“ASEAN must ensure that a people-centered, people oriented ASEAN is more than just a slogan,” this was stated by RI Foreign Minister, Retno Marsudi at the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM) Retreat at Boracay Island, Philippines on 21 February 2017.
The meeting was the first in a series of ASEAN meetings in 2017 under Philippine chairmanship with the theme “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World”. There are six priorities which ASEAN will focus on under Philippine chairmanship namely People-Oriented, People Centered ASEAN; Peace and Stability in the Region; Maritime Security and Cooperation; Inclusive, Innovation-led Growth; ASEAN’s Resiliency; and ASEAN: A Model of Regionalism, A Global Player.
During the first session on 2017 ASEAN priorities and follow-up to the 28th and 29th ASEAN Summits, Minister Marsudi emphasized the importance of ASEAN providing concrete benefits to its people. “Only by providing concrete benefits can ASEAN stay relevant for its people,” said the Minister.
The Minister focused on the agreement between the Heads of State at the ASEAN Summit to enhance maritime security in ASEAN. Indonesian citizens have become the most frequent victims of hostage-taking in the Sulu Sea and Sabah waters in the past two years. Indonesia has also taken various initiatives to help enhance maritime security in the waters around ASEAN such as coordinated patrols. “Every country has the main responsibility of maintaining the security of its seas. That is why Indonesia calls on ASEAN states to take steps to enhance maritime security, especially the Sulu Sea, Sabah waters and its surroundings,” said the Minister.
Related to the economy and ASEAN connectivity, the RI Foreign Minister pushed for significant progress in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations. In addition, Indonesia welcomed the launch of the Roll-On Roll-Off (Ro-Ro) sea lane between Bitung in Indonesia and General Santos and Davao in the Philippines as a way to enhance ASEAN economic integration. “RCEP not only can enhance the economies of ASEAN and its partners but also to serve as an example of a free and fair trade agreement,” added the Minister.
The Minister underlined the need for strengthening the comparative advantage of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), since it plays an important role in the economies of ASEAN countries. “MSMEs in ASEAN can be further empowered by giving them greater access to funding sources, digital economy, and science,” explained the Minister.
To ensure implementation of the various agreements from the ASEAN Summit, the Minister elaborated various Indonesian initiatives in the fields of counterterrorism, maritime cooperation, haze, and enhancing cultural cooperation with ASEAN partner countries. “Indonesia will continue to take the initiatives to drive ASEAN cooperation to strengthen our region to be safer, more stable, and prosperous,” said the Minister.