02 Aug 2007
Your Royal Highness,
Your Excellency Dr. Alberto Romulo,
Fellow ASEAN colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me first express, on behalf of the Singapore delegation, my sincere gratitude to Your Excellency Dr Alberto Romulo, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Republic of the Philippines, as well as the people of the Philippines, for your gracious hospitality here in Manila.
On behalf of my ASEAN colleagues, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to Your Excellency and your team for the successful chairmanship of the 40th ASEAN Standing Committee.
I wish to also thank Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong, and his entire staff at the ASEAN Secretariat, for their hard work and dedication in supporting the various meetings in the last year.
ASEAN integration has taken great strides forward with the Philippines at the helm. At the 12th ASEAN Summit, we signed the Cebu Declaration to bring forward the establishment of an ASEAN Community by 2015. We underscored our commitment to build stronger people-to-people ties with the Cebu Declaration Towards One Caring and Sharing Community.
At the same time, ASEAN continued to strengthen our external ties this past year. We signed the ASEAN-China FTA Services Agreement and ASEAN-ROK FTA Goods Agreement. France, Timor Leste, and now Bangladesh and Sri Lanka at the AMM here, have acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. The ASEAN+1, ASEAN+3, EAS and ARF processes have all developed with more concrete cooperation.
Looking ahead, Singapore endeavours to build upon the good work of our Filipino colleagues. 40 years on, ASEAN is at a critical turning point.
As Singapore takes over the chair, we will focus on three key thrusts, which I will call the 3 "C"s. First, the Charter, whose drafting began under the Philippine Chairmanship. Second, Community Building both within ASEAN and the wider region. And third, Challenges of regional and international nature that we must collectively address.
The ASEAN Charter presents us with a golden opportunity to make a bold and visionary political statement to the world. We all share the same aspiration for ASEAN to remain credible, competitive and relevant. For others to take ASEAN seriously, we in the region must take ASEAN seriously. The Charter aims to transform ASEAN into a stronger and more effective organisation where commitments are honoured and obligations are fulfilled. I look forward to a strong Charter that will be signed at the 13th ASEAN Summit in Singapore this year.
On the second 'C' of Community Building, we will accelerate our integration efforts. Our officials will be coming up with a detailed blueprint for the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015. By integrating our economies closely, we better position ourselves against the rise of China and India.
At the same time, we want to build an ASEAN Community that our citizens feel proud to be part of. For ASEAN's 40th anniversary this year, all member states are organising a series of commemorative activities to increase awareness of ASEAN. To focus on the youth, my Prime Minister announced a five million dollar fund to support ASEAN youth projects over the next five years at the 5th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Youth held last April.
ASEAN will also focus on Community Building at the regional level. It is important that ASEAN remains central to the evolving strategic developments in the wider East Asia. To that end, we will continue to strengthen ASEAN's external linkages - for instance, through developing our ASEAN+1 Dialogue Relationships, and pushing the various regional processes forward.
In fact, 2007 is a bounty year for anniversaries in our external relations. We look forward to the 2nd Joint Statement on East Asia Cooperation that will chart the future direction of the ASEAN+3 as the relationship celebrates its 10th anniversary. We mark a milestone 30 years of dialogue relations with three other important partners, the US, the European Union and Canada. At the ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit later this year in Singapore, we will reaffirm our commitment to these longstanding ties.
In particular, the East Asia Summit process is maturing into an important regional forum. We are progressing beyond dialogue into concrete cooperation. Under the Philippines' adroit chairmanship, the 2nd EAS in Cebu resulted in substantial discussions and follow-up, especially in the area of energy security. Like the ASEAN+3 and ARF, the EAS process is another important building block as we construct a peaceful and prosperous East Asia community.
Last but not least, I come to the third "C" - Challenges that the region would have to face together. As these problems are transboundary in nature, ASEAN countries cannot deal with them alone. We have to work together and enlist the help of our dialogue partners where appropriate. There are more and more of such challenges, for example counterterrorism and pandemic diseases, and we need to pay close attention to all of them.
For the Summits in Singapore later this year, we will focus on the theme of energy security, environment, climate change and sustainable development. We all appreciate the scale of environmental problems like global warming and the urgent need for collective action. These are pressing issues on the agenda of the international and regional organisations like the UN, G8 and APEC. Some ASEAN countries are already playing an active role, such as Indonesia that will be hosting the Conference on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at the end of the year. It is therefore timely for ASEAN as a whole to take action on this front. We need to secure and preserve our environment for present and future generations if ASEAN is to prosper.
Singapore is proud to host the 13th ASEAN Summit later this year. It will not be easy to emulate the success of the Philippines that has been a most gracious host. But we will try our best. I look forward to welcoming all of you to the upcoming Summit in Singapore, and I look forward to working closely with all of you for a successful Chairmanship. Let us together build "One ASEAN at the Heart of Dynamic Asia".