PH lawmakers rally ASEAN peers towards regional harmony

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 16 2017 04:20 PM

MANILA – Philippine lawmakers on Saturday rallied their regional counterparts towards helping the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) achieve its goals for the region.

Speaking at the opening program of the 38th General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), current AIPA President and Philippines House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez pointed out the role the group can play in ensuring the passage of legislation that would implement agreements forged by the bloc.

“ASEAN’s major bottleneck in the implementation of regional integration measures is in the slow ratification of agreements by member states, particularly commitments from the ASEAN economic community,” Alvarez said.

“AIPA’s participation can result in fully harmonizing the legal frameworks of the ASEAN member states, and building common standards by promulgating domestic laws in line with ASEAN agreements and commitments. I am confident that the ASEAN recognizes the necessity of participation and collaboration of parliamentarians if the envisaged ASEAN Community Vision 2025 is to be realized.”

Alvarez added that as ASEAN enters a new phase in its journey, it would require member states to take stronger collective actions to face regional and global challenges such as extremism, tensions brought by maritime disputes, and human and drug trafficking.

For Alvarez, ASEAN parliamentarians will have a louder voice in the regional process, a domain traditionally exclusive to the Executive branch. AIPA — as the legislative representative of the ASEAN people — has shown its resolve to contribute significantly in the work of the three community pillars of ASEAN. 

Likewise, the Philippine Speaker said that Under the Philippine stewardship of the 38th General Assembly, the AIPA will stress the need for inclusive representation and participation, to build its capacity for responding to the needs of marginalized sectors in ASEAN member states.

The theme of this year’s General Assembly is “AIPA and ASEAN: Partnering for Inclusive Change”. 

Philippine Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III meanwhile stressed the importance of teamwork in bridging the region's organizations to the people. 

“ASEAN member states have shown respect for each other’s sovereignty, have been talking to each other, working with each other, cooperating with each other, consulting each other, interacting with each other, building group consensus, and have observed a policy of non-interference in domestic issues among others,” he said.

“As long as we maintain this teamwork within ASEAN, I can confidently predict the continuation of ASEAN’s miracle in the next 50 years.”

He seconded Alvarez’ statement about the importance of addressing challenges of diversity.

“ASEAN is not limited to our cultures. Economic situations are also very diverse. There is still a large gap between the richest and the poorest nations of ASEAN, and within our own nations, inequality remains a major issue,” he said.

“Knowledge about ASEAN and what it is all about has not come down to the people if ASEAN is indeed going to succeed over the long term. Ownership of the organization must shift from governments to the people, from ministries to communities. For governments come and go, but the people do not.”

Some key issues for AIPA’s study include the problem of illegal drugs, a centerpiece program of the Duterte administration, terrorism, the region’s state of disaster preparedness, human trafficking, and inequality in economic development among countries in the region. 

“Let our teamwork be manifested in our collective effort to find solutions to the said problems of common interest,” he said.

The 38th General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly opened in glitzy fashion Saturday, with performances by Kapamilya stars led by Gary Valenciano, Jaya, Sarah Geronimo, Anne Curtis, James Reid, and Coco Martin. 

President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to speak during the closing rites on Tuesday.