That Asean has survived- and prospered- as our instrument of regional cooperation gratifies me in personal as well as in an official way.
As some of you may know, my father- as Foreign Secretary of the Philippines- was one of ASEAN’s founding parents, together with Adam Malik of Indonesia, Tun Razak of Malaysia, rajaratnam of Singapore and thanat Khoman of Thailand.
In economic terms our region’s dynamic peoples, its rich resources, and its high growth rates have won ASEAN a large measure of respect everywhere in the world. Our region is recognized as a powerhouse of industry, technology and entrepreneurial ability in the Pacific Basin.
A season of grace in ASEAN
Console yourself with the thought that you meet a good time: The thaw in the Cold War has generated its own season of grace in our part of the world.
In Afghanistan, in Indochina and even on the 38th parallel, we have recently seen some welcome warming of attitudes ance seemingly frozen in permafrost hostility.
Of course there are potential flash points – like the Spratlys- which remain. But disputes like this always crop up among neighbor-countries- if they don’t, then governments would have no need for foreign ministers: i trust (as I’m sure the other heads of state do) that resolving them is not beyond your collective ingenuity.
Let me just say i hope- i believe- that the regional atmosphere evolving will give all our countries some leisure to deal with problems at home.
We Filipinos are determined to use this breathing spell to shed the social weakness that have made us what our more colorful journalists call “The Sick Man of SouthEast Asia”.
We are working to restore our economy and our democracy- both of which were devastated by 13 years of strongman rule- and to ease the poverty that oppresses so many of our people.
In the process, we Filipinos are relearning some basic truths about the political community. And the sum of these is that civic life in a democracy is a constant give-and-take between opposing points of view and centers of intermediate power. No one faction or one ideology may monopolize power by violence of the truth.
Even so, the insurgency each year still extracts from us too much blood and treasure: This is why we’re looking for a peaceful, once-and-for-all settlement not only with our insurgents but also with our mutinous officers and our separatists in portions of Mindanao and Sulu.
We have also taken responsibility for our own external security- with all that decision implies in belt-tightening and self- service, to raise our armed forces’ capability to defend our borders.
I assure you- our regional friends and partners- that we Filipinos will not be a charge on the Asean community. We are prepared in every way to account for ourselves.
Our radical insurgents had looked forward to a world revolution to which their own protracted rebellion could relate. A revolution did break out throughout the globe. But it is a revolution not of the bureaucratic State, but of the individual spirit.
Everywhere we have been seeing the immense political power- the moral authority- that ordinary people can exert, just by standing together for their rights.
I believe we are at a new age of democratic participation- the age of people power. People everywhere are no longer content to be bystanders in the unfolding of their country’s history.
We in Asean have been wise to welcome democratic participation in every aspect of national life, for it is the bedrock of national- and therefore of regional- stability.The politics of world trade
Apart from increasing trade among ourselves, securing continued access to Western markets and technology must now become the most vital – and common- concern of ourselves and our regional partners.
This concern we can best express cooperatively through Asean and similar supranational groupings in our continent.
For the danger is real that in world affairs, trade will replace war as the continuation of politics by other means.
We must also do all we can to ensure that the new world order does does not result in a resurgence of narrow nationalisms; that many small conflicts do not replace the single big one.Gathering our countries together
Over the past quarter of a century, Asean has gathered our countries together- like rice stalks in a sheaf at harvest time- in common action to accelerate the economic growth and the cultural development of our region, in the spirit of equality and friendship.
In doing so Asean has merely confirmed Southeast Asia’s ancient sense of unity- in ethnicity, culture and aspiration. Let us move on together on this historic journey we have embarked on- to attain the fullness of freedom, peace and prosperity for ourselves and posterity.
By Fidel V. Ramos