CEBU, The Philippines: Leaders of the 10-member Association of South East
Asian Nations agreed on Saturday to expedite their efforts to build an "ASEAN
Community" by 2015.
The Declaration on the Acceleration of the Establishment of an ASEAN
Community by 2015 at their summit in Cebu vowed to achieve a more integrated and
prosperous South Asian region earlier than the original 2020 deadline covering
almost 570 million people, that is, more than the population of Europe through
economic, security and socio-cultural bonding.
The community is expected to be like the European Union.
The leaders committed themselves to accelerating the implementation of the
ASEAN Community's program areas, measures, and principles with "appropriate
They pledged to further expand their engagement with their dialogue partners
Australia, China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and other
nations that they believed would assist ASEAN to integrate its efforts to create
an "ASEAN Community" by 2015.
The declaration said the community is "ASEAN's response to the increasing
number of regional challenges" and "will reinforce ASEAN's centrality and role
as the driving force in charting the evolving regional architecture".
"By 2015, there will be freer trade in goods, freer movement of labor and
capital and free flow of services," Midardo Abad, of the ASEAN Secretariat,
The ASEAN leaders launched their vision of a three-pillared community,
comprising security, socio-cultural and economic communities, at their 2003
summit in Bali.
Describing it as "a momentous undertaking" and "crowning achievement", the 10
ASEAN leaders formally approved the Cebu Declaration on the Blueprint of the
ASEAN Charter framed by the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) in preparation for the
final approval of the historic document at the 13th ASEAN Summit in Singapore in
November this year.
Also, they reiterated the "conviction that an ASEAN Charter will serve as a
firm foundation in achieving one ASEAN Community by providing an enhanced
institutional framework as well as conferring a legal personality to ASEAN".
A high level task force will begin drafting the charter and place it for
approval at the 13th ASEAN Summit.
An ASEAN Charter is expected to give the regional economic grouping a legal
entity to deal with the immense opportunities and key challenges facing ASEAN's
integration process, rapid globalization and the impact of new technologies.
It is intended to turn ASEAN into a EU-style legal entity with binding rules
on its members and to counter criticism that the body is little more than a
diplomatic "talking shop".
The leaders signed their first legally binding convention on the fight
against terrorism at Cebu as part of their efforts to get tougher on terrorism.
It will make it easier to track suspects and money across borders, share
intelligence information and extradite suspects from one ASEAN country to
Also, the Southeast Asian governments finalized an accord that calls for the
protection of millions of impoverished migrant workers in a region rife with
labor right abuses.
(China Daily 01/15/2007 page6)