Del Rosario urges U.S. to concretize help for ASEAN

Paterno Esmaquel II
Del Rosario urges U.S. to concretize help for ASEAN

Alecs Ongcal

America's 'pivot to Asia' was 'unfortunately not a focused one,' says former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario

MANILA, Philippines – Former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario called on the United States on Wednesday, November 8, to “concretize” its support for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

In a speech on Wednesday, Del Rosario said America’s “pivot to Asia” was “unfortunately not a focused one.” 

“The US had communicated its desired outcomes with too few reassurances for its partners in this cause. Today, its approach to Asia thus far does not yet appear to be dominated by support to the institutions it helped build and to the values it helped foster,” he said.

“Nevertheless, it is our hope that the United States’ support in our region will sooner than later be concretized,” the Philippines’ former top diplomat added.

Del Rosario was speaking at a conference organized by his think tank, the Albert del Rosario Stratbase Institute, 5 days before the opening of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits hosted by the Philippines.

His comments come as America’s plans and priorities in Asia remain unclear.

In an article in August, the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent think tank, said that the US pivot or rebalance to Asia actually led to a “drop in security assistance for Southeast Asia.”

The CFR said that “an analysis of US security assistance to Southeast Asian nations shows that, in nominal dollars, overall security aid to Southeast Asia fell by 19% since 2010, the year before the rebalance was launched.”

The Diplomat, in another article in January, described the pivot to Asia as former US president Barack Obama’s “biggest mistake,” as it “failed to achieve key goals in Asia.”

China’s legal obligations

In the case of China, Del Rosario said on Wednesday, it has defied its obligations.

“While undertaking its expansionary goals, specifically in the South China Sea, China has not upheld its legal obligations and diplomatic commitments to this region, nor acted with due respect for the clearly established rights of its neighbors,” Del Rosario said. 

He also stressed that China should pursue its goals “within the framework of international law.”

“In our view, China should consider if, in achieving its present military or economic objectives, it will continue to have a measure of respect from its neighbors,” he said.

At the same time, he called for stronger leadership in ASEAN. 

Del Rosario explained that many ASEAN states “have found themselves being pulled in different directions.”

He continued: “This has been worsened by a lack of leadership from among us. In a broader context, one can say that ASEAN is adrift.” –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at