Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte stressed on Tuesday the need to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), saying it will help in further integrating the economies of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
"The RCEP will provide further impetus to our efforts (to integrate the ASEAN economies). Negotiations should conclude swiftly as decided by RCEP leaders in 2016," he said in a speech marking ASEAN's 50th anniversary.
The Philippines has committed to fast track the RCEP, a giant free trade pact that aims to tie together ASEAN's free trade agreements with each trading partners including Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.
In April, Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the Philippines will push for the "substantial conclusion" of RCEP that will expand the ASEAN market from 600 million people to 3.5 billion by year-end.
At the same time, Duterte said ASEAN must take a serious look at the economic integration of its members economies.
"ASEAN has a bigger stake than any other part of the world standing up against protectionism and securing the rules of the game in the international trade," he said.
The Philippines, the chair of ASEAN, blew horns their sea vessels to celebrate the bloc's 50th anniversary.
"The sound that resonated across all Philippine ports reminds us all that there is much to celebrate (on) this historic day. That sound reminds us of the peace, progress and togetherness we have enjoyed in the last half century," Duterte said.
Duterte said ASEAN "remains firmly convinced" that the bloc will prevail against the new and emerging challenges it is now facing as an ASEAN community.
Duterte said ASEAN wants a region that is secure "where ASEAN peoples can live without fear from lawless elements and the debilitating effects of corruption and transnational crimes."
"We want a region that is stable where democratic institutions work, where nations regard each other with mutual respect and understanding, and where the rule of law reigns supreme in the relations between states," he said.
"We want a region that is sustainable and inclusive in its growth where no one is left behind and everyone has the opportunity (to realize) their potentials," he said.
He also stressed the need to "engage with our neighbors positively in dialogue partnerships that continue to grow."
To welcome ASEAN's golden occasion, the Philippines lit up in more than 70 key cities on Tuesday night.