Press Release
November 22, 2022

Report on the 30th APPF & Official Visit in Vietnam

Mr. President, almost thirty years ago, or on January 13, 1993, former Senators Teofisto Guigona and Heherson Alvarez, attended the inaugural meeting of Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum or the APPF.

Almost thirty years later, I was given the opportunity to attend and participate in the 30th Annual Meeting of the APPF hosted by the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Thailand. It was my profound honor and privilege to represent our beloved Senate President as the head of the Philippine Congressional Delegation. I was joined by our colleague, Senator Francis Tolentino, and members of our House of Representatives, Deputy Majority Leader Jude Acidre, Representatives Geraldine Roman, Gerardo Valmayor Jr., James Ang Jr., Ferjenel G. Biron, and Mohamad Paglas.

The 30th APPF focused on the theme "Parliaments and the Post-COVID-19 Sustainable Development". In their concept note, APPF secretariat emphasized that the COVID-19 pandemic has proven once more that we live in the same world with common interests and share the same future. "One World, One Destiny," so to speak. The impacts of the pandemic are felt not only in public health, but also in the economy, education, society, and politics.

In the advent of the pandemic, everyone seemed to have been preoccupied with competition; with acquiring and accumulating anything and everything that would put his or her nation on top. But when the Corona Virus arrived, it brought death, sickness and for many--immeasurable sorrow. But from the same devastation it caused, we have come to realize a new sense of meaning in life and our relationships.

Indeed, the past two years surviving through the pandemic was full of ironies. We were told to distance ourselves from each other to avoid the spread of the virus. But in isolation, we have learned that it is difficult to live alone. We were given responsibilities as individuals and yet, we were introduced to terms such as "herd immunity".

The phrase "no man is an island" has never been more cliche in recent memory. How much more meaningful would it be coming from an archipelago in the middle of the Pacific? If we want to survive, we must work harder.

A happening so catastrophic and destructive has brought out the best in humanity. We have closed our borders and subjected ourselves to lockdowns and self-qurantines. But the doors to our hearts remained open. Health restrictions did not hinder the outpour of foreign aid and vaccines. In that moment, we were a community of nations.

When the dust began to slowly settle, it was now time to rise again. We gradually re-opened our gates to our neighbors and began life anew. With this, your Philippine delegates shared some of their insights during sessions of the APPF.

Senator Tolentino spoke during one of the plenary sessions, specifically on the sub-topic, "Promoting regional tourism and understanding of cultural diversity," where he pointed out how global tourism was painfully crippled by the restrictions of COVID-19 pandemic and that the Asia-Pacific Region suffered the greatest reduction in tourist arrivals. He urged fellow parliamentarians to consider having an integrated regional tourism policy to ensure that COVID-19 impacts on tourism are managed, and recovery strategies gather support for effective implementation of a more sustainable tourism development blueprint for the future.

Members of the Philippine House of Representatives also delivered their statements:

  • Representatives Paglas and Valmayor spoke during the Second plenary session on Economic and Trade Matters where he highlighted the need for the APPF Member Parliaments to work together and achieve greater synergy in transforming the region as a leading digital community and economic bloc, powered by secure and transformative digital services, technologies and ecosystem;

  • Representative Acidre participated in the roundtable for Young Parliamentarians and shared that youth have been among those hit hardest by the pandemic, due to school closures, job losses, missed vaccinations, and a regression in health and nutrition;

  • Representative Roman, who also accompanied me during the South East Group, spoke during the Women Parliamentarians Meeting. She recommended the development of mechanisms and procedures to address the difficulties faced by women in the employment sector during crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Likewise, this representation took part during the First plenary session on the sub-topic, "Promoting parliamentary diplomacy for regional security". I emphasized that parliamentary exchanges are essential elements in order to address the complexities posed by the security challenges in the region. I also shared the Philippines' concern on terrorism, citing the measure which we passed last Congress, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

With prior consent and authority of our beloved Senate President, I, together with all the Philippine delegates to the 30th APPF, formally accepted the hosting of the Philippines of the 31st APPF next year. Please allow me to show you the video of our ceremonial acceptance of the flag.

As I have said in my acceptance speech during the Final Plenary Session, to be offered the chance to host the APPF for 2023 fills me, as a Filipino, with gratitude and pride. I believe with the leadership of our Senate President Zubiri, our hosting will be at par with the preparedness and hospitality that the Thai National Assembly have offered us.

Mr. President, I consider our representation in the 30th APPF fruitful and productive. In addition to the Philippines' hosting next year, I also met with Thai Senator Thawip Netniyom, who is my upper-class man in the Philippine Military Academy ("Dimalupig" class of 1981). He mentioned their existing Thailand-Philippines Parliamentarians Friendship Group which he heads. In response, while I intimated to him that there is an existing Philippines-ASEAN Parliamentary Friendship Association, there is no existing Philippines-Thailand Parliamentary Friendship Association.

With the consent of our Senate President, we are currently establishing the Philippines-Thailand Parliamentary Friendship Group here in the Senate. As of today, we have a number of Senators who intend to be a member of the Friendship Group. Our counterpart in the House of Representatives already relayed their intention so that the group can have bicameral representation, similar to the composition of the friendship group in the Thai Senate.

After our well-spent time in Thailand, we went to Hanoi, Vietnam.

We first met the Filipino Community in Hanoi. I am happy to report that they are doing well, mostly working as professionals in English language-teaching centers, hospitality sector, as well as engineering firms. They are thankful to the Vietnamese government for the job opportunities.

I also met with the Honorable Lt. Gen. Tran Quang Phuong, Vice Chairman of the National Assembly of Vietnam. During our meeting, the importance of the Strategic Partnership between the Philippines and Vietnam and the vital importance to strengthen our bilateral relations have been discussed. Areas of cooperation, including defense, maritime security, pandemic recovery, economic and trade, were mentioned during our exchanges. I also relayed our gratitude for the assistance provided by the Vietnamese government to more than 1,400 Filipinos who were safely repatriated to the Philippines at the height of the pandemic.

Before we ended the meeting, I was reminded by National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue of their official visit to the Philippines from 23 to 25 November 2022. I was tasked by our Senate President to head the welcoming committee of the Vietnamese parliaments tomorrow. I will meet them at the airport, Mr. President. Kung sinong gustong sumama sa akin, samahan niyo ako para hindi ako magso-solo doon magsalubong sa kanila. I hope Senator Tolentino will go with me.

Not so recently, we heard news of travel bans and yet, a lot of countries profess their intention to visit us. Mr. President, anyone who chooses to be friends with us Filipinos is very much welcomed here in our country.

In closing, Mr. President, it is true that our role as legislators is limited within our territorial jurisdiction. However, the words of Linda Fisher Thornton are equally applicable to us when she stated: "Because we are a globally connected village, we need to remember that our choices are not isolated. They have a powerful ripple effect, and that ripple is global."

Our laws may be confined within our archipelago, but their implications are beyond our borders. Mr. President, our hosting of the 31st Annual Meeting of the APPF next year and the official visit of the National Assembly of Vietnam to our country starting tomorrow is a testament to our nation's continued commitment to foster cooperation with our fellow parliamentarians to sustain peace and promote stability in the region.

Thank you and once again, good afternoon.

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