The ASEAN Foreign Ministers pose for a photo at the retreat in Boracay (Photo: VNA)
Speaking to Vietnam News Agency about the meeting, Vietnam's Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dung said the agreement was among the highlights of the first ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting chaired by the Philippines this year.
The event set up orientations for the bloc's activities throughout 2017, the second year of the ASEAN Community and the 50th founding anniversary of the association.
The ministers approved this year's theme "Partnering for Change, Engaging the World" and reached agreed on priorities for the ASEAN Community in 2017. They also agreed on efforts to build a people-oriented Community and to promote peace, stability, security, and maritime cooperation in the region.
Dung said the 10 member countries underscored the importance of maintaining the fundamental values and principles of ASEAN, particularly its solidarity, consensus, and central role.
At the meeting, participants agreed to step up the implementation of specialsed working plans in the three pillars of politics-security, economy, and culture-society so as to bring about practical outcomes for people in the region.
They also discussed updating the ASEAN Charter, stressing that a revised Charter must meet demands for stronger connectivity and cooperation of the Community, according to the Deputy Minister.
The retreat stressed the significance of the bloc's 50th founding anniversary, noting that this will be an opportunity for ASEAN to review its development and consolidate confidence and momentum. It will also be a chance for the association to popularise its values, helping the ASEAN Community get closer to its people.
Dung said the foreign ministers were unanimous in pushing ahead with dialogue and cooperation with partners through mechanisms established or led by ASEAN, thereby winning more support from partners for the Community.
With regard to global and regional politics, the officials exchanged views on issues of shared concern. They underlined the importance of peace, security and stability in the region, along with cooperation in coping with challenges such as natural disasters, human trafficking, drug crimes and piracy.
East Sea-related issues were among the most talked-about topics, Dung said, adding that the ministers shared the view that peace and stability in the East Sea are in the common interest of the region, and ASEAN nations need to maintain their common stance and shared principles, including exercising self-restraint, not using or threatening to use force, peacefully resolving disputes with respect for diplomatic and legal processes, complying with international law, especially the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, promoting the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea, and striving to finalise a framework for a Code of Conduct in the waters in mid-2017.
At the retreat, Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh emphasised that ASEAN needs to persist with the common principles, solidify its unity, and bring into play its central role.
Dung cited Minh as saying that in the second year of the ASEAN Community, regional countries should enhance connectivity and prioritise fields that have obvious impacts for people such as narrowing the development gap, boosting social welfare and infrastructure connectivity, developing small and medium enterprises, and increasing businesses' involvement in the building of the Community.
Minh also agreed on the need for the effective implementation of existing action plans between ASEAN and partners, asking the association to be more active at ASEAN-initiated mechanisms such as ASEAN 1, ASEAN 3, ASEAN Regional Forum, and East Asia Summit.
As non-traditional security challenges, including piracy, are growing in the region, he asked ASEAN members to work together more closely to deal with those challenges. He urged more information sharing and a stronger fight against piracy to ensure security for vessels in the region.