PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte called Tuesday on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to become united in keeping the regional bloc secure from threats of terrorism and transnational crimes.
In a keynote speech he delivered at Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City, the President was confident that the Asean member-states would overcome the "'new and emerging" challenges that hurdle them.
"We want a region that is secure, where our peoples can live without fear from the lawless elements and the debilitating effect of corruption and transnational crimes," Duterte said at the grand celebration of Asean's 50th founding anniversary of Asean.
Duterte, this year's chair of Asean, made the call amid the insurgency perpetrated by Islamic State (IS)-inspired Maute terrorist group in war-torn Marawi City.
Mindanao has been placed under military rule until the end of 2017 in a bid to quell rebellion laid by Maute fighters, whose objective is to establish caliphate for IS extremists.
Duterte said the Asean bloc should live up to its commitment to move forward on "a path towards greater peace, progress, and prosperity for [our] peoples."
"We proved that our diversity is a strength rather than a weakness. We proved that regionalism -- developed at our own pace and under our own terms and with our values -- can work," Duterte said.
"We are more stronger, more vibrant and more robust as an Asean community," Duterte said.
The President also called on a "stable and sustainable" region that upholds mutual respect and understanding and abides the rule of law.
He also asked the Asean members to remain resolute in promoting "lasting peace and security, economic prosperity, and continued cultural development."
"We want a region that is stable -- where democratic institutions work, where nations regard each other with mutual respect, and where the rule of law reigns supreme in the relations between states," Duterte said.
"We want a region that is sustainable and inclusive in growth -- where no one is left behind and everyone has the opportunity to realize their potentials."
Duterte also appealed to his colleagues in Asean to push for economic integration, as the regional bloc had "a bigger stake than any other part of the world in standing up against protectionism and securing the rules of the game in the international trade."
Duterte believed that China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) would boost the Asean's efforts in advancing the business industry.
He said that China's trade deal would "provide further impetus to our efforts."
The President otherwise said that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the largest regional trade, was a "dream that was no longer there."
He thus appealed that Asean governments join forces in achieving an enabling environment for successful business partnerships.
"As we look back on the half-century of achievements, we look forward to a future of greater responsibilities, knowing that together, we can make our dreams real," he said. (SunStar Philippines)