ASEAN should focus more on improving people’s life quality hinh anh 1Heads of delegations from ASEAN member nations at the event (Source: VNA)
Boracay (VNA) – Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh has highlighted that ASEAN should focus more on improving the quality of people’s life, ensuring all equally benefit from the building of the ASEAN Community.

Addressing the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in Boracay, the Philippines, on February 21, Minh, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, stressed the need to foster the intra-bloc economic connectivity and cooperation, as well as the strengthening of the bloc’s attraction as a close-knit regional economy.

It is also necessary to narrow down the development gap, while improving infrastructure connections and paying more attention to the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises as well as the business community’s engagement in the regional connectivity process, he said.

Regarding external relations, Minh proposed that ASEAN should be more proactive in affirming its leading role in mechanisms it had launched such as ASEAN 1, ASEAN 3, ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit, along with enhancing the efficiency and supplementary features of the mechanism, thus continuing attracting and maintaining the interest and involvement of partners, ensuring the central role of the association in regional processes and increase its global role.

On regional and international issues, Minh laid special stress on the vitality of peace, stability and security to the prosperity and development in the region.

The current complicated and unexpected situation requires ASEAN to promote its common voice in tackling strategic matters, proactively turning challenges into opportunities, upholding the supremacy of law and code of conduct in the relations among countries, the Vietnamese FM said.

Minh suggested fostering measures to build trust, prevent conflicts, and issue early alert for disputes, underscoring respecting and complying with international law as the most important one.

He also stressed the need for ASEAN to strengthen collaboration in coping with challenges amidst the growing non-traditional security challenges like climate change, disasters and piracy, asking for the intensive sharing of information and close collaboration to prevent piracy to ensure safety for people and property of vehicles crossing the region.

On the East Sea issue, Minh raised his concern about complicated developments in the sea, emphasising that ASEAN should reinforce solidarity and unity, while staying persistent and promoting existing shared stances.

He also underlined the significance of the peaceful settlement of disputes on the foundation of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), as well as respecting diplomatic and legal processes, strengthening consultations and dialogues on the East Sea, fully implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), and striving to reach a framework of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) in mid-2017 towards its early completion.

He also pledged that Vietnam will work closely with the Philippines and other ASEAN members in ensuring the success of ASEAN in 2017, while voicing support for ASEAN’s priorities for the year that were proposed by the Philippines.

During the two-day retreat, participants adopted the ASEAN Year 2017 theme “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World” and approved six priorities proposed by the Philippines as the ASEAN Chair in 2017, including building the people-centred ASEAN; promoting regional peace and stability; reinforcing maritime security and cooperation; advancing inclusive, innovation-led growth; strengthening ASEAN resiliency and promoting ASEAN as a model of regional cooperation.

They also agreed on the need to strengthen efforts for a people-oriented community through closer connectivity and effective implementation of cooperation plans towards bringing practical benefits for locals.

The foreign ministers also underscored measures to enhance the efficiency of the ASEAN organization, including an updated ASEAN Charter.

They concurred to continue boosting dialogues and cooperation with partners through the improvement of mechanisms run by the bloc, thus gaining more support from stakeholders in building the community, contributing to peace, stability in the region.

Over the East Sea issues, they shared concern that recent developments and escalating activities in the sea could raise tensions and erode trust. They acknowledged the need to maintain dialogues to soothe the tension.

They stressed the importance of promoting trust, exercising self-restraint, not taking any activities that complicate the situation, tackling peacefully disputes, including respecting diplomatic and legal processes, not using or threatening to use forces in line with international law, including the UNCLOS 1982.

They also underscored the importance of fully executing DOC and pushing ASEAN and China to reach the framework of the COC this year for the early completion of the document.

At the end of the retreat, the Chair, the Philippines released a press statement on the main outcomes of the meeting.-VNA