Remarks of the
Hon. PERFECTO R. YASAY, JR.
United Nations Day Celebration
24 October 2016, Music Hall, SM Mall of Asia
Shaping the World's Future that Works for All
Seventy-one years ago, the Philippines — along with 50 other peace-loving nations committed to working together for global peace and security — seized unprecedented opportunity of transforming and delivering the world from the tragic experience of a devastating world war that happened at a time when many countries were still reeling from the brutalities of colonial rule or otherwise struggling to free themselves from the yoke of foreign domination.
On 26 June 1945, even before our independence from America, we signed the Charter of the United Nations and became a founding member of the UN. Three months later, on October 24, the Charter set into motion a world united, built on our common aspirations of world peace, security, and prosperity, as sovereign equals in a community of nations.
The UN and its Key Principles
For seven decades, we have been pressing on with our collective commitments and defining responsibilities in the United Nations — now with 193 Member States representing more than 7 billion lives on this planet. Its principles, values, ideals and noble objectives have bonded us together in maintaining a regime of delicate peace and security, albeit sometimes punctuated by great suspense and bated breath.
And yet today, the Philippines continues to grapple with essentially the same serious problems of inequality, poverty, and social unrest from our colonial past. This condition compelled me as a youth of the ‘60s to march in protests on the streets of Manila together with thousands of student activists, peasants, and workers struggling for liberating social change.
Early on, we recognized the causal relations between development and underdevelopment. Western development was anchored upon conquering new lands endowed with abundant natural resources needed to feed an insatiable appetite for wealth and power.
Development engendered brutalities inflicted upon the indigenous population ruthlessly violated their basic human rights, brought unheard of diseases, denuded our forests, polluted our air and wreaked havoc on our environment and climate patterns. In a real sense, the advancement and progress of developed countries were achieved at the expense of countries like the Philippines. Indeed, development was the cause of our underdevelopment.
The United Nations at 71
This is where we are coming from as we celebrate the 71st anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. This is the reason why President Duterte has realigned our foreign relations towards a truly independent foreign policy as mandated by the Constitution. This is also the compelling justification why our President declared that we are separating ourselves from the mindset of debilitating dependence and subservience, which in turn have impeded our growth and advancement.
At its inception, we all placed our hopes on the United Nations as a positive force for change devoted to the spirit of shared responsibility in looking after each other as fellow human beings. With abiding faith, we welcomed its Charter as the game-changing universal way forward especially because of its key principles of sovereign equality, political independence, and the right to self-determination. To the present, the UN Charter serves as the firm foundation for global cooperation based on mutual respect and understanding.
In today’s interdependent world, these key principles established 71 years ago take on greater significance and meaning for all countries. The Philippines is no exception.
In shaping the world’s future, all nations, whether big or small, are equal to this singular task. This truth is based on the premise that all sovereign States are equal members of the international community. As it has been said, no nation is fit to sit in judgment upon any other nation. No country is better than or above another. We are all equal and driven by our respective national considerations and objectives.
An Independent Foreign Policy
The Philippines, just like any sovereign nation, will pursue what is best for its national interests within the framework of a rules-based system established under international law. Nevertheless, our actions remain guided by the collective values shaped by our historical experiences and struggles as a people.
As we chart our engagement with the world, we will continue to expand partnerships abroad where there is convergence. When these partnerships run counter to our interests, our choice like other nations will be to prioritize our own.
It is the sovereign right of an country to make its own choices in accordance with its own realities, own compelling urgent needs while seeking common ground for possible collaboration with its friends, neighbors or partners despite differences or disputes that may exist.
To be able to hold on to one’s own, while simultaneously exercising flexibility and striking a strategic balance between converging or conflicting interests, form the bases of a foreign policy that is independent and pragmatic. This can only give way to new or stronger structures and mechanisms to promote better understanding and mutually beneficial relationships among equals. It does not signify destroying alliances, making enemies or creating new barriers towards working together.
Our National Priorities
President Rodrigo Duterte made his promise for liberating change and he has to deliver on this promise.
The biggest problems in the country are corruption and criminality. Rampant corruption, worsening crime situation and widespread use of illegal drugs seriously imperil our society, break apart our families, and impede our sustainable development goals.
In the war against drugs, we stand firm in our adherence to due process and strict observance of the rule of law. Our actions are predicated on the general welfare of the Filipino people, which we can never compromise. With lessons from history, we will always be looking after our interests first and foremost especially for the benefit of millions of Filipinos left behind as victims of numerous inequalities resulting from outdated economic and political structures.
Our people are now inspired by a resolve to work on urgent problems and needs while discarding old paradigms that have not been useful in their struggle for a better quality of life.
The Philippines and the UN
The Philippines has been steadfast in standing by the higher purpose of the United Nations. In the first-ever UN General Assembly, we declared that: “By the circumstances of our birth as a free and independent State, we are committed to the aims and purposes of the United Nations.”
It is for this reason that I am truly delighted to be with all of you here to celebrate 71 years of the United Nations.
We will not waver amidst mounting frustrations and disappointments in the perceived failures of the United Nations, which are reflective of the inherent weaknesses of systems and mechanisms that fall short of addressing various world problems and concerns. Our spirit of shared responsibility, global partnership, and selfless service to look after each other must prevail.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
The Philippines shall continue to engage the international community within the framework of the guiding principles of the United Nations in accordance with its time-honored processes and protocols.
In turn, the UN must continue to be an important platform through which nations can think through our common challenges and problems and act collectively for effective measures and solutions. Furthermore, we see the need to free ourselves from double standards, which only leave the weak at the mercy of the strong.
Let us remain relevant and responsive to the needs of countries and peoples for enduring peace, security and stability.
Let us continue to hope for the best when the United Nations asserts its role to unite, not divide, us – for a world marked by peace, freedom, equality, and human dignity as we forge ahead towards a shared future that works for all.