When Regional Cooperation is in the National Interest
- Florence Principe
Pres. Duterte accepting the gavel that symbolizes the handing over of the ASEAN Chairmanship to the Philippines from Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith. Malacanang photo, from ABSCBN News
On August 8, 1967, the five founding members (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines) of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed the ASEAN Declaration in Bangkok, Thailand that established the organization. ASEAN was driven by the desire of the states to cooperate in economic, social, cultural, technical, educational and other fields, and to promote regional peace and stability. The ASEAN is grounded on the principles of mutual respect, non-interference, non-coercion, renunication of the use of threat or force, peaceful settlement of disputes and cooperation as declared under the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. In later years, ASEAN was joined by five more countries namely, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.1
Since then, the organization has come a long way. It has established free trade agreements within the organization and with some of its partners; enhanced agriculture, trade and tourism; and cooperated on different aspects like energy, culture, human rights, anti-trafficking of persons, cybersecurity, environment, disaster management, emergency response, and science and technology. During its 30th anniversary, ASEAN Leaders agreed on a shared vision of the ASEAN as an outward looking, peaceful, stable and prosperous region, bonded by partnership in dynamic development, and as a community of caring societies. It aims for establishment of an ASEAN Community consisting of three pillars, namely ASEAN Political-Security Community, ASEAN Economic Community and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.2 With such achievements, ASEAN has become a high-profile and reliable organization that contributes to the stability in the region.