PH military chief, ASEAN counterparts want peace in South China Sea

March 11, 2018 - 11:48 PM
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Map shows the delineation of the Chinese territorial claims and respective Exclusive Economic Zones at the South China Sea. REUTERS

MANILA – Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero strongly agreed with his nine other ASEAN counterparts on the “importance of maintaining and promoting peace and security in the South China Sea.”

In the joint statement issued after the ASEAN Chiefs of Defense Forces Informal Meeting (ACDFIM) held last March 8 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,” the AFP said in a statement Sunday.

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

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 ongoing 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.

Prior to ACDFIM, the ASEAN Military Intelligence Informal Meeting and the ASEAN Military Operations Informal Meeting were also held last March 6.

The results of these meetings serve as a pretext for discussions in the ACDFIM.

The AFP earlier reiterated its commitment to regional military to military cooperation and to building stronger partnerships in order to deal with common issues that need cooperative actions more effectively.