MANILA-- Southeast Asian leaders gathered here Saturday to exchange views on how to further strengthen and make the 50-year-old Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) relevant amid challenges confronting the globe.
"Guided by our chairmanship theme - Partnering for Change, Engaging the World - we are drawn today to reaffirm our aspiration for an ASEAN that works to effect positive change in the lives of our peoples," Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said at the opening of the day-long summit.
Duterte chairs the 30th ASEAN summit plenary and the retreat of the 10 ASEAN leaders that are taking place Saturday.
The Philippines chair the ASEAN meeting this year which also coincides with its golden anniversary.
On the political and security front, Duterte cited traditional and non-traditional security issues that test ASEAN's resolve to promote peace, stability, security and prosperity in the region.
"Geopolitical and strategic developments around the globe also pose a challenge to our shared interests and goals, if not the security of our environment," he said.
He also stressed the need to aim for a drug-free ASEAN.
"The scourge of illegal drugs threatens our gains in community-building," he said.
Equally important, he said, is the need for ASEAN not to waver efforts to eliminate security threats to regional growth and development.
"Piracy and armed robbery against ships disrupt the stability or regional and global commerce. Terrorism and violent extremism have brought the reality of attacks right on our shores and at our doorsteps," Duterte said.
The ASEAN leaders are currently exchanging views on pressing regional and international issues, including cooperation in maritime security, building people-oriented and people-centered ASEAN, maintaining a peaceful and stable region, advancing inclusive and innovative-led growth, promoting ASEAN's resiliency, and promoting ASEAN as "model for regionalism and as a global player."
Duterte is expected to issue a chairman's statement on the 30th summit at the close of their meeting later on Saturday.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Source: Philippines News Agency