Permanent Representative of the Philippines to ASEAN, Ambassador Elizabeth P. Buensuceso, on 02 May 2017, participated as one of the distinguished members of the panel in a live discussion at “Perspectives Episode #6: The Future of ASEAN in 2025”. The event was held at the Singapore Management University (SMU) Labs at the corner of Armenian Street and Stamford Road, Singapore. The program was subsequently aired on 10 and 11 May 2017.
The other members of the panel included Mr. Ho Kwon Ping, Chairman of SMU and Executive Chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings; Mr. Edmund Koh, Head of Wealth Management Asia-Pacific, Country Head Singapore, Global Head Affluent, UBS; and Ms. Noni Purnomo, President Director, Bluebird Holding Group.
Perspectives is considered the flagship panel discussion program of Channel News Asia (CNA). Supported by SMU, the program brings together senior experts from a multitude of backgrounds – academe, industry, governments and NGOs. Regularly hosted by Mr. Teymoor Nabili, it serves as a venue to exchange views on key current affairs and issues.
In her opening statement, Ambassador Buensuceso, said that the panel discussion is a good platform to share positive developments in ASEAN to a wider audience to counter the general feeling of negativism surrounding the regional organization.
Responding to a question about the South China Sea in the Chairman’s Statement , for example, Ambassador Buensuceso said that while it is important that the issue be given prime attention, people must not forget that that there were many other important decisions embodied in the 126-page document, including major accomplishments of ASEAN in economic integration, climate change and biodiversity conservation, disaster resilience, women and youth empowerment, connectivity and others.
The differing views on the contributions of ASEAN among the panel members was apparent right at the start of the discussion with three (3) panel members believing that as an organization, ASEAN is successful only in the political and socio-cultural fronts but it has limited impact on the way traders and investors go about their day-to-day business. Ambassador Buensuceso underscored the outstanding economic performance of the member states of ASEAN, made possible, she argued, by the environment of calm, peace and stability in the region.
The panel discussion drew interesting observations and questions from the audience. One observation, for example, is that ASEAN is inward-looking and seems to be disinterested in reaching out to entities other than its current dialogue partners.
Ambassador Buensuceso explained the myriad of initiatives that ASEAN has been doing drawing attention to the Chairman’s statement, which, she said, outlines ASEAN’s vision to the future, the progress that it has achieved in its community-building project, its relations with external partners as well as initiatives and programs to address regional and global issues.
The panel discussion concluded with an acceptance of ASEAN’s important role in preserving political stability in the region and that it can certainly do more to facilitate continued economic growth.
In her parting words, Ambassador Buensuceso stressed that helping the marginalized sectors of society remains a priority of ASEAN adding that billionaires can take care of themselves whereas the poorer segments of the population must be given the opportunity to uplift themselves and take part meaningfully in the community-building initiative of ASEAN.
Prior to joining the panel discussion, Ambassador Buensuceso was received by Prof. Arnoud de Meyer, President of SMU. During the call, Ambassador Buensuceso thanked Prof. de Meyer for SMU’s support in training the staff of the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. Prof. de Meyer said that he looks forward to other possibilities of partnering with the Secretariat.