MAYOR Evelio Leonardia said Bacolod City is ready for the challenge of the Asean Community, a major milestone in the regional economic integration agenda in the Southeast Asian Region.
Leonardia declared this Wednesday as he welcomed about 50 delegates and other participants during the opening program of the two-day 15th Meeting of the Asean Senior Officials/Ministers Responsible for Information (Somri) at SMX Convention Center Bacolod.
The mayor said that he would always tell visitors “Welcome to the Philippines’ City of Smiles,” but now being part of the Asean Community, he will henceforth say, “Welcome to Southeast Asia’s City of Smiles.”
“Today, with the 10 delegations of Asean information officers gathered here in Bacolod, the city has the eyes of Southeast Asia upon it. We say thank you, and assure everyone we are ready to take the challenge of integration, the first order of which is to make sure our people are aware it is happening,” Leonardia said in his speech.
He added: “Awareness,” as the theme of our meeting here goes, calls on us to know the whys and wherefores as our nation integrates itself with the nine other member-nations. In this, Bacolod can assure you of our unrelenting participation.”
Leonardia shared that Bacolod is the first city in the Philippines to seek guidance from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on how it can participate as the Philippines aligns its development efforts with the rest of Southeast Asia.
He said that even before Bacolod was tapped to host one of the Asean 2017 meetings, he met with Ambassador Hellen de la Vega of the DFA Asean Desk to discuss the integration of Southeast Asian countries, and see where Bacolod stands in the new realities happening because of it.
“I know there will be challenges as well as opportunities that the Asean integration will bring, and I assure everyone our people will not be left behind, not in the process of integration and certainly not in ensuring we get a fair share of opportunities as well,” the mayor added.
Leonardia further said: “I am aware that an integrated Asean will demand an unprecedented level of participation from our people. The time when we waited for opportunities to come knocking on our doors is gone. We now need to go, find those opportunities and make them work for our city.”
“Our people will rise to the challenge,” he added.
Another event eyed
Leonardia told reporters Bacolod is being considered to host another Asean event anytime this year following the good impressions on the opening ceremony Wednesday.
Leonardia said Cecilia Villanueva of the Asean National Organizing Committee informed him that the organizers are really considering Bacolod to host another event.
“Maybe they didn’t have something like this in the past. I think, what made us different was the way we represent, our venue is presentable and our cultural presentation, I believe was also a reflective of the people here,” he added.
The delegates will meet with Leonardia at the Bacolod City Government Center today.
The mayor said one of the delegates asked for a copy of the city’s video presentation because he wants their city to be like Bacolod.
“For me, imitation is the best form of flattery and that was very inspiring,” Leonardia said. (MAP/With reports from PNA)