MANILA-- Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano hosted a gala dinner for the foreign ministers currently in the country for the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting (AMM) and other related meetings.
Foreign ministers of the 10 ASEAN member states and 17 dialogue partners, some of them accompanied by their spouses, gathered at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday (August 6) where they experienced the Filipino's hospitality, culture, and cuisine.
Upon arrival around 9:30 p.m., the foreign ministers, wearing Barong Tagalogs, posed for their traditional ASEAN family photo and the ceremonial handshake.
In his brief remarks, Cayetano welcomed the foreign ministers to the country saying that their gathering is a celebration of the achievements of ASEAN since its establishment 50 years ago.
"We are here tonight to celebrate a great harvest brought about by the vision and perseverance of our founding fathers," Cayetano said.
"It is a profound honor to welcome all of you warmly back to the Philippines. I speak for the Filipino people when I say that we, as a nation, are truly proud to have assumed ASEAN's chairmanship in this milestone year. But more than that we are proud of being part of a great organization," he added.
He recalled how the founding fathers of ASEAN led the regional bloc in pursuing a common dream of having "a peaceful and prosperous community of truly independent nations" despite challenges of differences in culture, tradition, and ideologies.
"While others saw gloom, our founding fathers in their wisdom and discernment, saw light and promise. While others saw conflict, they saw strength and unity in diversity," the DFA chief said.
"We have come a long way since we began our journey 50 years ago. ASEAN has facilitated a region's transformation from a troubled neighborhood into a caring and sharing community. Despite the inherent differences in our culture, our political systems, our ideologies, we have managed to avoid major conflicts," he added.
He said the unity of the ASEAN member states has led to economic development noting that ASEAN's combined economy is the sixth largest in the world today.
He added that through friendship and cooperation, the regional bloc has established mutual respect for sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, freedom from external interference, non-interference in internal affairs, peaceful settlements of dispute, renunciation of threat or use of force among nations.
Cayetano said moving forward, the ASEAN has greater challenges to face and should set higher aspirations for the next 50 years.
"Our young citizens demand connectivity. They demand interdependence. They demand fast, efficient and effective governance. They are our future so they dictate the pace of our desired progress and development and we follow our young people," he said.
"There is much work that needs to be done. It is in no way an easy task to build a community but we are determined to do so. As we harvest, we have to plant more seeds: seeds of understanding, cooperation and collaboration," he added.
Cayetano then thanked the dialogue partners of ASEAN including major powers the United States, China, Russia, and Japan asking them to continue supporting and believing in ASEAN.
He called on the ASEAN to continue to "build bridges" and not to be discouraged by the challenges ahead.
In conclusion, Cayetano noted how ASEAN showed its unity in addressing challenges through their issuance of a joint communique.
"Our joint communique that was released today is a testament to overcoming obstacles and finding consensus the ASEAN way," he said.
"Thank you, members of ASEAN, for coming together in consensus and expressing and articulating our common sentiment in our joint communique," he added.
The Gala Dinner provided an excellent opportunity to showcase Filipino cuisine. Guests were served Filipino dishes such as ensaladang pako at kesong puti, chicken binakol, adobong sugpo sa gata and hinornong tadyang ng baka. They also enjoyed a variety of desserts like dalandan sorbet and Filipino dessert sample consists of Guimaras mango, ube halaya, Batangas tablea chocolate and crunchy saba rolls.
Among those who performed were country's famous singers Regine Velasquez and Jed Madela.
The dinner was attended by government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, and business leaders.
Among the Cabinet officials present were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar.
Source: Philippine News Agency