Aquino bids ASEAN goodbye: I will remain a friend

Ayee Macaraig
Aquino bids ASEAN goodbye: I will remain a friend
President Benigno Aquino III turns personal, grateful and reflective as he bids his fellow ASEAN leaders goodbye

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – After two days of criticizing China over the South China Sea dispute, President Benigno Aquino III turned personal, grateful and reflective as he bid his fellow Southeast Asian leaders goodbye.

Aquino used his last intervention in a summit between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United Nations to thank his fellow leaders, and to promise to be their “friend” and “partner” even after his term ends in 2016.

The former senator said deciding on grave matters of foreign policy led him to grow.

“Prior to this job, I can probably claim to be a very well-read person, although not as well-travelled as I would have liked. My Presidency thrust me into this role as diplomat, and I must say that it was truly a valuable learning experience,” he said.

“Our interactions have led to so much growth—for me personally, and for my entire country, as we pulled together and harnessed our solidarity to uplift the lives of the Southeast Asian people.”

Aquino, the most vocal ASEAN leader on the dispute against China, also asked his fellow heads of state and government to understand his positions. He said he made them to fulfill his oath to the Filipino people.

“I ask for your understanding if, in the course of building this consensus, I have caused undue strain or stress to you, my dear colleagues. In all of our interactions and during my visits to your countries, I have strived to look at issues through your perspective, which allowed me better insight as to how you weighed your decisions, and gave me a firmer understanding of what each of us can and cannot do.”

Aquino has sought to rally ASEAN to unite against Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. While 4 members are claimants, the rest enjoy warm and strong economic relations with Beijing.

The 2012 ASEAN summit, for example, was historic as foreign ministers failed to issue a communique over the maritime row.

‘United ASEAN can’t be ignored’

Despite differences in positions, Aquino said many causes and opportunities bind ASEAN.

“Individually for our nations, the positions we take might go unheeded; collectively, however, we have shown the world that the voice of a united ASEAN cannot be ignored.”

He was positive about the prospects of the ASEAN Community to implement regional integration by year-end.

“Being one community really does make a lot of sense, and I hope that, over the past years, I have done my share in bringing the dream of a solid and singular ASEAN Community closer to reality.”

Aquino said his only regret was being unable to host ASEAN under his 6-year term. Still, he promised that the Philippines will do well in chairing the bloc in 2017.

“I assure you, without a shadow of a doubt, that come our hosting of the ASEAN and related summits in 2017, you will see the Philippines reciprocating the graciousness and warmth that you have constantly extended to my delegation.”

He also talked about his administration, saying it pushed for change and good governance despite its many critics.

“Pushing for genuine transformation involves disturbing a lot of rice bowls. … I do believe that my countrymen, having witnessed what we have already achieved, will themselves ensure that good governance becomes an enduring and irreversible mainstream in the Philippines, and ASEAN in turn will find a stronger brother-nation.”

A Catholic, Aquino even turned religious.

“While I may not be physically present as President of my country, I will remain with you in prayer and in spirit, as a true friend constantly advocating for the success of ASEAN and of your respective nations.”

His last request was not for himself but for the person who will take his place in the next ASEAN summit. The Philippines will hold presidential polls in May 2016.

“I ask that you extend to my successor the same graciousness, understanding, and friendship that I have experienced these past few years.” –

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