President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo thanked Japan for its contribution to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, and expressed hope that the country will continue to be a dialogue partner for the regional bloc during his speech at the 20th Asean-Japan Summit in Manila, the Philippines, on Monday (13/11).
“Japan is one of Asean’s first strategic partners. In particular, I would like to express my appreciation for Japan’s contribution to the AHA [Asean Humanitarian Assistance] Centre,” Jokowi said.
Japan has contributed to the AHA Centre since its inception in 2011 through various projects, including providing computers and other equipment, conducting training courses and workshops with disaster management and leadership personnel and building a network for disaster management between Asean and Japan.
The AHA Centre has been helping the Philippines to restore devastated areas in the southern city of Marawi, which was the site of a deadly, months-long battle between government forces and pro-Islamic State militants. The organization has also sent humanitarian aid for the crisis in Rakhine State after a massive Myanmar military operation sent around 600,000 Rohingya people fleeing across the border.
Jokowi hopes Japan will continue to provide support to the AHA Centre in the coming years to allow the organization to continue to be “a source of unity” for the regional bloc.
The president also expressed hope that Japan will continue to be Asean’s main partner in ensuring mutual economic openness, including through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which will bring Asean, a trading community of 620 million people, together with India, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea and China.
“[The agreement process of the] Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership must be resolved soon,” he said.
RCEP was first proposed in 2012 and the leaders of Asean member states are scheduled to push for a conclusion of the agreement by the end of the year.