Senator Win Gatchalian on Wednesday commended President Rodrigo Duterte and the Philippine diplomatic corps for leading the Philippines to a successful run as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2017.
“Through the able leadership of President Duterte, the ASEAN member-states and their dialogue partners were able to build the foundation for meaningful change in Southeast Asia. I am confident that the next ASEAN chair, Singapore, will build upon the foundation we have put in place as we strive to accelerate economic development and promote social justice in the region,” Gatchalian said.
In particular, the senator pointed to the announcement of the start of formal talks between ASEAN and China on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea as a watershed moment for regional security.
“This is the first time in 15 years that ASEAN and China have made any real progress toward settling the longstanding disputes in the West Philippine and South China seas. This is a pivotal step toward inking a comprehensive agreement which will permanently diffuse tensions in the disputed areas by creating a lasting framework for the equitable navigation and use of these crucial waters,” he said.
Gatchalian also hailed the adoption of the ASEAN Consensus on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers, a document which he hopes will make a meaningful impact on the welfare of migrant workers scattered throughout the region.
The senator pointed out that the adoption of this document during the country’s chairmanship of the regional bloc is made even more significant by the economic and social importance of Overseas Filipino Workers in Philippine society. He estimates that as many as 500,000 Filipino migrant workers are dispersed throughout Southeast Asia.
“Overseas Filipino Workers are considered modern-day Filipino heroes, and rightfully so. They sacrifice so much to provide better lives for their families here at home. I am proud that the Philippines was able to steer ASEAN toward an agreement which will further promote and defend the rights of our OFW heroes, no matter where they are stationed within the region,” Gatchalian said.