Manila Bulletin

ASEAN militaries commit to South China Sea peace


Armed Forces of the Philippine­s (AFP) Chief of Staff General Rey Leonardo Guerrero confirmed over the weekend that he and nine other chiefs of Defense Forces of the Associatio­n of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) reaffirmed their commitment to maintainin­g and promoting peace and security in the South China Sea.

In the Joint Statement is-

sued after the ASEAN Chiefs of Defense Forces Informal Meeting (ACDFIM) held Thursday in Singapore, all top military heads also recognized the need for cautious actions in the disputed region.

“Reaffirmin­g the importance of maintainin­g and promoting peace, security, stability, safety, and freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea, as well as the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may complicate the situation,” said the statement released to media only yesterday.

It also added the importance of pursuing a peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with internatio­nal law.

Brunei, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippine­s and Vietnam have maritime claims over the South China Sea.

According to reports, an estimated US$5 trillion (1250 trillion) worth of global trade passes through the South China Sea and many non-claimant states want the South China Sea to remain internatio­nal waters.

In order to promote this, several countries including the United States, conduct “freedom of navigation” operations.

The disputes include the islands, reefs, banks, and other features of the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, and various boundaries in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Now on its 15th iteration, ACDFIM serves as the biggest avenue for interactio­n among heads of militaries from ASEAN member states where regional issues such as terrorism, sea disputes, and disaster preparedne­ss and response, among others are discussed.

The heads of defense forces also noted the framework “Resilience, Response, Recovery” as a means to build up regional capability to deter and prevent terrorist attacks as well as in coordinati­ng “ASEAN’s responses to address on-going threats and recover from any terrorist attacks.”

In terms of humanitari­an assistance and disaster response, the military chiefs agreed to work on the “operationa­lization of mechanisms to enhance ASEAN responses to natural disasters, such as the ASEAN Military Ready Group (AMRG) on HADR based on principles of sovereignt­y and consensus-based decision-making.”

The AMRG aims to prepare an ASEAN quick response team for immediate coordinate­d deployment to ASEAN countries and areas affected by disasters.

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