VIENTIANE, Laos – The Philippines accepted Thursday the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as it unveiled the theme for next year that contains an imprint of President Duterte’s campaign. The theme for ASEAN 2017 to be hosted by the Philippines is “Partnering for change, engaging the world,” an obvious reference to Duterte’s campaign slogan “change is coming”. It also contained the phrase “partner for change,” which is being used by Malacañang to refer to the supporters of the president.Duterte said the theme of next year’s conference reflects the Philippines’ resolve to consolidate ASEAN’s community to enable it to take its rightful place in the international community.
“We will pursue initiative and enhance cooperation with global partners to ensure that ASEAN citizens live in peace, stability, security and growth, all the while remaining ASEAN’s centrality, unity, and solidarity, we will maintain for all times,” he said in his acceptance speech. “The Philippines is ready and willing to steer and guide the association. But crucial to the realization of our goals is the cooperation and support of all ASEAN member states and our dialogue partners.” The Philippines’ ASEAN chairmanship coincides with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the ten-member regional bloc. “During the Philippines’ chairmanship, we will highlight ASEAN as a model of regionalism and a global player, with the interest of the people at its core,” Duterte said.
“Towards this end, I invite you to be our dynamic and vibrant partners as we guide ASEAN in 2017.” Duterte congratulated Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith for the success of this year’s conference. “You guided us with the timely motto of 'Turning Vision into Reality for Dynamic ASEAN community.’ You ably did your part in deepening integration to move us towards the realization of a rules-based, people-oriented, people-centered ASEAN community,” the Philippine leader said. “In the last two days of our meetings, I have benefited immensely from our discussions and exchanges, providing me with insights on how best to build upon Lao PDR’s efforts in community building.”
Sisoulith said this year’s conference had “comprehensive and fruitful discussions” on strengthening the ASEAN community. “I trust that under the Philippines’ ASEAN chairmanship in 2017, in addition to the meaningful celebration of the 50th anniversary of ASEAN, the ASEAN community will continue to gain new achievements,” the Lao prime minister said. “The Lao PDR will continue to extend its full support to the Philippines’ ASEAN chairmanship and cooperate with ASEAN member states, ASEAN dialogue partners, external parties and friendly countries and regional and international organizations to contribute to the further strengthening of the ASEAN community,” he added.