MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines will push key initiatives on security, trafficking in persons and implementation of the master plan on Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) connectivity during the 44th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and 18th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) beginning today in Bali, Indonesia.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday that Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario will pursue the Philippines’ key initiatives and priorities in line with the three aspects of ASEAN’s community-building goals – politico-security community, economic community, and socio-cultural community – as he attends the event, which will be held from July 19 to 23.

Del Rosario will advance the country’s interests in the key areas of political-security cooperation, trafficking in persons, connectivity, human rights, food security and disaster management, migrant workers, and other issues and concerns of mutual interest with ASEAN partner countries.

On the last three days of this series of ministerial meetings, the ASEAN foreign ministers will attend the post-ministerial conferences, the informal East Asia summit ad hoc consultations, ASEAN plus Three Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and the ASEAN Regional Forum.

The meetings in Bali are opportunities for the ASEAN foreign ministers to meet with their counterparts from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, European Union, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste, and the United States.

As the current ASEAN chair, Indonesia adopted the theme “ASEAN Community in a Global Community of Nations.”

The Philippines is committed to seek ways to help ASEAN reach its goal of establishing an ASEAN community by 2015 and a common platform for ASEAN beyond 2015 for Southeast Asia.

Through these ministerial meetings, the Philippines will work towards realizing its goal of promoting peace and security to contribute to the ASEAN community building process.

The Philippines recognizes the need for establishing regional response mechanisms to prepare, inform in advance, and assist Filipinos and ASEAN citizens in case of natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, landslides and the like.

The Philippine will also participate in the East Asia Summit (EAS), with the secretary meeting foreign ministers of the EAS.

Del Rosario will call for the evolution of the EAS into a more pro-active mechanism where discussions take place in an open and frank manner. This will also give the Philippines the opportunity to renew ties with Russia and the United States as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton will participate in the meeting on July 22.

The Philippines will also introduce the idea of having a thematic approach for the 6th EAS, namely food security and energy security in the context of disaster management, given its relevance to the region.

The country is looking forward to participating actively and positively in these meetings, as it works toward ensuring the fulfillment of ASEAN’s goals in the pursuit of advancing the country’s interests. –Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star)