But they (relations) can be much more valuable and stronger if we learn to respect each other’s independence and treat each other as sovereign equals.”
He recalled how 50 years ago, the ASEAN’s founding fathers laid the foundation of an organization anchored on the importance of unity, solidarity, and cooperation.
“The cornerstones form part of time-honored principles of international law: mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, and national identity of all nations and non-interference in the internal affairs of one another,” President Duterte stressed.
He said that as visionaries, the founding fathers underscored the value of cultivating and nurturing a special bond of friendship, despite their diversity as nations and peoples.
This special bond of friendship, he said, is also true with relationships that the ASEAN has forged with its dialogue partners.
“Our engagement with Dialogue Partners allowed us to set the table for meaningful discussions on maintaining peace and stability, the pursuit of development goals, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and the promotion of our peoples’ welfare,” the Chief Executive said.
He however pointed out that non-interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state is also critical in maintaining a fruitful relationship among nations.
“Let me say again, relations bear fruit when they are based on mutual respect and benefit. Dialogue relations can be made more productive and constructive if the valued principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of ASEAN member states is observed,” President Duterte said.
He further said that for relations to remain solid, diplomacy and the rule of law should prevail at all times.
“Relations also remain solid if all stakeholders learn to respect and value the peaceful resolution of disputes. In an era where there can be much uncertainty, we must faithfully adhere to the supremacy of the law and rely on the primacy of rules as responsible members of the international community,” President Duterte said.