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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations

Philippine Statement
Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines


General Debate of the 61st Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

New York, 22 September 2006


Madam President,

It gives me great pleasure to extend to you the felicitations of my government, our people and my own for your well-deserved election to the presidency of our august assembly. The wealth of wisdom you bring from your experience in public life will certainly help guide our work to its fruitful conclusion.

My delegation stands ready to extend to you its fullest cooperation not only as a member of your bureau but as a close friend of Bahrain as well.

Your predecessor, Mr. Jan Eliasson, has left an indelible mark in the UN. Under his leadership, we were able to carry out a substantial part of the package of reforms mandated by the largest gathering of leaders of the world, as contained in the 2005 World Summit Outcome.

Renewed Hope

Last year, our Leaders met to commemorate 60 years of the United Nations. Their meeting gave all of us renewed hopes for peace, growth, progress and the preeminence of the rights of all peoples.

Those hopes remain.

Even in the face of the continuing threats to the peace and security of mankind from terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Even in the face of grinding poverty and financial uncertainty.

Even in the face of intolerance and misunderstanding.

And certainly even in the face of our fast-changing world.

Those hopes remain because the spirit of cooperation and community, which lies at the very heart of our Charter, though often battered, continues to live on.

Cooperation remains the key to reaching the goals set by our Charter. Cooperation, according to a 20th century philosopher, is the only thing that will redeem mankind.

Cooperation as a Resilient Power

The United Nations is a diverse community. It is an organization made up of the poor and the rich, the powerful and the weak. But we can forge a consensual understanding of the importance of cooperation from the standpoint of its beneficiaries – the peoples of the world for whom our governments serve.

Viewed from this prism, cooperation has the power to break through the barriers that keep us apart. It can enable us to understand one another, sense the burdens of the poor and the weak, and animate the resources of the rich and powerful.

Cooperation is a resilient power that can save and heal. In devastating situations, it can instill strength and hope.

International cooperation should not be seen solely as resource-transfer or a compromise of political ideals.

Understanding the fears, hopes and insecurities of the peoples of the less developed countries can strengthen their will to survive and succeed.

But, just as it is important for developed countries to carry out their responsibilities over their peoples with energy and diligence, it is also important for them to understand the sufferings of other peoples beyond their borders and the migrant workers within their borders in the true spirit of international cooperation.

Let us, therefore, pursue with renewed vigor the tasks before us, guided by that genuine spirit of cooperation and that true sense of community.

The Quest for Peace

It is in that spirit that the Philippines welcomes and supports the continued work and the call this week made by the Middle East Quartet for greater progress towards a just and comprehensive peace.

We strongly support the Road Map for Peace and maintain our hopes for the realization of two democratic states – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security.

Together with ASEAN, we were gravely concerned over the deteriorating situation and the escalation of violence in the Middle East, particularly the disproportionate, indiscriminate and excessive use of force in Lebanon.

The United Nations peacekeeping operations now underway in Lebanon renews our hope for peace and offers a big opportunity for the UN to demonstrate its relevance and impact on the world stage in the 21st century.

Our own quest for peace in the Philippines is boldly moving forward, thanks to the support and cooperation of key members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and other members of the international community.

The Fight Against Terror

Our own experience as a country is convincing proof of the efficacy of collective action in fighting terrorism. Working closely with our neighbors and others, we reduced the number of terrorists in my country. Together, we have also embarked on key development projects which in turn have deprived terrorists of potential supporters and recruits.

The recent breakthrough in the negotiations for a UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy will help strike another blow against terrorists. I commend the Ambassadors of Spain and Singapore for having successfully steered the difficult negotiations, and for their flexibility and steadfast resolve to come out with a consensus strategy.

One of the anchors of this strategy is an initiative that is close to our heart: the promotion of interfaith dialogue and cooperation.

Fostering Dialogue, Breaking Down Intolerance

In pursuit of this initiative, the Philippine organized and chaired two key meetings yesterday here at the UN: The First Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and the Tripartite High-Level Conference on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace.

These two meetings reaffirmed the importance of supporting related initiatives, in particular the Alliance of Civilizations, that promote global peaceful co-existence through tolerance, respect, understanding and cooperation amongst peoples of different religions, cultures and civilizations. Indeed, no amount of new strategies to address the prevention of armed conflict can prosper if their root causes are not addressed.

As founder and current Chair of the Tripartite Forum on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace, a new movement of governments, UN agencies and religious NGOs accredited with the UN, the Philippines will initiate the holding of another high-level tripartite conference to focus on small and light weapons.

It will be a sequel to the successful High Level Conference on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace focused on peacebuilding and development I presided yesterday here in the UN. This parallel effort will help crystallize consensus in the UN and enhance the implementation of the program of action on the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, capitalizing on the strong moral influence of religious leaders over their constituencies.

In addition, the Philippines announced last week at the Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, that we will organize and convene a Special Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace in Davao City in southern Philippines.

This high-level meeting will be special as it will be open to representatives from the Non-Aligned Movement and other countries, as well as the UN system and civil society through a tripartite partnership. It will focus on concrete measures, addressing the inter-linked threats to peace that include poverty and the assaults to human dignity.

Meanwhile, I commend Spain and Turkey for their new initiative on the Alliance of Civilizations. I believe this that will complement and reinforce, in a mutually inclusive fashion, the Philippine initiative on interfaith dialogue and cooperation for peace.

As a Friend of the Alliance of Civilizations, the Philippines will throw its full support behind a mechanism or process that will emerge from the work of the High Level Group on the Alliance of Civilizations.

The Burden of Debt

We have barely nine years left to achieve the millennium development goals set by our leaders at the turn of this century including the halving of poverty by 2015. For most of the developing world, this target might remain a mere vision if no effective mechanism for resource mobilization is in sight.

It is in this context that the Philippine initiative for a Debt-for-Equity-in MDG Projects was launched last year and I thank the Group of 77 and China for their support.

This initiative does not call for debt cancellation, moratorium or reduction. It merely calls for the use of part of payments from the debt stock of low and medium income developing countries not eligible under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) of the Group of Eight, as equities of creditors in such MDG projects as in infrastructure, education, livelihood, health and the like.

There is no doubt on the substantive merits of this initiative but a question could arise depending on how the concept of international cooperation on the issue of debt is perceived and the consequent possibility that the interest of the real beneficiaries, the people themselves, can be clouded.

While the Paris Club would determine whether or not to give the green light for the activation of this initiative, may I invite those countries sitting in that Club to further reflect on this matter and convey the broad support given by the developing world to our debt-for-equity in MDG projects initiative.

After all, the accomplishment of the MDGs is a universal concern.

Energy Security

Multilateral cooperation in the field of energy security has gained and will continue to gain importance. Before the energy situation deteriorates further, it behooves to address the matter expeditiously and in a comprehensive manner.

We need not over-emphasize the serious impact of energy shortage, price fluctuations and absence of viable alternative energy sources, on the peoples of the world. This adverse impact may not be reflected in corporate balance sheets because consumers absorb the economic burden through exorbitant costs of food, transport, health care and other basic necessities.

Other sources of energy have to be developed. Brazil is reported to be self-sufficient in bio-fuels within a decade. The Philippines is developing ethanol as a possible motor fuel.

Other countries could also be encouraged to explore thermal, wind, solar and other alternatives to reduce over-dependence on fossil fuel. The proposed East Asia Summit would address the development of renewable and alternative energy sources. The international community under the UN stewardship has to move likewise.

My delegation recommends that the Secretary-General commission a group of eminent persons to look into this matter, whose output should be the subject of a high-level dialogue before our current session ends. The Secretary-General deserves to give this matter priority attention.

Disaster Relief

One of the historic achievements of the 60th session of the UN General Assembly was the decision to establish the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for the rapid deployment of relief and assistance to countries stricken by natural disasters. It is, therefore, imperative that the international community provide full support, including financial resources, for emergency humanitarian assistance at all levels to make the CERF fully operational.

The Philippines is ranked third globally in terms of the number of people exposed to earthquakes and tropical cyclones annually. For this reason, the Philippines calls for enhanced cooperation among Member States including non-governmental organizations to effectively respond to natural disasters by strengthening emergency preparedness and disaster management measures such as disaster early warning systems as well as exchange of information.

The Philippines will introduce a resolution during the current session to draw the international community’s attention to the ecological disaster of grave magnitude caused by an oil spill last month from the sunken tanker off our province of Guimaras, to highlight the fragile nature of our environment and invite the cooperation of the international community in this respect.

In the absence of any multilaterally agreed cooperative scheme, it is of utmost necessity to move beyond paying lip service to hammering out concrete cooperative arrangements, even starting with exchange of information and sharing of expertise in disaster management.

Migration and Development

Migration and development was the subject of last week’s High Level Dialogue by the entire UN membership. It is also a subject close to our heart.

The Philippines has about one tenth of its people overseas. We are the largest supplier of seafarers manning the world’s merchant fleets. Our land-based workers can be found in practically all parts of the world. Accordingly, my government established support institutions to help ensure the protection of their rights, to improve their skills and become competitive in the job market, to apprise them of prevailing conditions including advisories on their intended countries of destination, and to ensure that they continue to be gainfully employed upon their return. Our comprehensive approach in this regard has been cited by some UN development agencies as a model for other countries.

The Philippines joined the call for the creation of an informal Global Forum on Migration and Development, as an outcome of the High Level Dialogue, provisionally outside the mantle of the UN, to enable the international community to continue the dialogue on important issues relating to migration.

The UN Secretary-General pointed out in his report to the General Assembly that international migration constitutes an ideal means of promoting co-development, that is, the coordinated and concerted improvement of economic conditions in both sending and receiving countries based on their respective complementarities. The economic benefits accruing to receiving developed countries such as “brain gain” can have negative effects on countries of origin such as “brain drain.” The former are experiencing low or negative birth rates and aging populations which can be offset by migration to keep their industries running. These are but few aspects of the multi-dimensionality of migration, which requires international cooperation to address migration challenges.

Although migration is as old as recorded human history, the evolution of nation states brought with it stringent regulations for migrants within their territorial jurisdictions. In the formulation of immigration policies, states must remember that the objects of their policies are not faceless statistics but people vested with basic human rights, whether these migrants are documented or otherwise. Even when receiving states invoke public safety or security, migrants are entitled to non-derogable rights applicable to all human beings.

International cooperation ensures the protection of all migrant workers. Cooperation is essential in crafting and executing strategies to effectively deal with criminal elements who exploit migration processes. As such, cooperation is the key to effectively deal with both regular and irregular migration, consistent with international human rights standards and law.

My delegation invites Member States to accede to the International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families to demonstrate and reaffirm the universality of human rights standards applicable to all regardless of origin, race, creed and language.

The Promotion of Human Rights

For my country and its people, the sanctity of the life of the individual is a paramount value. For my government, the protection of human life is a sacred commitment.

Last week, the Philippines renewed this commitment with the signing of the Second Optional Protocol to the Convention on Civil and Political Rights.

Enshrined in our Constitution is powerful language against the death penalty. Three months ago, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo gave this Constitutional mandate further expression when she signed into law Republic Act 9346, which removed the death penalty from our statute books.

Such is the value that we give to life that in our Constitution, we are bound to protect the life of the unborn child.

With the signing of the Second Optional Protocol, the Philippine Government reemphasizes it unrelenting commitment to strengthen the protection of human rights.

By signing the protocol, the Philippines upheld in a clear and categorical manner, human dignity and the fundamental right to life.

A Lasting Legacy

Madam President,

Madam President, may I also take this opportunity to express the profound appreciation of the Philippines and that of ASEAN to outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan for his dedicated and tireless service to the United Nations. He leaves behind a more invigorated and dynamic UN organization, a legacy of reform with new and needed institutions such as the UN Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission, and an eloquent re-commitment of the UN and its membership towards alleviating the plight of the less fortunate through the articulation of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

His magnum opus, the report titled “In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All” contains a wealth of ideas for UN reform and will continue to guide us in years to come. The Philippines is particularly appreciative of Mr. Annan’s support and cooperation during our recent term as UN Security Council member (2004-5) and for his steadfast support for the Philippines’ Interfaith Dialogue initiative.

A Gift of Cooperation

Madam President:

Two world wars ago, President Woodrow Wilson. an advocate of global organization, defined power in terms that finds relevance even today, when he said:

“Power consists in one's capacity to link his will with the purpose of others, to lead by reason and a gift of cooperation”

The drafters of our Charter and the challenges of the present provide us with the reason. We must now find within ourselves, as nations and as peoples, the gift of cooperation.

Thank you.

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