Monday, August 8, 2022
Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen — maayong buntag sa inyong tanan, magandang umaga sa lahat, good morning to everyone.
Today, we celebrate the 55th Founding Anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN.
This is a celebration of enduring friendship, cooperation, and unity made stronger in the past 55 years as nations in a region with common pre-colonial history — and today — nations with served, shared dreams and aspirations.
The 10-member ASEAN may be different in more ways than one — from language to faith and beliefs, culture and tradition, food, and maybe politics — but we treated these differences as uniqueness, and these uniqueness allowed us to nurture our respect for and deepen our understanding of each other, foster cooperation in a wide range of areas, and strengthen economic relations and partnerships.
The theme ASEAN: Addressing Challenges Together or ASEAN: ACT, set by current ASEAN chair, Cambodia, under the leadership of His Excellency Prime Minister Hun Sen, underscores the spirit of togetherness and unity as one community.
Togetherness and unity — these have been the underlying values that formed the foundation from which ASEAN was built 55 years ago today, and these are some of the values that continue to reverberate — and even more meaningfully and resoundingly — now that the world is facing the challenges brought about by the Covid 19 pandemic and complex regional and international security challenges and their repercussions to our economic stability.
Let me emphasize that the Philippines is now aggressively pursuing a future alongside a youth sector aware and conscious of its essential role in nation-building. Important role — as this is something that should not be dismissed or something that should be lost in the noise brought by the complexity of our current time.
Filipino youth should realize that standing for their country’s interest is ingrained in their being Filipinos.
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that for ASEAN to be able to successfully pursue its regional agenda, the ASEAN to be able to maintain its strong presence in the world, we should seriously invest in our youth.
As we endeavor to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, our challenge is to figure out how to ensure that all of ASEAN will reach its potential by 2030. Your excellencies, I believe that we should focus on the ASEAN youth.
Today, ASEAN is home to more than 600 million people. We have a larger population than the European Union or North America. We make up the third-largest labor force in the world, just behind China and India. And the majority of our population is composed of young people.
Education. We all know that if we are successful in providing our children with access to quality education, coupled with a deep sense of love of country and fellowmen, our future is secured.
One of the ways to involve the ASEAN youth is to ensure that they are equipped with the knowledge and skill set needed in a highly competitive environment.
By strengthening intraregional scholarships and cultural exchanges between our countries, we will be able to increase the free flow of ideas, innovations, and skills.
Each of our countries has unique strengths. But our diversity is our strength. To help each other, we must develop our human capital and workforce by jointly developing the skills that our youth may capitalize on in the future.
ASEAN languages may be offered in our schools and universities. While the Philippines has been sending English-language teachers to our Southeast Asian neighbors for years, I believe it is high time we encourage our youth to learn each other’s national languages. With a collaborative and nurturing environment within our region, we allow our youth to grow and mature as ASEAN citizens while forging meaningful friendships and relationships with their ASEAN neighbors.
Governments play a central role in shaping the future of our youth, and with intraregional scholarships and cultural exchanges, we will be able to shape the future of ASEAN.
The young people of ASEAN deserve a future characterized by stability, prosperity, increased mobility, and competitiveness.
As we celebrate this milestone, may we strengthen the ASEAN regional cooperation even more through unity in diversity — guided by the vision and will to allow the youth to be the forefront of our undertakings as individual countries and as a regional bloc.
We still have time. We have the resources. Now more than ever, together, we must act as one.
Mabuhay ang ASEAN.
Daghang salamat. Maraming salamat. Thank you.