President Marcos’ upbeat assessment is based primarily on his exposition of the country’s salient foreign policy imperatives. He underscored the importance of finalizing the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, on which formal consultations began in 2013, 11 years after ASEAN issued its first statement of concern in 1992. Aside from the Philippines, the other claimant states are Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia and Vietnam.
He applauded the significant discussions with the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) which highlighted the importance of a rules-based approach to the resolution of disputes, as provided for by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It was in this spirit that the Philippines sought and obtained a favorable ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration that effectively set aside China’s nine-dash line theory underpinning its claim to hegemony over the waters of the South China Sea.
In the dialogue with the ASEAN Business Advisory Council, President Marcos pitched for the recognition of home-based nano-businesses and solo-preneurs whose importance surfaced during the pandemic. These include artists, vulcanizers, dispatch riders, repairers, and market vendors who are operating at the margins of micro- and small-scale enterprises whose viability was greatly impaired by prolonged periods of quarantine and lockdown. Support for these informal business enterprises, he pointed out, would narrow the development gap and enhance ASEAN’s overall economic growth.
President Marcos also noted the political crisis in Myanmar that has hobbled ASEAN’s unity since the ouster of its erstwhile leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the reemergence of a military regime. While the ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus that outlined pathways toward achieving political stability has not been favorably acted upon, Indonesia remains optimistic that this would gain headway during its incumbency as ASEAN chair this year. He expressed hopes that the humanitarian crisis sparked by the Ukraine-Russia conflict and its economic repercussions could be contained so as not to lead to a worsening of the energy and food crises it has already engendered.
On regional economic cooperation, he accentuated on the opportunities for elevating engagement within the Brunei Darrusalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippine East Asian Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) primarily in terms of improving connectivity and enhancing overall economic progress in the sub-region.
Finally, he vouched anew for the formal acceptance of Timor Leste as ASEAN’s 11th member-state.
All told, President Marcos demonstrated that, nearing the completion of his administration’s first full year, he has amply projected the country’s determined efforts to resume its growth trajectory and play a key role in advancing ASEAN centricity in navigating its global diplomatic agenda.