PH Omnibus Intervention for Agenda Item 1 Follow-Up to the 37th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits and Agenda Item 2 External Relations 

As delivered by


Secretary of Foreign Affairs

[ASEAN Foreign Ministers Retreat, 21 January 2021] 

Congratulations to Brunei Darussalam now ASEAN chair. I assure His Excellency Dato Erywan of the Philippines’ commitment to make this chairmanship as fruitful as Vietnam’s has been.

Brunei’s theme, “We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper”, is a fitting anchor for our regional efforts in the service of our peoples, in strengthening ASEAN mechanisms and its preparedness to hurdle challenges.

Echoing President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s call at the last Summit, we must take the challenges of 2020 in stride and strive to build back better, healthier, and more prosperous societies through deeper engagements on vital issues uniting ASEAN. We must maintain the momentum of our engagements in 2020 into 2021, particularly in our efforts to respond to the challenges of COVID-19.  In this connection, I am pleased to announce that the Philippines will contribute $100,000 to the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund.

We will continue to emphasize the principles of inclusiveness, openness, cooperation and consensus-building, and respect for international law in our approach to regional cooperation and to external relations through the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

External relations play an important role in ASEAN’s relatively successful response to the pandemic. As we kept committed to helping each other’s response to the pandemic, we recognize the support and help of our external partners, with special mention in no particular order,

of South Korea, Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand /and the European Union. They all greatly contributed to ASEAN response and recovery.

As we expand our relations in the evolving regional architecture, let’s ensure that ASEAN stays at the center of regional developments.

We welcome moves to come up with more comprehensive criteria with respect to ASEAN’s External Relations; and in assessing future partnerships so as to further promote ASEAN Centrality and reduce even more its former marginality; while staying skeptical of great power schemes that seek to drag in ASEAN piecemeal into larger quarrels, more dangerous rivalries, and far bigger ambitions that we as a region of peace do not share.

All these should be taken into consideration as we study China’s proposed elevation of dialogue relations from Strategic Partnership to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The Philippines goes along with this proposal as China Coordinator; and to bringing China’s case for it to this forum. I met with State Counselor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi last week. He made a good case for China’s proposition. But more so are we committed to hearing out the views and concerns of our fellow ASEAN states so as to arrive at an ASEAN consensus on a sound decision — or none.It’s the 30th Anniversary of ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations. The Philippines will press harder for the completion of a Second Reading of the Negotiated Text for a COC. Friends we all are, true friends we all avow to be; as friends all around we owe each other sincerity. END