ASEAN-US Summit delegates at a plenary session | Contributed Photo
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the second day of the ASEAN-US Special Summit, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. joined eight other leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to discuss mutual priorities in the region on maritime security, pandemic, climate action, clean energy transformation, and sustainable infrastructure, as well as on ways to address global issues and emerging challenges.
Locsin represented President Rodrigo R. Duterte and was joined by Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel G. Romualdez, foreign affairs undersecretary Theresa Lazaro, assistant secretary Daniel Espiritu, and assistant secretary Angela Ponce, as well as officials from the Office of the President and the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C.
The Philippines called for regional cooperation on maritime security, the climate crisis, and post-pandemic economic recovery. In his intervention, Secretary Locsin highlighted America’s role in peace and stability in Southeast Asia.
“President Biden, your participation gives substance to the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment of being a strong, reliable and dependably present partner in the region; and of America as a force for good and stability in Asia and the rest of the world. That is why the Philippines fully supports the elevation of ASEAN-U.S. relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership,” he said.
With the Philippines as one of the ASEAN countries participating in the Indo Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) launch, Locsin also welcomed the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy, which places Southeast Asia at the center of the regional security architecture and recognizes synergies with the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. “We look forward to the political launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). For that to work, inclusiveness in participation is essential.”
On the climate front, Locsin emphasized that the transition to clean energy is integral to responding to the climate crisis. He said the Philippines expects the ASEAN-US Energy Ministerial Meeting to advance initiatives on clean and alternative energy sources, including new and emerging clean fuels and on, energy innovation, and more efficient energy technologies.
“We are particularly interested in safe, clean, and affordable nuclear power options such as small nuclear modular reactors, which are capable of being built and transported to far-flung energy starved areas,” Locsin said.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine crisis showed the need for the ASEAN region to strengthen its infrastructure, connectivity, and supply chains. The Philippines, he said, welcomes the progress made on the implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 but recognizes that more needs to be done.
“The infrastructural components need more focus on infrastructure compliant with environmental and climate standards, and are also commercially viable,” Locsin said.
In his closing statement, Locsin underscored the need to recover from the pandemic and the economic consequences of the war in Ukraine, particularly in terms of energy supply. “We have yet to develop domestic energy sources in safe, clean ways. But we need American assurance of being left in peace to find and develop our energy sources without threats from a bullying neighbor that sets conditions no sovereign country can submit to,” he said.
U.S. vice president Kamala Harris led the discussions on climate action, clean energy, and sustainable infrastructure. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, secretary of the treasury Janet Yellen, secretary of transportation Pete Buttigieg, secretary of energy Jenifer Granholm, and environmental protection agency administrator Michael Regan joined her.
At the end of the summit, the White House announced over $150 million in initiatives that will mobilize billions more in private financing to “deepen U.S.-ASEAN relations, strengthen ASEAN centrality, and expand our common capacity to achieve our shared objectives.”
The Special Summit in Washington D.C. was the second special summit hosted by the U.S since it became ASEAN’s dialogue partner in 1977. It is a historic occasion celebrating 45 years of ASEAN-U.S. partnership. In 2016, then-President Obama hosted the summit in California.
–-With Ricky Rillera/PDM