Youth key for ASEAN to remain as ‘epicenter of growth’—Marcos

LABUAN BAJO, Indonesia—President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Southeast Asia will remain the epicenter of growth if it continues to empower its young people on whom the region’s future depends.

“It is clear again that the future of ASEAN lies in our ability to support the youth in attaining their full potential,” Marcos said at an event at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit. “And this we must do by providing the skills and motivation to be ready for this future. Empowering the ASEAN youth [will ensure]… that ASEAN will remain the epicentrum of growth and undoubtedly contribute to the realization of our shared vision of prosperity and peace for all.”

At the same time, Mr. Marcos expressed his concerns over the aging population in the Southeast Asian region.

Trade chief Alfredo Pascual (left) and Speaker Martin Romualdez (right) listening intently to Mr. Marcos delivers his statement Wednesday morning during the opening session. AFP

“Decades of sustained economic growth and prosperity have resulted in longer lifespans in ASEAN. According to the Asian Development Bank, one out of four people in the Asia Pacific will be over the age of 60 by the year 2050,” Marcos said.

“I think therefore it is time that ASEAN should start discussing the concerns of an aging population, consistent with the ASEAN tradition of valuing our elders,” said.

Marcos said these issues must be viewed as an opportunity and as a challenge, “especially in terms of adequate social benefits on the one hand and social empowerment on the other. ASEAN goals and work plans should ensure health for our elders, [and] a safe and dignified, and productive life.”

The region also needs to be future-ready to make it competitive in the global arena, the President said, highlighting the exponential growth of the digital realm and the world’s increasing dependence on digital tools, along with the rising global demand for creative products and services.

Mr. Marcos also pointed out that ASEAN must take immediate action to prepare its youth to seize opportunities in the digital and creative economies.

At the same time, the youth can play a role in addressing other pressing challenges such as climate change, the environment and biodiversity, peace and security, education and traditional and social media, he said.

Mr. Marcos also highlighted the Filipino youth’s initiative on climate change and disaster resiliency.

At a talk during the ASEAN Leaders’ Interface with representatives of ASEAN youth, the President said Filipino youth are at the forefront of advocacies to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change in the Philippines.

He said one of the initiatives is leading the declaration of the annual ASEAN Youth in Climate Action and Disaster Resilience Day to promote awareness and provoke positive action among the youth to address climate change and galvanize disaster risk reduction efforts.

“Since 2018, the Philippines, with the support of various partners and stakeholders, has ensured the conduct of annual celebrations and involvement of youth leaders from all ASEAN member states in the activities,” Mr. Marcos said.

The President also brought up the need for ASEAN to transition to renewable and alternative energy technologies, noting that the Philippines is doing its part in that regard.

The President also called for unity among ASEAN members as he urged developed countries to fulfill their longstanding commitments to the Paris Agreement.

“Although developing countries such as the Philippines only account for less than 1 percent of global emissions, our countries bear the brunt of the devastating impacts of climate change,” Marcos said.

“Developed countries have a moral obligation to support adaptation and mitigation efforts of the most vulnerable countries through technology transfer, capacity building, and climate financing, this to address loss and damage, and to achieve necessary breakthroughs for climate action at a global scale,” he added.

At the same time, the President said the Philippines will take bold steps to transition to renewable and alternative energy technologies in a secure and sustainable manner.

The country is rich in critical metals like aluminum, nickel and chromite, which are energy efficient to produce.

“Recognizing that a cleaner energy future is anchored on the supply of critical minerals, ASEAN should now start enhancing regional cooperation towards boosting the region’s strategic industrial metals and minerals value chain,” Marcos said.

Marcos said the Philippines recognizes biodiversity can complement ASEAN’s initiatives in climate change, contributing to efforts towards a more sustainable and resilient future.

The conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity is an intergenerational responsibility that the Philippines is proud to support through the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity, he said.

President Marcos also called on ASEAN to focus on upholding international law and the international rules-based system and committing to the principles of free trade and to the multilateral trading system.

Upholding international law and the rules-based system has underpinned the peace, security, stability, and prosperity of the region, Marcos said, as he welcomed Indonesia’s ASEAN chairmanship priority of strengthening regional cooperation to address cross-border crimes, particularly human trafficking.

In terms of trade and commerce, the President announced the Philippines has deposited its Instrument of Ratification for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement.

“We are optimistic that RCEP will serve as an engine of growth that will help build more resilient supply chains and support the integration of our micro, medium, and small-scale establishments into the global economy,” Marcos said.

“ASEAN must strengthen cross-border connectivity and the interoperability of digital frameworks. We must forge a vibrant digital economy and ensure that our people are equipped with the digital skills of the future so that no one is left behind in the midst of our world’s digital transformation.”

ASEAN members must ensure that food and energy systems are resilient in the face of the supply and price fluctuations triggered by geopolitical instability and conflict, pandemics, climate change, logistics chain disruptions, and fuel shortages.

The Philippines, Marcos said, aims to strengthen food security and production efficiency via the use of new agricultural technologies, upgrading technical and vocational education and training, and adopting climate- and disaster-resilient technologies.

Also on Wednesday, Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said leaders of the ASEAN must join hands for enhanced trade and investment among member states to sustain the region’s economic growth and create more jobs and business opportunities, as well as improved services, to uplift the lives of their citizens.

Romualdez headed the Philippine delegation of the ASEAN Interparliamentary Assembly (AIPA), during the regional lawmakers’ interface with ASEAN heads of state on the first day of the 42nd ASEAN Summit at the Meruorah Convention Center, in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia.

“These actions will improve connectivity among our nations, facilitate the movement of goods, services, and people, and promote greater cooperation in areas such as science and technology, innovation, and human capital development. By doing so, we can enhance the competitiveness of our economies and position ourselves for sustained growth,” Romualdez said. With Maricel V. Cruz

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