MANILA: Resilience and innovation will be the focus of Singapore’s ASEAN chairmanship in a world that is “rapidly changing”, the country’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday (Nov 14).
This is to ensure that the regional bloc "remains a central and dynamic driving force that can deal with challenges and opportunities".
Mr Lee said this at a ceremony marking the end of the 31st ASEAN summit. Singapore will officially take over the role of chairman from the Philippines in January next year.
As chairman for the coming year, Singapore will promote and uphold a rules-based regional order so that ASEAN can better deal with emerging security challenges such cyber security, transnational crime and terrorism, Mr Lee said.
On the agenda are also continued regional economic integration and enhancing regional connectivity, so that ASEAN can remain "competitive and prosperous", and finding innovative ways to manage and harness digital technologies, and equip citizens with skills and capabilities.
“This is so that ASEAN can remain a vibrant and dynamic place for our peoples to live, work and play,” Mr Lee said.
Under Singapore’s stewardship, ASEAN will also continue to build relations with external partners, Mr Lee said, adding that ASEAN will hold special summits in Australia and India. The group will also celebrate the 45th anniversary of ASEAN-Japan relations and the 25th anniversary of the ASEAN Regional Forum.
In a hand-over video screened during the ceremony, Singapore outlined these goals, and unveiled a logo for its chairmanship. The logo was formed by connecting respective ASEAN member states' capitals, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, adding that the links signify the "collective resilience of an inter-connected ASEAN in pursuit of a common purpose".
As country coordinator for ASEAN-China dialogue relations, Singapore will continue to promote closer cooperation between the two sides,, including initiatives to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership, Mr Lee said.
Building on the work of past Chairs, Singapore will continue to enhance cooperation at ASEAN-led fora, he added.
THE PHILIPPINES MOVED ASEAN TOWARDS DEEPER INTEGRATION
Taking stock of ASEAN in the past year, Mr Lee said that the regional bloc celebrated the maturing of ASEAN into a Community, referring to the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, a roadmap that outlines how members will collectively achieve political security, economic cooperation and socio-cultural cohesion by working together.
“ASEAN has built a stable, open and inclusive regional architecture that has brought about security, growth and development for our peoples,” he said.
In the past year, the group focused on regional peace, economic integration, and constructive engagement with partners and key players in the international community, he said.
In accepting chairmanship, Mr Lee congratulated Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on the country's successful term and its achievements as chairman.
These included the finalisation of a framework for the Code of Conduct of Parties in the disputed South China Sea, the conclusion of a free trade agreement between ASEAN and Hong Kong three years in the making and the adoption of an ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers.
The Philippines moved ASEAN towards deeper integration, with its theme “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World”, he added.
He thanked the Secretary-General of ASEAN Le Luong Minh, and his staff at the Secretariat for their dedication in supporting the ASEAN meetings and agenda, while welcoming incoming Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi, Permanent Secretary in Brunei’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Singapore is honoured to accept the chairmanship of ASEAN from “our excellent host, the Philippines”, he said, adding that Singapore looks forward to working closely with the Secretary-General and the Secretariat to strengthen ASEAN’s Community-building efforts.
He said: “As the incoming ASEAN Chair, Singapore hopes to build upon the good work done by past Chairs, and continue our integration journey to foster a close-knit Community that our citizens can benefit from.”