CEBU, Philippines - Grade 7 student Joseph Viamor admits he does not know what the ASEAN means.
That’s why he grew excited after his teacher told their class at the Cebu City Central Night High School that they were among the 1,200 students to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations school tour yesterday, hoping that he would learn something out of it.
“Na-excite ko kay nagka-unite mi nga mga school nga maminaw ani. Just like sa ASEAN nga nagka-unite, kami sad mga schools sa city nagka-unite to learn more about it. Walay away-away,” a beaming Viamor told The FREEMAN.
To raise awareness about the ASEAN among young students like Viamor, the Presidential Communications and Operations Office has been hopping from one city to another to hold the so-called ASEAN school tours.
PCOO Assistant Secretary Ramon Cualoping said they hope more young Filipinos will appreciate the Philippines’ hosting of the ASEAN summit this year, especially considering that most of them have weak knowledge on the subject.
He said that through this initiative, the government hopes to also impart the economic and political dimension of the regional cooperation on young Filipinos.
“Ang daming nagawa ng ASEAN. One best example of its benefits is we Filipinos can go to any ASEAN member-economy without being required of a visa, passport lang yung kailangan,” said Cualoping.
Participating schools yesterday include Apas National High School, City Central Elementary and High School, Mabolo Elementary and High School, Zapatera Elementary, Don Vicente Rama Elementary and High School, Abellana National High School.
Also present were students from the Asian College of Technology, Cebu Normal University, Cebu Institute of Technology-University, University of Cebu, University of San Carlos and University of Southern Philippines Foundation.
The students listened to lectures about the history and goals of the ASEAN and participated in various trivia and games.
PCOO started the tours in January in the cities of Bacolod and Davao, which are also hosting ministerial meetings for this year’s ASEAN Summit.
After the Cebu leg, the program will be momentary suspended to give way for the holding of the main highlight of the hosting, the ASEAN leaders’ summit in April. The program will then resume in June to November.
ASEAN holds two leaders’ summits in a year but the meetings of the member-countries’ representatives are done year-long. The Philippines, as this year’s chairman of the ASEAN, will host the second summit on November 10 to 14 in Clark, Pampanga.
The ASEAN leaders’ meeting is set on April 29 at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City to be followed by a two-hour retreat at the Coconut Palace prior to the gala dinner at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila hotel. The leaders depart the country the following day.
ASEAN was established on August 8, 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the founding fathers of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
As set out in the ASEAN Declaration, the aims and purposes of ASEAN include accelerating the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region, promoting regional peace and stability, and boosting active collaboration and mutual assistance on matters of common interest in the economic, social, cultural, technical, scientific and administrative fields. (FREEMAN)