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UST Asian Studies Society officially kicked off the first day of their flagship event, UST MAM 2023 or UST Model ASEAN Meeting 2023Rediscovering ASEAN’s Relevance in the Post-Pandemic World, ” conference, with three esteemed and notable key speakers that discussed the current situation and significance of the organization in helping ASEAN countries post-pandemic, following with the theme, and guided the delegates for the three-day conference, starting on Thursday, February 16, 2023 via Zoom Meetings.

As the UST MAM 2023 came back with its 9th installment of online simulation, delegates from the countries of Indonesia, Brunei, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Federation of Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam virtually waved their flags and represented their countries as the hosts introduced the first keynote speaker, the Foreign Affairs Programme Manager of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Phnom Penh Office, Mr. Chhay Lim.

"The human history arise in a critical turning point," said Mr. Lim on the advancement of ASEAN countries, emphasizing how a political turning point happened in 2021-2023 that made the already complex law of the world even more complex. In the 25-minute spiel given to Mr. Lim, he discussed how the current political climate of ASEAN countries was the true challenge in appraising the ASEAN's capability to resolve internal crises, such as Myanmar's political dispute that led the country to have a military junta. Mr. Lim also explained how the Russia-Ukraine war heavily affected ASEAN countries in terms of clean energy supply and reliance and how Southeast Asian countries' political state completely varies with each other, emphasizing the current political transition of the Philippines. These are some of the significant issues that Mr. Lim mentioned in his spiel, ending with an optimistic remark that yes, ASEAN is still relevant, and encourages the young delegates to pursue internal unity and mutual trust, stating that we need to do more to have a closer relationship and achieve more significant economic growth among ASEAN countries.

As Mr. Lim delivered his final remarks for the delegates to continue to have a learning spirit about ASEAN academically and form a meaningful friendship, the facilitators also gave the time for the open forum and let the delegates send their questions to Mr. Lim before the awarding of certificate and photo documentation. The conference continued with the introduction of the second keynote speaker, Associate Professor of the Department of International Studies at De La Salle University Manila, Dr. Charmaine Misalucha-Willoughby.

Dr. Charmain Misalucha-Willoughby presented three primary points in her spiel: first, dissecting the principle that contributes to the ASEAN way, which are non-interference, dispute settlement, and consensus. Then, Dr. Misalucha-Willoughby further imparted how these principles are the very reason why ASEAN failed to help the Philippines with their dispute against China and the South China Sea in her second point. The number of maritime incidents throughout the year grows at an alarming rate, yet the Philippines is pushed to find alternative ways to resolve the dispute because of ASEAN's inability to provide aid. Dr. Misalucha-Willoughby ended her spiel on a lighter note by highlighting the ways that ASEAN needs to do to move forward from the previous scarcity of help; through engagement in reflexivity, decentering ASEAN centrality, and seeking opportunities outside the ASEAN framework. She encouraged the delegates to have an open mind in seeking external partnerships as most of the problems the community faces are transnational, emphasizing that "We are not just scholars, observers, decision-makers, a lot of the things that we do will come back to us and impact our daily lives."

Afterward, the hosts and Deputy Secretary Generals expressed their insights on the previous speakers before announcing a fifteen-minute break to prepare for the third and last speaker, the Assistant Director, Head of the Community Relations Division ASEAN Secretariat, Jakarta, Mr. Romeo A. Arca Jr.

Mr. Arca Jr. focused on how ASEAN's relevance in the post-pandemic world varies in its advancement and progressiveness towards a more resilient future — strengthening humans, maximizing the potential of Intra-ASEAN Market and Broader Economic Integration, and accelerating inclusive digital transformation throughout the years to come. In the open forum segment, Mr. Arca Jr. emphasized that ASEAN is serious about improving the lives of its citizens and hopes that throughout the year, the organization will help the community be prosperous economically and educationally, as he highlighted that rediscovering ASEAN in the post-pandemic world proves that recovery is not just about overcoming the virus, but also in advancing the growth of our community, as it is a community of opportunities for all.

As the opening ceremony ended, the facilitators and hosts expressed gratitude to the three keynote speakers. They reminded each country's head of government of their speeches as the facilitators set up the Facebook Livestream. The official ASEAN Opening Summit began the speeches of the Head of Government as the Republic of Indonesia took the lead, followed by the State of Brunei Darussalam, the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, the Federation of Malaysia, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, the Republic of the Philippines, Republic of Singapore, Kingdom of Thailand, and ending the HOG speech, Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

The ASEAN handshake and anthem signified the end of the opening summit and informed the delegates about the afternoon's schedule until the conference's last day.

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