By Roy Mabasa
No government will stand for long should it surrender even an inch of what it believes to be its territory, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said on the occasion of the 52ndanniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Monday.
In a speech marking the ASEAN founding anniversary at the DFA headquarters in Pasay City, Locsin disclosed that he made this position during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bangkok last week.
“I said that no government will stand for long in the face of the outrage of their publics should they ever surrender an inch of what they believe to be territorially theirs— as much China’s as the Philippines and Vietnam and all the other countries,” he said.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and China have overlapping claims over the South China Sea.
In his remarks, the country’s top diplomat echoed the vision expressed by Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan of an ASEAN 20 years hence where none of the claims today are settled but “nothing stands in the way of a “limitless progress, prosperity and, I dare say, peace.”
At the ASEAN event, Locsin extolled the Southeast Asian grouping for its role in promoting peace and stability in the region.
“Fifty-two years since its establishment, the world is paying attention. ASEAN has a stable regional grouping and boasts of642 million people and a single market and production base with a combined GDP of S2.8 trillion,” he said.
He added that President Rodrigo Duterte, himself, was cognizant of the important role of ASEAN as a “cornerstone of Philippine foreign policy”, and remains foundational to the country’s quest for a peaceful and prosperous region.
Furthermore, the DFA chief said he was deeply impressed by the “learning and the tact” displayed during the last ASEAN foreign ministers meet in the Thai capital.
“Interventions ranged from the highly inflammatory to magisterially broad-ranging but they were never boring or uninstructive. We talked about the South China Sea, terrorism, geopolitical strategy, the perdurability of China’s progress and preeminent presence in Southeast and Northeast Asia if not beyond, to the permanence of American power everywhere to ensure a healthy balance of power in the world.”
ASEAN was established through the Bangkok Declaration on August 8, 1967 by five founding members, namely the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore as a show of solidarity against the then threat of communist expansion in Vietnam and the insurgency in their respective borders.