Sultan welcomes the Asean Charter
By Sonia K & Alex How in Cebu City

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday expressed pleasure that there had been significant progress in efforts to implement the decisions and programmes especially on the proposed establishment of an Asean Charter.

The Monarch welcomed the move to bring forward the realisation of the Asean Community to 2015 as this would present greater opportunities, especially in attracting investment and business in the region, as well as to strengthen the economic relations with dialogue partners and friends.

The Sultan made these observations at the 12th Asean Summit now being held in Cebu City, Philippines. Along with the other heads of state and government of the Asean countries, His Majesty attended the summit held in Plenary and Retreat sessions chaired by the President of the Republic of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

On Saturday the leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) formally approved the blueprint for a landmark charter that will take the 40-year-old grouping to the 21st Century. It will form the structure for a mini-constitution that will be drafted by a task force and presented to the leaders at their next summit in November this year.

Meanwhile according to a press release last night from the Prime Minister's Office, His Majesty attending the summit stated that whilst Asean member countries enjoyed their progress and development, Asean needed to recognise the many challenges that came with it, such as the need to work continuously in narrowing the development gap; the need to protect the environment, and the need to work urgently to ensure their energy security.

It was therefore essential that Asean was able to effectively deal with these challenges in responding to the people's concerns.

With this in mind, His Majesty suggested Asean should continue to consolidate their political and socio-cultural cooperation with a view to effectively implement all the three pillars of the Asean community.

His Majesty stated that Asean should ensure the Initiative for Asean Integration (IAI) continues to be effective especially in capacity building in order for the Asean Community to proceed smoothly and for the people to be well-prepared when addressing the many challenges.

For this reason, His Majesty announced that Brunei Darussalam would continue its financial contribution to IAI for the next three years as well as the annual bilateral scholarship programme provided to students of Asean member countries.

His Majesty stated that Asean has worked well for over 30 years and the key to it all, had been the way the Leaders were sensitive and tolerant towards one another.

His Majesty further added that if any form of integration was going to work for the association, it was essential that the leaders uphold these objectives and values as His Majesty believed they are crucial to its future success.

On the overall work of the High Level Task Force on the Drafting of the Asean Charter, His Majesty instructed the Task Force to translate the leaders' views and the proposals of the EPG very clearly, particularly in ensuring Asean as a very efficient organisation.

At the discussion of HIV and Aids, His Majesty expressed appreciation on what the UNAIDS were doing to address the problems of HIV/Aids. His Majesty also mentioned the initiative undertaken by Brunei Darussalam to address the problem.

Towards this end, His Majesty was pleased to adopt the Declaration on HIV and Aids and the Operational Work Plan for the Third Asean Work Programme on HIV and Aids.

After the Retreat Session, His Majesty joined other Asean Heads of State and Government at the Working Lunch, where Leaders agreed to issue the Statement on the Doha Development Agenda of the WTO.

In the afternoon, His Majesty and Asean Leaders in a Plenary Session, were presented with a Report by the Chair of the 27th Asean Inter-Parliamentary Organisation Assembly and the Report by the Chair of the 5th Asean People's Assembly.

His Majesty then attended a Dialogue Session between Asean Leaders and members of the Asean Business Advisory Council.

At the end of the dialogue, His Majesty and other Asean Leaders signed the Asean Convention on Counter Terrorism; Cebu Declaration on the Blueprint of the Asean Charter; Asean Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers; Cebu Declaration Towards a Caring and Sharing Community; and Cebu Declaration on the Acceleration of the Establishment of an Asean Community by 2015.

His Majesty then joined other Leaders of Asean to witness the signing of the Instrument of Accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in Southeast Asia by the Government of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste; and the Declaration on the Deposit of the Instrument of Accession of the Republic of France to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia.

Brunei Darussalam was represented by His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

On Sunday, His Majesty will attend the summit meetings with Dialogue Partners namely: the People's Republic of China; Japan; the Republic of Korea; and India as well as the Asean Plus Three Summit. (14th January 2007)