22 July 2010 – The Philippines reiterated its commitment to strengthen mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all at the ongoing 43rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Ha Noi, Vietnam.

One of the priorities of President Benigno S. Aquino III is providng greater protection to overseas Filipino workers. Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Erlinda F. Basilio, who heads the Philippine Delegation, also expressed the country’s commitment to actively work on such mechanisms as the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) begins to implement its Work Plan, and implement High Priority Programs and Activities for the period 2010-2011.

In the area of disaster management, the Philippines highlighted its work as Chair of the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM).

Undersecretary Basilio noted that the Philippines looks forward to the full operationalization of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre), the implementation of the Work Programme of the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER), and the completion of the Standard Operating Procedure for Regional Standby Arrangements and Coordination of Joint Disaster Relief and Emergency Response (SASOP).
Meanwhile, the Philippines stressed that connectivity among the 10 member states will spur economic growth.

“With physical, institutional, and people-to-people linkages, it will provide opportunities for increased trade, investment, tourism, and people-to-people contacts within the region,” Undersecretary Basilio said.

The Philippines initiative in the ASEAN Connectivity efforts is to push for the development of a nautical highway, through the expansion of the RO-RO to include all of ASEAN.

An ASEAN Roll-on/Roll-off (RO-RO) Network will benefit the whole region as the Philippine model has benefitted its regions especially in the South.

The Philippines also raised that priority be given to flagship projects, both new ones and those among the several ongoing plans and programs in ASEAN, that would achieve the highest impacts to the people of ASEAN until 2015.

At the ASEAN Plus Three Ministers’ Meeting and EAS Foreign Ministers’ Informal Consultations held on July 21, the Philippines highlighted its role as a prime mover in the creation of the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asia Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) and its continued support to BIMP-EAGA initiatives.

It also stressed its full support for the Coral Triangle Initiative, introduced in 2007 and subsequently endorsed by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, ASEAN and BIMP-EAGA.

The Philippines emphasized biodiversity as a priority concern, given the country’s rich natural resources and its unique concerns as an archipelagic country, and looked forward to working more closely with ASEAN on and its Dialogue Partners on this all-important initiative.

In the same vein, the Philippines thanked the European Commission for its generosity in the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity, located in the Philippines. –www.dfa.gov.ph