Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said the siege of Marawi City in the southern Philippines was a wake-up call for the region to face the threat of terrorism and transnational crime.
Speaking during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Jakarta on Friday (11/08), the president noted the urgency of a quick response and even stronger cooperation among member states to address the various regional and global challenges that they face together.
"The attack in Marawi is a wake-up call for all of us – it requires a swift, timely response. We must unite to build cooperation and strengthen our synergy to combat terrorism," Jokowi said.
Philippine troops have been battling Islamic State-affiliated militants who occupied Marawi on Mindanao Island on May 23. Close to 700 people have already been killed and more than 400,000 have been displaced since the fighting began.
Indonesia has been working closely with countries in the region in response to the growing threat of Islamic State influence in Southeast Asia. It has urged regional and global players to confront the complex issue.
During a high-level meeting in Manila in June, officials from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines agreed to cooperate and to jointly implement counterterrorism measures and strategies.
Officials from the three countries and Australia, New Zealand and Brunei also agreed in Manado, North Sulawesi, last month to step up cooperation and develop education and the economic means for citizens to combat increasing radicalism.
Jokowi also touched on the issue of transnational crimes, saying that "there is no other way but unite" to rid Southeast Asia of illegal drugs. He added that Asean should "declare war" on narcotics.
On politics and security Jokowi said Asean will face increasing rivalry among world powers, which will have implications both regionally and globally.
"Asean must continue to preserve its unity and centrality [...] so that it can determine its own future," Jokowi said.
Founded in Bangkok on Aug. 8, 1967, the regional bloc has since doubled from its original five members and continued to be a stronghold of partnerships among its diverse members.
According to the World Economic Forum, Asean is currently the world's sixth-largest economic power. The forum predicts that the bloc will become the fifth-largest economy by 2020, and the fourth-largest by 2030.
Jokowi said Asean's success is evident from its ability to preserve and create an ecosystem of peace while moving towards mutual prosperity.
"Other countries and regions engage in power collision to solve their problems, but Asean has continued to engage in dialogue and negotiations to create resolutions," Jokowi said.
Asean Secretary General Le Luong Minh said during his opening speech that the bloc "needs to stay on course and stand united to weather the current tide of complicated developments in regional and global situations."
Although Asean is recognized as an effective model of regionalism in regional peace and security, economic integration and institution building, Minh said persisting development gaps, the spread of extremist and terrorist ideologies, protectionism, maritime sovereignty disputes and a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are some of the challenges member states must confront together.
Jokowi also called for the association to learn from Britain's withdrawal from the European Union and work to ensure that the citizens of Asean benefit from regional integration.